A scoping assessment for a national research centre addressing land use and food security issues

Ecosystems Sustainability Rural conditions Australia
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This report proposes a Centre for Land Use and Land Resources to conduct an Australian program of work on agricultural land use and food security analysis, linked to international efforts.


Internationally, food security and the sustainability of productive land resources have been identified as key issues driving the need for improved information on land use change and land resources.

This study reports on perspectives on land use and food security issues gained through consultations with international and Australian institutions and individuals, including the relationship between land use and food security. It also scopes Australia’s potential contribution to addressing global food security concerns, including the potential for an Australian-based Centre for Land Use and Food Security as a facility associated with the Global Land Project (GLP). The GLP is an international program aimed at analysing changes in land systems arising from human-induced global change.

The review determined that land use and land use change impacts on a broad range of natural resource and ecosystem services sustainability issues – including water management, biodiversity protection, urban planning development, carbon management and responding to climate variability. Although the nexus between land use and food security is strong and is of particular interest, there are broader interests and needs regarding national capacity in land use research.

It is argued that this broader range of needs, including food security, could be improved by focusing Australia’s capacity to analyse and track land use change particularly in relation to our productive land assets. This would address the Australian Farm Institute’s recent call for improved data and analysis to assess land use change and agricultural production potential.

The study proposes the establishment of a Centre for Land Use and Land Resources. This centre could be a virtual organisation, operating on a collaborative basis and drawing on the expertise of Australian agencies and research institutions with allied interests and objectives. It could initiate an Australian program of work linked to international efforts on agricultural land use and food security analysis and make an important contribution to global activities linking food security, land use and land resources risk assessment, particularly the development of protocols for tracking and forecasting change and the development of tools to assist decision making.

Within this network a Nodal Office of the GLP with a focus on land use and food security could be hosted out of a leading research or academic institution, linking the relevant researchers in government research agencies and universities with international collaborators. Research could be aimed at key gaps in the GLP research agenda, such as international trends in food, fibre and fuel, and the sustainability of land resources.

It is suggested that the options for hosting a Centre for Land Use and Land Resources be explored with national institutions with interest and capacity in the land use and land resources sciences field. ABARES is well positioned to continue playing a leadership role for the Australian Government, building on established collaborative arrangements and with a continuing focus on promoting national consistency in land use data, information and analysis to support policy and programs.

It is proposed that ABARES establish a working group comprising representatives from potential partners in a Centre for Land Use and Land Resources (including, CSIRO, TERN, key universities, NCLUMI and NCST) to further explore options for its establishment, including structure, partnership arrangements, research agenda work-plan and funding.

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