Research seeks to restore degraded farmland

December 1, 2017

Land restoration: research looks at best way to restore degraded farmland

Can you restore unviable, degraded agricultural land by planting native trees and provide benefits to biodiversity and the environment?

To find out, Murdoch University ecologist Tina Schroeder is investigating nine sites east of Geraldton in the Midwest region.

“We are interested in discovering whether it is possible to restore land to the condition of nearby native woodlands when we plant native shrubs and trees in an area that has previously been cropped or grazed,” Ms Schroeder said.

Ms Schroeder is completing a PhD at the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences.

The research, which is investigating how ecological functions and biodiversity have changed in the revegetated sites and how closely they resemble native remnant woodlands, aims to answer an important question.

“We would like to know, if we plant trees, do we simply end up with a site that is similar to the condition of agricultural land or will we see a return of ecological function and biodiversity to conditions matching the high quality remnant woodlands.”

Ms Schroeder is collecting data from abandoned agricultural, revegetated and reference woodland sites. The revegetated sites have been planted with York gums and other native understory species.

“The findings will provide valuable insights for the region which has a growing problem with degraded farm land. Restored areas could also provide important habitat for wildlife because native woodland habitats are small and fragmented in the northern Wheatbelt," she said.

Her data collection focuses on the number and diversity of plant life and invertebrate species including beetles and ants, as well as soil properties such as water infiltration and soil compaction.

She said that understanding more about the process of restoring degraded landscapes was becoming more important for the protection of native species and their habitats due to rapid environmental change and ongoing degradation.

“My research will provide an evaluation of restoration outcomes that will guide restoration activities in the Midwest and other agricultural regions.”

Ms Schroeder’s research is supported by Bush Heritage Australia and Carbon Neutral Pty Ltd and has been awarded funding from the prestigious Holsworth Wildlife Research Fund.



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