The Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA) inaugural conference, Perth Australia, Nov 28–30 2012
Article first published online: 28 JAN 2013
© 2013 Ecological Society of Australia
Ecological Management & Restoration
Volume 14, Issue 1, pages e8–e9, January 2013
How to Cite
(2013), The Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA) inaugural conference, Perth Australia, Nov 28–30 2012. Ecological Management & Restoration, 14: e8–e9. doi: 10.1111/emr.12033
- Issue published online: 28 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 28 JAN 2013
- ecological economics;
- ecosystem restoration;
- novel ecosystems;
- seed selection
The inaugural Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia (SERA) conference, held in Perth, Western Australia, in late November 2012, was attended by over 300 delegates from a wide cross section of the restoration community, including from government (including agency researchers 35%), industry (16%), consulting (15%), academia (30%), and NGOs and community (12%). Several countries were represented including Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, South Korea, the Philippines, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Keynote presentations were headed up by Professor Stephen Hopper, former Director of at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who spoke about conserving biodiversity in a changing climate, particularly focusing on biodiversity hotspots. David Merritt, from Kings Park, Perth, addressed the audience on seed banks for landscape restoration. Professor Lesley Hughes, an ecologist from Macquarie University specialising in the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems, provided up-to-date insight into the Australian Government's Biodiversity Fund and projections for climate change, pointing out the need for managers to consider including more distant genotypes better adapted to anticipated climate conditions when planning revegetation projects. Indigenous scientist and lawyer, Leanne Liddle, gently inducted the audience into some of the questions ecologists might ask of Indigenous consultants during ecological studies, tapping into knowledge of complex relationships, both ecological and social.
Delegates were also treated to a keynote by Pavan Sukhdev, Research Scholar, Yale University, and Founder-CEO of GIST Advisory, speaking on ‘Can Today's Corporation Deliver Tomorrow's Economy?' On a related theme, Hamish Jolly presented a number of ideas for potential enterprises that could help fund restoration at landscape scales while Professor David Pannell eloquently and convincingly presented case studies of past failures in environmental rehabilitation such as Australia's $14B Salinity Action Plan. He showed how engaging with economists at the outset to evaluate the ‘best bang for your buck’ could have improved the focus and benefits of this programme and concluded by presenting a new online tool for integrating ecology and other information to support robust decision-making about restoration.
The conference consisted of 140 presentations across four concurrent sessions. Themes for the sessions included Forest and Woodland Restoration, Mine Restoration and Threatened Species – with sessions addressing topics such as ecosystem services and offsets, seed supply and collection, genetics of restoration, planning, measuring success, agricultural landscapes, novel ecosystems, urban, riparian, arid zone, grassland and coastal restoration, and restoration techniques. Many interesting case studies were presented focussing on restoration in a range of ecosystems and a range of scales.
The Mine Restoration theme showcased projects across Australia, the Philippines and New Caledonia and highlighted the difficulties in direct seeding, hostile substrates and waste rock dumps. The plant genetic studies presented in the seed sourcing sessions showed that the degree of genetic structure in plant populations was varied and not easy to predict, making it difficult to provide foolproof guidelines for avoiding outbreeding and inbreeding depression. The session reinforced, however, that supplementing fragmented, small populations with plant material sourced very close to the site was risking inbreeding depression.
The session on novel ecosystems addressed a wide range of sites and disturbance regimes from severely impacted mining areas to tropical rainforests long converted to pastoral lands. In seeking to impose a novel ecosystem framework, it seemed at times that (i) there was some confusion between irreversible thresholds and poor restoration practices and (ii) the recovery times expected to return to something akin to an original state were unrealistic for the scale and magnitude of ecosystem transformation. The power of long-term data sets was particularly evident in the talks by Catterall and Majer. Convergence, alternative states or thresholds preventing return to an original state would be more likely determined on timescales related to the lifespans of dominant species or time frames related to the development of reference ecosystems.
The conference provided a forum for two invitation-only round-table discussions involving 15 Australian NGOs working on the ground to conserve and restore ecosystems. The first of these workshops laid the groundwork for a ‘partnership collective’ of these NGOs, facilitated through SERA, to enable the groups to become more aware of each other's work and to optimise synergies. The second established a working group to progress the first project of the partnership: the development of national principles and standards to guide and evaluate restoration practice in Australia. Work on these projects will be ongoing.
Visited mine restoration (in Banksia woodland and Jarrah Forest), river restoration and threatened species and ecosystem restoration sites near to Perth.
The conference enabled delegates to appreciate the diversity of restoration projects in the region, gain new ideas about concepts, methods and techniques in restoration, and connect with both the regional and global restoration community through raising the profile of SERA. Understandably, there was a predominance of papers from WA and less from other countries and Australian states due to the location of the conference and clashes with other conferences. The pendulum is likely to swing at the next, 2014, conference, which will be held in New Caledonia – which may attract more participants from New Zealand and eastern Australia.
Review facilitated by Tein McDonald, with contributions from SERA board members. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org