If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.  

– Wanda Sykes

Rivers of Carbon is a ‘people program’ that builds on years of scientific research into how river and riparian zones function, combined with landholder experience and practical management solutions.   The program is different because it uses social, rather than biophysical sciences as the starting point.  Australia is a vast, arid continent, yet it is covered in waterways that are often small, ephemeral and seemingly insignificant.  These waterways, often on privately owned land are, however, incredibly important.  They are the capillaries and arteries of big rivers like the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and the Murray.  They are the lifeblood of our rural communities, ecological and human, and we need people to manage and care for them.

Building on strong foundations:

In 1993, the National Riparian Lands R&D Program managed through the former Land and Water Australia, began a thirteen year investment into understanding how Australia’s rivers and riparian areas function. Prior to this time, much of our knowledge was taken from North America and Europe, with these models not directly translating to Australian systems. Respected researchers worked in the Program examining ecological, hydrological and chemical aspects of riparian functioning. Most importantly, all research undertaken through the National Riparian Lands R&D Program had a strong management focus, with researchers regularly meeting with practitioners to discuss how their science could be meaningful and useful in day-to-day river management.

The National Riparian Lands R&D Program was well known for it’s communication efforts, particularly the beautiful ‘River Landscapes’ poster by artist Annie Franklin that is a map of Australia.  The images from this poster were used throughout all the Program’s products, website and events.  It was also shared and hung in offices around Australia as a source of inspiration and connection for all those working in river restoration and management.  The RipRap magazine was another well-loved product that shared stories about all the great work being undertaken across Australia.

In 2006, the National Riparian Lands R&D Program came to an end, and shortly after Land & Water Australia was abolished. There were fears by the former Program Coordinator, Dr Siwan Lovett and Program Manager, Dr Phil Price, that the extensive body of work developed through the National Riparian Lands R&D Program would be lost. This led Siwan to establish the not-for-profit Australian River Restoration Centre (ARRC) in 2008, a concept she developed following a trip to Europe, supported by a Winston Churchill Trust Fellowship, to attend the European River Restoration Centre conference in Venice and spend time with European experts to learn more about the River Restoration Centre model.  You can read Siwan’s report from her trip, a trip that enabled her to think about how she could establish an organisation that could meet the needs of Australians with an interest in river restoration.

Based on what she had learnt, Siwan established the ARRC, an organisation committed to supporting, facilitating and inspiring people to value their rivers. As part of this commitment, all of the materials, tools, and publications developed through the National Riparian Lands R&D Program are provided free of charge on the ARRC website, making it a valuable and much used repository of river and riparian knowledge. In addition, the ARRC has retained the network of people and organisations involved in riparian management, and this network continues to grow today.  The ARRC produces a free monthly newsletter that has a readership of over 1500 people, it contains stories about restoration efforts, as well as human interest and what inspires us to keep doing good work for our rivers.  You can subscribe here. 

Rivers of Carbon Successful!

In 2011, an opportunity to apply for funding for on-ground river restoration emerged through the National Green Energy Biodiversity Fund. Siwan working closely with her colleague Lori Gould (Boorowa River Recovery National Riverprize Finalist 2015), submitted an application for ‘Rivers of Carbon – Southern Riparian Linkages’.   The project was funded $1,909,000 through the Biodiversity Fund over six years, commencing in 2012, and working in partnership with landholders, NRM Regional Bodies and other organisations across the region to link remnant vegetation and previously rehabilitated sites to form intact riparian corridors.  A key focus is extending riparian corridors into the wider terrestrial landscape to facilitate species movement in the face of climate change, as well as leveraging biodiverse Carbon Farming Initiatives in these highly productive areas.  Science and local knowledge is used to identify priority areas for on-ground works, and focuses on important threatened species habitat.

This first project kick started a Program that is continuing to expand and inspire.  Ultimately though, the reason Rivers of Carbon is here today is because of a friendship between Siwan and Lori, two women who are passionate about rivers, people and having fun.

Lori Gould (left) and Siwan Lovett (right)