Dryland Salinisation in Southeastern Australia: Processes, Fallacies and Sustainable Natural Resource Management

By Glen R. Bann and John B. Field.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Secondary dryland salinisation in southeastern Australia is a paramount environmental concern. It adversely effects agriculture, land, water, biodiversity and infrastructure. The general cause of dryland salinity in southern Australia has been attributed to rising groundwater. The rising groundwater model (RGM) invokes an excess of water movement in the landscape due to post European land (tree) clearing. This excess water is said to enter the landscape at so-called recharge zones, usually designated on the elevated areas (hills), which subsequently travels through the landscape mobilising and transporting salt deposits that have apparently been lying dormant for millennia, to so-called discharge zones somewhere downslope. Although promoted nationally as the general model for the cause of secondary salinity in dryland areas, it has never been proven to be this general and in many cases, particularly local scale catchments, appears to be counter to the evidence. Significant government funding has been provided for management techniques that are based on the RGM. This generally involves planting perennial (usually non endemic) species across the so-called recharge zones to assist soaking up (evapotranspiring) the excess water. In addition, as primary (natural) salinity is a common feature in southern Australia, distinguishing whether a site is secondary or primary is problematic, with consequent concerns for management. The RGM is investigated, and another type of salinity described, called the ‘surface water model’ or ‘transient salinity model’, which requires different management practices. The use of endemic species for management activities, including sustainable agricultural practices such as fodder production, agroforestry, soil health and land and ecosystem conservation are all parts of the sustainable management regime. This has significant outcomes for conservation and sustainable natural resource management in southern Australia.

Keywords: Dryland Salinity, Sustainable Agriculture, Conservation, Endemic, Soil Degradation, Stock Grazing

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.155-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 606.600KB).

Mr Glen R. Bann

Ph.D Student, CRC Leme, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Has a background in geology, ecology, farming and NRM and is presently a PhD student at the ANU in Canberra researching the effects of dryland salinity on terrestrial biodiversity in grassy box/gum woodlands of SE Australia.

John B. Field

Senior Lecturer, School of Resources Environment and Society, Australian National University, ACT, Australia


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