Australian Rangeland Society

Restore, regenerate, revegetate; restoring ecological processes, ecosystems and landscapes in a changing world

R. D. B. (Wal) Whalley A C and Rhiannon Smith B

A Botany, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: rwhalley@une.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) i-v    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17133

Published: 29 January 2018

 

Reflections on four decades of land restoration in Australia

Andrew Campbell A D , Jason Alexandra B and David Curtis C

 

A Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 38 Thynne Street, Bruce, NSW 2617, Australia.

B RMIT, The School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, Melbourne, Vic. 3001, Australia.

C Institute of Rural Futures, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: andrew.campbell@aciar.gov.au

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 405-416   https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17056

Submitted: 29 May 2017  Accepted: 4 July 2017   Published: 22 August 2017

Abstract

The past four decades have seen a transformative process in Australian agriculture – the gradual incorporation of conservation practices such as ecological restoration, revegetation and agroforestry as a response to land degradation. Although actions have been impressive they remain fragmented, are confined to particular districts or properties and run the risk of not being built upon in the future. This paper traces the history of this movement and draws out lessons and implications for future policy development and research.

Landscape-scale restoration and the integration of conservation into farming landscapes have been recognised as a global imperative for decades, for which Australia has generated many innovations – in the technical, social and policy domains. Scanning the ‘big picture’, we identify many pixels of best practice in policy, incentives, planning, regulation and on-ground practice. We wonder why we have not pulled these together, to work in concert over time. If we had, Australia would have a world’s best natural resource management framework. However, we have neither integrated these elements at multiple scales nor sustained them. Unfortunately, although we are excellent at innovating, we have been equally good at forgetting. Progress remains partial, patchy and slow. Too often, we have made gains then gone backwards, reflecting a tendency towards policy adhockery and amnesia. With Australia’s continuing depreciation of institutional memory, we risk losing critical capabilities for making sound policy decisions.

Australian expertise in revegetation, restoration and regeneration of landscapes remains formidable however, with an enormous amount to offer the world. We are still learning to live and farm more sustainably, but we have made big strides over the last four decades. The challenge will be to maintain the momentum and provide adequate succession so future generations continue the work.

Additional keywords: agroforestry, conservation, cropping industry, ecological restoration, landcare, natural resource management, pastoral industry, revegetation.

 

Ecosystem restoration: recent advances in theory and practice

T. A. Jones

Forage and Range Research Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-6300, USA. Email: thomas.jones@ars.usda.gov

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 417-430    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17024
Submitted: 1 April 2017  Accepted: 20 July 2017   Published: 30 August 2017

Abstract

Restoration of damaged ecosystems is receiving increasing attention worldwide as awareness increases that humanity must sustain ecosystem structure, functioning, and diversity for its own wellbeing. Restoration will become increasingly important because our planet will sustain an increasingly heavy human footprint as human populations continue to increase. Restoration efforts can improve desirable ecological functioning, even when restoration to a historic standard is not feasible with current practice. Debate as to whether restoration is feasible is coupled to long-standing disputes regarding the definition of restoration, whether more-damaged lands are worthy of restoration efforts given limited financial resources, and ongoing conflicts as to whether the novel ecosystem concept is a help or a hindrance to restoration efforts. A willingness to consider restoration options that have promise, yet would have previously been regarded as ‘taboo’ based on the precautionary principle, is increasing. Functional restoration is becoming more prominent in the scientific literature, as evidenced by an increased emphasis on functional traits, as opposed to a simple inventory of vascular plant species. Biodiversity continues to be important, but an increasingly expansive array of provenance options that are less stringent than the traditional ‘local is best’ is now being considered. Increased appreciation for soil health, plant–soil feedbacks, biological crusts, and water quality is evident. In the United States, restoration projects are becoming increasingly motivated by or tied to remediation of major environmental problems or recovery of fauna that are either charismatic, for example, the monarch butterfly, or deliver key ecosystem services, for example, hymenopteran pollinators.

Additional keywords: ecosystem functions, natural selection, plant adaptation, plant restoration, seed dispersal, soil ecology.

 

Impacts on ecosystems, corrective restoration practices, and prospects for recovery: nine case studies in the continental United States

T. A. Jones

Forage and Range Research Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-6300, USA. Email: thomas.jones@ars.usda.gov

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 431-450    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17021
Submitted: 31 March 2017  Accepted: 30 August 2017   Published: 6 October 2017

Abstract

Ecological restoration in the United States is growing in terms of the number, size, and diversity of projects. Such efforts are intended to ameliorate past environmental damage and to restore functioning ecosystems that deliver desired levels of ecosystem services. In nine current restoration case studies from across the continental United States, this paper details (1) the impacts of the original disturbance and compounding secondary issues that compel restoration, (2) the corrective practices applied to advance restoration goals, and (3) the prospects for recovery of ecosystem services, including those involving associated animal populations. Ecosystem-altering impacts include flood control (Kissimmee River), flood control and navigation (Atchafalaya Basin), damming for irrigation-water storage (Colorado River) and hydroelectric power (Elwha River), logging and fire suppression (longleaf pine forest), plant invasions that decrease fire-return intervals (Great Basin shrublands, Mojave Desert), nutrient and sediment loading of watersheds (Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River delta), and conversion of natural lands to agriculture (tallgrass prairie). Animal species targeted for recovery include the greater sage-grouse (Great Basin shrublands), the red-cockaded woodpecker (longleaf pine forest), the south-western willow flycatcher (Colorado River and its tributaries), the desert tortoise (Mojave Desert), eight salmonid fish (Elwha River), and the blue crab and eastern oyster (Chesapeake Bay).

Additional keywords: arid rangelands, exotic species, fire ecology, grassland ecosystems, open forest, riparian ecology.

 

An ecosystem services filter for rangeland restoration

Joel R. Brown A C and Neil D. MacLeod B

 

A USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jornada Experimental Range, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA.

B CSIRO Agriculture and Food, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: Joel.Brown@lin.usda.gov

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 451-459 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17071
Submitted: 4 July 2017  Accepted: 13 November 2017   Published: 9 January 2018

Abstract

Rangeland restoration ecology and practice have profited from an emphasis on research and development that emphasises technical tools for monitoring and altering ecological processes. However, this approach has not been particularly effective in conveying the potential value of restoration projects to both an interested public and funding institutions. Rangelands, by their nature, are extensive in both land area and ecological process, and the ecosystem services derived from them reflects that diversity of resources. Without explicit links to specific ecological process outputs (i.e. commodity production, pollution reduction), it is difficult to capture and convey the values that may be achieved through rangeland restoration efforts. In this paper, we review the intersection of the practice of rangeland restoration ecology and ecosystem service provision as a basis for better evaluating and communicating potential projects. We also suggest that rangeland restoration projects pay more attention to explicitly defining the spatial and temporal extent of projects as a way to enhance communication with land owners, policy-makers and the concerned public.

Additional keywords: land management, rangeland ecology, rural people and communities, social-ecological systems.

 

Cost-effective landscape revegetation and restoration of a grazing property on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales: 65 years of change and adaptation at ‘Eastlake’

Gordon Terrell Williams

‘Eastlake’, Uralla, NSW 2358, Australia. Email: gweastlake@yahoo.com.au

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 461-476    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17110
Submitted: 3 November 2017  Accepted: 19 December 2017   Published: 29 January 2018

Abstract

This paper describes the restoration of woody vegetation on my family’s grazing property, ‘Eastlake’ (1202 ha) on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. We commenced revegetating ‘Eastlake’ in 1981 to reverse the loss of native tree cover due to New England dieback and improve shelter for livestock and pastures to increase farm profitability. We treated the revegetation program as a long-term business investment and, apart from a 5-year period of overseas employment, have allocated annual funding in the farm business plan ever since. Our decision was based on the benefits of shelter to livestock and pasture production. Once we began revegetation, aesthetics, amenity and the positive impact on the capital value of the farm became important motivations. More recently, increasing the farm’s biodiversity and resilience, and conserving native flora and fauna, have also motivated us. Our strategy is to link upland areas of remnant timber with ridgeline corridors of planted vegetation to maximise shelter, minimise pasture production losses and provide dispersal corridors for fauna and wildlife habitat. Initially, we planted introduced species of tree and shrub, but now we revegetate mainly with native species, as well as fencing off remnant timber to encourage natural regeneration and direct seeding understorey species (mainly acacias) in degraded remnants and elsewhere. Our target is to increase the area of fenced-off and planted timber cover from 8% to 10% over the next few years, which will take the proportion of total effective timber cover from ~8% in 1980 to 18% of the property. The key lessons are to: (1) plan, prepare, plant the right tree or shrub in the right place for the right purpose, and post-planting care (the ‘4 Ps’); (2) integrate revegetation into the whole-farm business plan; (3) finance the work slowly over time with the aid of a spatial farm plan; and (4) adapt to changing circumstances, values and understanding. Research is required to help farmers understand the role of on-farm biodiversity in contributing to the health of the farm business, owner–managers and their families and the farm environment, as well as to regional economies, communities, landscapes and society more generally.

Additional keywords: biodiversity conservation, direct seeding, groundcover, integrated farm management, livestock and landscape shelter, native and exotic temperate pasture, native and exotic trees and shrubs, New England dieback.

 

Nature conservation and ecological restoration in a changing climate: what are we aiming for?

Suzanne M. Prober A D , Kristen J. Williams B , Linda M. Broadhurst C and Veronica A. J. Doerr B

 

A CSIRO Land and Water, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.

B CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

C CSIRO National Research Collection, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: Suzanne.Prober@csiro.au

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 477-486    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17069
Submitted: 30 June 2017  Accepted: 21 September 2017   Published: 18 October 2017

Abstract

Principles underpinning the goals of nature conservation and ecological restoration have traditionally involved preventing ecological change or restoring ecosystems or populations towards preferred historical states. Under global climate change, it is increasingly recognised that this may no longer be achievable, but there has been limited debate regarding new principles that can help guide goal-setting for nature conservation and ecological restoration in dynamic environments. To stimulate such debate, we established a framework of human motivations implicit in historically focussed nature conservation approaches. We drew on this and a literature survey to propose a palette of five principles to guide goal-setting for nature conservation and ecological restoration in a changing climate. Our framework proposes three broad sets of human motivations relevant to nature conservation: (1) basic survival and material needs (akin to provisioning and regulating ecosystem services), (2) psychological and cultural needs such as a sense of place (reflecting cultural ecosystem services), and (3) the need to fulfil moral or ethical obligations (e.g. intergenerational and interspecies equity). Meeting basic needs for current and future generations is supported by a commonly proposed principle to optimise ecological processes and functions (Principle 1); which in turn is dependent on maintaining the ongoing evolutionary potential in the world’s biota (Principle 2). Beyond this, motivations relating to psychological, cultural and moral needs demand not only an emphasis on healthy ecosystem functioning, but on the character and diversity of the ecosystems and species that contribute to these functions. Our subsequent three principles, minimise native species losses (Principle 3), maintain the evolutionary character and biogeographic structuring of the biota (Principle 4), and maintain wild natural ecosystems (Principle 5) contribute to these further goals. Although these principles can sometimes be conflicting, we argue that by connecting directly with underlying motivations, this broader palette will help take us forward towards more effective nature conservation in a rapidly changing world.

Additional keywords: biodiversity conservation, biogeography, climate change and adaptation, ecosystem functions, restoration ecology, species extinctions.

 

Native seed for restoration: a discussion of key issues using examples from the flora of southern Australia

Linda Broadhurst A D , Cathy Waters B and David Coates C

 

A Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, CSIRO National Research Collections Australia, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, PMB 19, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

C Science and Conservation Division, Department of Parks and Wildlife, PO Box 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, 6983, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: Linda.Broadhurst@csiro.au

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 487-498    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17055
Submitted: 5 April 2017  Accepted: 18 October 2017   Published: 8 December 2017

Abstract

Land clearing across southern Australia since European settlement has fundamentally changed the amount and distribution of native vegetation; it has also substantially reduced genetic diversity in plant species throughout Australia, especially in agricultural regions. The most recent State of the Environment report indicates that Australian biodiversity continues to decline. Many approaches to restoration are used in Australia including re-establishing plant populations using tube stock or by direct seeding. Native seed for these projects is often assumed to be plentiful and available for the majority of species we wish to restore but these assumptions are rarely true. We also rely on a small number of species for the majority of restoration projects despite the vast number of species required to fully restore complex plant communities. The majority of seed for restoration is still primarily collected from native vegetation despite longstanding concerns regarding the sustainability of this practice and the globally recognised impacts of vegetation fragmentation on seed production and genetic diversity. Climate change is also expected to challenge seed production as temperatures rise and water availability becomes more limited; changes to current planting practices may also be required. Until now native seed collection has relied on market forces to build a strong and efficient industry sector, but in reality the Australian native seed market is primarily driven by Federal, State and Territory funding. In addition, unlike other seed-based agri-businesses native seed collection lacks national industry standards. A new approach is required to support development of the native seed collection and use sector into an innovative industry.

Additional keywords: climate change, genetic diversity, inbreeding, polyploidy.

 

Improving vegetation quality for the restoration of pollinators – the relevance of co-flowering species in space and time

C. L. Gross

Ecosystem Management, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, 2351, Australia. Email: cgross@une.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 499-522    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17066
Submitted: 13 June 2017  Accepted: 30 August 2017   Published: 23 October 2017

Abstract

Pollination is a key ecosystem function that directly and indirectly provides food for all organisms – regardless of the trophic level. In degraded ecosystems, installing plant and habitat resources for pollinators starts with an understanding of the temporal and spatial habitat needs of pollinators, and the augmentations, the co-factors and conditions required for pollinator populations. These co-factors, not immediately recognised as linked to the provision of pollination services, are critical for complexity and include a diverse array of resources such as food plants for larvae, shelter and temporal legacies of earlier flowering species. Practical steps for restoration include the installation of an array of plant species that provide a staggered supply of flowers and this can be refined to include specific floral types that are the mega supermarkets for nectar and pollen resources in them.

Additional keywords: buzz pollination, flower types, flowering phenology, nectar resources, pollinator conservation, spatial overlap, temporal overlap.

 

Invasive species and their impacts on agri-ecosystems: issues and solutions for restoring ecosystem processes

Peter J. S. Fleming A B D , Guy Ballard B C , Nick C. H. Reid B and John P. Tracey A

 

A Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Orange Agricultural Institute, 1447 Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

B Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

C Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Allingham Street, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: peter.fleming@dpi.nsw.gov.au

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 523-535    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17046
Submitted: 17 May 2017  Accepted: 3 October 2017   Published: 28 November 2017

Journal compilation © Australian Rangeland Society 2017 Open Access CC BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Humans are the most invasive of vertebrates and they have taken many plants and animals with them to colonise new environments. This has been particularly so in Australasia, where Laurasian and domesticated taxa have collided with ancient Gondwanan ecosystems isolated since the Eocene Epoch. Many plants and animals that humans introduced benefited from their pre-adaptation to their new environments and some became invasive, damaging the biodiversity and agricultural value of the invaded ecosystems. The invasion of non-native organisms is accelerating with human population growth and globalisation. Expansion of trade has seen increases in purposeful and accidental introductions, and their negative impacts are regarded as second only to activities associated with human population growth. Here, the theoretical processes, economic and environmental costs of invasive alien species (i.e. weeds and vertebrate pests) are outlined. However, defining the problem is only one side of the coin. We review some theoretical underpinnings of invasive species science and management, and discuss hypotheses to explain successful biological invasions. We consider desired restoration states and outline a practical working framework for managing invasive plants and animals to restore, regenerate and revegetate invaded Australasian ecosystems.

Additional keywords: adaptive management, biological invasions, removal, rate of increase.

 

Managing invasive plants on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island

Brian M. Sindel A C , Paul E. Kristiansen A , Susan C. Wilson A , Justine D. Shaw B and Laura K. Williams A

 

A Department of Agronomy and Soil Science, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: bsindel@une.edu.au

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 537-549    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17073
Submitted: 11 July 2017  Accepted: 9 November 2017   Published: 19 January 2018

Abstract

The Antarctic region is one of the most inhospitable frontiers on earth for weed invasion. On Australia’s world heritage sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island only three species of invasive weeds are well established (Poa annua L., Stellaria media(L.) Vill. and Cerastium fontanum Baumg.), although isolated occurrences of other species have been found and removed. These weed species are believed to have initially been introduced through human activity, a threat which is likely to increase, although strict biosecurity is in place. All three weeds are palatable and may have been suppressed to some extent by pest herbivore (rabbit) grazing. Given the high conservation value of Macquarie Island and threats to ecosystem structure and function from weed proliferation following rabbit eradication, well targeted invasive plant control management strategies are vital. We propose that a successful restoration program for Australia’s most southerly rangeland ecosystem should integrate both control of non-native plants as well as non-native herbivores. Of the non-native plants, S. media may most easily be managed, if not eradicated, because of its more limited distribution. Little, however, is known about the soil seed bank or population dynamics after rabbit eradication, nor the effect of herbicides and non-chemical control methods in cold conditions. A current research project on this non-grass species is helping to fill these knowledge gaps, complementing and building on data collected in an earlier project on the ecology and control of the more widespread invasive grass, P. annua. With an interest in off-target herbicide impacts, our work also includes a study of the movement and fate of herbicides in the cold climate Macquarie Island soils. Research in such a remote, cold, wet and windy place presents a range of logistical challenges. Nevertheless, outcomes are informing the development of effective, low-impact control or eradication options for sub-Antarctic weeds.

Additional keywords: Cerastium fontanum, eradication, herbicide dynamics, non-native species, Poa annua, rabbits, seed banks, Stellaria media, weeds.

 

Using behavioural science to improve Australia’s environmental regulation

Paul Martin A B and Donald W. Hine A

 

A University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: pmartin9@une.edu.au

 

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 551-561    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17105
Submitted: 12 October 2017  Accepted: 30 November 2017   Published: 9 January 2018

Journal compilation © Australian Rangeland Society 2017 Open Access CC BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Australia has many environmental regulations intended to alter the behaviour of rural landholders. One key issue relates to managing invasive plants and animals, where effective action requires sustained (and largely voluntary) action and sustained investment. Eliciting high levels of compliance is a difficult problem, because different landholders have widely different attitudes and motivations. What works with one group of people may not work with another, and indeed may be counterproductive.

This study demonstrates the use of contemporary psychological methods to identify groups of landholders who demonstrate different attitudes and behaviours in relation to weed control. It shows that identifiable segments do respond differently to different mixes of regulation, incentives and community action. It suggests that some commonly promoted interventions may actually be counterproductive in encouraging desirable action with some groups.

The study shows that behavioural precision is important in creating effective compliance strategies in weeds management, and it demonstrates some of the methods that may be used to achieve that precision.

Additional keywords: behaviour change, compliance, gamification, invasive species, psychology, regulation, segmentation, weeds management.

 

Where to from here? Challenges for restoration and revegetation in a fast-changing world

R. J. Hobbs

School of Biological Science, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia. Email: richard.hobbs@uwa.edu.au

The Rangeland Journal 39(6) 563-566    https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17053
Submitted: 29 May 2017  Accepted: 26 July 2017   Published: 23 August 2017

Abstract

Ecological restoration provides hope and the opportunity for positive action in the face of ongoing rapid environmental change. Restoration techniques and approaches are improving, and restoration is seen as an important element of conservation management and policy from local to global scales. Motivations for undertaking restoration are numerous, and resources available for this enterprise vary greatly from case to case. Restoration encompasses everything from multinational companies restoring minesites or offsets to comply with environmental regulations to local bushcare groups doing voluntary work in their local patch of bush. The financial and human resources available largely determine the extent and type of restoration activities that are possible. An important task is increasing the resources available for these activities, but it is also important to recognise that resources will continue to fall well short of what is actually required into the foreseeable future. In addition, the need for restoration will only increase with ongoing development and changing environments. In this scenario, how then, should decisions be made about what types of restoration activities are appropriate and possible? How do we ensure that the good intentions behind restoration management and policy translate into good outcomes? Challenges for restoration include not only improving the techniques and approaches but also tackling hard questions about what restoration goals are appropriate and engaging in open discussion of hidden assumptions and values behind decisions.

Additional keywords: restoration goals, restoration outcomes, standards.