In the future, how will restorationists think about the past?

The extinct Toolache Wallaby, as painted by John Gould. Source:  Wikipedia.

The extinct Toolache Wallaby, as painted by John Gould. Source: Wikipedia.

It’s easy to argue that history has a bigger influence on why we restore ecosystems than on how we restore them. As climate change intensifies, that distinction can only grow. Continue reading

Watch this video to restore your enthusiasm for restoring your world

Emilys 6 Happy ShovelsTo restore the world we need to re-charge our batteries. We can’t save our climate, soils or biodiversity on a flat battery of despondency. Our governments aren’t going to restore the environment or our confidence – but our communities can.

I avoid posting blogs that simply say, ‘Ooh look, here’s something cool from the internet’ – but you do have to watch this. You’ll love it.

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What did you get from the Big Wet?

Raywood rainfall

Annual rainfall at Raywood in central Victoria. The Big Wet years of 1973 and 2010 are shown in red. Data Source: Bureau of Meteorology. Click on the image to get a bigger, clearer view.

As climate change intensifies, we expect to get a lot more extreme weather events. It’d be great if we could predict how ecosystems will change after those events, but we can’t, for lots of reasons. One obvious reason is – we didn’t collect much information after past events to help guide us in the future.

Way back in ’73, the small town of Raywood, near Bendigo in central Victoria, got 928 mm of rain. On average, Raywood gets just over 400 mm a year, so it was a long wet year. Torrential rains came again in ’74. That Big Wet wasn’t unique to Raywood, and La Nina drenched every town, small and big, across south-east Australia. What impact did that extraordinary event have on native vegetation? Continue reading

Rewilding Australia? A feral contemplation

I appreciate the irony, but huddled by the heater, I just read my first e-book on an iPad –  on how to better engage with nature.

Feral Monbiot cover

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The book, Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding, is a fascinating account of optimistic and dysfunctional approaches to nature conservation. The author, George Monbiot, argues that many conservation policies – especially in the UK – intentionally maintain impoverished ecosystems from the past, rather than creating diverse, dynamic ecosystems for the future. In their place, he advocates Rewilding. In his words,

… rewilding, unlike conservation, has no fixed objective: it is driven not by human management but by natural processes. There is no point at which it can be said to have arrived…. Rewilding… does not seek to control the natural world, to re-create a particular ecosystem or landscape, but – having brought back some of the missing species – to allow it to find its own way.

Feral is a fascinating and at times an irritating book. You can read many excerpts online (here, here, here and here), watch an animation of his main argument, view a TedTalk video, and see the author and opponents interviewed on BBC TV. If nothing more, Monbiot is a brilliant self-publicist, and he sells optimism really well. But PR aside, what does a book about conservation in Europe have to interest a reader in Australia? Continue reading

Natural regeneration: connecting regional Australia

planting1

Want to re-connect fragmented landscapes? Where would you start? With natural regeneration of course.

Natural regeneration of native trees and shrubs is abundant in many regions, where it provides valuable habitat and linkages between patches of native vegetation. Last week I gave a talk at the Biodiversity Across The Borders conference in Ballarat in a session on landscape connectivity, on behalf of my co-authors Lisa Smallbone and Alison Matthews. Our talk covered four topics.

  1. Why do we get extensive natural regeneration in some regions?
  2. Where do we find lots of natural regeneration in Victoria?
  3. How valuable is natural regeneration for birds?
  4. How can we incorporate natural regeneration in connectivity planning?

If  you didn’t get to last week’s conference, you can now watch the video of the talk, courtesy of YouTube.

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