Supporting our Uni

2018 Keith Roby Memorial Lecture

Dr Denis Saunders

Agriculture and conservation: an oxymoron or a necessity?

Presented by: Dr Denis Saunders AM

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Prior to clearing of native vegetation for the development of agriculture, WA’s Wheatbelt region was one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth. The region’s biota was characterised by extremely rich species diversity and a high degree of endemism. Up to 90% of native vegetation has been removed, with well-documented detrimental changes in ecosystem processes, species losses, and widespread decreases in the ranges and abundances of many others. Conservation of the region’s unique biota is dependent on the retention and management of the thousands of native vegetation remnants.

Most remnant vegetation is on private property. Regardless of ownership, this vegetation should be managed for conservation. Who should manage this conservation estate, and how should society reward them? These questions need to be addressed before we lose more of the region’s unique biota through a combination of deliberate removal of remaining vegetation (death of a thousand cuts) and benign neglect.

Dr Denis Saunders AM

Dr Denis Saunders is an animal ecologist and conservation biologist. He is a former CSIRO Chief Research Scientist, past President of WWF-Australia, and currently Chair of the Sara Halvedene Foundation, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and an honorary fellow with CSIRO Land and Water in Canberra.

He was awarded the International Society for Conservation Biology’s 1998 Individual in Government award for making “significant, meaningful and lasting contributions to conservation biology”; the International Association for Landscape Ecology’s 1999 Distinguished Scholarship Award for “exceptional contributions to the development of landscape ecology as a science and a practice”; and was Highly Commended in the Australian Prime Minister’s 2000 Environment Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement for ‘highly significant contribution to the research and practice of biodiversity conservation.’” In 2005 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “service to nature conservation”.