Biodiverse vegetation - challenges and opportunities in agriculture
It is this landscape degradation and related global challengesthat drive Soils for Life to encourage change in landscape management.
As remnant vegetation continues to deteriorate, the land and soil degrades as topsoil is lost and erosion occurs . Poorer soils are then unable to support regeneration of healthy vegetation and nutrient cycles break down.
As discussed in earlier posts, nutrients are necessary for healthy soil and vegetation functioning. These are also being lost to production systems through disruption to the natural waste cycle as a result of urbanisation and consumption habits. Cities are producing increasing volumes of waste, including significant organic matter, which is no longer being returned to the soils.
The opportunity on our farms
The land use of greatest extent in Australia is livestock grazing, accounting for use of 55% of our land area (428 million hectares) . By adopting regenerative management techniques on these properties, we can establish or re-establish biodiversity in pastures, crops, trees and other plant life across much of Australia. These managed landscapes therefore provide a major opportunity for revegetation - and subsequently sequestration of carbon back into the soil and for restoring natural hydrological cycles.
It is this opportunity in our managed landscapes that drives Soils for Life to focus on supporting our farmers to adopt regenerative practices.
A biodiversity in vegetation and good vegetative cover enhances resilience to variable weather patterns or extreme climate events. For example, different plants have different tolerances and recovery times – why bank on just a few? With the increased soil health, even in these times of extreme heat, a soil with a good coverage of perennial grasses will absorb available moisture. Particularly in contrast to exposed soils or hard claypans from which water just runs off.
Find out more about the national and global challenges related to landscape degradation and the opportunities and solutions provided in farming and agriculture in our report Innovations for Regenerative Landscape Management.
Each of the participants in case studies examined in our report emphasised the importance of vegetation in their regenerative landscape management practices, especially in maintaining groundcover. We’ll look at some of these next week, as well as other benefits obtained through encouraging diverse vegetation on farming properties. We're looking forward to the Demonstration Day scheduled on Dukes Plain in July, which will focus on this very issue.
Alongside other regenerative practices, a biodiversity in vegetation also supports biodiversity in other ecosystem communities. This is essential for healthy functioning and landscape resilience.
We'll leave you with these images as a little food for thought on the effects of many of our conventional practices on ecosystem biodiversity and what that could mean…
Plants and animals collected in a square metre of South African public park over the course of 24 hours:
Plants and animals found over the course of two nights and three days in an Iowa cornfield:
The Soils for Life Team
2 State of the Environment 2011 Committee, Australia: State of the Environment 2011, Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011, pp267-368
3 State of the Environment 2011 Committee, Australia: State of the Environment 2011, Independent report to the Australian Government Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra: DSEWPaC, 2011, p 271