Understanding and improving ecosystem function in the Murray Mallee and Wimmera bioregions
The Murray Mallee and Wimmera bioregions of Victoria have a clear need for large-scale landscape restoration. Native vegetation cover over large areas is less than 5% and the exclusion of natural regeneration cues and opportunities from the landscape may be contributing to attrition of the extant vegetation. Current restoration activities often have low success rates and are sometimes applied with insufficient regard to site and landscape function. For land managers from individual farmers up to federal agencies, the issue of scaling up the response to provide an adequate solution to landscape degradation has often been overlooked. The disappointing return on investment is also of major concern.
We relate data and experiences from am ambitious collaborative project that aims to develop and test a new framework for landscape restoration. The restoration trials detailed will be directed by a model of ecosystem function and the enhancement of ecosystem services. Both the model of function and the ecosystem services are products of considerable labour in the project's first year. We believe this investment will reap rewards in the successful application and engagement of the resulting restoration options.
Unique in the approach is the partnership between environmental scientists, catchment authorities and industry production groups. Communication and extension methods are based on the industry group networks and communication mediums - which work around the production season, rather than the traditional NRM communication mediums and networks. Involvement of an industry group ensures the project is reviewed for relevance to the farming community. Involvement of environmental researchers and catchment managers ensures the project addresses key environmental issues with a high degree of rigour. The industry involvement will also ensure the trial outcomes are assessed for economic cost and benefit to the farm business, developed into appropriate language and delivered at times when producers are able to uptake such messages. A recipe for success.