At a glance
Australian landscapes have evolved with soils and vegetation in equilibrium with the climate and natural disturbance regime. Land management activities disturb that equilibrium. Although we may not see all of the ensuing changes, the subtle and slowly accumulating ones can be the most significant in terms of altering the future supply of resources and services from the land.
Resilient land should be able to recover from changes, and continue to support native vegetation and natural processes, as well as allow us to use natural resources within reasonable limits. A challenge for Australians is to decide how much to demand of the ancient and complex Australian land environments without destroying them.
Native species and ecological communities have evolved to cope with, and sometimes heal, the effects of natural disturbance events. If too much native vegetation is cleared and too much of the soil microbiota is lost, the chances of recovery are compromised. Australian land managers are improving their understanding of how to retain resilience, although in some cases this requires active rehabilitation of landscapes or ecological communities. Improved collaborative approaches to managing the whole of the Australian environment are needed to retain or rebuild the resilience that will be needed to cope with future pressures.
The resilience of Australia’s land, soil and vegetation can be assessed in 2 stages: first, in terms of the interaction of land with land use and the maintenance of environmental values under particular land-use regimes; and second, in terms of how well land regains these values after major disturbances such as clearing, flood or fire.