Strategic adaptive management planning - restoring a desert ecosystem by managing introduced species and native herbivores and reintroducing mammals.
Arid rangelands are degraded worldwide, suffering vegetation transformation, soil erosion, introductions, and extinctions. Wild deserts is restoring a desert ecosystem in Sturt National Park, New South Wales, Australia (35,000 ha), eradicating or controlling introduced animals, managing native herbivores, and reintroducing regionally extinct mammals. We describe a Strategic Adaptive Management Plan for restoration of this desert ecosystem, including a vision, model of ecosystem processes, stakeholder input, a hierarchy of objectives linked to triggers and their management actions, producing outcomes and outputs. Our management treatments included two "no restoration" areas and three "restoration" areas. The latter include two exclosures (each 2,000 ha), free of introduced animals (foxes, cats, rabbits), with previously abundant kangaroos removed and regionally extinct mammals to be reintroduced. The third management treatment is a Wild Training Zone (10,400 ha), with introduced animals and kangaroos managed at low levels, using innovative methods, improving survivorship and avoidance behavior of reintroduced mammals to introduced predators. These measures will allow populations of threatened animals to establish, initially in the exclosures, then the Wild Training Zone and potentially more widely. Our strategic adaptive management planning approach is generic and implementable for any natural resource management project, providing explicit steps and processes that track and report transparently on outcomes, fostering learning by doing.