Designing revegetation projects for biodiversity

Site assessment and planning

An important first step in designing a restoration project is to assess the site in order to understand what techniques and species should be used. The most basic site assessment is best recorded on a map showing:

The extent of the area to be restored:

  • Existing areas of native vegetation and their condition (these areas should be protected or enhanced). Click here for methods for assessing vegetation condition in each State and Territory;
  • Other conservation assets such as wetlands, cliffs, and rivers,
  • Unplantable areas (roads, buildings etc),
  • Soil types, including extent of waterlogged, saline or rocky soils;
  • If known, the pre-clearing distribution of vegetation types on the site.

With this information, you can determine which vegetation communities would naturally occur on different parts of the site. In some States and Territories there are maps available that give you a good estimate of the pre-1788 vegetation communities and where they occurred. In other states you will need to work this out for yourself. There are several sources to help you do this:

Look at nearby patches of native vegetation growing on similar sites. The closer the patch the more similar it will be, providing it is growing on similar soil, aspect, topography and altitude. Consult local 'experts': botanists, ecologists, seed collectors, apiarists, foresters, naturalists etc. Contact your State or Territory herbarium to see if they have local or regional vegetation maps or species lists. They can often search for herbarium specimens collected near your site. Surveyors' maps from original land surveys often show the species of plants in the landscape and sometimes the density and distribution of different plants, Sometimes early explorers' or settlers' accounts can give you a hint of the vegetation type if you can match them to your site.

Using these sources should give you a picture of the vegetation you want to grow on the site, including: the species and their relative abundance; and the structure of the vegetation community.

The Site Description Tool in the Florabank Species Navigator can help you describe your revegetation site and look for particular factors that will influence the growth and survival of your plants.

Site planning (including fire planning)

Good planning makes for a successful revegetation program. The level of planning required will depend on the purpose of the planting. A commercial plantation requires much more intensive planning than does a farm shelterbelt. A map or an aerial photograph can be used as an effective site plan especially if accompanied by notes. On the map you should mark:

  • The area to be planted and areas that are not to be disturbed (such as native grasslands or wetlands),
  • The location of firebreaks to be developed or maintained,
  • Water sources suitable for filling tankers for tree watering or fire-fighting,
  • Gates and access tracks or roads to be developed or maintained,
  • Location for on-site storage of nursery stock prior to planting,
  • Location of monitoring plots, photo-points or soil pits,
  • Location of supplementary habitat features such as water points, nest boxes or log dispersal.

Supplementary notes to accompany the site map should include date and time of actions to be carried out (such as site preparation, weed control, planting, monitoring and maintenance). A clear plan should cover at least five years of actions from pre-planting weed control through to post-planting maintenance and monitoring. A clear plan helps you effectively allocate your resources and ensures that critical actions (such as weed control) are carried out at the right time.

The importance of good planning in revegetation projects is emphasised in the final report of the CSIRO project Increasing success of tree establishment by using seasonal climatic forecasts. This report emphasises that weed control, ground preparation, timing of planting and species selection are the factors critical to the success of revegetation.

For more ideas on designing for biodiversity read Creative revegetation by Greg Dalton.

Next  Design - site use and purpose

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