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Restoring biodiversity in agricultural lands

Wongan Hills, Robinsons. Image: J Collins, Greening Australia

Projects

The challenge in restoring agricultural land

South-Western Australia has been extensively cleared for agriculture, with some Shires retaining less than 5% of their original vegetation. At the same time, western parts of the region have experienced a 20% decline in rainfall since the 1960s whilst changed fire regimes, invasive species, salinity and grazing have collectively put significant pressure on remaining vegetation.

Restoring ecosystems across these landscapes has been the subject of significant investment from Commonwealth, state and private funding sources, but has several challenges. For example, socioeconomic barriers associated with integrating restoration into an active and changing agricultural landscape, biophysical barriers presented by the high diversity and complexity of local ecosystems and changed soil properties and hydrology.

The role of research

Research plays a significant role in understanding these environments to develop solutions to address the challenges facing at-scale restoration needs for the region. Significant research effort over the past 30 years in South Western Australia has provided the foundation for new knowledge that has informed and led our understanding of biodiversity conservation and restoration ecology locally, nationally and internationally.

Program objectives

The program recognises the complexity of the challenge and the need to develop research that will provide effective and implementable solutions.

The program will take a transdisciplinary approach, working across four themes to:

  • Support the development of innovative new technology
  • Capitalise on changes in global value chains
  • Support shared learning between science and practitioners
  • Support and continually improve biodiversity outcomes from restoration activities

Program themes

Theme 1 – Landscape planning

  • Better recognise ecosystem services and balance production and biodiversity values
  • Capitalise on new technology including drones, satellite remote sensing and precision agricultural technology
  • Respond to emerging challenges including climate change
  • Innovate in land use planning and evolution of the land supply chain

Theme 2 – Enhancing drivers

Large investment is required to achieve at-scale restoration. It is therefore a significant barrier as well as an opportunity to develop a restoration economy.

This theme aims to:

  • Support the development of new investment by exploring and capitalising on market based approaches to restoring biodiversity values and ecosystem services
  • Capitalise on changing agricultural industry structures and value chains
  • Support policy development and decisions

Theme 3 – Rehabilitation and restoration implementation

Techniques that help implement and support restoration and the reintroduction of biodiversity have advanced rapidly over previous decades.

This theme aims for continued innovation in these approaches. Key focus areas are:

  • Direct seeding technology including seed supply development and ex-situ conservation
  • Planting techniques
  • Equipment development
  • Enhancing early stage survival rates

Theme 4 – Understanding biodiversity outcomes

Restoration ecology is a young and evolving discipline; with a history of fragmented understanding of biodiversity outcomes from restorative actions.

This theme supports continual improvement through examining the response of threatened species to:

  • Restorative actions
  • Habitat development for fauna
  • Restoration trajectory assessment and prediction
  • Techniques for evaluating ecological function

Want to get involved?

We invite you to participate in a collaborative WABSI project.

Contact us to see how we can help.

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