Higher diversity begets more ecosystem services

25 01 2019
© CJA Bradshaw

Back in 2013, an interesting paper by a group of mainly Swedish ecologists (including one of my former collaborators, Professor Jon Moen of Umeå University) showed how increasing tree species diversity in boreal forests generally increased biomass production. While this is really not news to ecologists in general — for we now have an abundance of data showing that more species diversity leads to higher ecosystem productivity — it certainly didn’t please many foresters whose job it is generally to make trees grow faster so that companies can harvest more timber or pulp.

Well, Jon kindly just emailed me the group’s latest contribution to the puzzle, but this time they looked at several different ‘ecosystem services’ that (mainly boreal) forests provide — things like berry production, topsoil carbon storage, game (hunted mammals) production, the species richness of understory species, and the amount of dead wood — and found that not only does diversity matter, but also the relative abundance of each tree species in the forest mix.

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We need a Revegetation Council

14 01 2019
planting trees

As I have discussed before, the greatest threatening process to biodiversity in South Australia today is past and ongoing clearing of native vegetation. So, arresting further vegetation clearing, and restoring previously cleared land to functional native-vegetation communities are easily the highest priorities across the entire State.

Despite some valiant attempts across South Australia to revegetate previously cleared areas1, the haphazard approach to reforestation in South Australia means that we are unlikely to be maximising ecological function and providing the best habitats for native biodiversity. Several improvements in this regard can be made:

(i) Establish a State Register of past, ongoing, and planned revegetation projects, including data on the proponents, area revegetated, species planted, number of individuals planted for each species, monitoring in place (e.g., plant survival, other species using the restored habitat, etc.), and costs (actual or projected). Such a State Register would allow for a more regional coordination of future revegetation projects to suggest potentially more ecologically useful approaches. This could include identifying the most locally suitable species to plant, maximising the area of existing native habitat or restored fragments by planting adjacent to these, joining isolated islands of habitat to increase connectivity, or even to create more efficient projects by combining otherwise independent proponents (e.g., adjacent landholders).

(ii) Establish a State Revegetation Council that uses data from the Register to prioritise projects, enhance collaboration, and suggest improvements in design and placement according to the principles mentioned above. The Council could also help to coordinate monitoring of progress and ecological outcomes at the landscape scale. A similar State Register for Wetland Restoration and a relevant Council could be established in a similar manner, emphasising the conservation and restoration of smaller wetlands with more unique, endemic plant species. Likewise, both Councils could ideally assist in coordinating non-profit and private organisations in terms of their revegetation priorities, as well as coordinate with conservation covenants(see below) for private landholders.

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Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss LII

2 01 2019

The first set of six biodiversity cartoons for 2019 to usher in the New Year. See full stock of previous ‘Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss’ compendia here.

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