Led by A/Prof Ian Lunt
The information on these pages is accurate to the end of 2016 when reporting for SRA was completed for the 2015-16 Biennial Report. All reporting for our projects is now found in relevant areas under the four research themes.
The aim of this SRA was to enhance environmental sustainability in regional Australia, by improving our ability to manage natural regeneration and regrowth for a broad range of social and environmental values.
The SRA group tackled an emerging issue of increasing importance for sustainability, land use planning and biodiversity conservation in eastern Australia and elsewhere. Its research findings are providing a sound knowledge base for improved management of regenerating rural landscapes in Australia and elsewhere.
The SRA group included staff with a wide array of social and ecological expertise and substantial track records in sustainable land use and conservation management in Australia.
They had expertise in:
Most of the group's field research was conducted by its PhD students and Honours students. 2014 was a major year of consolidation and extension with two PhDs submitting and passing their PhDs. The completed projects provided a solid grounding for future work, with major advances in our understanding of the ecological and social aspects of woody regrowth in central Victoria.
Research projects conducted in a number of regions, from southern Victoria to south-central NSW.
Current research projects covered an array of social and ecological issues, including:
Many regions in South East Australia are undergoing rapid demographic and land-use changes, such as reduced agricultural production and expansion of 'lifestyle' properties.
In some regions these changes have promoted regeneration of native woody plants across large areas. Such passive (or unassisted) regeneration is expected to become more widespread in the future. This process is a major issue globally and is expected to be promoted as climate change progresses.
Regrowth of native trees and shrubs has triggered a diversity of responses from different sectors of the community, from 'woody weeds' to 'valuable regeneration'. However the diversity of community attitudes to regrowth is poorly understood. Similarly, little research is available on the effects that regrowth has on biodiversity, ecosystem process and ecosystem services.
Despite its widespread occurrence, regenerating vegetation is not well recognised by many current policies on land use and vegetation retention. Woody regrowth often slips through the cracks between agricultural studies of 'woody weeds' and ecological and social studies of 'natural ecosystems'
|A/Prof Ian Lunt||Ecosystem dynamics; conservation management and restoration ecology|
|Dr Catherine Allan||Adaptive management; social learning|
|Dr John Morgan |
|Plant ecology; population biology and disturbance ecology|
|A/Prof Peter Spooner||Landscape ecology; disturbance ecology, road ecology and management|
|Dr Rik Thwaites||Landholder perceptions and land management decision making|
|Dr Rachel Whitsed||GIS, Spatial science for environmental modeling|
|Dr Alison Matthews||Wildlife ecology, impacts of climate change on wildlife|
2014 was a major year of consolidation and extension with two PhD and an Honours projects completed.
Key outcomes from these projects were:
Expected outcomes from research projects still underway include:
Smallbone, Lisa, (2014) Understanding bird responses in regenerating agricultural landscapes, Charles Sturt University, Albury
Stelling, Fleur, (2014) Exploring how shrubby regrowth is viewed and managed in a rural landscape in Victoria, Australia, Charles Sturt University, Albury
Dent, Candice (2014) Understanding social and ecological aspects in a changing rural landscape: the southern Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria. (Charles Sturt University, Albury).
Zeeman, Benjamin (2013). Vegetation dynamics of a long-unburned coastal woodland: changes from 1971 to 2012 (La Trobe University, Melbourne).
Anderson, Pheona (2012). Effects of woody plant encroachment on soil properties in a regenerating landscape in central Victoria. (Charles Sturt University, Albury).
Coulson, Claire (2012). Factors influencing the occurrence of Brachychiton populneus and Schinus molle in a fragmented
Zeeman, B.J., Lunt, I.D., & Morgan, J.W. (2014). Can severe drought reverse woody plant encroachment in a temperate Australian woodland? Journal of Vegetation Science, 25(4), 928-936.
Smallbone, L., Matthews, A., & Lunt, I.D. (2014). Regrowth provides complementary habitat for woodland birds of conservation concern in a regenerating agricultural landscape. Landscape and Urban Planning, 124, 43-52.
Coulson, C.,Spooner, P.G., Lunt, I.D., & Watson, S.J. (2014). From the matrix to roadsides and beyond: the role of isolated paddock trees as dispersal points for invasion. Diversity and Distributions, 20(2), 137-148.
Whitsed, R., & Smallbone, L. (2014). Uncertainty in a cellular automata model for vegetation change. Journal of Spatial Science, 1-16.
Geddes, L.S., Lunt, I.D., Smallbone, L. & Morgan, J.W. (2011). Old field colonization by native trees and shrubs following land use change: could this be Victoria's largest example of landscape recovery? Ecological Management and Restoration 12(1), 31-36.
Lunt, I.D., Winsemius, L.M., McDonald, S.P., Morgan, J.W. & Dehaan, R.L. (2010). How widespread is woody plant encroachment in temperate Australia? Changes in woody vegetation cover in lowland woodland and coastal ecosystems in Victoria from 1989 to 2005. Journal of Biogeography 37, 722-732.
Lunt , I. D., Allan, C., Spooner , P., Thwaites, R., & Morgan, J. (2010) Managing regrowth in Australia's changing rural landscape: a social phenomenon. Australasian Plant Conservation 19(1), 5-6.
A seminar and workshop showcasing completed and current research was held in Benalla on April 21, 2015. Around 35 people attended, coming from local Catchment Management Authorities, government departments, non government nature organisations and individual landholdings. Ian's introduction to the issue was followed by seven brief presentations, summarised below:
Understanding bird responses in regenerating agricultural landscapes, Dr Lisa Smallbone. Demonstrated that regrowth is valuable habitat, complementary to forest reserve. Modelling suggests tree cover to be dominant feature by 2046.
How does land-use affect soil microbes? Joey Walters-Nevet
This will indicate how ecosystems are recovering below ground, and determine whether legacy trees provide protection to fungi and bacteria.
What can we learn about woodland dynamics from dense tree regeneration? Erika Cross.
Dense regeneration provides a unique opportunity to understand the dynamics of open vegetation types!
Thinning dense eucalypt stands Dr Chris Jones and Dr Libby Rumpff
(Melbourne University). Thinning increases understorey richness and cover, both exotics and natives. Thinning can restore benchmark levels in short term, but not all sites respond (topsoil/seedbank, grazing).
Social and ecological changes in the southern Strathbogie Ranges, Candice Dent (A/Prof Lunt presented).
Farmers and amenity landholders both saw the landscape as a production, agricultural landscape,not 'bushland'. Some revegetation occurring, but vegetation was infrequently discussed.
The "home-grown terror" within your beloved forest. Samantha Strong.
Contradictory myths of war, hell, risk and control frame an overarching complexity; contributes to policy 'reality'.
Perceptions of shrubby regrowth in Central Victoria, Dr Fleur Stelling (Dr Allan presented). Reframe regrowth, engage wide range of stakeholders, appeal to landscape preferences, cultural preferences and the bird narrative; that is establish new social norms – regrowth stewardship.
Following the presentations researchers joined with the other participants in three concurrent workshops that considered policy, organisation and on ground responses to the material presented. Each group developed ideas for changed perception and management of woody regrowth in Victoria.
A/Prof Lunt writes the very popular ecology blog, Ecology for Australia,
Dr Lisa Smallbone gave a presentation on 'Opportunities for ecosystem recovery in regenerating landscapes: a case study from an Australian temperate multi-function landscape' at the
international ecology conference INTECOL, London, August 2013 at its Biodiversity, Ecosystems Services and Multifunction symposium.
|Erika Cross||Dynamics of south-eastern Australian woodlands: insights into gap-maintenance processes from dense regeneration|
|Samantha Strong||Exploring paradoxes of native vegetation management in south east Australia in the early 21st century|
|Joey Walters-Nevet||What role do legacy trees and soil microbes play in the process of natural regeneration?|
|PhD student completions|
|Lisa Smallbone||Understanding bird responses in regenerating agricultural landscapes|
|Fleur Stelling||Exploring how shrubby regrowth is viewed and managed in a rural landscape in Victoria, Australia|