Cranbrook, Western Australia
Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.
Cranbrook is on Minang Noongar country and is a small Western Australian Great Southern town about 317km southeast of Perth. The nearest regional city is Albany, which is about 90km to the south.
Cranbrook is known as the ‘Gateway to the Stirling’ as much of the Stirling Range National Park is in the shire. A predominantly broadscale agriculture area, the site of this Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund (CNCF) carbon planting is to the east of the shire and directly abuts the National Park.
The land in this region has been affected by salt and erosion caused by clearing native vegetation and livestock grazing over many generations.
CNCF is working with a local farming family to plant out 65 hectares of land that is showing signs of agricultural decline.
“This year’s site is bolted directly adjacent to the Stirling Range National Park! CNCF funding is expanding natural areas next to an iconic national park that is home to some 1500 plant species, representing 20% of the all of Western Australia’s known flora.”
Is this land a working farm?
Yes. The 65 hectare site is part of a larger productive farm with a focus on broadacre cropping and sheep farming. The owners have shown a commitment to improving degraded areas of their farm where they are concerned by the rising water table and the loss of cropping land due to salt.
Together with CNCF and Threshold Environmental, who are expert carbon planting consultants, this Saltland Carbon Planting project will restore three separate areas of land currently in agricultural decline. This project aims to increase biodiversity on the farm (using specially designed seed mixes to replicate the vegetation that was here pre-European settlement) and to focus on planting biodiverse sandalwood, improving water use, creating stock shelter and providing mixed grazing for the future.
Thanks to our donors who are offsetting their carbon through planting trees, CNCF is funding 100% of the planting under the direction of local experts and innovators in the carbon field, Threshold Environmental (TE). Led by Justin Jonson, TE specializes in large-scale ecological restoration projects for both conservation and carbon sequestration purposes. CNCF and TE are working together to develop and test new carbon farming systems.
This carbon initiative is an example of how those in agriculture and environmental science can work with individuals wishing to offset their carbon to create a legacy for future generations.
What is ‘Saltland Carbon Planting’?
Not much is known about the potential to offset carbon on land that has been degraded by dryland salinity. TE is leading the challenging task of rehabilitating salty country by hand planting 25,000 seedlings across the site in 2020, using a mixture of trees and shrubs on land used for grazing.
The plants are grown from locally collected seed that can tolerate salt. At Cranbrook, this experimental planting will test how well mixed local varieties of trees can grow in areas of differing salinity and how well they can sequester carbon. Jonson of TE is hopeful that the project will demonstrate the possibility of converting low productivity saline land into well-functioning and usable land that supports native biodiversity while sequestering carbon. It is hoped that the land can also support mixed agriculture.
This project research has been possible due to funding from the State Natural Resource Management Program and CNCF takes great pride in being partnered with projects that have the potential to change how carbon farming can be adapted for use on salt-affected land. We believe that this project, along with others, can provide valuable research into land use across Western Australia.
What is Biodiverse Sandalwood?
Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) once grew plentifully. In the 1840s, sandalwood was Western Australia’s biggest export earner- at one time providing 30% of the total export income! Unfortunately, overharvesting and exploitation meant the trees became scarcer and sandalwood planting declined. As a slow-growing tree, this severely restricted the industry. Sandalwood is still prized today for its aromatic oil and wood, and biodiverse planting of sandalwood provides a wide range of benefits to the landscape including habitat for other flora and fauna.
Thirty hectares of Biodiverse sandalwood planting will be direct seeded at Cranbrook. The sandalwood trees are planted alongside different species of plants, creating a natural and biodiverse landscape.
Sandalwood is a hemiparasitic plant, which means it needs other trees like Acacia (wattles) and Allocasurina (sheoaks) species to act as a host so it can grow. Acacias not only take carbon from the atmosphere but also store nitrogen in the soil, improving soil health. Mixed species provide a home for pollinators, birds, and other species, creating a natural and diverse habitat.
The landowners at Cranbrook are also interested in including other species in this planting like Melaleucas (paperbarks/tea tree) and Eucalypts (gums)- creating middle and top layers to the revegetation which will also help bring back biodiversity to these areas. This is especially important since this farm directly abuts the Stirling Ranges National Park. Restored areas with high biodiversity can act as wildlife corridors, providing more habitat for animals which in turn helps spread the seed of native local plants.
In time, the landowners will be able to harvest the sandalwood trees for production, bringing in additional income from land that was compromised prior to planting.
This project is supported by Lotterywest, which provided funding to CNCF for sandalwood research and demonstration sites.
What does ‘Biodiverse Carbon Planting’ mean?
Put simply, it means that the planting uses a wide range of species that represent the flora found here before clearing for agricultural use.
On this site, 25 hectares will be direct seeded and hand-planted with plants that add enrichment to a mainly eucalypt rich mix. By adding species like Hakea and Banksia, the landowner is not only getting more plant species to sequester carbon but bringing in flowering plants to attract pollinators like bees and birds that are useful for crop pollination as well.
Jonson and his team will be ensuring the right plants go into the right soil type to help establish varied plant communities. As with our sandalwood sites, increasing plant variety helps increase biodiversity which is especially important in creating wildlife corridors.
CNCF and TE have been fortunate to also receive grant funding through the National Landcare Program: Smart Farm Small Grants to assist with our research and to evaluate Biodiverse Carbon Planting.
Tell Me More!
When you donate to CNCF you are assisting us in regenerating the Western Australian landscape. When you make the decision to offset your own carbon footprint with us, you can do so knowing that your funding goes towards restoring our biodiverse landscape AND that the landscape is protected for future generations. You will be supporting our farming heritage and bringing the land back to health.
If you would like to help us, your gift is tax-deductible.
I'm a Landowner: how do I get involved?
When you work with us to rehabilitate your land, you are bringing the land back to health. Every plant in the ground helps to take carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into physical biomass (the plant’s body). Not only are you helping to mitigate the excess of carbon in the atmosphere, but you are also:
- creating additional biodiversity values for the farm/landholding
- lowering the water table
- fighting land salinisation
- stabilising erosion
- providing shelter and mixed grazing fodder for livestock
- adding an extra income stream (in the case of sandalwood)
Landowners participating in a project with CNCF are creating a healthy farm that provides benefits for the environment and supports the local economy.
CNCF is currently seeking expressions of interest for landowners and groups in this area for future projects. So, if you think “maybe we should do this to our land,” please contact us to see how we can help you.