Researchers from Charles Sturt and Latrobe Universities have suggested that more bushland is returning through natural regeneration than through tree planting or fencing out of remnants.
Based on research on an area between Heathcote and Rushworth, they concluded that as a result of land use changes, ‘on average, native vegetation has regenerated over nearly 1800 ha every decade since the mid-1960s. If this trend continues, regrowth will occupy 20% of infertile soils on private land by 2025.’ The change has been driven by changes in land use from farming to ‘rural residential’, that is, lifestyle properties.
The researchers are uncertain where this regeneration will go: ‘future successional dynamics in regrowth shrublands are poorly known. We do not know, for instance,
whether regrowth shrublands will gradually come to resemble intact Box-Ironbark
forests, or may instead form distinctive ‘novel ecosystems’ (Hobbs et al. 2006). An
important question for future research is: should regrowth shrublands be restored to
form an intact forest structure, as in nearby box-ironbark forests, or should shrublands
be maintained to enhance the regional diversity of habitat types?’
The research is relevant to the Mount Alexander region, which shows many of the characteristics discussed in the paper [‘Old field colonization by native trees and shrubs
following land use change: Could this be Victoria’s largest example of landscape recovery?’
By Luke S. Geddes, Ian D. Lunt, Lisa T. Smallbone and JohnW.Morgan, published in Ecological Management and Restoration magazine, April 2011.] Ian Lunt’s research blog can be found at http://ianluntresearch.wordpress.com/