All of us, regardless how little land we have influence over, whether we own it or rent, can and should do something to drawdown CO2 and increase the number and diversity of native plants in our environment. All efforts at restoration and carbon sequestration have positive impacts. Even on a small-scale, establishing native plants in our home gardens supports wildlife and will attract native animals.
Photo courtesy of byronnaturally.com.au
Zero Emissions Byron's Carbon Drawdown Policy Statement
Our target for carbon drawdown is to support revegetation of 6.6% (1518ha) of the Shire's cleared and grazed land.
ZEB is committed to the drawing down of atmospheric carbon using a methodology that restores Byron Shire forests to as close to its pre European impacted state as possible. This will also maximise benefits for biodiversity, stabilise and improve soils and improve water quality.
Brunswick Valley Landcare (BVL)
A valued community group established in 2003, Brunswick Valley Landcare (BVL) “…works to see our region build on its attributes of diverse vegetation, sub-tropical rainforests, sclerophyll forests, coastal heathlands, beaches and dunes, and its pristine waters.” It supports 32 locality groups of volunteers across the Byron Shire, working extensively to restore many sites in the shire, and resourcing landholders to undertake restoration projects. BVL has regular planting days with many locality groups. Join in and contribute, whether or not you have access to land.
My Local Native Garden - for everyone in the region
Is a 44-page booklet published by Brunswick Valley Landcare (BVL) that is packed with information to help you design, plant and maintain your own native garden and also how to attract wildlife to your garden. You can download a complete copy of the book here. Hard copies are available for a donation from the Byron Shire Council offices in Mullumbimby or by requesting one from our landcare support officer.
Fortunately, there is a well-established ecological restoration industry in the Byron region with many highly skilled people, with excellent knowledge of the plants and forest types. They also know efficient and effective ways to establish and manage restoration projects, big and small. It is important to seek professional assistance when restoring existing forests, because many forests and remnants have difficult weeds, may contain rare and endangered species and may be part of an Ecological Endangered Community.
Much of Byron Shire’s cleared land is on ex rainforest, wet sclerophyll or swamp forest vegetation types. The forest type is determined primarily by soil, topography and rainfall. It is important to determine what sort of forest occurred on the site and whether the site is still capable of supporting that forest type.
If there is any existing vegetation on the property then regenerating this forest should be a priority over planting trees. This involves removing weeds and fencing from stock. This may not be as exciting as planting trees, but for quickly establishing forests, creating habitat for wildlife and for carbon sequestration this can be more effective.
The soil is the key indicator of the vegetation type it supports, it may be red ferrosol soil, yellow or orange clays or black alluvial coastal lowland soils. Other key variables are the steepness of the slope, the aspect and proximity to the coast with corresponding high and salt laden winds. The existing vegetation whether native or weeds can give useful clues. For example broad leaved paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) on site usually indicates a water-logged forest type. This map can give you guidance.
Byron Shire Council vegetation map is online - https://maps.byron.nsw.gov.au/Html5Viewer/index.html?viewer=ByronMaps Tip: Click on the Layers to see – Environmental- Vegetation communities
Create achievable stages. Identifying areas for assisted bush regeneration (removing weeds and encouraging natural recruitment) and/or areas for revegetation (planting and weed maintenance.)
Concentrate efforts on building the resilience of existing native vegetation first and expand out from there. Prioritise areas along watercourses, creating or linking corridors for wildlife movement and natural recruitment of vegetation and expanding vulnerable parts of remnants. Other priority zones are steep hillsides, which are prone to erosion, or areas containing threatened species of flora or fauna.
Identify existing species, appropriate species for planting, as well as the weeds and control methods. You can find Byron Shire Council's Bush Regeneration Guidelines here.
Weeds and Browsers
Most weeds compete with native vegetation for light and nutrients but some simultaneously provide structure or conditions for some recruitment of native vegetation. Some weed species provide habitat values such as food resources, roosting sites and shelter for fauna. These weeds should be replaced in stages to minimise the impacts of loss of these resources on resident fauna. Camphor Laurels for example sequester large quantities of carbon, provide food for frugivorous birds and create shade for some rainforest species to regenerate.
For medium to large-scale projects, weeds that compete with natives are most effectively controlled by targeted use of low residual herbicides. Herbicides are used strategically and judiciously while the native plants grow to create conditions where the weeds can no longer germinate and grow. This may be by creating a canopy, by eliminating the weed seed source or by dominating the ground layer with natives that don’t allow weeds to grow.
Stock will need to be excluded from revegetated areas as they will trample and eat planted and naturally regenerating native plants. Other animals such as wallabies, hares and pigs can be a problem for restoration and plantings and may need to be controlled or the plants protected with fences or guards.
Assisted Natural Regeneration
‘Assisted natural regeneration’ or ‘bush regeneration’ is the practice of working with natural processes to assist that ecosystem to naturally regenerate and recover. This is achieved through reducing or removing weeds, stock and edge effects. For example, without the removal of weeds from most of the Big Scrub rainforest remnants, Endangered Ecological Communities would have been irretrievably damaged.
Big Scrub Landcare’s Rainforest Restoration Manual
Our Rainforest Restoration Manual is a practical data source for Landcare groups, land managers and rainforest regenerators. It is a comprehensive guide for rehabilitating and caring for existing subtropical rainforest remnants and re-establishing rainforest on land from which it has been cleared. Click here to get hold of a copy.
While assisted natural regeneration can be carried out anytime of year, revegetation by planting requires good timing. The site needs to be prepared for planting by possibly fencing slashing and removing grass and woody weeds from the site. The trees need to be planted when its not too hot or dry. The best time is the wet season in autumn, however in good years, summer and winter can be appropriate. Plan your project with plenty of time to prepare the site and order the trees.
Species selection for the initial planting is critical to the success of the project. The initial planting aims to establish the mainframe or structure of the forest using mostly fast growing pioneer species. If the site is frost prone or particularly degraded or exposed, the initial planting may need a limited range of hardy species to establish a canopy, provide protection from the elements and improve the soil so the full range of species that need to be there can establish and grow.
Planting trees involves deciding on mulch, fertiliser, what size of plants, spacing between the trees and the ratios of each chosen species. Consult locally experienced people who have had success doing plantings in similar vegetation types.
Maintenance is the Key
Planting trees is the fun easy part. Maintaining the trees until they can look after themselves is the difficult part. Many plantings have failed because grasses and weeds have smothered and killed them. A guide is to keep the weeds and grasses below the height of the planted trees and 30 to 50 cm away from the base of the tree. Targeted herbicides are the most effective way of maintaining plantings. Chemical free methods are possible but much more energy intensive. Maintenance will reduce dramatically after 3 to 4 years (for plantings at about 1.8 metre spacings) as the trees grow towards creating canopy and shade out the grasses and annual weeds.
Once the mainframe of the forest has been established this can be enhanced with planting or direct seeding of mid storey, understorey or groundcover species. This will add structure, diversity and habitat niches for wildlife. Similarly, adding logs, rocks, hollows and if possible open or running water will enhance the quality of your planting.
Planting for Koalas
Koalas are an endangered species and under threat on the north coast of NSW. Eucalypt plantings for koalas are also beneficial for carbon sequestration.
The planting of eucalypts on red ferrosol (ex rainforest soils) has proven to provide good koala habitat though it will likely produce a camphor laurel mid storey. The planting of rainforest trees with eucalypts will exclude camphor laurels by providing a midstory canopy. However, the long-term regeneration of eucalypt forests is dependent on fire to stimulate seed germination and a rainforest or camphor laurel mid and understorey will prevent fire and the eucalypts will eventually die out. The long-term persistence of koala habitat plantings on the ex-rainforest, red ferrosol soils is difficult without fire and fire is detrimental to rich red ferrosol soils. Byron Shire contains eucalypt dominated vegetation types that can be expanded and managed with fire for koala habitat over the long term. Byron Shire Council’s Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management can be found here.
Biodiversity Benefits to Agriculture
If your site is flat, arable land with rich fertile soils, it may be best utilised for food production to provide for our increasing population and their demand for fresh local food. Growing, selling and eating locally grown food reduces our carbon footprint and the use of regenerative agriculture practices such as diversification, crop rotation, cover cropping and cell grazing allows soils to regenerate and sequester carbon.
Maintaining and restoring native vegetation and increasing biodiversity on agricultural land is proven to increase productivity. At present, there are two principal approaches to wider management of on-farm biodiversity:
Where agricultural practice is tailored to enhance populations of wildlife by creating a more integrated system.
Where portions of agricultural land are managed intensively to increase yield, allowing other land to return to a semi-natural state, which can then act as reservoirs of biodiversity.
Byron Shire Council’s Agricultural Extension Officer
Andrew Cameron is looking to connect with farmers and landholders, in a bid to revitalise and support the primary production sector in Byron Shire.
We provide free one-on-one-consultations, with local farmers and landowners, to offer a range of support services, solutions, networking and funding opportunities.
Council is committed to ensuring Byron Shire land is used in a productive, sustainable way. We want to ensure local farmers are able to work in a way that is profitable while achieving positive environmental outcomes
Andrew Cameron, Byron Shire Council
For enquiries or to book a free on farm consultation please contact Andrew on 02 6626 7223 or email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Wren with Andrew at The Paddock in Mullumbimby
ZEB supports both reducing our carbon footprint by producing food, timber, fibre and other products locally and sustainably, and drawing down carbon through planting and regenerating native vegetation and soils. Planting and regeneration projects, as small as a backyard garden or as big as a whole valley achieve two major goals: they sequester carbon and restore the ecological function of our beautiful Byron Shire landscapes.
Wren McLean & Mark Dunphey