Food and land use context in Australia

Australia is the most arid continent, with a highly variable climate and diverse environment. Over the past century, its ambient temperature has increased by 1 °C, and is projected to rise by a further 0.4 to 2.0 °C by 2030. Agricultural land is increasingly under strain from climatic impacts, compounded by a history of intensive agriculture in a fragile environment. Although farmers have made important advances in land management, soil health is under threat. Almost 50% of soils in key agricultural regions are acidified, while soil carbon levels are historically low, and the risk of erosion has grown with greater frequency of drought, flood and loss of ground cover. These processes threaten productivity, reduce crop choice and constrain yields.

Agriculture contributed 3% of Australia’s GDP in 2018, with agricultural exports worth $44.8 billion. As one of the world’s largest exporters of beef, Australia has major impacts on other countries and industries. For instance, 1 million metric tonnes of soybean meal for animal feed was imported in 2018, a key commodity that is driving global deforestation. Australians also consumed three times the global average of meat per person a year, positioning the industry as central to both diet and economy.

FOLU activity in Australia

The Australia FOLU Team is run out of ClimateWorks Australia, Deakin University, and the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and called the Land Use Futures project. ClimateWorks Australia works within the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and brings capability in convening cross-sectoral stakeholders, managing inter-disciplinary research and translating research outputs into practical advice and on-the-ground engagement to catalyse action in food and land use systems across Australia. CSIRO and Deakin are recognised as global leaders in the science of food and land use and the use of integrated modelling tools to understand the interactions, synergies and trade-offs between different land uses.