Emerging amenity landscapes: invasive weeds and land subdivision in rural Australia
Throughout history non-native invasive species have created environmental, economic, and social problems. Technological change, trade, and land system change are among the key factors in their spread and intensification. A recent global phenomenon holds the potential to exacerbate the invasive species problem: amenity migration, the subdivision of farm and grazing land, and the introduction of alternative land uses and management regimes by new rural residents. An Australian case study explores the subdivision of fine wool sheep ranches, the arrival of amenity migrants, and the impact on the management of one of the country's worst weeds, serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma). Interviews with property owners, government officials, and members of the community-based conservation group, Landcare, expose cultural, institutional, and economic barriers to the control of the invasive grass. As the subdivision process leads to smaller properties and higher population densities it holds the potential to improve management of serrated tussock if the result is fewer livestock and more people to chemically and mechanically control the grass. But roughly 65% of the newcomers are part-time residents and absenteeism tends to result in weak efforts to manage the weed. In addition, regardless of their full-time/part-time status, most of the newcomers are 'amenity" landholders whose cultural context and ideas about land and nature is diverse, and who do not seek their primary income from the land. Much of rural Australia now contains amenity landscapes, with weakened social capital, and a reduced capacity to coordinate a response to regional-scale environmental problems. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.