Monitoring tool means healthier and more profitable rangelands for Gascoyne pastoralists

Pastoralists in the Gascoyne River catchment area will soon be able to measure the health of their rangelands thanks to a monitoring tool developed by the Gascoyne Catchments Group.

Developed in 2009 with funds from the State government, the self-assessment and reporting tool records and monitors changes in the ecological condition of the rangelands throughout the Gascoyne region.

Rangelands NRM are currently collaborating with the Gascoyne Catchments Group to make the monitoring tool into a more user friendly software program and resource book that pastoralists can easily use to measure annual changes in the health of their rangelands. This will enable landholders to make more effective land management decisions.

It is hoped that through use of the software, Gascoyne pastoralists will learn more about the factors that drive the ecology, productivity and condition of their land. This will help them adapt to future climate challenges such as increasingly severe droughts, fire regimes of changing frequency and more variable rainfall.

Being able to make more informed decisions will not only conserve the natural resources of the rangelands, but will also help to enhance productivity for pastoralists.

Productivity gains for pastoralists arise because healthier rangelands mean pastoralists can carry more livestock. In addition, the livestock are more likely to achieve a higher market weight and be easier to sell.

Sean D'Arcy, Chairman of Gascoyne Catchments Group said three components of rangeland health can be monitored by the tool: plants, soil and erosion.

“The monitoring tool utilises historical data coupled with current vegetation counts, soil stability and erosion data from existing sites to provide a comprehensive rangeland management tool,” Mr D’Arcy said.

The data will be used to provide evidence on the outcomes of previous natural resource management projects as well as provide baseline data for future initiatives. Changes in the rangeland condition will be considered from both an individual property and regional perspective.

“The tool is flexible enough to be used for regulatory purposes but also be expanded into a more sophisticated management tool,” Mr D’Arcy said.

Since 2009, twelve properties have been using the tool in its current format in conjunction with Environmentally Sustainable Rangelands Management (ESRM) property plans. Land management practices have changed as a result of these property action plans and the monitoring tool has been used to monitor these changes.

The Gascoyne River area, located in the central rangelands of WA is a region of low rugged ranges and broad flat valleys, predominantly used for sheep and cattle grazing.

The Gascoyne Catchments Group is made up of members from the Lyndon, Upper Gascoyne and Gascoyne Wooramel Land Conservation District Committees.

More information about the Gascoyne Catchments Group can be found on their website.