This study presents a method for assessing conservation opportunity on private land based on landholders' socio-economic, behavioral, and farm characteristics. These characteristics include age, gender, education, level of off-farm income, farm size, proportion of remnant native vegetation on-farm, and ecological value of native vegetation on-farm. A sample of landholders who own greater than 2 ha of land in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin region were sent a mail-based survey about their values and preferences for environmental management ( N = 659, 52% response). Cross-tabulations and ANOVA statistical analysis techniques were used to compare the socio-economic attributes across three landholder classes: disengaged, moderately engaged, and highly engaged in native vegetation planting. Results indicate that highly engaged landholders were more likely to be female, formally educated, hobby farmers who managed small parcels of land and have high off-farm incomes, whereas disengaged landholders held significantly stronger farming connections (more farming experience, family have lived on the farm for more generations). Spatial analysis revealed area-specific differences in conservation opportunity and conservation priority. In some areas, properties of high ecological value were managed by highly engaged landholders, but nearby properties of high value were managed by moderately engaged or disengaged landholders. Environmental managers therefore cannot assume areas of high conservation priority will be areas of high conservation opportunity. At the regional scale, the potential for revegetation seems most promising within the moderately engaged landholder group considering the vast amount of land managed by this group in areas of high ecological value, particularly within the less represented Mallee and Coorong and Rangelands sub-regions. We suggest that incentive schemes which purchase conservation need to be targeted at disengaged landholders; mentoring schemes led by commercial farmers highly engaged in native vegetation planting should be directed at moderately engaged landholders, and; awards programs which acknowledge conservation successes should be targeted at highly engaged landholders.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2011
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