Key words: reconstruction, planning, direct seeding, monitoring, innovation
Introduction. The Peniup Restoration Project was initiated in 2007, when Greening Australia and Bush Heritage Australia jointly purchased a 2,406 hectare property as a contribution to the conservation and restoration objectives of Gondwana Link. The property has an average annual rainfall of approximately 450mm per year and had previously been farmed in a traditional broad acre sheep and cropping rotation system. The site is located within a highly diverse mosaic of varying soils and associated vegetation associations across Mallee, Mallee Shrubland, and Woodland type plant communities.
Planning and 2008 Operational Implementation. In 2008, Greening Australia’s Restoration Manager Justin Jonson developed a detailed ecological restoration plan for 950 hectares of cleared land on the northern section of the property. Information and procedures applied for that work are detailed in the EMR Journal article Ecological restoration of cleared agricultural land in Gondwana Link: lifting the bar at ‘Peniup’ (Jonson 2010). Further information is also available for the specific vegetation associations established via the Peniup Restoration Plan, with species lists according to height stratum, including seedlings planted by hand which were nitrogen fixing or from the Proteaceous genera. Funding for the initial 250 hectares of restoration were raised and the project implemented in 2008 (Fig.1).
Monitoring. A total of 42 monitoring plots were laid out across seven of the nine plant communities established (Fig.2). Details of the methodology, results and ongoing evaluation have been published (Jonson 2010; Hallet et al. 2014; Perring et al. 2015).
Results to date. Monitoring indicates approximately 3.8 million plants were re-established by the direct seeding across the 250 hectare project area. The numbers established in each plant community are shown in Fig.3 and represent the majority of plant species in each reference model. After 8 years it is clear that the project’s objectives are on track to being achieved, considering: a) absence of agricultural weeds; b) nutrient cycling through build up and decomposition of litter and other detritus; seed-rain by short-lived nitrogen-fixing Acacia shrubs, c) diverse structural development of re-establishing species; and, d) presence of many target animals using the site. Peniup’s progress in terms of recovery of the National Restoration Standards’s 6 ecosystem attributes is depicted and tablulated in Appendix 1.
Innovation. As an adaptive management approach, small, discrete patches of seedlings of the proteaceous family were hand planted to make best use of small quantities of seed. Planting of these 5,800 seedlings in small patches, termed ‘Nodes’, provided further resource heterogeneity within relatively uniform seed mixes (by soil type). The impetus for this approach was to create concentrated food sources for nectarivorous fauna, while increasing pollination and long-term plant species viability (Jonson 2010).
Lessons learned. Continuity of operational management is a critical component to achieving best practice ecological restoration. Project managers must be involved to some degree in all aspects of works, because flow on consequences of decisions can have high impact on outcomes. Detailed planning is also needed with large scale projects; otherwise the likelihood of capturing a large percent of site specific information is low. Finally, the use of GIS software for information management and site design is an absolute necessity.
Stakeholders and Funding bodies. Funding for this Greening Australia restoration project was provided by The Nature Conservancy, a carbon offset investment by Mirrabella light bulb company, and other government and private contributions.
Contact information. Justin Jonson, Managing Director, Threshold Environmental, PO Box 1124, Albany WA 6330 Australia, Tel: +61 427 190 465; email@example.com
See also EMR summary Monjebup
Watch video: Justin Jonson 2014 AABR presentation on Peniup
Appendix 1. Self-evaluation of recovery level at Peniup in 2016, using templates from the 5-star system (National Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration in Australia)