Rehabilitation of Semiarid Landscapes in Australia. II. Restoring Vegetation Patches

Authors

  • J. A. Ludwig,

    1. Division of Wildlife & Ecology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, P.O. Box 84, Lyneham, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2602, Australia
    2. Division of Wildlife & Ecology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, PMB 44, Winnellie, Darwin, Northern Territory 0281, Australia
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  • D.J. Tongway

    1. Division of Wildlife & Ecology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, P.O. Box 84, Lyneham, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2602, Australia
    2. Division of Wildlife & Ecology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, P.O. Box 84, Lyneham, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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Abstract

This paper describes a practical technique, tested experimentally, for rehabilitating degraded semiarid landscapes in Australia. This rehabilitation technique is based on the ecological principle that semiarid landscapes are spatially organized as patchy, source-sink systems; this patchy organization functions to conserve limited water and nutrients within the system. The aim was to rebuild vegetation patchiness, lost through decades of utilization of these landscapes as rangelands. Patches were reconstructed from large tree branches and shrubs obtained locally and placed in elongated piles along contours. These piles of branches were very effective in recreating productive soil patches within the landscape, as described in part I of this study. These new patchy habitats promoted the establishment and growth of perennial grasses. Although the foliage cover of these grasses declined into a drought, which started before the end of the experiment, plant survivorship remained high. This suggests that patches also function as refugia for organisms during droughts. The patches of branches remained robust and functional, even under grazing impacts, although plant growth and survival were significantly higher within an ungrazed paddock than in a grazed paddock.

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