Understand the Environment you are Working in

Different environments have different rainfall patterns and different rainfall volumes.  The different  patterns are crucial to your management thinking. One pattern is “humid all year round” (which we term as non-brittle).  A true rainforest is humid all year round and exemplifies extreme 'Non-brittle tending' environments.  At the other extreme are “dry all year round” patterns (which we describe as brittle-tending), typically a true desert.  We classify the non-brittle regions that are moist all year round as '1' on a scale between 1 and 10, and a true desert is classified as '10' on that scale.  In the middle lies most of the planet.    

About 95% of Australia lies at 5 or higher on the scale, meaning we have distinct seasonality or an uneven spread of atmospheric humidity through the course of a year.  In the south half of Australia the moisture is 'winter wet/summer dry' (Mediterranean), and in the north of the country it is 'summer wet/winter dry' (Tropical and Sub-tropical).  In both cases there are periods when the atmosphere is humid, followed by what are usually much longer periods when the atmosphere is very dry.  Worldwide, more than 60% of environments are brittle tending.  Much of the South Island of New Zealand is very brittle-tending.

Surprisingly, around the world there are some locations with relatively low rainfall environments that are also quite low on the brittleness scale, because the rainfall is evenly distributed.  Parts of Europe are like this. Conversely there are other locations around the planet that have quite high annual rainfalls, but they are regarded as very high on the brittleness scale because the rain falls during just a few months, and for the vast majority of the year the atmosphere is very dry indeed.   The very top-end of Australia is a great example of such an environment, where total precipitation may be 2 metres (~6 feet) or more per year, but it falls in only a few months.

Why this knowledge is important
Brittleness effects the speed and effectiveness of the decay process.  In non-brittle tending environments decay occurs naturally and rapidly, and can take place without large animals even being present.  Primarily, decay in such locations involves small organisms such as beetles, bugs and microbes who can all live comfortably in the open, in the near to constant, high humidity. 

In brittle-tending environments decay is much slower and almost always needs large herding animals to maintain its effectiveness.  Regardless of atmospheric humidity these large herding animals each maintain a constant internal humidity in their guts. Here they constantly sustain very high populations of micro-organisms capable of processing mature, fibre-rich plant materials such as seasonally dormant or dead grasses that vigorously develop during the growing season, and stop when the rainfall stops. 

When the decay process is ineffective, desertification follows.  Land based businesses managing holistically in brittle tending environments focus their decision-making on rapid cycling of the plant materials grown each year, and sustaining an active biological environment.  Human induced desertification is characterised by poor biological activity, evidenced by low mass of plants and animals, and micro-organisms.


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