Bushland or parkland: vegetation management in landscapes under rapid conversion
Peri-urban and amenity agricultural landscapes, such as those dominating the eastern seaboard, represent an intensification of land use in rural areas. Subdivision of former agricultural landscapes into numerous smallholdings comprising multiple land uses is placing considerable pressure on remnant native vegetation, resulting in accelerated habitat simplification and ecological homogenisation. These processes are adversely impacting an already diminished biodiversity and degraded natural resource base.
The impact of this rapid form of landscape transition on native vegetation is illustrated with some insights from seven case studies located in South East Queensland. Native vegetation health is generally poor in each case, despite active landholder involvement in Natural Resource Management (NRM). Habitat structure has been simplified and acute compositional modification is apparent. While the former agricultural land use may have contributed to the poor condition of the vegetation, future improvement in landscape health is problematic due to the small scale of the properties and their being embedded within a complex social and infrastructure matrix.
Viable vegetation management requires the development of new NRM practices set at ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. This may involve coordinated management that is centred on ecological principles and thresholds and applied at a sub-catchment scale. Planning of rehabilitation strategies for these landscapes should also be structured within timeframes that are consistent with landscape ecological processes (i.e. >20 years). Without this, biodiversity conservation planning and extension programs are unlikely to stem the rate of vegetation simplification and species loss in the absence of more rigid infrastructure planning processes and land use restrictions.