|Australian Association of Natural Resource Management
Landscape Genesis Approach to Integrated Catchment Management: The Ben
Dhia Al Bakri
The University of
Sydney, Orange, PO Box 883, Orange NSW 2800, Australia
The concept of integrated
catchment management (ICM) is widely accepted as the most appropriate framework
for undertaking sound natural resource assessments and management. This entails
a holistic consideration of the biophysical systems, socio-economic factors and
management process (DNR 1999, Savory 1999, Grayson et al. 2000). One of
the main impediments to the successful implementation of the ICM has been the
existence of a series of barriers to integration of R&D outcome. The R&D
approaches adopted have varied in scope and emphasis, which produced
incompatible, and some times irrelevant, outcomes. Other barriers are that most
of the current approaches tend to be subjective, time consuming, costly and lack
the ability to assess cause-effect relationship or predict potential
implications of anthropogenic activities. The resultant solutions and management
strategies have a tendency to focus on effects, rather than causes of the
problems, and thus be of limited value in terms of achieving the goal of
sustainability (Al Bakri 2001).
Resource degradation and
related environmental problems result from interaction of two complex factors:
1) the intrinsic carrying capacity (inherent potential and vulnerability) of the
biophysical system, and 2) impact of socio-economic development (anthropogenic
activities). Conventional approaches to integrated catchment and resource
management appear to focus on the second factor and largely ignored the inherent
characteristics of the biophysical system. Consequently the root causes and
magnitude of resource degradation have been either misunderstood or
underestimated. It is imperative, therefore, that the inherent carrying capacity
of the biophysical system is considered carefully in any integrated resource
management effort. As biophysical resources underscore all socio-economic
development, sustainability is untenable without securing the long-term health
of the underlying natural biophysical system (Al Bakri 2001). The latter
consists of essentially three independent causal factors (geology, climate and
time) and several dependent factors (eg. soil, water, fauna, flora, topography,
and other natural resources). The intrinsic properties of the dependent
variables are ultimately controlled by the independent causal variables. Given
that geological units encompass time factor and that changes in regional climate
have a limited impact on the variation of other biophysical attributes at the
catchment or on the local scale, geology and geomorphology remain the most
critical factors in determining the intrinsic carrying capacity of any given
landscape (Al Bakri 2001).
The landscape genesis (LG)
approach, which is based on the geological and geomorphic genesis of the
landscape, is rooted in concepts and case studies discussed in several articles
published by the author and associate researchers (Al Bakri 1994, 1996, 2001, Al
Bakri et al. 1997a&b, Al Bakri and Kittanah 1997, Al Bakri and
Chowdhury 1999). The approach differs essentially from other integrated resource
and catchment management approaches (e. g. Solntsev 1962, Wright 1973, Al Bakri
1975, Mitchell & Hollick 1993, Hooper 1995, Brierly et al. 1996,
Grayson et al. 1997, DNR 1999). This approach determines the geological
and geomorphic genesis of the landscape as a pre-requisite to: 1) assess the
intrinsic biophysical characteristics and inherent carrying capacity of the
natural ecosystems, 2) predict resource degradation due to anthropogenic
activities, and 3) then undertake an integrated assessment to develop
appropriate planning and management strategies.
The Ben Chifley Catchment
is used as a case study to explain and validate aspects of the LG approach for
sustainable catchment and resource management. The catchment (985
km2) exists upstream of Ben Chifley Reservoir, the main water supply
for the country town of Bathurst, New South Wales. The catchment is located in
cold-temperate region with an annual rainfall of 750-950 mm. Land clearing for
agricultural purposes was started around 1850. According to the land use map of
the catchment pastureland, soft wood plantation and native timber occupy more
than 99% of the area, whereas cropping and horticultural land represents less
than 1% of the catchment (Taylor 1994).
Despite the predominance of
a non-cultivated land use system (pasture and timber), which has been ongoing
for a relatively short period (approximately 150 years), the catchment suffers
serious land and water degradation problems. Fertility decline, soil acidity,
sodicity, soil structural decline, erosion, water logging, salinity, and weed
infestation are some of the most common land degradation problems. Approximately
80% of the grazing land is improved pasture where superphosphate fertilizer is
applied once every two years at the rate of 50 kg/acre to improve soil
fertility. Lime is also applied regularly to moderate acidity and improve
productivity. Considerable earthwork, gully filling, and fencing are employed to
combat erosion. The Ben Chifley Reservoir and other catchment's waterways
exhibit chronic algal blooms and degraded aquatic ecosystems together with
serious water quality problems such as turbidity, siltation, and eutrophication.
Given the need for high farming-input system and costly management practice
coupled with modest productivity and low commodity prices, the land use in the
catchment is becoming increasingly less sustainable, both ecologically and
economically (T. Cox 1999, per. comm.).
The study demonstrated that
lithological composition, tectonic and diagentic history, and landforming
processes were paramount factors in shaping out the intrinsic properties and
variation of the soil type, land use, land capability, erosion, slope and
resource degradation within the catchment. The LG model proved to be a powerful
tool to predict the inherent carrying capacity, resilience and sustainability of
the different biophysical systems in the catchment. The intrinsic
characteristics of other resources (e.g. water, fauna, flora, minerals), degree
of degradation, and viability of socio-economic development were controlled
ultimately by the geology, geomorphology, and related geoscientific processes.
As the catchment is
dominated by parent material derived mostly from felsic-intermediate igneous
rocks that have undergone low to moderate regional metamorphism, the study area
has inherent genetic constraints which limited its carrying capacity for the
development of intensive agricultural system. Although the existing land use was mostly restricted to fairly
passive agricultural activity such as grazing and softwood plantation, the
catchment has suffered serious land and water degradation. Judicious
conservation measures and considerable chemical inputs are necessary to sustain
this modest agricultural production system.
Although this new
approach is still in the infancy, the Ben Chifley Catchment case study and
recently published research (e. g. Al Bakri 2001) have demonstrated that the LG
approach has several advantages over conventional approaches in terms of
undertaking objective and cost-effective
R&D within the context of ICM. Therefore, the LG approach would provide a
sound basis for promoting the goal of sustainability efficiently and effectively
provides a rational
basis and adopts a problem-solving methodology which ensure timely and
cost-effective holistic catchment and resource management.
offers a comprehensive
yet flexible process to undertake an integrated multidisciplinary assessment.
The process can be implemented within a single project or within a number of
projects provided that the designated pathway was correctly followed.
genetic (LG) models to understand the intrinsic properties and predict
inherent carrying capacity and resilience of different landscape units under a
range of land use scenarios.
establishes a diagnostic basis to define root causes and cause-effect
relationship which are essential for determining preferred land use and
developing appropriate solutions to mitigate against anthropogenic
offers the potential to
develop global and quantitatively-based models and geoindicators that can be
applied at different catchment scales, climatic regions and land use
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Paper presented to:
Australian Association of Natural Resource Management, NSW Branch Conference -
Taking Charge of Change - November 23/24, 2001, Dubbo, NSW.