Changing unsustainable natural resource use in agricultural landscapes is a complex social–ecological challenge that cannot be addressed through traditional reductionist science. More holistic and inclusive (or trans-disciplinary) processes are needed. This paper describes a trans-disciplinary project for natural resource management planning in two regions (Eyre Peninsula and South Australian Murray-Darling Basin) of southern Australia. With regional staff, authors reviewed previous planning to gain an understanding of the processes used and to identify possible improvement in plan development and its operation. Authors then used an envisioning process to develop a value-rich narrative of regional aspirations to assist stakeholder engagement and inform the development of a land use management option assessment tool called the landscape futures analysis tool (LFAT).
The LFAT provided spatially detailed but simple models of agricultural yields and incomes, plant biodiversity, weed distribution, and carbon sequestration associated with future combinations of climate, commodity and carbon prices, and costs of production. Stakeholders were impressed by the presentation and demonstration results of the software. While there was anecdotal evidence that the project provided learning opportunities and increased understanding of potential land use change associated with management options under global change, the direct evidence of influence in the updated regional plan was limited. This project had elements required for success in trans-disciplinary research, but penetration seems limited. Contributing factors appear to be a complexity of climate effects with economic uncertainty, lack of having the project embedded in the plan revision process, limited continuity and capacity of end users and limited after project support and promotion. Strategies are required to minimise the controlling influence that these limitations can have.