Cotton Focus on Ecosystems and Biodiversity

10 August, 2006

A new Cotton Catchment Communities CRC research program is examining the impact of native vegetation and biodiversity on cotton farms to enhance those ecosystem services (benefits derived from the environment) on which cotton production depends.

Associate Professor Nick Reid, from the University of New England, told the Australian Cotton Conference that a new decision support tool, ECOpak, is under development to assist growers manage native vegetation, wetlands and waterways for private and public good outcomes.

He drew attention to the Land and Water module for Cotton BMP which requires on-farm native vegetation to be mapped; important habitat features retained; erosion and grazing managed; and vegetation condition monitored.

He said a set of tools are needed to allow growers to identify different vegetation types; assess conservation significance of vegetation; establish benchmarks; define threatened species and communities; and assess vegetation condition (for biodiversity) and habitat features.

He said that ideally, growers could assess on-farm vegetation and its condition for various ecosystem services via:

grazing valuehabitat for beneficial insectserosion mitigationflood mitigationsalinity mitigationnature conservation valuecarbon sequestration potential, etc.p. He quoted research on Moree cotton farms which showed that Coolabah riparian and floodplain woodland has significant ecosystem service and conservation values in terms of wildlife habitat, river water filtration, as a spray drift barrier, for erosion control, flood mitigation, and as a home for beneficials.

Further information: Nick Reid 02 6773 2539