Earlier this week, Louise, Jess, and Alice headed off to the Great Southern to review the progress of our planting sites at Cranbrook, Borden, and Badgebup. It was a wet, windy, and very cold couple of days, but an opportunity to see the trees and monitor their progress. It was also a chance to catch up with the landholders to get their input on how the plantings are progressing.
Our first stop was Badgebup, where the sun came out for a brief interval while we surveyed the site and looked at the planting from both 2011 and the more recent 2017 trees.
In 2010, we planted 160 hectares of native, salt-tolerant species at the Badgebup site. Due to lack of rainfall and extreme soil types, seedling survival from the initial planting was poor, and much of the site was replanted in 2011. Thanks to favourable weather conditions and the selection of more salt-tolerant species, the replant was a success, and in 2017 we planted an additional 80 hectares. The aim of this planting is to assist drainage and mitigate further damage to the salt-affected landscape. It was clear that in some areas of the 2017 planting had been very successful, and some thinning may be needed in the future.
We also reviewed the 2011 planting area. There had been some grazing and we could see that the sheep had a real liking for the saltbush! The soil here is heavy clay and the land has been impacted by salinity. Saltbush and mixed-species planting has started to make a difference, and the trees are heading toward good canopy height. After a quick in-field catch up with the Badgebup landholders, we were on our way.
Following the Rabbit-Proof Fence Road, we headed to Ongerup to meet with a potential new landholder. We spoke about the area he wishes to revegetate and did a quick tour around his property to see some previous planting projects he has undertaken. After some cuddles with the farm dogs, we hit the road again; navigating the river that was now running across Ongerup Road en-route to Albany.
The next day we met with our landholders from the Borden and Cranbrook sites. We know that our landholders already understand the benefits of planting, particularly on salt impacted and degraded land. One of the landholders commented how trees had caused the water table to drop by 3 feet on his site, reducing overall salinity from previous plantings. We were able to observe tree growth from the planting at Cranbrook, which has been particularly wet. The trees have taken advantage of this and we saw some significant growth rates after just one year, both from the stems and the direct seeding that happened in 2020.
We finished our trip by visiting a site on the Frankland-Cranbrook Road where we planted in 2010. This 11-year-old biodiverse planting is an exceptional example of what can be achieved and was already similar to the remnant bush on the same site. The owners who have been on site since 2012 remarked on the increasing level of birdlife they are seeing (and hearing!), and how the planting has enhanced the property over the years.