Landscape Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 8, pp 1267–1279 | Cite as

Landscape improvement, or ongoing degradation – reconciling apparent contradictions from the arid rangelands of Western Australia

  • Hugh J. R. Pringle
  • Ian W. Watson
  • Ken L. Tinley
Research Article


Recent quantitative site-based monitoring and qualitative aerial and ground traverses provide contrasting assessments of the health of much of the arid shrublands of Western Australia extensively grazed by livestock (‘rangelands’). Although these results seem incompatible, we explain the apparent contradictions based on landscape succession processes operating at multiple levels of ecological organisation. Specifically, we suggest that the intact areas in which site-based monitoring is conducted are contracting as catchment canalisation and desiccation increase. However, the impacts of these processes have not yet become manifest at the site scale. The site-based system addresses important regional questions. These relate to the large, relatively intact areas away from most active surface flows, which should be a focus for resource conservation, given practical limits to repairing widespread degradation with low management inputs. We provide a complementary set of questions to provide a more comprehensive audit of rangeland dynamics in the context of underlying hierarchical landscape patterns and processes that might threaten intact areas. We recognise the need to match questions and levels of ecological organisation and the implications these have for sampling. We also recognise the difficulty in producing concise statements of change for clients when reporting on complex ecological issues and processes. Without a clearly articulated, and well understood, hierarchical model of pattern and process within which apparently contradictory findings can be reported meaningfully, policy makers may be confused by the results, with the consequent risk of policy inaction.


Arid shrublands Catchment function Ecological organisation Hierarchy Landscape function Landscape processes Monitoring Policy Rangeland monitoring Reporting 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh J. R. Pringle
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Ian W. Watson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ken L. Tinley
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Management of Arid EnvironmentsDepartment of Agriculture Western Australia and Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Hugh J. R. PringleKalgoorlieAustralia
  3. 3.Ian W. WatsonNorthamAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Conservation and Land ManagementWannerooAustralia
  5. 5.Hugh J. R. PringleCottesloeAustralia

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