Native vegetation comprises plants that are indigenous to Victoria, including trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses. Native vegetation provides habitat for wildlife and delivers a range of ecosystem services that make land more productive and contribute to human wellbeing. There are generally two types of activities that take place to directly improve the extent and resilience of native vegetation. These include the planting or seeding of native plants to re-establish native vegetation where is does not currently occur or where it is degraded and the management of native vegetation in a manner that allows it to grow and regenerate naturally. All vegetation can provide two direct climate change outcomes by:
- Providing greenhouse mitigation through carbon storage.
- Adaption by providing ecosystem habitat for plants and animals.
On ground native vegetation works that are landscape scale, cross tenure and use multiple actions provide a better long term outcome. The CRP* acknowledges and supports this approach. Native vegetation can capture carbon in two ways:
- Revegetation – Planting or direct seeding land with minimal or no native vegetation. This activity involves significant intervention and cost.
- Management (Protection and Restoration - managing what currently exists) – The protection and restoration of native vegetation for biodiversity and carbon activities enables ecosystem functionality to be maintained or increased whilst providing carbon storage capacity. This usually involves moderate to minimal intervention and cost.
During the consultation for the CRP* some of the challenges and opportunities identified relating to using vegetation for biosequestration included:
- Increased fire risk.
- Impacts on water resources.
- Improved biolinks.
- Protection of public infrastructure and development opportunities.
- Protection of high quality agricultural land.
With uncertainty about the operation of and commitment to carbon markets, it is challenging to understand and compare the commercial benefits of investments in revegetation for carbon in our region compared to other agricultural ventures. Past research has indicated that there is little profitability potential from carbon forests in the Murray Darling Basin under a range of scenarios. This may be the case in most of the Wimmera, although some areas in the south and south-west of the region, with higher rainfall, may have potential. These geographical areas need to be carefully managed to ensure that other values are not impacted such as ground water aquifers and surface water resources.
Recent work, conducted by Greening Australia and Alcoa, consisted of direct measurements in the field to compare actual carbon capture rates with modelling estimates generated from the Australian Government’s Reforestation Modelling Tool (RMT). In some cases, in the Wimmera, the field measurements are providing significantly greater carbon volumes than the RMT, particularly in the south. In the north of the region, they are comparable. This data provides a useful indicator that there may be high yielding locations in the region and that further peer review and research should be conducted to provide more comprehensive information.
Priority actions include:
- Support the ongoing collection of data to better understand the carbon yielding capacity of land under various silviculture regimes across the region.
- Support the peer review of the Greening Australia and Alcoa report.
- Revegetate in priority areas indicated in the mapping.
- Actively protect and manage high conservation value native vegetation from threatening processes and sustain its conservation values in priority areas indicated in the management priority maps for each council section, below.
- Review and implement the Wimmera Invasive Plant and Animal Strategy (Wimmera CMA, 2010), taking into account the likely influences of climate change and communicate information on activities and success to the broader community.
- Conduct at least one regional engagement activity each year to encourage stakeholders, Traditional Owners and the community to: Prioritise native vegetation and habitat actions in accordance with the CRP*; Discuss and implement best practice native vegetation management.
- Develop capacity of and tools for landholders, including Traditional Owners, to manage native vegetation on private land including: Information about managing native vegetation in a changing climate; Conducting appropriate native vegetation fire management on private land; Monitoring condition and trend of native vegetation.
*CRP refers to the Wimmera CMA's Carbon Ready Plan (http://www.wcma.vic.gov.au/docs/default-source/corporatedocs/Carbon-Ready-Plan/wimmera-carbon-ready-plan.pdf)