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Keywords:

  • biodiversity conservation;
  • Cassinia arcuata;
  • invasive native scrub;
  • landscape restoration;
  • natural regeneration;
  • old field succession;
  • rural amenity landscapes

Summary  Natural regeneration of farmland areas following landuse change has the potential to reinstate native vegetation and landscape processes across larger scales than intentional works. However, few examples of large-scale natural regeneration have been reported from southern Australia. In this study we use historical air photos to document the rate of establishment of natural regeneration in central Victoria following a change from agricultural to rural residential land use. In 2009, regrowth patches occupied 8185 ha, or 12.3% of the cleared landscape in the study region, mostly on relatively low fertility soils. Most of this area (6216 ha) supported Cassinia shrubland, with eucalypts encroaching as patches get older. On average, native vegetation has regenerated over nearly 1800 ha every decade since the mid-1960s. If this trend continues, regrowth will occupy 20% of infertile soils on private land by 2025. This region now appears to support one of the largest examples of old field succession recorded from south-eastern Australia. Regrowth patches are likely to provide many conservation benefits, although little information exists on habitat values provided by regrowth shrublands. Since regeneration is on private land, perceptions of whether regrowth is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ will vary according to landholder goals, as will future management of regrowth patches. Consequently, considerable ecological and social research is required to understand the ecosystem services and disservices which regrowth provides to both landholders and biota.