Centre for Carbon, Water and Food
The Faculty of Agriculture and Environment has welcomed the Federal Government's announcement of $4.5 million of funding over three years for the establishment of the Centre for Carbon, Water and Food at the University's Camden campus during 2010.
The Centre will provide evidence-based teaching and research in global change biology, sustainable ecosystems and sustainable agriculture. Focussing on developing options for the management of rural land, both public and private, that keep people in rural landscapes. The Centre's work will cover:
- the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) including the high country of south-east Australia;
- urban-rural interfaces, especially in the Sydney basin and east coast;
- the pastoral-mining province of north-west Australia; and
- the question of "How we improve land management to achieve economic and ecological sustainability under future climates, whilst retaining people and livelihoods in rural Australia?"
These regions represent a large proportion of Australia's GDP, are some of the most important examples of declining (south-east) and increasing (north-west) rainfall, and encapsulate critical issues facing rural land management.
The big issue is how can we produce more food and manage water and carbon on public and private land - for downstream users as well as locally?
For example, the high country provides most of the water to the Murray-Darling system and is the most climatically vulnerable store of carbon in Australia. Major changes in carbon and hydrological cycles across large areas now result from changes in land use (e.g. adoption of plantation forestry), from mining, and from industrial and even urban development.
Agricultural land is threatened by changes in climate and other human-induced changes, but also by the changing global economy. Management of native forests is in dispute in many states as a result of changed public perceptions of appropriate management regimes. Public and private land is now threatened by fire more frequently than ever. Grazing land and rangelands are being overtaken by woody shrubs, as well as depopulated, at an increasing rate. In the vast areas of rangeland, changes in land management, including expansion of mining, are responsible for major changes in hydrology and in vegetation and carbon sequestration.
These challenges are both emphasized and simplified by considerations of the need to produce more food yet better manage our carbon and water. Changes in management have extraordinary implications for water yield and carbon sequestration.
The Centre will build on existing scientific infrastructure and expertise that has been developed and supported by funding from the Australian Research Council and many other government and non-government sources. It will deliver postgraduate training in Global Change Biology, in Sustainable Ecosystems, and in Sustainable Agriculture.
In total, the Centre will be a focused and concerted attack on the issues associated with the question: "How do we keep people in the bush and manage it now and in the future for food and fibre production and for carbon and water?"