Eco Investor August 2014

Property

Land Corridors Getting Longer

Private land owners are playing an increasingly important role in helping to grow and connect Australia's land conservation estate and wildlife corridors. Some recent example are biodiversity hotspots in Western Australia and Victoria and wildlife reserves in Canberra.

Greening Australia and the Alcoa Foundation have launched their One Million Trees Project to plant more than one million trees south of Perth and in western Victoria over the next three years.

The chief executive of Greening Australia, Brendan Foran, said the project will involve more than one thousand community members and land owners, capture thousands of tonnes of CO2 and restore degraded habitats. The trees include under-storey species, and precise direct seeding technology is being used to revegetate previously cleared land.

Alcoa of Australia managing director Alan Cransberg said the program can preserve and enhance the unique environments of Peel Biolink and Habitat 141, both of which are nationally significant landscapes.

Peel Biolink south of Perth has been identified as one of the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots, and is internationally recognized for the richness and diversity of its native flora and fauna. The Peel Biolink project will reconnect the Darling Scarp to the Ramsar listed Peel Estuary system through the revegetation and restoration of key ecological assets and biodiversity corridors in the Peel Catchment area.

It includes habitat protection and the creation for protection for two threatened species in Peel Harvey, Carnaby's Cockatoo and Western Ringtailed Possum, the endangered wetland bird the Australasian Bittern, several threatened ecological communities, and the Ramsar listed Peel Yalgorup Wetlands.

The "landscape scale corridor" project is in close proximity to Alcoa's mining and alumina refining operations.

In Victoria, Habitat 141 is also in an international biodiversity hotspot. It is a 50 year program to link national parks from the outback to the ocean, and is one of the largest environmental restoration projects ever undertaken in Victoria. The One Million Trees program extends from the Little Desert National Park in the north to the Portland area on the south coast. It will work with farmers and local community organizations to restore rivers, wetlands and bushland, and reconnect some of the region's most ecologically important parks and reserves.

The enhanced connectivity will safeguard several threatened and endangered species. These include the Red Tailed Black Cockatoo, Yellow Belly Glider, Malleefowl and Bush Stone Curlew, among others. Over 30 species are at risk in the region and restoration activities focus on linking patches of existing vegetation through direct seeding and tree planting.

Mr Foran said work on the One Million Trees program is underway. The project is working with Government, business, individuals and private landholders to help expand the critical work of restoring Australia's unique landscapes, so that people and wildlife can co-exist and thrive.


Source: Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia

In Canberra, recently replanted woodlands should boost the fortunes of the region's vulnerable birds. In June, 50 volunteers planted 1,000 trees in the Great Eastern Ranges bush corridor project at Bush Heritage Australia's Scottsdale Reserve, 75 kilometres from Canberra. This was the latest stage of a six-year 300-hectare Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation project with Greening Australia.

The 20-hectare planting included yellow box and apple box eucalypts, drooping sheoaks for birds, a range of acacias and other mid-storey shrubs. The work added to 100 hectares already restored to promote connectivity and enable birds and other animals to move around the landscape.

Birds that were recently surveyed at the Scottsdale Reserve by 15 Canberra Ornithologist Group volunteer birders indicated increased numbers of woodland birds including scarlet robins and more diversity of small birds in areas planted with native trees and shrubs over the past five years.

Scottsdale Reserve has some of Australia's most threatened temperate ecosystems and a diverse range of habitat for many of the region's endangered and vulnerable birds including the brown treecreeper, hooded robin, speckled warbler, scarlet robin and diamond firetail.

Scottsdale was one of 21 properties that the birders surveyed between Williamsdale and Bredbo. They recorded a higher number of robins, including the scarlet robin, flame robin, eastern yellow robin and hooded robin across a number of the surveyed areas.

On one of the sites surveyed near Michelago, close to 400 yellow-faced honeyeaters were spotted traversing the landscape on Greening Australia's restoration of snow gums, black sallee and silver wattle.

"The honeyeaters were coming along a thinly-wooded planting only four years old, which shows just how important it is for organizations like Greening Australia and Bush Heritage to restore vital habitat connections in our landscape," said Canberra schoolteacher and birder, Sue Lashko.

With more than 95 per cent of critically endangered box gum grassy woodlands having been cleared, the available habitat for birds has diminished in southeastern Australia. "Restoring the valley floor to a functional ecosystem at a large, habitat-corridor scale is crucial to reversing biodiversity loss in this region," said Peter Saunders, Bush Heritage's Healthy Landscape Manager.

Scottsdale Reserve is a 1,328 hectare conservation property 4 kilometres north of Bredbo in NSW. It is in the Great Eastern Ranges wildlife corridor as identified in the Federal Government's National Wildlife Corridors Plan.

Mr Foran also welcomed Gregory Andrews on being appointed to the position of Threatened Species Commissioner. Australia really needs a Threatened Species Commissioner, with his focus on protecting and rebuilding threatened species habitat around the country. 1,256 plant species at risk of extinction, he said.

"What threatened species need is work on the ground to restore landscapes and connect habitats across broad landscapes. We have been doing it for years by working with private landowners and it is incredibly effective, the approach rebuilds biodiversity."

For example there is new technology available now to create diverse native grasslands containing threatened species. A new 10 hectare diverse native grassland has been created south of Geelong on land that was previously degraded, that after only six years contains over 80 species of plants, many listed as threatened. We now have the opportunity to extend this technology at scale to impact positively on threatened species habitat, he said.

To help the cause, the first national strategy for ecosystem science, to underpin growth, sustainability and prosperity, has been launched in Canberra.

The plan aims to ensure that Australia's managed and natural ecosystems will be in as good a shape in 2035 to support the industries, native wildlife, landscapes and community wellbeing as they are today.

Key proposals include a plan to engage the public more closely in studying and protecting ecosystems; closer links between science and end users in industry, government and the community; a continent-wide monitoring system to report on the condition of Australian ecosystems; more support for long-term research into the ways our ecosystems are changing; and the pooling of national ecosystem research data and better cross-disciplinary collaborations.

The Plan was launched by Australia's Chief Scientist, professor Ian Chubb, and the event was hosted by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), the Ecological Society of Australia, and Australian Academy of Science.

A new book from the CSIRO provides the latest information on Australia's biodiversity.

Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia provides business, government, and the community with practical solutions to manage our unique natural assets. "This publication is an invaluable resource for anyone managing Australia's ecosystems. The book provides an important bridge from our scientists to the wider Australian community," said Environment minister Greg Hunt.

It identifies practical solutions to the many challenges that face Australia's unique biodiversity, such as habitat fragmentation, altered fire regimes, invasive species, harvesting of species, and species decline, said CSIRO chief executive, Dr Megan Clark.


Source: Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia

Scientific insights include the ancient origins and unique features of Australia's species, and the current status of our biodiversity on land and in rivers, lakes and the sea. It has tools for management and planning protected areas, Indigenous perspectives on biodiversity, and discusses how Australia's biodiversity interacts with agriculture, the resources sector, and cities.

The ebook, which also has some fantastic photography, is available for free at www.csiro.au/biodiversitybook


Source: Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia

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