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Prepare for Impact! When People and Environment Collide in the Tropics



Prepare for Impact! When People and Environment Collide in the Tropics

Other title

When people and environment collide in the tropics


Abdurohman, Rahman; Arnstrong, Rachel; Boggs, Guy; Bowman, David; Brook Barry; Bunn, Stuart; Campbell, Bruce; Cunningham, Anthony; Davies, Diane; Garnett, Stephen; Gerritsen, Rolf; Griffiths, Tony; Morrison, Joe; Yu, Peter; Wright, S. Joseph; Williams, Meryl; Tay, Simon; Steffe, Will; Stacey, Natasha; Srivastava, Leena; Sodhi, Navjot S; Sanchez-Azofeifa, Arturo; Resosudarmo, Budy P; Portillo-Quintero, Carlos; Nurdianto, Ditya Agung; Muller-Landau, Helene C


Stacey, Natasha E; Boggs, Guy S; Campbell, Bruce M.; Steffen, Will


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




South East Asia and tropical Australia are undergoing major changes, which are likely to intensify in the next decade. Booming economies in China and India, and potentially other countries, are likely to drive exponential increases in demands for natural resources. Climate change is likely to have severe impacts, ranging from those associated with changes in severity of cyclones, to those associated with sea level rise in shallow oceans. Land cover transformations, already a common feature in many parts, could well decimate biodiversity. Human disease outbreaks, which have already caused alarm and economic disruption, could remain a feature of the region. The challenges are immense; it is timely to reflect on transforming forces and our responses. In May 2006, an international symposium was held in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia, to discuss these very issues. This publication features papers by leading researchers and policy makers on the following themes:'Drivers of Change; 'Values & Livelihoods; 'What Are the Changes and Their Impacts? The editors of this book all have wide experience in this area. Dr Natasha Stacey is an anthropologist with expertise in natural resource management in the Asia-Pacific region. Dr Guy Boggs has focused his GIS and modelling research on the use of technologies for understanding changes in spatial patterns of vegetation distribution, erosion and runoff response. Prof Bruce Campbell works in the tropics on four continents from humid rainforests to dry woodlands and is focussed on achieving better outcomes for conservation and development and improving the well-being of people through natural resource management and use. Prof Will Steffen has research interests which span a broad range within the field of Earth System science.

Table of contents

Setting the scene -- Gerritsen : A resilient future for Northern Australia? People, economics and policy issues -- Resosudarmo : Setting the scene : driving forces of change in Southeast Asia -- Drivers of change -- Steffen : Climate change in the tropics -- Srivastava : Securing India's energy future : what does the world have to worry about? -- Tay : Trade and environment in Southeast Asia -- Williams : Food production systems and policy development in Southeast Asia -- Values and livelihoods -- Armstong et al : Indigenous land and sea management and sustainable business development in Northern Australia -- Garnett : Enterprise development by indigenous communities using natural resources : where do the benefits go? -- Campbell et al : Do local people and the environment collide? Who drives environmental change? -- What are the changes and their impacts? -- Cunningham : Culture, livelihoods and conservatism -- Sodhi and Brook : Biodiversity crisis in Southeast Asia -- Wright et al : The future of Southeast Asian forests and their species -- Bunn : Northern Australia -- all that water ... going to waste? -- Bowman : Time's up for Australia's last frontier.




0502 - Environmental Science and Management; Southeast Asia; Northern Australia; Natural Resource Management; Politics & Society

Publisher name

Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)

Place of publication



vi, 119 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.

File type



9780980665017; 980665019



Copyright owner

Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press)



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Water crisis in Australia? Australians consider water conservation and management as the single most important environmental issue facing the nation today. From a global perspective, it must be difficult to appreciate why. Even though Australia has the distinction of being the driest inhabited continent, we have abundant freshwater resources relative to our small population size. Australia is in the top 20% of countries in terms of total renewable water resources with more than 10 times the water availability per person compared to India, China, South Africa and even the UK, and twice as much as the USA (UNESCO 2006). We also have the dam capacity to store more water per capita than any other country (Commonwealth of Australia 1996). So why the talk of a water crisis? In part, the problem is that most Australians choose to live where the water isnt. About two-thirds of the available freshwater is in our tropical north over 250,000 GL of run-off, of which just over 1% is currently diverted (NLWRA 2001). This is in stark contrast to the 24,000 GL available in the Murray-Darling Basin of which over half is currently diverted. To compound matters, the water is not always there when we want it because our rainfall is highly variable between years. Australia is without question a land of droughts and flooding rains. However, to a large part, the problem is one of our own making. Australia has one of the highest rates of water use in the world third after the USA and Canada. Although much of this (about twothirds or nearly 17,000 GL) is in the agricultural sector, our domestic consumption is staggering the national household average is over 300 litres per day per person (ABS 2004). This is about double the average use per person in the UK and even higher than our American counterparts (around 260 litres per day). Interestingly, the average per capita household use in the Northern Territory is nearly double the Australian average. Where does it all go? About 40% of the water delivered to our doors is poured onto gardens, 15% goes down the toilet and a similar amount is used in the laundry less than 10% is used in the kitchen (ABS 2004). Threats to Australias tropical freshwater resources There is little doubt that, in the short term, construction of dams and other barriers, alterations to flow regimes and isolation of floodplains from agricultural and urban development are likely to have a far greater impact on freshwater ecosystems than climate change per se in most parts of the world (Malmqvist and Rundle 2002; Tockner and Stanford 2002). However, it is worth noting that the potential impacts to tropical freshwater ecosystems from projected changes in the Australian climate are of some concern. Significant losses of coastal freshwater wetlands are expected, especially in northern Australia, if sea levels rise as predicted. Many of northern Australias freshwater lagoons are low-lying and vulnerable to projected sea-level rises of 1030 cm (Bayliss et al. 1997), because of the expansion of tidal channel networks and the increased risk from storm surge. Increases in average temperatures will directly affect the distribution of tropical forest stream biota, many of which are cool stenotherms. Species with highly restricted distributions (e.g. some mountain crayfish and frogs) are at risk. Although there is a real risk to northern Australias freshwater ecosystems from climate change, the more serious threat comes from the perception that all of that water is being wasted. There have been repeated calls in the press for proposals to address this perceived problem, including recent nation-building schemes involving pipelines or canals and even super-tankers to capture river water flowing unchecked from our northern tropical rivers to feed thirsty cities in the south (e.g. the Kimberley Pipe Line). Not only have these proposals been shown to be uneconomical, they are based on the false premise that water flowing to the sea is wasted. Such proposals ignore the considerable ecosystem goods and services provided by natural river flows and the wetlands and estuaries they sustain (Postel and Carpenter 1997; Wilson and Carpenter 1999). Some of these services, including productive recreational and commercial fisheries and tourism, can easily be valued in economic terms. Others that relate to biodiversity, cultural or spiritual values cannot, and Prepare for Impact!What are the Changes and their Impacts? 106

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