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Biodiversity on Farms
April 2008



To have farmers recognise the importance of on-farm biodiversity and encourage society to see this as a valuable economic commodity.

Background and rationale

Healthy land has a diverse range, and high level, of biological activity. This biological activity plays an invaluable role in enabling sustainable production, but also in moderating the potential impacts of: temperature; raindrop impact; water flows; humidity; wind; sunlight; and, severe weather.
Diversity is highly desirable in providing resilience to biological activity and thus ensuring ecosystem health and the on-going provision of ecosystem services.
European settlement and associated farming practices, combined with the introduction of plants and animals from overseas, has had a devastating impact on Australian biodiversity values. Introduced pest and farm animals and plants, habitat destruction, hunting and harvesting have led to high extinction rates.
The last two decades have seen the start of a significant turn-around as landholders and private and public investors have begun to address the biodiversity crisis on private land. Further, there is a much greater appreciation of the role of the indigenous community in getting such a turn around. Unfortunately, the limited scale of these programs has not stopped loss of biodiversity. Further, climate change will exacerbate this loss.
The recognition of environmental services as a legitimate product of farming is gaining credibility in our society. Recognition of their basic economic value will enable a new and positive source of income for landholders, supplementing the traditional markets for food and fibre. Such payments place a value on biodiversity, recognising that well managed private land produces food and fibre - but also biodiversity, clean air and water.
Biodiversity in the form of ecosystems and life supporting functions (ecosystem services) has considerable, but undervalued, economic worth. The following list gives a range of items of both acknowledged and unacknowledged economic value:

  • Amenity capital value;
  • Stable climate;
  • Water production;
  • Carbon trapping and storage;
  • Oxygen and carbon dioxide balancing in the atmosphere;
  • Pest control;
  • Weather moderation;
  • Genetic resources;
  • Succour via food and fibre;
  • Pollination of crops and native vegetation;
  • Tourism;
  • Recreation;
  • Human solace and stimulation gained from attractive and healthy land;
  • Detoxification and decomposition of wastes; and
  • Mitigation of natural erosion processes

The three major threats to maintaining and restoring biodiversity on farmland are:

  • Population growth and desire for higher standards of living.
  • Economic pressures (cost price squeeze) on farmers; and
  • Climate change

In south east Australia we have already noted the impact of climate change on biodiversity values as grazing industries are being replaced by cropping in response to climate and economic pressures. Increased cropping has severely diminished the remaining area of native grasslands in Western Victoria.


EFN is committed to diversity in farming landscapes and:

  • Supports Government and Local Government initiatives for the fostering and enhancement of biodiversity on properties.
  • Opposes Government initiatives that encourage land uses of low diversity (monoculture), especially those that provide tax advantages for the non-farm sector and discriminate against commercial farmers.
  • Encourages, as a matter of urgency, State and Federal Governments to develop and refine markets for ecosystem services, both public and private, to economically recognise the value of ecosystem services. These markets could include carbon sequestration, soil protection, biodiversity protection, salinity amelioration, water quality and air quality improvement.
  • Encourages State and Federal Governments to develop regional policies and support statutory planning that encourages biodiversity outcomes.
    Recognises the vital roles that regulation, education and research play in delivering biodiversity outcomes.
  • Promotes climate change actions which protect and increase biodiversity.

Management strategies

  • Revitalise remnant native vegetation by fencing, and by allowing room for remnant expansion;
  • Ensure waterways are protected from grazing and erosion by fencing and revegetation.
  • Enhance the role of waterways (that link naturally and provide safe wildlife corridors) and wetlands, and build links with remnant vegetation on Crown and private land. Waterways usually have more biodiversity than ecosystems away from waterways.
  • Retain land in a well vegetated condition (not over grazed ) and manage it with perennial deep-rooted pastures, cropping systems which encourage stubble retention, or trees and shrubs. Ensure there is ground cover all year round.
  • Retain dead and fallen timber especially standing dead trees with hollows.
  • Manage land in logical units by fencing on land class boundaries (to better manage hills, slopes, wetlands, saline areas, and soil types).
  • Release marginal land from agriculture. Encourage biodiversity in these areas and concentrate on the production of ecosystem services.
  • Recreate wetlands by decommissioning old drainage systems.
  • Use grazing systems to improve sustainable native pastures. For example crash grazing hillsides in mid spring will increase the percentage of native perennial grasses by reducing the seed set of “rubbish” introduced annuals such as silver grass.
  • Minimise the use of herbicides and pesticides. Encourage biological activity and more robust ecosystems. Do not disturb roadside native vegetation by spraying or cultivation.
  • Use fire to regenerate and encourage native species.
  • Provide stock shade and shelter by planting native species in windbreaks and clumps.
  • Recognise paddock trees as important habitat for much fauna. Protect them from farming hazards such as stubble burns, herbicide applications, scarifying etc and encourage natural regeneration for future generations.
  • Control pest plants and animals with an annual program of control activities.
  • Incorporate biodiversity requirements into farm plans. Designing landcare works to maximise biodiversity.
  • Avoid monoculture farming by using mixed farming approaches. Consider cropping and grazing, farm forestry incorporation, windbreak planting, fencing of waterways, dams and wetlands and maintaining and establishing habitat trees.

The above actions will minimise damage from excessive wind and intense rainfall events and enhance farm biodiversity. There will be a buffering capacity to reduce damage from long dry periods and extreme weather events.



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