We are excited to announce that environmental not-for-profits Greenfleet and Bush Heritage Australia are working together on an innovative climate-ready revegetation project at Nardoo Hills Reserve in central Victoria.
Located north-west of Melbourne, Nardoo Hills protects the most threatened wooded ecosystem in Australia - temperate woodlands. The reserve now spans 1,200 hectares and was established by Bush Heritage in 2004.
Protecting threatened ecosystems
For many years, Nardoo Hills has experienced dieback of two Eucalypt species – Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora). The dieback is affecting both older and younger trees. Some have died outright, whilst small regenerative shoots are all that remain on other trees.
“Grey Box and Yellow Box grassy woodlands are threatened ecological communities nationally. At Nardoo Hills, they provide crucial habitat for native wildlife, including the Hooded Robin, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Brown Treecreeper and Tree Goanna,” explained Julie Radford, Bush Heritage Australia’s Victorian Ecologist.
Modelling conducted by Dr Garry McDonald from the University of Melbourne has determined that the dieback could be due to climate shifting and subsequent heat stress on the trees.
Bush Heritage and Greenfleet are joining forces to address climate change impacts on these two species. The aim is to run a restoration trial to provide long-term guidance on viable, climate-ready eucalypt revegetation options for Nardoo Hills and the region.
A native reforestation project – with a twist
Greenfleet plants native, biodiverse forests and, wherever possible, focuses on the restoration of original ecosystems. Traditionally, we aim to select species that are local and native to the area being revegetated. This project, though, is a little different.
“Together with data from the Bureau of Meteorology, an estimation has been made as to what the environment at Nardoo Hills will be like in the next 30 to 70 years,” explains Dr McDonald. “As a result, the seeds to be planted in the trial have been sourced from trees in areas that currently experience that predicted hotter and drier climate."
Bush Heritage has collected seed from the same tree species that are growing in hotter, drier regions of New South Wales and South Australia. The goal of the research project is to diversify the trees’ gene pool and ‘future-proof’ Nardoo Hills as temperatures increase and rainfall changes.
The large-scale trial will compare the resilience of the trees from the different provenances as they grow and face a gradually warming and drying climate.
Breaking new ground
Greenfleet’s work on the site has already begun. In late 2018, rip lines were cut through the soil over 100 hectares of the property in preparation for planting. This is a vital step in getting the site ready
Seeds have been collected by professionals and volunteers with a deep knowledge of their local environment and sowing has commenced at Arborline Nursery.
Planting is planned for winter 2019, when there is a higher chance that the seedlings will receive rain to help them grow. To support this unique research project, tree health and growth rates will be monitored closely over the coming years (and decades).
A partnership for the future
While the trial is a joint collaboration between Bush Heritage Australia and Greenfleet, the expertise of scientists from multiple research organisations including The University of Melbourne, CSIRO, University of Adelaide and University of Tasmania, as well as Arborline Nursery and VicRoads, has been invaluable.
“For two decades, we’ve been planting forests to mitigate climate change; and in the past few years, we’ve seen the direct impact of climate change on our work. The climate is shifting, and it is impacting the way we are approaching our projects,” explained Michael Coleman, General Manager Revegetation at Greenfleet.
“The team has been passionate about this project from the get-go,” he added. “We get to contribute to practical climate action but also provide decades of research material for future ecological restoration work.”
The results of this research project will help guide further climate-adjusted revegetation works by Greenfleet and Bush Heritage as well as many other organisations and local landholders.
To take practical climate action with Greenfleet, you can offset your carbon emissions online at: www.greenfleet.org.au/offset. Your offset donation directly contributes to native reforestation projects such as this one.