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:
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.
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:
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.