Why Carbon Must Go Hand In Hand With Restoration

2021 begins the UN decade of Ecological Restoration. Quality ecosystems support all life on Earth. Healthy ecosystems are essential to us living and thriving on a planet that can sustain us for the future. 

At Carbon Positive Australia we know that carbon planting must go hand in hand with quality ecological restoration work if we want healthy ecosystems to emerge from this revegetation. This means that when we plant, we do so not with just one or two species, but with tens of species. This type of dense, multi-species planting not only sequesters carbon, but also restores land back to a similar level of species activity as the remnant bush. 

How do we know? We know because of the rigorous citizen science and the data collected. Citizen Science projects such as those undertaken by CCWA and others provide us with valuable monitoring data as to how our projects are performing beyond just the measured carbon sequestration.

Sensitive ecological restorations provide benefits, for habitat, water, and soil. A restoration when done well increases the aliveness of the area, bringing social and wellbeing benefits, as well as increased biodiversity. The CarbonCare co-benefits study that is being published this month quantifies and values these other benefits. It also investigates the most efficient and effective ways of measuring them. 

When we restore land we do so by direct seeding with a variety mix of native seeds with local provenance, and more established canopy cover stems. We plant in narrow or curvy rows, and we plant with density, matching seeds to soil types. In a recent bird survey of one of our properties at Yarraweyah Falls bird species diversity was found to be as abundant across functional groups within the restored property as with native vegetation in the Fitz-Stirling Link.  In particular species of three types of honeyeater were comparable even though conditions have been difficult across the area due to a drying climate.  (“What the birds told us” – Nic Dunlop CCWA citizen science project)

We also know from similar studies in other areas where carbon planting is undertaken without a multi-species planting approach, and where trees are planted in rows, that the outcomes for wildlife and in particular birdlife are less beneficial.  This is also demonstrated by an increase in invasive species.

When designing an ecological restoration project there is a lot to consider. Not least a reference site to compare against. The SERA (Society Ecological Restoration Australia) ecological standards are a great way to evaluate a site and determine how well it is tracking against a reference community.

Citizen Science monitoring is also invaluable, as are methods for capturing information about the site, shrub and tree growth, and species development.

All of the sites that we plant go through a rigorous planning exercise prior to planting to ensure that the outcomes for the site can be measured and evaluated over time.

The cost of this monitoring and evaluation process is met through grants and your generous donations. It provides us with feedback as to the efficacy of the planting and the robustness of the project. 

When planting for carbon outcomes, if restoration is part of the plan,  there can be a bounty of other benefits not just for plants and animals but for humans too. We want to celebrate a culture of restoration, and ensure that our projects build capacity on the ground. We can’t do that on our own, so collaboration with partners is a key to success.