Fenner scientists to work on farm biodiversity and carbon government scheme

The ANU has been awarded a $3.4 million grant from the Federal Government to provide advice on a farm biodiversity and carbon scheme.

Researchers will develop a monitoring, reporting and measuring framework for the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program. The project is a collaboration between the College of Law and the Fenner School of Environment & Society, and will include work from Professors Andrew Macintosh (Law), Professor David Lindenmayer and Professor Phil Gibbons.

“ANU has the experience and expertise, and it’s great to contribute to a project that we hope will have great long-term benefits for farmers and biodiversity,” Professor Gibbons said.

Professor Gibbons says the team will design a program that enables farmers to be paid for providing genuine biodiversity and carbon outcomes.

“Farmers manage over half of Australia’s native vegetation and are therefore critical for conserving conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike past stewardship programs, we will seek to develop a program with a sustainable finance model that can provide payments to farmers in perpetuity and thus provide a source of income for farmers that endures through droughts and bushfires.”

Payments for biodiversity projects could help farmers diversify their businesses and take advantage of new revenue streams. Projects such as maintaining or enhancing remnant forest, regeneration of gullies or waterways, or mixed species native plantings could be examples of applicable initiatives.

Planting native shelterbelts brings plants and animals, slows down wind speed, reduces soil moisture loss, helps to retain top soil and provides shade and frost protection. It also provides a better production environment for livestock—cattle and sheep put on more meat when they have good shelter—and delivers essential habitat for native wildlife.

Under this pilot, the ANU will build robust measuring methods, incorporating three basic principles:

  • the scheme has to have integrity
  • farmers have to make money out of it
  • there needs to be clear, measurable biodiversity benefits for the farmer to be paid taxpayer dollars.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment will establish a steering committee to provide oversight and direction for the Agriculture Stewardship Package. It will link with the work already being delivered by the National Farmers’ Federation and Australian Farm Institute to deliver an Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme.