Broad-Scale Restoration of Landscape Function with Timber, Carbon and Water Investment

  • R. J. Harper
  • K. R. J. Smettem
  • P. V. Townsend
  • J. R. Bartle
  • J. F. McGrath
Part of the World Forests book series (WFSE, volume 15)


Salinization threatens up to 17 million hectares of Australian farmland, major fresh water resources, biodiversity and built infrastructure. In higher rainfall (>600 mm/year) areas of south-western Australia a market based approach has resulted in the reforestation of over 280,000 ha of farmland with Eucalyptus globulus plantations. This has had significant collateral environmental benefits in terms of reducing salinity in several watersheds. This model has not been replicated in the lower (300–600 mm/year) rainfall areas of this region, which is a global biodiversity hotspot. In this area, conventional forestry species have lower wood yields and longer rotations, compromising profitability, and reinforcing land-holder preference to maintain existing agricultural activities.

Two complementary strategies are being used to restore landscape function across this drier region, through increased reforestation. The first is to shift from the paradigm of forestry comprising tall trees grown in relatively long rotations and producing timber to one based on the production of a range of biomass products (bioenergy, chemicals, sequestered carbon), and environmental services such as providing fresh water. As a consequence of breaking this paradigm, silvicultural practices such as stand densities and rotation length can also be redefined. The second strategy is to integrate these new systems into the existing dryland farming systems. Four broad approaches are being assessed viz. (a) belts of trees with farming maintained in inter-row alleys, (b) blocks of trees located on areas of water accumulation or of high recharge, (c) adjusting species selection to soil conditions, such as those that are shallow or saline, and (d) alternating short phases (3–5 years) of trees with farming. These systems offer the prospect of sequestering carbon, and producing wood or biofuels from farmland without displacing food production.


Total Dissolve Solid Carbon Sequestration Emission Trading Scheme Rainfall Zone Renewable Energy Target 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Project funding has been obtained from the Joint Venture Agroforestry Program (Projects CAL-3A, CAL-6A, CAL-8A, FPC-2A), the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting, and Cooperative Research Centre for Future Farm Industries, and the Western Australian Government’s Greenhouse Strategy (Action 3.1.11). We thank Kevin Goss, Don McGuire and Stan Sochacki for constructive comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. J. Harper
    • 1
    • 2
  • K. R. J. Smettem
    • 3
  • P. V. Townsend
    • 2
  • J. R. Bartle
    • 4
  • J. F. McGrath
    • 4
  1. 1.Alcoa Chair in Sustainable Water Management, Environmental ScienceMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.Forest Products CommissionPerth Business CentrePerthAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Eco-Hydrology, School of Environmental Systems EngineeringThe University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia
  4. 4.Cooperative Research Centre for Future Farm IndustriesThe University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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