Environmental Science
articles by Will Kemp

Water and irrigation in Australia


Fresh water is an essential resource for human life, and ensuring we have a sustainable supply is of critical importance. Global water use tripled during the second half of last century – mainly due to increasing agricultural demands – and the world’s population continues to rise. If we do not address the issue of water sustainability, there will be a big increase in the number of water-stressed people over the next few decades (Hayashi et al 2013).

Australia is the driest inhabited continent (Smith 1998) and we are highly dependent on dams and irrigation systems to maintain our standard of living. However, damming rivers has had a disastrous effect on downstream ecosystems and irrigation has caused a considerable amount of sailinisation (Kingsford 2000, Connor et al 2012). Climate in Australia is very variable and global climate change means conditions are likely to get more extreme. Well targeted research and policy is essential if agricultural production is going to survive into the future (Wei et al 2011). Read the rest of this entry »

Modelling potential futures for land use and ecosystem services

Ecosystem services

Ecosystems provide many benefits to human society, including food, water, timber, climate control, soil formation, tourism, and recreation. Collectively these can be termed “services” and a value can be placed on them (Bryan 2014). Humans have always been dependent on services provided by ecosystems but, until recently, the main concern has been with services which provide tangible products – particularly those which can be sold for profit, such as food and timber. However, there is increasing awareness of the value of those services which, until now, could not be traded – such as clean air and water, erosion control and climate control (Close et al 2010).

Failure to understand the importance of these services has contributed to problems like climate change, soil erosion, and salinity, and a growing awareness of those problems has driven research to identify ecosystem services and quantify their value. Although such services are an important part of what can be considered as our natural capital, they have previously been considered “externalities” in economic terms and little or no account has been taken of them by businesses and governments (Close et al 2010). Rees (1998) describes the economy as a parasite on nature and a sub-system of the ecosphere. Read the rest of this entry »