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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Repairing Classic Cars and Damaged Environments

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Saturday, June 21, 2014/Categories: sustainability, environment

Land restoration in Western Australia's wheatbelt is the subject of a new book--- Lifting the bonnet on Western Australia’s Ancient Woodlands ---, just published by World Wildlife Fund-Australia. 


Lifting the Bonnet on Wheatbelt Woodlands by Nathan McQuoid (credit: WWF)

The book showcases a passion for native woodlands and their inner workings. It describes obscure locations in Western Australia's vast landscapes with diverse ecological habitats and compares the conservation of these complex environments to restoring classic cars.

Repairing degraded environments presents a large undertaking that involves much Australian history. Beginning at the end of WWI and continuing until well after WWII, the Australian government established a program known as  soldier settlements  that offered land to returning soldiers. In little inhabited and remote areas soldiers were required to clear and occupy the land by planting crops in return for ownership. Land clearing commenced over millions of acres of bushland.

 
Land Cleaning, WA, 1959 (credit: NAA)               WA's Wheatlands  (credit: WWF-Australia)

In Western Australia, soldiers were settled in semi-arid regions now called the "wheatlands" for the primary crop produced. The landscape had been covered by Eucalyptus woodlands, shrubs, and sparse grasses that had survived millions of years untouched except by fires.

While the settlement schemes were good public policy, the unique ecological and environmental characteristics of the region were not appreciated. Like efforts in the western USA to convert short-grass prairies in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and eastern Colorado to wheat production, that eventually led to the epic Dust Bowl of John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie stories, the conversion of the native landscapes in Western Australia produced unforeseen consequences as well. Soil salinization, land degradation, and farm abandonment are common. According to Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), nearly 2.5 million acres of once wooded Western Australian wheatlands were affected by salinization and are now abandoned.

 
WA Soil Salinization                                          Abandoned Farm, Wheatbelt, WA 
(credit: CSIRO)                                                 (credit: The Australian)

Into this mix of historical context and ecological circumstance in Western Australia, the new guide to restoring woodlands likens the management of this complex landscape to the restoration of classic cars. Lifting the Bonnet on Wheatbelt Woodlands author Nathan McQuoid offers a practical and pragmatic approach to the management and restoration of this biodiversity hotspot by suggesting:

“Ecosystems are essentially complex organic machines and by understanding their landform connections, functional elements and processes we can keep them going, and begin to repair many from a broken-down state to a restoration success story. To restore a classic car, we need to know how the original looked and worked, as well."


1962 Ford Utility Vehicle, Western Australia (credit: WWF-Australia)

I don't know too much about iconic vehicles but I do know we appreciate them. The same should be said about the special plants and ecosystems that once covered the landscapes of southwestern Australia. They too could use a bit of loving attention like this new guide to restoration provides.

WHB
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