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Broad-scale restoration of landscape function with timber, carbon and water investment

Harper, R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-0268-2917, Smettem, K.R.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2650-4429, Townsend, P.V., Bartle, J.R. and McGrath, J.F. (2012) Broad-scale restoration of landscape function with timber, carbon and water investment. In: Stanturf, J., Lamb, D. and Madsen, P., (eds.) Forest Landscape Restoration: Integrating Natural and Social Sciences. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 275-292.

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Salinization threatens up to 17 million hectares of Australian farmland, major fresh water resources, biodiversity and built infrastructure. In higher rainfall (>600 mm/year) areas of south-western Australia a market based approach has resulted in the reforestation of over 280,000 ha of farmland with Eucalyptus globulus plantations. This has had significant collateral environmental benefits in terms of reducing salinity in several watersheds. This model has not been replicated in the lower (300–600 mm/year) rainfall areas of this region, which is a global biodiversity hotspot. In this area, conventional forestry species have lower wood yields and longer rotations, compromising profitability, and reinforcing land-holder preference to maintain existing agricultural activities.

Two complementary strategies are being used to restore landscape function across this drier region, through increased reforestation. The first is to shift from the paradigm of forestry comprising tall trees grown in relatively long rotations and producing timber to one based on the production of a range of biomass products (bioenergy, chemicals, sequestered carbon), and environmental services such as providing fresh water. As a consequence of breaking this paradigm, silvicultural practices such as stand densities and rotation length can also be redefined. The second strategy is to integrate these new systems into the existing dryland farming systems. Four broad approaches are being assessed viz. (a) belts of trees with farming maintained in inter-row alleys, (b) blocks of trees located on areas of water accumulation or of high recharge, (c) adjusting species selection to soil conditions, such as those that are shallow or saline, and (d) alternating short phases (3–5 years) of trees with farming. These systems offer the prospect of sequestering carbon, and producing wood or biofuels from farmland without displacing food production.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Springer
Copyright: © Springer Science + Business Media Dordrecht 2012
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