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An assessment of riparian restoration outcomes in two rural catchments in south-western Victoria: Focusing on tree and shrub species richness, structure and recruitment characteristics

Authors

  • Tricia Wevill,

  • Singarayer K. Florentine


Summary

Riparian ecosystems are among the most degraded systems in the landscape, and there has been substantial investment in their restoration. Consequently, monitoring restoration interventions offers opportunities to further develop the science of riparian restoration, particularly how to move from small-scale implementation to a broader landscape scale. Here, we report on a broad range of riparian revegetation projects in two regions of south-western Victoria, the Corangamite and Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment Management Areas. The objectives of restoration interventions in these regions have been stated quite broadly, for example, to reinstate terrestrial habitat and biodiversity, control erosion and improve water quality. This study reports on tree and shrub composition, structure and recruitment after restoration works compared with remnant vegetation found regionally. Within each catchment, a total of 57 sites from six subcatchments were identified, representing three age-classes: <4, 4–8 and >8–12 years after treatment, as well as untreated (control) sites. Treatments comprised fencing to exclude stock, spraying or slashing to reduce weed cover, followed by planting with tube stock. Across the six subcatchments, 12 reference (remnant) sites were used to provide a benchmark for species richness, structural and recruitment characteristics and to aid interpretation of the effects of the restoration intervention. Vegetation structure was well developed in the treated sites by 4–8 years after treatment. However, structural complexity was higher at remnant sites than at treated or untreated sites due to a higher richness of small shrubs. Tree and shrub recruitment occurred in all remnant sites and at 64% of sites treated >4 years ago. Most seedling recruitment at treatment sites was by Acacia spp. This assessment provides data on species richness, structure and recruitment characteristics following restoration interventions. Data from this study will contribute to longitudinal studies of vegetation processes in riparian landscapes of south-western Victoria.

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