Reforesting Western Australia

Location

242 Ha (600 acres) of highly degraded land in a low rainfall semi-arid region within the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Project Field Partner

Auria Forestry Research Project

Goal

To support the development of innovative techniques and technologies that enable degraded land to be recovered, the spread of deserts reversed and rainfall enhanced.

Conservation Value

Much of Western Australia is classified as ‘arid’ or ‘semi-arid’ (100mm - 400mm/annum rainfall zone) and has soils that are among the most impoverished on the planet. We all recognise that trees need moisture and nutrients to grow, yet remarkably, trees with outstanding physical qualities grow naturally in this area under these challenging conditions. The challenge with this forestry project was to emulate nature.

Due to a simple error-of-judgement by early settlers, the native trees were thought to be too slow-growing for commercial forestry projects, and that stigma has never been questioned. What was not recognised was that the native trees have evolved so they can grow under particularly hostile conditions. In any 12-month period, deciduous trees in the early settlers' homelands experience one period of ‘summer growth’ and one of ‘winter dormancy’, resulting in the production of one growth ring per year.

By contrast, trees that have evolved in arid regions go in and out of partial dormancy many times a year in response to moisture availability, producing a misleadingly high number of growth rings. Some trees have been observed to produce well in excess of 10 growth rings per year.

Innovative forestry methods have been developed to enable trees to be established successfully and economically in this hostile environment. By implementing some very simple and logical techniques, this can now be achieved consistently.

Dryland salinity

Threats

Salinity came about as a result of clearing the deep-rooted endemic trees that previous retained the water table at a safe depth below the surface. Once the water tables rise to within about one metre of ground level, heat and low humidity draw the moisture to the surface where the water content evaporates, leaving the salt on the surface and concentrating the salinity of the ground water. Trees in high salinity areas die and are no longer pumping water into the atmosphere which then exacerbates the problem, allowing the water table to rise to ground level and evaporate.

Trees

We have chosen predominantly endemic trees that enhance the greatest overall benefit to this region. This includes various varieties of trees, including: eucalypts, acacias, callistermons, grevilleas, casuarinas, melaleucas and hakeas.

These tree species are selected specifically to be appropriate for the multiple different soil types encountered across this unique landscape.

Actions & Results

  • 2009: United Nations Association of Australia finalist in the category ‘Meeting the Greenhouse Challenge’
  • 2011: United Nations Association of Australia finalist in the 'Individual Award' category

Many areas were impossible to revegetate initially due to the severe degradation and salinity on the land, however the trees are now well established, the areas surrounding them have also recovered, enabling them to be revegetated in following years.

Planting Target

Lord of the Trees is committed to support the planting of 10,000 more trees in this area.

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