Insights on the relationship between total grazing pressure management and sustainable land management: key indicators to verify impacts.
Demonstrating sustainable land management (SLM) requires an understanding of the linkages between grazing management and environmental stewardship. Grazing management practices that incorporate strategic periods of rest are promoted internationally as best practice. However, spatial and temporal trends in unmanaged feral (goat) and native (kangaroo) populations in the southern Australian rangelands can result land managers having, at times, control over less than half the grazing pressure, precluding the ability to rest pastures. Few empirical studies have examined the impacts of total grazing pressure (TGP) on biodiversity and resource condition, while the inability to manage grazing intensity at critical times may result in negative impacts on ground cover, changes in pasture species composition, increased rates of soil loss and reduce the ability for soils to store carbon. The widespread adoption of TGP control through exclusion fencing in the southern Australian rangelands has created unprecedented opportunities to manage total grazing pressure, although there is little direct evidence that this infrastructure leads to more sustainable land management. Here we identify several key indicators that are either outcome- or activity-based that could serve as a basis for verification of the impacts of TGP management. Since TGP is the basic determinant of the impact of herbivory on vegetation it follows that the ability for rangeland pastoral management to demonstrate SLM and environmental stewardship will rely on using evidence-based indicators to support environmental social licence to operate.