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Council alarmed by proposed CSIRO cuts

The Ecosystem Science Council has written to the CSIRO Board to share the concerns of our community about the recently announced proposal to cut critical climate and ecosystem research.

Read the letter here

Foundations for the future outlined the extent to which Australian industry, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and resource extraction depend on functioning natural and managed ecosystems, and the science that underpins this. The importance of ecosystem science is also recognised directly in three of Australia's national science and research priorities: food, soil and water, and environmental change. Thus, the proposed cuts to the Oceans and Atmosphere, and Land and Water divisions at the CSIRO would be a change that has long-term environmental, social and economic consequences for the nation.

'We appreciate that any organisation must strategically evolve to meet new challenges, but we believe the proposed changes to the CSIRO will diminish its capability in ecosystem science and critically, diminish its ability to contribute to the Australian Government's innovation agenda', says Prof Glenda Wardle, chair of the Ecosystem Science Council.

'The science of understanding climate and its effects on ecosystems is still developing, and more work is needed to ensure we have the knowledge needed to guide mitigation and adaptation.

'Continued investment in this science is critical for Australia's prosperity and livelihoods. We are still trying to understand how Australia's ecosystems are changing - it is impossible to mitigate for climate change if you don't understand how, where and why our ecosystems change, and what happens when you intervene with management actions.

'Mitigation and adaptation are arguably a waste of public and private money unless monitoring and modelling are in place to develop, assess and modify strategies so that they work.'

The letter also voices the ecosystem science community's concerns about the damage to Australia's international science reputation and linkages as a result of these changes, some of which is already occurring (read the World Climate Research Programme statement here, and the open letter from the international science community here).

Another key concern raised is the impact on Australia's future science talent, 'At a time when the STEM disciplines are investing in attracting more of Australia's best and brightest to study and work in these fields, another cut to science in Australia simply adds another disincentive to the next generation,' says Prof Wardle,

'This is another action that will encourage our future stars to look at other industries or to overseas for opportunities, instead of wanting to pursue STEM careers in Australia.'

The full letter is available to read here.