ERIE is actively involved with UWA's Future Farm, a multidisciplinary university endeavour that aims to improve management of agricultural landscapes through mitigating adverse environmental changes, aiding the efficient production of food, investigating alternative income sources, and restoring degraded landscapes.
Staff and students in the ERIE Research Group are concentrating on the latter aspects of these goals, having recently set up a field experiment that questions whether trees planted for carbon (a potential alternative income stream) also provide other ecosystem services such as resistance to weed invasion, prevention of soil erosion and efficient nutrient cycling.
We are particularly interested to observe whether these goals can be reconciled with the restoration and maintenance of native biodiversity, or whether there are trade-offs among services.
Emilie Achard, Christine Allen, Matt Appleby, Shelby Bassett, Kasia Bialkowski, Joanna Burgar, Gary Cass, Lisa Denmead, Raphael Didham, Laura Fagan, Juan Camilo Garbello, Leticia Garcia, Heather Gordon, Pauline Grierson, Hilary Harrop-Archibald, Gillian Henderson, Georgie Holbeche, Clemens Kleinspehn, Catherine Lacey, Rob Lawrence, Catriona Macdonald, Nicki Mitchell, Tim Morald, Marina Mourinho, Mark Murphy, Caitlin Murray, Thomas Nguyen, Anna O'Connell, Tony O'Donnell, Kane Page, Bec Parsons, Cas Price, Cristina Ramalho, Kristy Robertson, Claudia Rossig, Nancy Shackelford, Nicola Smith, Alan Thomas, Maggie Triska, Alexa Tunmer, Karina Wan Kader, Jo Wheeler & volunteers from "Men of the Trees", Natasha Wiggins, Ian Williams, Jessica Wong
If you are interested in finding out more about the research projects taking place at Ridgefield Farm then come along to the annual Open Day (usually held in October) or see www.animals.uwa.edu.au/research/future-farm for further information.
The Ridgefield Multiple Ecosystem Services Experiment
In 2010, the group was allocated 21 hectres of land that had previously been grazed or cropped. The parcel also contained granite outcrops. This parcel of land was fenced (rabbit-proof) and 124 experimental plots were ripped, weed sprayed and planted with combinations of 8 species of native vegetation along 11 rip-lines within each 23m long plot.
The species used were Ecualyptus loxophleba, Eucalyptus astringens, Acacia acuminata, Acacia microbotrya, Banksia sessilis, Hakea lissocarpha, Calothamnus quadrifidus and Callistemon phoeniceus. These were planted in a ten different combinations in each of the 10 blocks, categorised according to soil type, moisture and aspect.
The group will be measuring monitoring, harvesting, surveying and sampling on components such as above & below ground biomass, soil & litter C pools, soil erosion, non-native weed & fauna load, N and P availability, decomposition, pollination, intertebrate diversity, volunteer species to answer big picture questions such as "Can restoration of former agricultural land achieve multiple outcomes?" The outcomes sought are carbon sequestration, soil erosion control, biotic resistance, nutrient cycling, pollination and biodiversity.
This is a very long term project and further publications and details will be posted when they come to hand.
Update - June 2012
We are currently preparing for our main field season where we will be measuring the experimental trees to assess how much they have grown in the past year, measuring fine root biomass in the plots, taking soil samples to assess how soil properties have changed under the different plant species compositions, and carrying out weed surveys to assess the differing treatments' resistance to weed invasion. Towards the end of the season we will be investigating invertebrate diversity at the site through the use of pitfall traps. Our most recent work (pictured) at Ridgefield has involved destructive harvesting of the 8 species of trees and shrubs to assess how much biomass and thence carbon is in the different sized individuals. We have harvested below- as well as above-ground biomass, with roots taken to 1mm diameter and to 1m depth, with assistance from the local grave-digger and his excavator. Harvested individuals are being taken from areas adjacent to the experiment, allowing us to relate measures taken in the experiment with those taken on the harvested trees.
Update - January 2014
The Ridgefield Tree Experiment becomes part of the international network TreeDivNet.
Perring, M.P., Standish, R.J., Hulvey, K.B., Lach, L., Morald, T.K., Parsons, R., Didham, R.K. & Hobbs, R.J. (2012) The Ridgefield Multiple Ecosystem Services Experiment: Can restoration of former agricultural land achieve multiple outcomes? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (online) > doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2012.02.016