Projects per year
Invasive species can have negative and positive impacts for local communities. Conflict between these different values can complicate and sometimes prevent broad-scale management and decision-making. Multi-functional landscapes and community-based conservation paradigms have emerged as constructive approaches to integrating competing interests and the development of sustainable and locally meaningful management planning. Here, we report on a five year feral ungulate exclusion fence project that was used to focus local people's attention on the eco-cultural and socio-economic impacts of feral ungulate invasion in a remote Aboriginal-owned region of northern Australia. Exclusion of feral buffalo, horses and pigs from three culturally significant freshwater billabongs from 2009 to 2013 resulted in variable increases in smooth ground (from 64-93%), ground cover vegetation (from 18-95%) and water lily cover (bush food) (from 20-60%), dependent on the site. The reduction in feral animal ground surface damage in the fenced areas was fastest at the floodplain billabong, Nalawan, which took only a year to become negligible. At the two channel billabongs, Costello and Namaliwiri, feral animal damage was negligible after 3 years. Senior Aboriginal Traditional Owners of these areas were pleased that these environmental assets were protected, but only agreed on the wholesale culling of pigs. Despite recognition of the negative eco-cultural impacts of feral ungulates as observed through the exclusion fence project, they wanted to maintain buffalo and horse on their Country to financially benefit from potential pet-meat and live export industries. Fencing was requested for culturally meaningful sites including those that were used for fishing and were sacred. Fenced areas were viewed by Traditional Owners as "protected" areas of ecological and cultural resources. These multiple management preferences can be combined to build socio-ecological resilience into regional strategic planning for feral ungulate management that will deliver multiple benefits for local communities.