Abandoned farmland in the Murray Darling Basin. Author: Peta Zivec

Griffith’s research has shown that the abundance of diverse seeds stored on abandoned land in the Murray-Darling Basin and the main coppice trees make the region highly resilient to agriculture.

Published in Restoration ecologyThe study investigated the ability of semi-arid landscapes in the northern MDB to store seeds in soil seed banks, animal waste and in leaf fall and appreciated Art species richnessthe number and composition of these seed banks.

“Restoring abandoned agricultural land is vital for the Murray-Darling Basin to revive the key ecological functions and services that the river and surrounding regions once provided,” said Dr Peta Živek, research fellow at the Australian Rivers Institute.

“With scale regeneration projects are extremely expensive and time-consuming, natural regeneration, where vegetation is regenerated using seeds already stored in the landscape, can be a cost-effective alternative approach to restoring large agricultural areas.

“Our research shows that in the northern MDB, preserved seed banks make an important contribution to the natural regeneration of agricultural land, primarily for understory and intermediate plant species, but to a lesser extent for taller trees.”

The seeds needed for natural regeneration can be stored in various seed banks in the landscape. This study shows how key seed banks of soil, leaf litter and animal waste contribute differently to the regenerative capacity of land once used for agriculture.

“Soil as a seed bank holds the most species diversity of the three types of seed banks, although they are dominated by annual herbaceous species, plants with few woody parts,” said Dr. Živek.

“The animals contained a large number of germinated seedlings, which is evidence of this local animals in the region, like kangaroos and emus, play a key role in transporting seeds in these semi-arid landscapes.

“While leaf litter had the highest number of tree and shrub species of any seed bank, making it an important source for woody vegetation restoration, the actual number of tall trees seeds was very low.”

The rarity of overstory tree species in these seed banks, and the fact that very few tree seedlings germinated, highlights the critical role that vegetation such as paddocks play as a seed source for natural regeneration and their key contribution to overall biotic resilience landscape.

“When trying to naturally restore abandoned farm landscapes, it is essential to protect and enhance existing vegetation and paddock trees as a constant source of fresh seed for taller trees in regeneration areas,” said Dr Zivek.

Effects of logging on the trade-off between seed and seedling regeneration in secondary forests

Additional information:
Peta Živec et al., Regenerative capacity of old fields on semi-arid floodplains in the northern Murray-Darling Basin, Restoration ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/rec.13781

Citation: Reclaiming Abandoned Agricultural Land in the Murray-Darling Basin (2022, October 4) Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-abandoned-agricultural-murray-darling-basin.html

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