People as the forgotten ecological element of lowland grassland ecology - new perspectives on values and management

Colin Hocking, Sustainability Group, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, Victoria University St. Albans Campus, PO Box 14428, MCMC, Victoria 8001, Australia.


Lowland grasslands no longer exist in Australia separate from humans. The composition and ecology of native grasslands has, and will continue in future, to be unavoidably affected by humans in major ways - positively or negatively. Humans have become an integral and significant part of grassland ecology; for example by removing weeds, planting in new populations and species of plants, moving animals around. We need to decide what goals we have for grasslands. This will be determined in part by what influences we are able to exert, both ecologically and socially - we need to recognize that humans cannot 'manage' grasslands, in the sense of control. Because each remaining grassland remnant is a distinct and unique outcome of history, compositional interactions and social context, each area needs a unique set of management influences, built as a set of localized relationships with people. We need to actively perceive humans as part of the future of grassland ecology, and human-human interactions as integral to grassland ecology. There are numerous possible advantages in humans engaging as part of grassland ecology. These are discussed, along with possible ways that human interaction with other grassland ecology elements might be optimized.


Plant Protection Quarterly (2005) 20 (1) 9-11.