Developing a culturally relevant framework for climate adaptation and resilient landscapes

Project start date: 01/04/2024
Project end date: 31/03/2027
NESP funding: $300,000 (GST-exclusive)

Climate change is causing increasingly widespread and severe impacts on Australian environments. There’s a growing need to shift from ‘responding’ to threats, to proactively preventing the worst outcomes through pre-emptive planning and action.

This project is identifying tools and strategies that improve the resilience of our landscapes. We are consulting with Traditional Custodians to determine which ecosystem elements of high ecological or cultural value are most at risk, then applying the Resist, Accept, Direct (RAD) Framework.

A rainbow shining over resilient desert landscapes
Rainbow over Dja Dja Warrung Country, BHA Reserve. Photo: John Douglas Block.

The RAD Framework lays out three approaches to making management decisions for ecosystems undergoing transformation:

  1. Resist: intervene to maintain critical values in place
  2. Accept: allow ecosystem/species transition and document appropriately
  3. Direct: guide ecosystem transition to maintain function.

Decisions about which of the three RAD approaches to implement in different areas will be informed by workshops (eco-thons) involving Traditional Custodians and other local experts. Eco-thons will be prioritised to co-design specific strategies for pro-active, solution-oriented management at scale in line with the RAD approaches. The outputs of the eco-thons will be immediately peer-reviewed by Traditional Custodians and the diverse array of experts who help to design the solutions. The interventions will be prioritised (including benefits, costs, feasibility and risks) and communicated broadly for review and optimisation. This is done to avoid adverse impacts and further test the strongest ideas. Traditional Custodians will have right of veto of any idea through the process.

This culturally relevant, evidence-based, transparent approach will raise awareness, enthusiasm and funding for the proactive measures that will be much-needed in the coming years as we adapt to climate change.

Key research areas

To proactively develop solutions to climate change driven environmental threats, this project is:

  • engaging with Traditional Custodians across a diversity of landscapes to foster inclusive and empowering discussions that provide pathways to achieving their aspirations
  • analysing cross-cultural definitions of Healthy Country in a changing environment and the specific risks and severity (e.g. drying, warming, salinity) that would most critically change the landscape away from this desired state.
  • developing methodology of engagement, a framework for cross-cultural expert elicitation and a distributed network
  • developing a prioritised list of critical needs, as well as tools and strategies that could focus attention, academic interest and entrepreneurial investment in problem solving
  • conducting workshops (‘eco-thons’) that bring together First Nations groups, scientists, farmers, conservationists, engineers, IT experts and others to design purpose-built innovative tools, technology and strategies
  • communicating findings among the conservation and broader land management community for further refinement.
  • Adelaide hills. Photo: Patch Clapp.
  • 2019 Nardoo Hills Reserve planting with Bush Heritage Australia. Photo: Greenfleet Australia CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.