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Catchment scale evaluation of trees, water and salt

Harper, R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0268-2917, Sochacki, S.J., Smettem, K.R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2650-4429, Robinson, N., Silberstein, R.P., Clarke, C.J., McGrath, J.F., Crombie, D.S. and Hampton, C.E. (2009) Catchment scale evaluation of trees, water and salt. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, May 2009.

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Rising ground-waters and resultant salinity threaten agricultural land, conservation reserves and water resources in southern Australia. Although revegetation with woody plants is often considered as a strategy to restore catchment water balances, farm forestry has not been adopted in low-rainfall environments to the extent of that in high rainfall zones. Similarly, there is some conjecture that the proportion of revegetation needed to restore catchment water balances may be as high as 80%.

The JVAP publication Trees, Water and Salt provides a set of guidelines for revegetation of farmland, however these have not been tested at the catchment scale in drier (<400 mm annual rainfall) environments that are representative of the wheat and wool-belt of much of southern Australia. Reforestation in these regions is often of limited scale, and thus at an inappropriate scale to assess catchment scale responses. This study measured the hydrologic response of an 80 ha catchment to partial reforestation, near Wickepin, Western Australia. This region, which has around 300 mm annual rainfall, has agriculture that comprises rotations of cropping and pastures. These trees were established using the procedures outlined in Trees, Water and Salt.

An issue with dryland reforestation has been the lack of clear economic drivers. The emergence of markets for carbon sequestration and bioenergy from trees, in response to national climate change policies may increase the future rate of reforestation. Key issues include understanding the rates of both sequestration and biomass production in drier environments such as Wickepin and also how best to integrate reforestation with agricultural production. Of particular interest are the interaction of belts of trees with agriculture and the utilization of land that is poorly productive, such as that which has been affected by salinity.

Item Type: Report
Series Name: RIRDC Publication No. 09/059; RIRDC Project No FPC-2A
Publisher: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
Copyright: © 2009 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.
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