The Rangeland Journal
Volume 39 Numbers 5 & 6 2017
Restore, Regenerate, Revegetate; Restoring Ecological Processes, Ecosystems and Landscapes in a Changing World
The past four decades have seen the gradual incorporation of conservation practices such as ecological restoration, revegetation and agroforestry in Australian farming systems as a response to land degradation. While 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.
Ecosystem disturbance will be inevitably exacerbated as human populations rise, thus restoration efforts must become more effective in sustaining healthy ecosystems worldwide. Ecological restoration is still a young field, but a greater variety of options is being considered than in the past as more intractable environmental problems are being addressed. An improved understanding of plant traits, function, and adaptation; secondary succession; soil ecology; and plant evolution and provenance is contributing to more effective restoration practices.
RJ17021Impacts on ecosystems, corrective restoration practices, and prospects for recovery: nine case studies in the continental United States
Restoration efforts in the United States are becoming more numerous, comprehensive, and diverse. Riparian, rangeland, wetland, estuarine, watershed, prairie, and forest examples demonstrate how a diversity of ecosystems have sustained extensive modification through inadvertent and intentional anthropogenic change. Restoration efforts have had varying degrees of success, entail many different approaches, and demonstrate that much can be learned from both restoration successes and failures.
Rangeland restoration ecology has successfully focused on technical tools to alter ecological processes, particularly plant species composition. Although productive, this approach lacks urgency in elevating rangeland-based projects within the larger public interest. In this paper, we suggest that an increased emphasis on the alterations of ecosystems services as a result of restoration efforts could improve the relevance and success of proposed projects.
RJ17110Cost-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'
Farmland revegetation is important for farm productivity, amenity, aesthetics, capital value and biodiversity conservation. As farmers have to foot the bill to restore native tree cover, my family has funded annual revegetation works as part of our property’s farm business plan for the past 36 years. The production, financial, personal and wildlife benefits of our revegetation strategy are obvious at farm scale, but broader social, economic and environmental benefits require further investigation.
RJ17069Nature conservation and ecological restoration in a changing climate: what are we aiming for?
To address the challenge of establishing new nature conservation goals under climate change, we established a framework of human motivations implicit in historically focussed conservation approaches, and drew on this to propose five guiding principles. These include optimising ecosystem functions and processes, maintaining evolutionary potential, minimising species losses, maintaining evolutionary character, and maintaining wild natural systems. We argue that by connecting with underlying motivations for conservation, these principles will help us move towards more effective nature conservation in a rapidly changing world.
RJ17055Native seed for restoration: a discussion of key issues using examples from the flora of southern Australia
Native seed is often assumed to be plentiful and available for most species, when in reality seasonal variability influences which species will set seed and the volume being produced. Small and isolated plant populations are also more likely to produce poor quality seed if inbreeding is high and other factors associated with vegetation fragmentation such as habitat degradation are present. Overcoming these limitations will improve seed-based restoration activities by increasing the diversity of species being planted and the area that can be planted.
RJ17066Improving vegetation quality for the restoration of pollinators – the relevance of co-flowering species in space and time
The unique and diverse Australian flora and fauna is mirrored in the varied pollination systems that drive and support this diversity. Successful restoration of degraded landscapes may often depend on providing habitat for pollinators and the re-installation of an array of plant species that provide a staggered supply of flowers to support the pollinators. Caroline Gross explores the re-establishment of pollination services in degraded landscapes with suggestions of how to build resilience into restored ecosystems.
RJ17046Invasive species and their impacts on agri-ecosystems: issues and solutions for restoring ecosystem processes
Weeds and pest animals impact negatively on many agricultural and natural Australasian ecosystems. After reviewing theoretical perspectives of invasive species science and management, and discussing what makes a successful biological invader, some conceptual undercurrents are addressed before restoration can be considered. Finally, a practical working framework for managing invasive species for restoring invaded ecosystems is outlined.
Australia’s most southerly rangeland, sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, is among the last true wilderness areas on the planet and home to unique ecosystems and abundant wildlife. Research in such a remote, cold, wet and windy place is fraught with difficulties. Despite the research challenges we are discovering why weeds have survived so well in this harsh environment. Our results will be used to develop effective, low-impact control or eradication options for sub-Antarctic weeds to complement eradication programs for pest herbivores.
Rural law is often not sufficiently effective in changing behaviour, and too costly. Using modern behavioural science such as precise targeting of messages and interventions can help to overcome both these problems. This study shows that contemporary methods can identify discrete land-user segments with unique psychographic profiles, and argues that the effectivenesss of weed management regulations and other behaviour change interventions can be improved by targeting each segment.
In a rapidly changing world, it is important to ensure that restoration science and practice delivers outcomes that are both achievable and effective. Flexible goals are required to fit with different motivations and levels of resourcing. This requires open discussion of the potential and limitations of restoration across a wide range of situations.