Title: Monitoring Land Degradation and Ecosystem Resilience Across Australian Rangelands
Rangelands play an important role in the maintenance of biodiversity, which enables the provision of various ecosystem services linked to food security, carbon sequestration, and cultural activities. Australian rangelands cover as much as 81% of Australia’s total land area, and are made up of a variety of biomes, including tussock and hummock grasslands, mulga woodlands, chenopod shrublands, and tropical savannas. It’s been approximated that these ecosystem generate an annual revenue of $4.4 billion through tourism and agriculture alone, making their continued functional existence vital to Australia’s wellbeing.
Degradation of rangelands has been reported in Africa, the Mediterranean, the Americas, Asia, and Australia. However, measuring the extent and severity of land degradation is a difficult task owing to the complexity of the associated systems. This is evident in the wide variability of reportedly affected area, with estimated percentages of degraded global rangelands ranging from 4% to 74%. Clearly, there is a need to improve our understanding of rangeland degradation and its assessment.
Satellite remote sensing products offer spatially and temporally consistent data on ecosystem attributes (such as above-ground net primary productivity) and climate variables. This allows for broad scale studies in which ecosystem net primary production can be characterised in relation to important climate variables such as rainfall and drought severity.
The primary aims of this research project are to (1) determine ecological resilience of Australian rangelands during large-scale extreme dry and wet periods through the use of remote sensing techniques; with (2) comparative analyses of resilience between degraded and non-degraded rangelands. The results of this project will allow us to better predict how different rangeland biomes will respond to future climate extremes, and which biomes are likely to exhibit high/low resilience.