Exploring the future of restoration and conservation in changing climates at Haining Farm

Workshop participants united in their vocation to make an impact for nature. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

Sustainability, conservation and restoration practitioners from Melbourne and Yarra Valley regions recently gathered for a workshop facilitated by Greening Australia at Haining Farm, to explore practical and innovative approaches to managing landscapes for future climates.

Knowledge exchanges to support effective, practical and immediate action are increasingly vital as Australia is seeing the largest documented decline in biodiversity of any continent.

“The more we learn about what’s driving biodiversity loss, the more complex it is for land managers to navigate ways forward for protecting and restoring Australian ecosystems – for example, ensuring that populations have the genetic diversity and adaptive capacity to survive in changing climates,” said Greening Australia’s Zoe Birnie, who organised the workshop.

“Applying climate-adjusted approaches in the real world is challenging. There’ll be compromises and trade-offs – but we really wanted to encourage practitioners to share their experiences and see that even putting a few principles from science-based tools and guidelines into practice is better than none.”

A small group of people are discussing two maps showing predicted future changes in Victoria's climate.

Sharing ideas and experiences can help inspire environmental practitioners with new ways to approach managing climate impacts on landscapes. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

Those attending on the day included representatives from state and local governments, universities, utility companies, and natural resource management organisations.

Workshop participant Monique Miller from Bush Heritage said: “Unpredictability is one of the biggest challenges. There’s a cascade effect of biodiversity breaking down. How can we make restoration sustainable with those missing puzzle pieces that are becoming evident all of the time?

“Workshops like these are helpful because we can discuss different approaches and experiment – which in turn helps with feeling like we’re dealing with the unknown. Cross-pollinating knowledge between restoration practitioners is essential to effectively do our jobs. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”

Workshop participant Geoff Lockwood from Southern Fauna Resources said: “It’s useful to know there are future planning tools available for site rehabilitation; it’s challenging to know how to choose a strategy for the future if we can’t be sure what’s going to happen with such a variable climate. But it’s how you look at it: do we see sites where rehabilitation has not worked as a failure, or as a learning and keep adapting?”

Two men in conversation walk along a path surrounded by young, green vegetation.

Workshop participants Geoff Lockwood (L) and Alan Scoble (R) in conversation, walking among thriving revegetation at Haining Farm. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

Melinda Pickup, Greening Australia’s Manager of Seed Science, presented to the group on emerging seed tech that will feed into practical climate-adjusted approaches to conservation and restoration.

“We really believe in the sense of collective momentum that’s gained when you get people together to share knowledge and experiences and brainstorm ways forward. In the seed science field, for example, we’ll soon be seeing approaches that bring together a practitioner’s on-ground understanding of an ecosystem with the underlying genetics of a species.

“We’re talking about finding parts of the genome that are relevant to climate adaptation, and unlocking that potential by relating that back to the practicalities of what we can do on ground.

“There are always limitations to any approach, but that’s where bringing people together is so valuable – so we can fill in the gaps and form a more holistic solution.”

Looking over the heads of a listening audience, a presenter is shown standing beside a screen, talking to a slide that has the heading 'Provenancing Strategies'.

Greening Australia’s Melinda Pickup explains to attendees how seed genetics, influenced by their provenance, can support practical approaches to climate ready revegetation. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

Haining Farm provided the perfect setting for these discussions. It exemplifies the opportunity to use restoration sites as knowledge hubs for practitioners, where new ways of working can be tested and the learnings shared to improve conservation and restoration efforts.

Parks Victoria Ranger and workshop participant Melissa Tuliranta said: “Haining Farm has a long history as an environmental education centre, so it’s great to see a workshop like this with people from various organisations unpacking a complex topic and sharing ideas.”

“It’s exciting to be working in a space where we are looking into implementing a whole new approach to future revegetation projects to create climate resilient habitat. It is truly inspiring to see so many organisations and individuals interested in the topic and making their way to Haining Farm to learn more about it.”

A group of people stand outdoors, listening to one of the group speaking, surrounded by young, green vegetation.

As a restoration site where a number of different approaches are being trialled, Haining Farm provided an ideal venue for the workshop. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

Several innovative climate-ready restoration approaches have been employed at Haining Farm to ensure the habitat replanted there creates ideal conditions for the critically endangered lowland Leadbeater’s Possum and Helmeted Honeyeater. One such approach is Haining Farm’s climate future plot.

Zoe Birnie explains: “The plot is a nexus of conservation and education objectives. It’s primarily designed to provide biodiversity benefits, trialling climate-adjusted seedlings of key habitat plant species for the Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum.

“Excitingly, the plot also incorporates interactive citizen science opportunities. Each plant is tagged with a QR code, housing its species, climate analogue origin and planting data. People visiting Haining Farm can help us monitor which plants do better over time by scanning the codes with their smart phones and filling out a quick survey. The more data we have, the more we learn about rebuilding biodiversity that’s resilient and adaptable to future climates.”

A tag with a QR code is attached to a stake beside a seedling.

One of the QR-coded plants in the Haining Farm climate future plot.

The survey data collected via the QR codes is stored online and immediately visible to Greening Australia’s restoration ecologists to analyse and use.

The QR-coded climate future plot links in with the broader ClimateWatch trail established at the former dairy property, which also enables visitors to actively contribute data for environmental restoration.

Haining Farm Conservation Park opened to the public in 2021. A former dairy property, gifted to the people of Victoria for education and conservation purposes by Sir John T Reid, the farm has been painstakingly transformed into a public park through a partnership between Greening Australia, Zoos Victoria, Parks Victoria, and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (now the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action).


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