THE Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy is a commitment by the State Government to recognise and conserve one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. It provides a vision for conservation in the region which involves roles for many partners in the community, industry and in government and non-government organisations.
In May 2009, the Department of Environment and Conservation prepared a synthesis of scientific knowledge to support conservation management in the Kimberley region.
To learn more about existing projects and new initiatives invovling the Department of Environment and Conservation click on the hyperlinked text.
The Kimberley Science Conservation Strategy recognises the region’s potential growth, and sets a path to conserve its natural and cultural values. The Government is determined to see positive changes and has already begun implementing many of the new initiatives set out in this strategy.
The Kimberley is at a critical point, with increasing recognition of its development potential, including development of rich offshore petroleum resources, the expansion of the Ord Irrigation Scheme, an expanding international profile and increasing visitor numbers as well as a growing population.
Honourable Colin Barnett MEc MLA
The State Government is committed to ensuring the Kimberley’s natural and cultural values are protected as the region fulfils its economic potential. This will be achieved under the framework provided by the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy through an initial investment of $63 million over five years.
The five outcomes to be delivered are:
• Kimberley Wilderness Parks
• A new landscape approach to conservation to manage fire, introduced animals and weeds
• Training and employment for Aboriginal rangers
• Investing in knowledge and making information accessible
• A major boost to nature-based tourism
The Kimberley is a tropical savanna punctuated by gorges, flat topped mesas, swamps, rainforests and desert sand dunes. This unique terrain has evolved over 250 million years and supports its own distinctive flora and fauna, a great deal of which is found nowhere else on earth.
The north Kimberley is one of few relatively untouched large wilderness areas left in the world and has been listed as a National Biodiversity Hotspot. Most of the marine environment is internationally recognised as being in very good ecological condition.
The varied landscape of the Kimberley is home to the best preserved fossil fish, nationally significant wetlands, rivers undisturbed by the impacts of humans and the most diverse spectrum of freshwater species in the State.
While the Kimberley’s natural environment is still in relatively good condition, it faces significant and immediate threats.
The terrestrial environmental condition has deteriorated, mainly due to inappropriate fire regimes and grazing by introduced animals. This is resulting in soil and vegetation degradation, weed infestations and marked declines in native mammal populations.
Changes in climate will also affect the region. Significant changes in average rainfall, temperatures and frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are projected to occur over the next few decades.
Aboriginal people have inhabited the Kimberley region for at least 50,000 years. The region has an exceptionally high Indigenous population, with 47.7 per cent of Kimberley residents being of Aboriginal descent in 2006, compared to around 3.5 per cent in Western Australia.
Immense traditional, cultural and ecological knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation, being extremely valuable to the scientific community and the community at large.
The complexity and diversity of the Kimberley marine environment means there are eight major marine bioregions, more than in any other part of Western Australia.
Aboriginal people have a connection with Kimberley waters that dates back tens of thousands of years. There are hundreds of archaeologically significant marine sites and the ocean remains significant in oral traditions and spiritual activities.
There are more than 2,500 islands off the Kimberley coast. They are spectacular places with plunging sea cliffs, tropical vegetation and secluded beaches. These islands are reservoirs of ecological communities and wildlife, many of which have disappeared or are under threat on similar areas on the mainland.
This is because the islands have mostly been spared from disturbances such as feral cats, cattle and inappropriate fire regimes. Unlike other parts of Western Australia, at present, few islands in the Kimberley are reserved for conservation.
Science in Kimberley
While scientists have made substantial inroads in documenting the landscape, seascape and biological values of the Kimberley in recent decades, the region remains one of the great frontiers for scientific discovery.
Despite progress, there is a need for targeted and prioritised research including biological and geological survey programs to provide the information necessary to support sustainable resource development decisions, and marine, terrestrial and freshwater conservation planning and management.
The Kimberley region attracts an estimated 350,000 overnight visitors per annum (Kimberley Development Commission), spending approximately $256 million within the region.
Parks, wildlife, scenic beauty and other natural attractions underpin a valuable and expanding nature-based tourism industry: Kimberley national parks and reserves attract around 300,000 visits each year.
During a consultation process, the community called for the Kimberley’s unique character to be protected, making it clear that the region held a special place in people’s hearts and minds.
This strategy’s vision for the Kimberley is:
The spectacular natural environments and rich and living cultural traditions of the Kimberley are conserved for their intrinsic values and in a way that contributes to the long term social, cultural, spiritual and economic wellbeing of the community.
Proudly supported by the Western Australian Government as part of the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy.