Foundations for the future: A long-term plan for Australian ecosystem science
Bull, Christopher Michael
Cleugh, Helen A
Lowe, Andrew J
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Our natural and managed ecosystems form the world we live, play and work in; the settings for our industry; and the distinctive natural heritage that characterises the Australian nation. They are the basis of our current and future prosperity, and our national wellbeing. However, growing human populations, continuing habitat loss, moving climate zones and increasing global competition for resources are applying unprecedented and cumulative pressures to Australian ecosystems. A strong and sustainable Australian ecosystem science enterprise is vital for understanding and securing these ecosystems in the face of current and future challenges. This Plan defines the vision and key directions for a national ecosystem science capability that will enable Australia to understand and effectively manage its ecosystems for decades to come. The Plan’s underlying theme is that excellent science supports a range of activities, including public engagement, that enable us to understand and maintain healthy ecosystems. Those healthy ecosystems are the cornerstone of our social and economic wellbeing. The vision guiding the development of this Plan is that in twenty years’ time the status of Australian ecosystems and how they change will be widely reported and understood, and the prosperity and wellbeing they provide will be secure. To enable this, Australia’s national ecosystem science capability will be coordinated, collaborative, and connected. Knowledge from ecosystem science will be available and essential to government, industry, the general public, and for research and educational institutions. The Plan grows from extensive engagement across the diverse ecosystem science community, and expresses its collective voice for the first time. It is based on an extensive set of collaboratively generated proposals from national town hall meetings that also form the basis for its implementation. The strong connections fostered through the development of this Plan have brought us to the threshold of a new era of collaborative effort in ecosystem science across the country. Some directions within the Plan are for the Australian ecosystem science community itself to implement, others will involve the users of ecosystem science and the groups that fund ecosystem science. We identify six equal priority areas for action to achieve our vision: • Delivering maximum impact for Australia: enhancing relationships between scientists and end-users – Improved communication and collaboration between ecosystem scientists, and people who can use the knowledge and other outputs generated by ecosystem science. • Supporting long-term research – Dedicated funding for long-term (a decade or longer) ecosystem research, complementing existing support for short-term research. • Enabling ecosystem surveillance – Development of systematic, continental-scale monitoring of essential ecosystem variables that reflect the health of our ecosystems. • Making the most of data resources – Sustained infrastructure and capacity for consistent collection, publication and archiving of ecosystem science data sets and meta-data in standard, easily accessible formats in publicly accessible websites. • Inspiring a generation: empowering the public with knowledge and opportunities - A general public that is inspired, informed and empowered with knowledge and understanding of Australian ecosystems. • Facilitating coordination, collaboration and leadership - A more collaborative and coordinated ecosystem science community including the formation of an ‘Ecosystem Science Council’ to offer leadership to implement the Plan, working with all relevant discipline areas, organisations, societies, and professions. This shared vision will enable us to consolidate our current successes, overcome remaining barriers, and establish the foundations to ensure Australian ecosystem science delivers for the future needs of Australia. In doing this, we can put in place today the strategies and actions that will ensure we have the evidence, knowledge and skills to meet the needs of the Australian community tomorrow, and for years to come.