Minimal models and agroecological policy at the regional scale: An application to salinity problems in southeastern Australia
A minimal dynamical systems model that couples agricultural activity, native vegetation, and hydrological processes is developed to explore policy options regarding regional-scale soil and water salinization in southeastern Australia. The analysis suggests that although considerable revegetation is required to restore catchment water balance, the current value of water in uses other than agriculture is too low for revegetation to be economically viable. In contrast, groundwater pumping generates significant short-term gains by preventing soil salinization but is not a viable long-term solution. Thus, effective salinity management policy must include mechanisms to increase the value of water in uses other than irrigated agriculture to achieve sufficient long-term revegetation. These results are robust over a wide range of parameter values and thus provide a basis for policy action in the face of uncertainty about groundwater flow characteristics.