An initiative of Greening Australia and the Alcoa Foundation
The Four Bios
Biodiversity is the diversity of plant and animal life in a particular habitat
Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy derived from biological sources
Biosequestration refers to the capture and storage of atmospheric carbon by biological processes
Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal produced in an oxygen-depleted environment and is commonly used as a soil amendment rather than as a fuel.
1. The Challenge
Much of the wealth which has underpinned our standard of living in regional and urban Australia over the last two hundred years has been created via the removal of our original native vegetation - and replacing it with crops and improved pastures. We have developed great agricultural and pastoral industries – along the way creating a greatly altered landscape. This altered landscape has produced problems that we have spent a lot of time over the last two decades of Landcare trying to fix. Some really important work has been done during that time, but there is still a long way to go. A major barrier to doing more is that not only is restoring native vegetation really expensive; but it takes away the potential to derive an income from the land involved.
2. The Opportunity
But what would happen if the native vegetation we have spent the last two hundred years pulling out were to become a profit centre? That is exactly what this project is looking at, -new opportunities to tap into emerging markets based on the services provided by native vegetation – what we have called the four ‘Bio’s’: Biodiversity , Bioenergy , Biosequestration and Biochar .
The thing that sets this project apart from other projects that are looking at each of these issues (the four Bio’s) in isolation, is that we can integrate all these opportunities into the one package to create some really exciting 21st Century agricultural landscapes.
3. The need to be Targeted
Creating a restored 21st century agricultural landscape is a massive task and can’t all be done at once, so we have to make some decisions about where we go first. We have to determine where the maximum return on investment can be reached.
4. Our Target Region
This is why we have chosen to work across a region we call Habitat 141, the area that straddles the SA-Vic border region from the coast to southern NSW. This is one of several recognized biodiversity hotspots in Australia, one of the few places where you can travel such an extensive north-south gradient and see examples of the major ecosystems represented in parks and reserves within a largely cleared landscape. We know that in the longer term, restoring these landscapes means that we have to increase our efforts to put back some of the plants that we have spent the last 200 years removing. We believe that providing market-based incentives to landholders is one of the tools that will help this happen at the scale required.
5. What we are doing with Alcoa’s help
This project will provide information to landholders about the implications of incorporating some of the Bio-4 opportunities into their existing farming enterprises. Through the project we are determining:
- How much native vegetation we need to put back into the landscape, and in what configuration, to ensure that all the ecosystems and the species they contain will persist into the future - and perhaps give us a chance of re-introducing a few of the species we have lost over the last two hundred years.
- Growth rates, biomass yields and energy produced from known-age plantings to inform future land use decisions across western Victoria. The quality of the biochar produced from these plants and the effect it has when we put it back into the soil.
- Landholders attitudes towards these opportunities across the region, and possibilities to integrate some of these once-in-a-generation opportunities into their farms to create resilient 21st century agricultural landscapes.
This is an an important project, happening at a critical time. Species continue to be lost, problems like salinity and erosion continue, and debate about the extent and impact of climate change add a whole new layer of uncertainty.
We are in the early stages of a really important part of our work in this area. We are extremely grateful to receive Alcoa’s support during the critical early stages. This is the perfect platform to build on our Bio-4 framework and build relationships with Government and industry to build these resilient 21st Century agricultural landscapes.
Ph 03 55217856, email
Portland Seedbank Manager
T: 0355236839, email
Please click here for more information on Biochar research.
Click here to see how we are working with Alcoa around the country.
Below is an excellent 3 minute video produced by Cara Wolinsky explaining Biochar.