Community action is at the heart of several connectivity conservation initiatives in Australia that aim to protect biodiversity, and strengthen the resilience of ecosystems so that they can survive and adapt to climate change and other threats.
Community conservation areas in Australia are expanding strongly in the form Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), and private reserves in the Great Eastern Ranges (GER) initiative.
Indigenous Protected Areas are areas of land or sea owned by Indigenous Australians who agree to manage their country for biodiversity and cultural resource conservation as part of Australia's National Reserve System, and which receive funding and other support in return. IPAs are a priority investment area in the Australian Government's Caring for our Country Business Plan 2010-11.
The first IPA - Nantawarrina - was declared in South Australia in 1997. In 2010, 33 IPAs cover more than 23 million hectares.
The most recently declared IPA (April 2010) is Kalka-Pipalyatjara in South Australia's remote north, which covers 580,000 hectares and is a refuge for colonies of the warru (black-footed rock wallaby) which is critically endangered in South Australia. For more information about IPAs, see for example:
IPAs are an important community-driven conservation and climate-adaptation mechanism. Climate change is expected to impact most heavily in areas where some Indigenous Australians live. Tropical northern Australia is the most vulnerable, with climate change expected to disrupt wetlands, generate saltwater intrusion rivers and streams, and change the functioning of marine, rainforest and mangrove ecosystems. A report released in May 2010 - The Risks from Climate Change to Indigenous Communities in the Tropical North of Australia – is accessible here. It also assesses the threats from climate change to health, education and infrastructure.
Private conservation areas in the GER initiative are also bulwarks against climate change.
The GER initiative was agreed by the Australian environment ministers' Environment Protection and Heritage Council in June 2007, but government funding and support is not enough to sustain this ambitious continental-scale wildlife corridor. NGO, industry and landowner support is essential.
The lead partners for five major projects in the central eastern component of the GER initiative in New South Wales are Bush Heritage Australia, Greening Australia, the National Parks Association, Nature Conservation Trust of NSW, the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, and OzGreen. These organisations supplement the financial and other support provided by the NSW Environment Trust, and are building networks of learning and engagement, including at the regional scale, so that regional conservation action plans can be developed and implemented. Conservation areas on private lands are being included in the GER initiative through voluntary conservation or wildlife conservation agreements, Nature Conservation Trust conservation covenant agreements, fencing programs for riparian and remnant native vegetation, and programs to restore degraded farmland. Information about the GER initiative is available here.
Hanna Jaireth, TGER and TILCEPA member