The future of biodiversity conservation in farming landscapes in south-eastern Australia

Ongoing expansion and intensification of agriculture are leading causes of biodiversity loss worldwide, and efforts to conserve biodiversity in farming landscapes often conflict with agricultural land use. Especially in locations threatened by agricultural change, there is an urgent need to identify trajectories of sustainable land use, before irreparable losses of biodiversity occur. How to best harmonize farming with biodiversity conservation is subject to extensive debate. In particular, the paradigms of sustainable intensification and land sparing/land sharing have been put forward as possible solutions. However, these have been criticised for providing incomplete solutions to a highly complex problem by narrowly focussing on food production and ignoring wider societal issues.

To overcome these limitations, this project will apply a systems thinking approach to integrate different perspectives and embrace critical uncertainties and complexities of human-environment interactions. The main goal of the project is to harmonise conflicting priorities for land use in farming landscapes. In particular, the method of scenario planning will be employed to solve complex planning issues in the face of uncertainty. When applied in close collaboration with non-academic actors, scenario planning can foster communication and joint problem solving.

A case study area in south-eastern Australia was strategically selected, because it ideally represents typical features of intensive farming landscapes in the world. Moreover, it is internationally recognized as an endangered ecoregion – its natural vegetation has been largely lost, and the conflicting goals of economically viable farming and the preservation of native biodiversity are prominent issues.

[Translate to Englisch:] Landscape Australia ©Annie Jacobs
[Translate to Englisch:] Dry Landscape Australia ©Tamara Schaal
[Translate to Englisch:] Rocky outcrops Australia ©Tamara Schaal

About the project

Project duration: 2019-2022

Work packages


Different and potentially conflicting priorities for future land use in the study area will be identified. This includes mapping of relevant stakeholders and performing a Q-study to identify different perceptions of priorities.


Future scenarios for social-ecological development with local and regional stakeholders will be developed. Through participatory planning workshops the main drivers of change and their uncertainties will be identified, to then develop the scenario logic and narratives. The implications of these scenarios will be analyzed, and opportunities to harmonise conflicting priorities will be identified through a questionnaire tool and a second round of stakeholder workshops.


Two academic workshops will be conducted in order to synthesize the role of scenario planning in biodiversity conservation in farming landscapes. These will involve academic experts from Europe and Australia, in order to generalize the findings from this study.


Project Partners

Prof David Lindenmayer, Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Dr Benjamin C. Scheele, Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Team and Contact

Project Leader

  • Dr. Jan Hanspach

Lead Investigator

  • Tamara Schaal

Funded by