Wheatbelt land restoration with over 1 million native seedlings
Southwest Australia is one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots; habitats that represent 2.5% of Earth’s land surface but support more than half of the world’s endemic plant species.1 Native revegetation projects in these areas are now an ecological, legal and financial necessity to prevent species loss, combat climate change, and power the transition to a low-carbon economy.
While Perth may be known as “the most isolated capital city in the world”, for millions of years, WA’s greater southwest — stretching from Shark Bay to Eucla — has been isolated from the rest of the continent by vast deserts. This separation supported the evolution of flora and fauna found here and nowhere else on Earth.
Sadly, the last century has seen catastrophic species loss due to human development, land clearing for agriculture, overgrazing and salinisation. Only around 30% of Southwest Australia’s original vegetation remains in pristine condition.2 It’s estimated the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.3 Central to Plantrite’s raison d’etre is helping return biodiversity to our wild places and deliver long-term sustainability benefits to W.A.
Western Australia’s Wheatbelt is one key area where revegetation and restoration projects are being undertaken by Nativ Carbon, which works with companies & organisations to generate Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) through biodiverse native vegetation farming.
A biodiverse carbon farm project is defined by the Clean Energy Regulator’s legislation as containing more than two species.4 However, looking at the lessons of Japan’s ambitious post-WW2 tree planting effort — which relied on just two types of conifer — these almost-monocultures have many ongoing issues.5 To create thriving ecosystems that nurture local habitats and provide food for local species, Nativ Carbon seeks to deliver projects with dozens of varieties.
One recent Nativ Carbon project involved two parcels of land in Moora, WA, totalling 2,000 hectares. Plantrite worked strategically with Nativ Carbon to deliver 1.2 million seedlings suitable for the area.
With over 200,000 Banksia tube stock propagated and supplied to Nativ Carbon, the Moora revegetation project may be the largest ever to utilise as many Banksia seedlings. However, revegetation tubestock orders of this magnitude are not uncommon for Plantrite, as our wholesale native nursery supplies WA with more than 3 million native plants every year.6
Notable WA Native Plant Species Supplied
Banksias are a critical food source for local wildlife, including endangered species such as the Carnaby Cockatoo which frequent areas throughout Moora.
Xylomelum angustifolium (Woody Pear)
This unique plant is iconic in the area and was grown en mass from locally collected seed harvested from its unusual pear-shaped fruit.
From seed collection to project success
At the Moora project’s outset, Plantrite advised on species selection, working collaboratively with Nativ Carbon to identify suitable species that existed in remnant vegetation. Where ethical and feasible to do so, seed was collected from local properties and then grown at our native plant nursery in Bullsbrook.
Such a focus on provenance can support an ecosystem where species adapted to the local conditions over thousands of years, ensuring the plants perform well in local conditions and the long-term success of a project.
Plantrite’s engagement from the earliest stages was crucial to the project’s success. Poorly planned and hastily executed projects may increase greenhouse gas releases and harm people and biodiversity.7 Genuine ecological restoration means far more than ‘planting trees’ — areas also need native grasses, shrubs and flowering plants. Swathes of new trees may not be suitable for the available water in a region, drying up river beds and basins. A variety of species selection is essential for the overall landscape health and project success.
Seed sowing and seedling care
Many native plant species have inbuilt dormancy that must be considered. Plantrite used our extensive knowledge of native plant propagation to maximise the percentage of seeds germinated.
The project also required Plantrite’s careful maintenance to control growth and ensure seedlings remained free from pests or diseases. In keeping with our NIASA Nursery Industry Accreditation, Plantrite complies with strict hygiene measures throughout the propagation and growing process to ensure only healthy, top-quality seedlings are delivered.
Native propagation and reporting
Regular inspections and monthly progress reports by Plantrite ensured Nativ Carbon had a clear view of the order’s progress. Germination of seeds was monitored, recorded and tracked throughout the growing process. Unique batch IDs for each seedling batch germinated provide an audit trail for traceability throughout the process.
We also encouraged on-site visits to the nursery by Nativ Carbon, so they could have hands-on interaction with the plants throughout the process and discuss any concerns.
It was critical for Nativ Carbon’s project that all seedlings were of a suitable height and have a well-developed root ball structure within the cell. Plants were provided in uniform 63-cell trays, while attention was given to individual species-specific growth requirements to ensure plant health.
Generating jobs with this Indigenous-led carbon farm program
Nativ Carbon director Matthew Oswald said the project employed a substantial number of Aboriginal people with the support of Gambara, a majority-owned Indigenous company specialising in environmental, landscaping, rehabilitation and re-vegetation. Aboriginal employees assisted with seed collecting, fence removal, weed control and plant installation. The planting element of the project employed around 30 people, including some who are Wheatbelt-based.8
Delivery for winter planting 2022
Due to the large volume of seedlings required on a daily basis to site, delivery dates were scheduled two weeks in advance to meet Nativ Carbon’s tight planting program — required to maximise winter rainfall.
Our fleet of enclosed flatbed trucks easily allowed us to accommodate the required daily delivery to the Moora site (a 260 km roundtrip) over an 8-week period.
Nativ Carbon required the seedlings to be grouped to ensure their planting teams could confidently plant the correct seedlings as soon as they were delivered. We consulted with the planting teams throughout the project to ensure deliveries were offloaded on site according to Nativ Carbon’s requirements.
To minimise waste to landfills, all empty 63-cell trays were collected by Plantrite and returned to the nursery for sterilisation and re-use.
A unique client in a growing industry
With vegetation-led carbon sequestration projects based on a minimum 25-year contract period — and the hundreds of hours of labour required for planting — it is imperative that Nativ Carbon’s clients can order quality plants with confidence. By engaging with Plantrite early and often, the Moora project has been established with the greatest chance for long-term ecosystem sustainability.