The Northern Gulf & Cape York Peninsula EcoAccounts Environmental Health Check, 2011 – 2012 does not pretend to encompass the ideal monitoring and evaluation program. These regional EcoAccounts are a work in progress and will evolve and improve. The current EcoAccounts do not have any Biodiversity, Climate-change or Carbon Indicators and it is hoped that future Accounts will incorporate these.
The exercise has for the first time brought an assorted mix of datasets into the one domain where they, under the format of EcoAccounts, have been used as a powerful mix of environmental indicators of the health of the Land Assets of our region. The process of putting together the EcoAccounts highlighted the stark paucity of information available for a comprehensive monitoring system. The advantage of the EcoAccounting framework is that new indicators can be added or dropped when they become available or unavailable. Recommendations have been made regarding future EcoAccounts. The next stage of the EcoAccounts needs to be at the finer property scale to answer the important questions asked by Land managers themselves.
Overall Land Health for the entire NG and CYP region was classified as a “Good” 86 out of 100. Each one of the 25 IBRA sub Regions were classified as in “Good” Land health, with scores ranging from 100 down to 81. These figures concur with the view that Northern Australia’s savannas are one of the last great pristine wilderness zones in the world.
NRM programs that addressed the fire regime across the landscape could dramatically improve the overall health of the region. Poor Patchiness scores for Broad Vegetation Groups has generally been addressed by laws putting a halt to tree clearing. NRM programs that address woody thickening, pasture condition and break-of-season ground cover issues in the above-named IBRA sub Regions would go a long way to improving the Landscape Function and Land Condition of the region.
Pasture Condition and Break-of-Season Ground Cover were positively correlated to IBRA subregion Overall Land Health, Landscape Function and Land Condition. The relationship between Land Health and “remoteness” is postulated.
Overall Land Heath, Landscape Function and Land Condition health assessments all appeared to be negatively impacted by the wetter than average conditions of the previous 9 years. Correlation coefficients did appear to show some causal effect, though the r2 values indicate that this may only explain around 20% of the Health scores.
The census data indicates that the IBRA sub regions in better health may be located in areas where the production base is more diversified in that mere cattle production and opportunities for income diversification are greater than in IBRA sub regions shown to be in poorer health. These may be contributing factors to less pressure on the land.