Toward landscape-wide conservation outcomes in Australia's temperate grazing region

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Abstract

Agriculture and livestock grazing threaten biodiversity around the world. In the grazing landscapes of eastern Australia, a common conservation strategy has been to exclude livestock from large patches of trees (typically > 5 ha). This has major local benefits, but is unlikely to stem regional biodiversity loss. Using a case study from the Upper Lachlan catchment in New South Wales, we show that (1) approximately 30% of tree cover occurs as very small patches or scattered trees; (2) large patches have disappeared from 90% of the landscape; and (3) large patches are 3.5 times more likely to be in unproductive upland areas than in lowland areas of high conservation concern. Given the limitations of focusing on large patches of trees to achieve regional conservation outcomes, the next generation of conservation initiatives should consider a new suite of additional measures that could deliver biodiversity benefits across broad areas of the region. Two key measures that must be considered are new incentives for farmers to alter livestock grazing practices and reduce fertilizer use.

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