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Peter Andrews 2011.
 


A LIFETIME OF OBSERVATION

During my childhood and adolescence near Broken Hill, I experienced fires, floods, dust storms and drought at first hand. In adulthood, it dawned upon me that our Australian landscape might have lessons for the entire world to learn. I began to understand that the extremes of the Australian climate demanded a special kind of recovery mechanism dependent on a number of interrelated factors:

1. A wide variety of plant species;

2. Unique filtering systems to manage run-off water;

and

3. Recycling of fertility from low to high ground.

Unless these three elements were allowed to operate, Australia could not have produced megafauna and a highly carboniferous geology.

Forty years later, I know Australia is a laboratory for the world where climate and landscape management can be demonstrated. Leading international scientists confirm that this country offers great opportunities to teach sustainability. Remote monitoring from satellites offers new insights into landscape function – in all climatic zones.

Four basic ecological processes are largely ignored in present environmental strategies:

1. Plants are solar-powered air conditioners, pumps and production lines;

2. Water vapour condensing as dew is managed by plants efficiently via transpiration in the short water cycle;

3. The greater the variety of plants the more productive the landscape; and

4. Movement of water through the root zone of plants below the surface protects against evaporation and optimises water retention.

These four components should be the basis of management decisions. I do not know of any published data that relies on them.