Updates from the Field: Brookton, WA

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2020 has been our busiest planting season to date. At Brookton we have been undertaking two different types of planting designed by native plant Ecologist Dr. Geoff Woodall and undertaken by Dr. Peter Ritson of Farmwood, an expert in forestry and carbon measurement, and planting by a team from the Noongar Boodjar Rangers of Wheatbelt NRM.

The CNCF team was able to visit the site last month and learn a little more about planting native Sandalwood as part of our biodiverse restoration. We also found out about what’s involved in rehabilitating saline impacted land. The sites we are planting are adjacent to a working farm where cropping takes place. The landowner we are collaborating with has other sequestration projects on his land which we were able to view. They demonstrated the plantings at various stages of their cycle. 

We were interested to find out more about what it means to rehabilitate saline impacted land and the species types suited to this environment. Importantly in all of our planting, we try to plant in harmony with the local biodiversity. We’re passionate about our native Australian landscape, and we want to see it thrive with our focus on developing biodiverse native plantings that also serve as carbon sinks. 

Our projects provide a unique opportunity to revive our rural landscapes, recreating natural habitats, and protecting the unique biodiversity of our native species, whilst also sequestering carbon. The Avon river catchment contains many of Western Australia’s threatened plants and birds. The area supports plants such as Grevilleas, Hakeas, Eucalypts, and Acacia.

Chatting to Peter Ritson he explained the mix of plants that were going to be planted on the saline impacted soils, these included amongst other Acacia acuminata, Atriplex semibaccata, Casuarina obesa, Eucalyptus loxophleba, and a mixture of Melaleuca. These species are all saline tolerant. The seedlings are grown from locally collected seed. 

It’s a challenging task rehabilitating salty country. All of the planting has to be done by hand. We have been fortunate to have the assistance of the Noongar Boodjar Ranger Crew from Wheatbelt NRM who have carried out the planting across the site both this year and last. 

Currently not much is known about the potential to offset carbon on land that has been degraded by dryland salinity. This experimental planting will test how well salt-resistant species can grow in areas of differing salt degradation and how well they can sequester carbon. With a vast amount of  land in Australia at risk of salinity, we are hopeful that this site can demonstrate the ecological and economic benefits of specialised plantings. Converting low productivity saline areas to well-functioning and usable sites that support native biodiversity, sequester carbon, and can continue to support mixed agriculture.

In total 10,123 stems were planted on the 10-hectare saline site, and a further 10,053 host species were planted to support the Sandalwood project. Next year we are planning to return and plant a further 20 hectares. We have seen great survival rates 90-95% on this site from the planting undertaken in 2019 and we hope that this year’s planting will continue the trend. It gives us great pride to partner with landowners on projects that have the potential to change how carbon farming on salt ridden land is seen across the world.