A bioregion is an area of land and/or sea defined by common patterns of natural characteristics and environmental processes (such as geology, landform patterns, climate, ecological features such as plant and animal communities). A bioregion is an area that is sufficient to maintain the integrity of the region’s biological communities, habitats, and ecosystems (Philips, 1995).
In other words, it is an area where you can find specific, identifiable, self-contained (groups of) plants, animals and landform patterns. These interact with each to maintain a particular, recognisable natural environment and landscape that is different to that of neighbouring bioregion.
Greenprints creator, Dr Michelle Maloney, refers to bioregions as ‘Mother Earth’s way of telling us about the unique features of a place, literally from the ground (geology) up.”
A bioregion’s borders are defined by natural boundaries such as mountain ranges, river catchments and soil types (all of which influence the types and range of plants and animals found there). As a result, each bioregion has a unique collection of ecological communities as well as different landscape patterns and threats to ecosystem integrity and biodiversity.
Generally, a bioregion is smaller than an ecoregion, but larger than an ecosystem or catchment area. Ecoregions were defined globally by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF – website). In Australia, we have a widely accepted classification system called the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia, version 7 (IBRA7), which has created 89 bioregions, and 419 sub-regions in Australia, based on the WWF system (“Australia’s bioregions (IBRA),” n.d.).
Why bioregions are important to the Greenprints approach
The GreenPrints approach uses bioregions as one of the key ways to think about, and work within, natural boundaries – and in turn, to create Earth centred governance. Bioregions offer the best starting point for describing, mapping and understanding what ecological limits are, and what ecologically healthy communities can look like in Australia. Many conservation and land management groups in Australia already use bioregions in conservation projects (Morgan, 2001) and consultation with our Greenprints scientific advisory group confirmed that this is an effective unit of analysis for the project.
The benefits of a bioregional approach are threefold: By using bioregional ecological health as a starting point for human governance, we can:
- develop our understanding of place and connection with our local Earth community;
- map out what nature needs to thrive and to help us understand critical parameters and the ultimate ‘end-game’ (ecological limits) for us to work within, and;
- use these limits to redesign human culture and society so that economic, social and political systems all work towards the same, life-sustaining ecological goals: a healthy and thriving bioregion.
Note: although we will treat bioregions as separate, many natural processes operate at scales larger than bioregions, and bioregions can be interlinked. It is important to ensure that in making a bioregion healthy and thriving we do not ‘export’ problems to neighbouring bioregions.
Disambiguation : Bioregionalism
Bioregionalism is a body of thought that evolved to ‘reconnect socially just human cultures in a sustainable manner to the region-scale ecosystems (often, but not always bioregions) in which they are irrevocably embedded’. GreenPrints will draw on the powerful ideas from the bioregionalism movement, but unlike the movement itself, does not place a priority on re-drawing our current political boundaries to comply with bioregional boundaries.
Australia’s bioregions (IBRA). (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2018, from http://www.environment.gov.au/
Morgan, G. (2001). Landscape Health in Australia: A Rapid Assessment of the Relative Condition of Australia’s Bioregions and Subregions. Environment of Australia.
Philips, J. (1995). APPROACHES TO BIOREGIONAL PLANNING – Part One. In R. Breckwoldt (Ed.), Approaches to bioregional planning. Part 1. Proceedings of the conference, 30 Oct-1 Nov 1995, Melbourne. Melbourne.