Australian National University
A unique voluntary agri-environment scheme in southeastern Australia is not only benefiting farmers, but is also yielding greater restoration outcomes at half the cost of the prevailing restoration approach.
In their recent paper investigating the Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation Scheme (WoPR), Dean Ansell (Australian National University) and colleagues point out that by incorporating broader economic and social benefits into the design of restoration projects, those working to protect biodiversity on farms have been allowed access to parts of the landscape that traditionally been off-limits to conservation.
“The beauty of this new approach is that it balances the needs of the farmer with the benefits to biodiversity conservation,” Says Ansell. “By integrating private benefits in the design of the restoration you not only get access to land that is of greater priority for biodiversity conservation, but it also keeps the overall cost down – it lowers the price at which a farmer will willingly enter into the scheme,” says Ansell. “This is one of the scheme’s key success factors.”
WoPR is working with farmers to plant native vegetation in the middle of pastures to restore biodiversity in the productive parts of the agricultural landscape where more conventional restoration approaches have previously failed. By planting vegetation in rows with broad spaces between, the farmer receives benefits through improved pasture quality and increased livestock shelter (livestock are allowed back into the pasture after the five year period) with potential benefits for overall farm production.
“Most habitat restoration in agricultural landscapes is limited to fencing small patches of remnant vegetation in poorer quality parts of the farm, or creation of narrow, windbreak-style plantings,” Ansell notes. “These approaches represent the smallest impact on agricultural production, but also have limited biodiversity benefit."
WoPR is a voluntary agri-environment scheme. While such programs are popular across Europe and the USA, they are less common in Australia. WoPR involves payments to farmers in return for ‘renting’ the land for five years while a mix of native trees and shrubs are allowed to establish. The scheme was developed by farmers working with the not-for-profit organisation Greening Australia.
“Our research has shown that WoPR is vastly more cost-effective than alternative approaches to getting habitat back into the rural landscape. We compared the costs and benefits of different restoration scenarios and found that the scheme achieved greater restoration outcomes at half the cost of the prevailing restoration approach. Even when we factor in the payments to farmers, this is clearly a more cost-effective strategy for restoring habitat to farmland,” says Ansell.
Reference: Dean Ansell, Graham Fifield, Nicola Munro, David Freudenberger and Philip Gibbons. Restoration Ecology March 2016. Softening the agricultural matrix: a novel agri-environment scheme that balances habitat restoration and livestock grazing. DOI: 10.1111/rec.12304 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rec.12304/abstract
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