Original Articles

What engages the interest of land managers in rangeland monitoring?


For many decades, scientists have been devising and refining ways of monitoring the world's rangelands. Government land management agencies have often been keen contributors to the process because they are custodians of publicly owned land and need to represent the interests of their constituents in the entire community, not just in rangelands. The approaches which have been developed may tacitly be assumed to be useful to local land users, because they cater for the public interest at scales from local to national, but we are not convinced that they are always as useful as is supposed. We discuss our monitoring experiences on freehold land, protected areas and in communal rangelands in southern Africa, with particular reference to South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, as well as on commercial pastoral enterprises in Australia. From these, we consider who the monitoring is for, how land managers and scientists can work together to devise systems which managers will use, what needs to be monitored as a consequence and what the scale should be. We think that characteristics that define a system useful to land users include less rigour in methods than scientists usually require, greater breadth of information, better feedback on that information and more support to encourage continuing use and integration into decision-making. We argue that the monitoring process is as important as the data that are generated.

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