Conceptualising climate change adaption for native bush food production in arid Australia

lcj-19-coverSupriya Mathew, L.S. Lee & Digby Race

LCJ: Special Edition: Synthesis & Integration, 19, pp. 98-115

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Mathew, S., Lee, L.S., & Race, D. (2016). Conceptualising climate change adaption for native bush food production in arid Australia. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Synthesis & Integration], 19, 98-115. DOI:



Climate projections indicate an average rise in temperature in the range of 3-7ºC for central Australia by 2100 and a decline in thermal comfort. There is uncertainty in the future spatial and temporal occurrences of extreme events such as floods and droughts, though heat stress is predicted to become more frequent in central Australia. To a large extent, sustainable development in this region aims to create self-sufficient and vibrant remote desert-based communities. In this paper, we examine the prospects for sustaining native bush food production in central Australia under a changing climate. Harvesting of native plants for bush food has strong relevance in a central Australian context, where many bush foods have cultural significance to Aboriginal peoples. The native bush food industry is also important in central Australia as it provides employment for local people and sustains the knowledge and practice associated with culturally significant plants. However, the projections of climate change in the region suggest an increasing risk – to plant production, workers’ safety, and getting product to markets. A pathway of the potential steps needed for adaptation (i.e. adaptive pathway) is conceptualised in this paper as to how native bush food production can become a climate-ready and enduring industry in central Australia.


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