Regenerative wildlife conservation
Regenerative land management is a conservation and ecological rehabilitation approach that focuses on regenerating the health of the topsoil, enhancing the water cycle, improving ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, and through this increasing resilience to climate change. Such an approach can significantly increase biodiversity. These broad concepts are introduced on our webpage - Overview – Soil, Water, Vegetation And Climate.
We have adopted regenerative land management practices as part of our wildlife conservation work. In light of this, we aim to improve ecosystem function through enhancing, in our own small way, the local water cycle and soil health. Consequently, while planting trees and removing weeds we are thinking about this broader context. Key management approaches include the use of livestock to reduce fire risks and build soil carbon, improving water penetration into the soil, and appropriate management of vegetation.
Managing for fire
When it is very wet here, particularly in the summer and early autumn, plants such as grasses, shrubs and weeds grow very rapidly. This vegetation dries out when we have extended dry periods (often from late winter to early summer) and this becomes the fuel that feeds wild fires. This danger grows as the temperatures rise from September through to December. With a strong wind, a fire can be particularly destructive for both people and wildlife.
We have adopted a broad range of strategies to manage fire including what type of vegetation we plant, where we plant it etc. One important fire risk management strategy is the presence of cows on our property. They keep vegetation down on the sections of the property they can access. And they have done a great job in this regard.
It has taken time for us to learn that there are better ways of managing cattle than allowing them to just free range. The cows initially had unlimited access to all areas of the property that were not fenced off for dwellings, food or wildlife habitat. However, we found that this was further degrading the land, particularly in dry periods. This was evidenced by watching, particularly in the last drought, bare patches of soil spreading across our slopes. Indeed it was painful to stand on our friends' property on the opposite side of the valley and see the amount of red soil exposed on our slopes.
These humbling experiences led to changing our management of cattle. Instead of allowing unfettered access to the property at any one time, they are rotated through different sections with recovery time for each section. This is explained further here.
Managing soil carbon
The change in our management of the cows was also brought about through our growing understanding that appropriate rotation can foster the sequestration of carbon into the soil and its associated postive effects on the water cycle and biodiversity. This is elaborated in further detail here - Cows And Soil Carbon.
Please note - While we are rotating the grazing of cows on our place, particularly to minimise fire risk, our system is pretty basic. We are likely sequesting some carbon and improving ecosystem function through our combined strategies, we do not really know to what extent as there has been no scientific evaluation in this regard.