Towards a Sustainable, Diversified Land Sector Economy for North Australia

Jeremy Russel-Smith, Kamaljit K Sangha, Robert Costanza, Ida Kubiszewski, Andrew Edwards

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter explores sustainable, economically viable opportunities for land sector development across North Australia. Currently, the cattle industry is the dominant land use sector, nominally operating over as much as 90% of the region. For context we first describe the concept of ecosystem services, and how services derived from healthy and functioning ecosystems contribute to human society and well-being. A recent national study shows that ecological services will continue to deteriorate unless significant land use changes are adopted. The second part of the chapter assesses the economic viability and environmental sustainability of the North Australian pastoral industry based on analysis of extensive available long-term data sources. As industry reports have also concluded, we find that the great majority of pastoral enterprises in our focal region are economically unviable. Additionally, we show that the industry has very significant environmental impacts which currently are not accounted for in economic sustainability assessments. Despite these general findings, it is important to note that some pastoral enterprises are both well managed and profitable – demonstrating that such standards are attainable. However, given the general condition of the North Australia pastoral sector, the third part of the chapter examines opportunities for transitioning to a diversified land sector economy. We show that, far from being an endowed with features that particularly favour pastoral use, North Australian landscapes are most notable for very significant cultural, biodiversity conservation, and global carbon stock values. The rapid expansion of carbon market activities across the North, especially through reducing greenhouse gas emissions from savanna fires by strategic prescribed burning (based on widespread Indigenous practice), but also through a number of pastoral sector applications, points to the potential both for ongoing expansion of carbon projects and the ecosystem services sector generally. A key challenge for sustainable land sector development in North Australia is to diversify land sector opportunities including, where appropriate, carbon, biodiversity conservation, and culture and nature-based tourism markets.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSustainable Land Sector Development in Northern Australia: Indigenous rights, aspirations, and cultural responsibilities
    Editors Jeremy Russell-Smith, Glenn James, Howard Pedersen, Kamaljit K. Sangha
    Place of PublicationBoca Raton, FL
    PublisherCRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group
    Pages85 - 132
    Edition1st edition
    ISBN (Print)9781138600201
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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