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Revegetating abandoned agricultural land is critical for maintaining sustainability and biodiversity within our farming landscapes. Our recent paper, demonstrated the feasibility of a large-scale revegetation approach in one of Australia’s most iconic agricultural regions, the Murray-Darling Basin.
Natural regeneration is where vegetation is allowed to regrow via seeds within the landscapes, with minimal human intervention.
Simultaneously, there is a growing amount of abandoned agricultural land, known as old-fields, globally and in Australia. Understanding ways to restore and revegetate these areas is vital for conserving biodiversity, carbon sequestration and promoting ecosystems services.
…there is a growing amount of abandoned agricultural land, known as old-fields, globally and in Australia. Understanding ways to restore and revegetate these areas is vital for conserving biodiversity, carbon sequestration and promoting ecosystems services.
Understanding different patterns and drivers of natural regeneration is vital for informing the effective strategies for revegetation of large abandoned agricultural lands.
Our research surveyed old-fields across the northern Murray Daring Basin and we discovered some promising results.
Firstly, naturally regenerating vegetation on old-fields of inland Australia exhibited similarities in communities of species to remnant vegetation, but varied substantially with respect to structural attributes such as tree density.
Woody vegetation regenerates in these old-fields in greater density after ~ 30-40 years, but very limited structural vegetation recovery occurs before this.
Mean annual rainfall, time since abandonment and the presence of remnant paddock trees kept within old-fields are key drivers of natural regeneration of these old-fields.
In conditions of the northern Murray-Darling Basin, where rainfall is low, temperatures are extreme, and soils are nutrient poor; we might expect to see a strong cultivation legacy. However, we found that old-fields showed a strong ability to regenerate on their own to somewhat resemble remnant vegetation communities.
For the full version of the research paper: Patterns and drivers of natural regeneration on old-fields in semi-arid floodplain ecosystems.
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