The Planting Locally in a Warming World forum held on Tuesday 26th November delivered a series of key messages for local land managers. Panellists Martin Driver of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Claire Coulson, Environmental planner with City of Wodonga, and horticulturalists Paul Scannell and Fleur Stelling discussed the challenges we face here in the Albury-Wodonga area, and options we have to meet them.
At a time when we are realising the essential importance of being within nature to human health, we are also waking up to what’s at risk from climate change. The changing climate is already affecting local vegetation, from private and public gardens, street trees and parks to bush corridors and reserves and productive farm landscapes. Water is less abundant and rainfall patterns have changed. Local species including Red Stringybarks are in active decline. Street trees and new plantings are struggling. The key message from the panel is that local ecosystems are changing and changing fast.
Some Indigenous species may not be adapted to our future climate. We need to look north for inspiration – north to places like Cootamundra, Forbes and Parkes, which have the climate now that we can expect here 2030-2050. We need to observe the species that grow in these places, and for those species that already grow here, source seed from healthy plants in those hotter, drier conditions to be planted here. Examples include Red Ironbark, Grey Box, White cypress pine, White box, Kurrajong, Varnish wattle, Currawang, Drooping sheoak, Box leaf wattle, Myall, Hop Bitter pea, Narrow leaf hop bush, Lightwood, Woolly grevillea, and River red gum.
We need to look after what we have – already under stress from urban development and farming practices – better than we currently do; Protect large old trees and remnant vegetation, connect remnants with corridors, ensure greater diversity in restoration plantings, reinstate understorey species and take steps to retain water in the landscape, particularly by re-establishing soils structure in urban areas to allow water to soak in to the soil and recharge groundwater.
Water will be critical to ecosystem and human health. We heard that local Councils have already changed the time and method of planting to make the most of soil moisture, and are watering plants differently using new technology such as high pressure injection. Councils are thinking about recycling water, stormwater diversion, and Water sensitive Urban Design.
Best practice in all of our plantings will be essential: best practice seed sourcing and collection, best practice plant propagation by nurseries, best practice planting techniques, best practice watering and maintenance. Less common techniques may offer better success, for example long-stem planting establishes plant roots directly to moist areas, while direct seeding allows native seeds to germinate when conditions are optimal. Both have been proven successful across our local landscapes.
Invasive species – already the number one cause of biodiversity decline – will be even more of an issue. Land managers need to be cautious about bringing in non-native and native species with potential to invade. At the same time, we need to act, and act now; change what we are doing, observe the results, change again if needed.
Significant research has been done on climate adaptation, and tools are available to help with these challenges. Some mentioned by the panel as highly locally relevant include:
Many thanks to all who attended and contributed questions to the forum; to our panellists whose extensive knowledge and passion for this topic is an invaluable local resource; panel moderator Cr Amanda Cohn whose interest and experience added an extra dimension, our partners Wodonga Urban Landcare Network and Gardens for Wildlife Albury Wodonga in bringing this intensly interesting forum together, Albury City for hosting, and the Bhutanese Community Farm Catering team for providing an excellent and abundant lunch.