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CRC for Forestry > Research programs > Trees in the landscape > Communities > Participatory modelling of forested landscapes

Participatory modelling of forested landscapes - A case study in the Upper Clarence catchment of northern New South Wales

Introduction and background

Why use participatory modelling?

Many Australian landscapes have undergone significant land use change from family-run agricultural enterprises to corporate-run plantation forestry. These land use changes have created varying levels of controversy over the sustainable use of natural resources, with many perceived social, ecological and economic impacts on rural communities.  Stage One of this study used a survey of, and interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders from the Upper Clarence catchment, in order to explore their attitudes and perceptions regarding the expanding hardwood timber industry, predominantly being planted for structural timber by Managed Investment Scheme corporations.

Participatory modelling is an exciting and interactive community engagement strategy proven to achieve improved community outcomes where used and evaluated in developing countries.  Prior research has found that the use of participatory theory empowers local stakeholders to work collaboratively through a structured learning process, thereby encouraging the sharing of knowledge between groups and individuals.  Participatory processes have the potential to lead to: better informed decision making; improved capacity for Australian rural communities to undertake sustainable land use planning; and improved economic prosperity.  The extent to which these potential benefits have been achieved was evaluated in Stage Two of this study.

Participatory modelling can provide opportunities for participants to share concerns through a process of scenario building which explores system interactions and dynamics using ‘Simile’, a computer simulation program. Participants work collaboratively towards achieving community outcomes which could not have been done effectively or fairly without participatory input from stakeholder groups. 

Features of the Upper Clarence rural community

The area of the Upper Clarence catchment is 51,183 hectares, of which 68% is considered forested. The catchment is located within the Kyogle Local Government Area (LGA), with the Clarence River flowing through it. The headwater of the Clarence River is in the Tenterfield LGA.  Mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,076 mm at Urbenville to 1,222 mm at Tabulum. Mean monthly temperatures range from an average maximum of 27.5 °C in January down to an average minimum of 5 °C in July. The population of the Kyogle LGA was recorded at 9264 in 2006.

Fig 1: Location of Upper Clarence catchment, northern NSW.

Reports and publications

Use of Participatory Modelling in addressing land use conflict, Stage 1 - Informing the process.

Click here to download report.

Stage 2: Participatory modelling: Exploring systems dynamics using a visiual modelling environment.

Academic Books and Papers:

Vanclay, J.K., Prabhu, R. and Sinclair, F.L. (2006) Realizing community futures: a practical guide to harnessing natural resources, Earthscan, London; Sterling, VA.