Since European settlement, more than a quarter of Australia’s native forest and woodlands have been cleared and scientists say vegetation restoration is urgently needed to avoid further loss of species and ecosystem services.
To help ensure that tax-payer money is spent cost-effectively, efficiently, and transparently in restoration projects, scientists from The University of Queensland and the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions have developed a decision support tool that delivers a ‘cost-effective roadmap’ for investment in land restoration.
Project leader Dr Luke Shoo said the approach considers much more than just planting trees.
“This is a comprehensive approach that considers outcomes far beyond the usual planning timelines that also considers the ‘what if’ scenarios,” Dr Shoo said.
“We look at potential trade-offs in project outcomes, alternative management strategies, and account for changing cost of restoration projects over time.”
CEED Director Professor Kerrie Wilson, who is also Chief Investigator for this project grant, said there were many benefits to this collaboration.
“Importantly, the tool is to inform, not make decisions, so the goals are still defined by the local natural area managers,” Professor Wilson said.
“The next phase of implementation will reveal the extent to which achievements of restoration objectives has been increased and accelerated.”
In this project, UQ and CEED scientists partnered with the Natural Area Management Unit (NAMU) from the City of Gold Coast, to improve restoration efficiency across more than 800 conservation areas, covering around 12,000 hectares.
The software will increase the efficiency of the City’s large-scale restoration projects. Professor Wilson highlighted the complexity and scale of the work undertaken on the Gold Coast as one of the key reasons why UQ partnered with City of Gold Coast
“Currently they have around 400 restoration work zones “in the system” at any one time, these zones can range from several hundred square metres to tens of hectares in size and on average each year City of Gold Coast plants over 150,000 trees,” she said.
“The outcomes from investment can be forecast decades into future so that we can answer questions such as how long will it take and how much will it cost to achieve particular goals.”
More information about the decision support tool visit ceed.edu.au/resources/research-briefs
In 2018, the project was shortlisted as a finalist in the large-scale restoration excellence category at The Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia and was a recipient of a University of Queensland Research Excellence Award.