Our Commonwealth funded Southern Biodiversity Linkages project has been the foundation upon which the Rivers of Carbon initiative has developed.  Without this investment Rivers of Carbon would have been an unrealised dream.  As the project comes to completion, we reflect on the incredible value and support the Commonwealth have provided to us and our landholders in supporting the inaugural Rivers of Carbon project.

Our journey:

Over the past six years we have been able to focus and refine what it is that Rivers of Carbon (RoC) does. We are pleased to be working on a Program that empowers people to act in response to climate change by restoring their streams to boost biodiversity, sequester carbon and promote wellbeing. Rather than focusing on one river, we now work with local communities to protect and restore the many streams, creeks and wetlands that connect to larger river systems like the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan. We currently have projects across the Yass, Murrumbidgee, Breadalbane and Goulburn region of New South Wales, with more projects in the planning stages, and ongoing requests from communities wanting to get involved. Commonwealth support through the Biodiversity Fund enabled RoC to happen, and we are eternally grateful that we were given this opportunity.

Our team, Lori, Mary, Margie, Siwan and Haydn

Today, RoC is a collaboration between Federal and State government grant programs both large and small, with all funds matched by cash and in-kind contributions from landholders and local communities. Every RoC project works with a Landcare or equivalent volunteer group to apply for funding and implement outcomes. This means that every investment made is on the basis of a negotiation with a local Landcare group about their priorities, and how RoC can help them to achieve their goals.

Over the past six years we have managed our Biodiversity Fund investment and matched it with in-kind and cash contributions from landholders and partner organisations. With these funds we have undertaken riparian restoration on 93 sites on private landholder properties, re-vegetated 994.6 ha of riparian zone, protected 1090 ha of remnant vegetation, fenced 122 kms of stream, planted 97,000 native species, held 29 events and involved 1652 volunteers. We feel our most important achievement is that we have created a brand that empowers people to feel optimistic about their ability to respond to the uncertainties presented by climate change, and which supports them in taking action.

Overall, our approach works because it is common sense, economically viable, underpinned by science, grounded in practice and, most importantly, it values people so that they become a member of the RoC community and share what they know with others. With more people wanting to work with us the future looks bright for RoC and we extend our sincere thanks for the support we have been given through this Biodiversity Fund project.

To find out what we have been doing you can follow this links to separate stories about activities and resources we have created as part of this project:

Deceptively simple, highly effective – our Five P collaboration framework

Messing things up at Australind

Rivers of Carbon Guide: Treating a small erosion headcut with a rock flume

Carping at Christmas

Why do you want to mess it up and slow it down?

Rivers of Carbon – Rivers of Life RipRap Edition 37

Ngunawal River Connections

Rivers of Carbon Resources – What is a River of Carbon?  Rivers of carbon science.   Trading carbon.   The problem with willows.

RipRoc Storytelling site

Our on-ground work:

All of our Rivers of Carbon projects use the same model of focusing on sites with high recovery potential for biodiversity and carbon sequestration, as well as connecting riparian areas so that we have contiguous corridors of vegetation along streams.  The co-investment approach we are using provides testimony to the success of the Rivers of Carbon model.   We have consolidated our results from across projects in the Monitoring and Evaluation part of the website, including separating out riparian, instream and social outcomes.

In the photo below you will see one of our sites along Jeir Creek (that flows into the Murrumbidgee) that we are excited about, as the landholder has fenced back at least 25 metres to create a riparian corridor.  This site has high recovery potential and links to previous work upstream and downstream – we are filling in gaps to connect the creek and create a continuous riparian corridor.

    • Jeir Creek rehabilitation site, Photo: Lori Gould

      Jeir Creek rehabilitation site, Photo: Lori Gould

    • Jeir Creek rehabilitation site, Photo: Lori Gould

      Jeir Creek rehabilitation site, Photo: Lori Gould

We have a mix of riparian and wetland sites, with a few of these linking to remnant grassy box woodland or shrubby forest.  We also have some gully erosion sites that we are stabilising to prevent sediment travelling into the river.  We are categorising our sites according to three Themes:

Theme 1: Biodiverse plantings
Theme 2: Recruitment and regeneration of native vegetation
Theme 3: Managing invasive species

tube-stockPrior to work commencing, each site is thoroughly assessed for its recovery potential, its habitat significance, riparian linkages, cost effectiveness in terms of outcomes, and carbon sequestration opportunities.  We also ensure that we collaborate with the relevant local Natural Resources Management agency to assess the priority of the site in-line with their Catchment Action Plan.

All of our sites have had a  Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition Assessment  undertaken to provide baseline information against which we can track progress against over the life of the project.  These assessments are now being redone as we move into the last six months of our work.  We also record other details to complement the Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition assessment, for example, stream type, stream class and bank profile.  We have a webpage focusing on our monitoring and evaluation approach as we feel it is vital we track before and after riparian rehabilitation works are undertaken.

Once we have planned the works to be undertaken on site with the landowner, we prepare individual species lists for each site based on pre-1750’s vegetation (GIS mapped) and any remnants that are on site.  Plants are also chosen with regard to their position in the landscape and moisture availability.  Planting tubestock is a key part of the Rivers of Carbon project, as many sites cannot be direct seeded due to high fertility, grass competition and accessibility.

Seed propagation of plants for is ongoing, and is part of Greening Australia’s broader effort to grow 100 000 known provenance plants in association with the seed collection program (undertaken over December/January) for all projects.  Riparian community species are part of the species mix, and are being grown specifically for Rivers of Carbon.  Seed for growing tubestock is sourced from local provenances and each plant grown can be traced back to the origin of the seed.  Tubestock and seedstock are chosen based on the specifics of each site.

pop-seeds

 In a recent review of past restoration sites we have recorded some recruitment of native vegetation to fenced sites – with regeneration of Eucalypts, and significant regeneration of native grasses in sites that still retained these remnants.  In many of our Theme 1 sites (Biodiverse Plantings) however, pasture grasses dominate, and fertility is high.  This limits the ability and speed at which native vegetation is recruited. These sites are mostly being planted using tubestock.

Theme 2 (protecting and enhancing native vegetation) sites have a higher level of natural regeneration overall compared with Theme 1 sites as there is vegetation remaining on site.  These sites also tend to be native pastures, rather than exotic pastures, and this makes it easier for regeneration to occur.  We have found that regeneration of native grasses is significant depending on the level of disturbance, once fenced out bare ground is very quickly colonised. Overstorey and mid storey regeneration is starting to occur at some sites, however, this process can take some time. A number of sites still require mid story to be reinstated.

Pudman Creek Site, Photo: Lori Gould

Our Theme 3 (managing invasive species) sites are mainly focusing on Crack Willow, as this is the main willow species to be targeted in the Rivers of Carbon project area.  Willows are a particular problem in smaller streams where they invade the entire stream causing erosion of banks and stream widening. They also reduce diversity of habitat for macro-invertebrates and use a considerable amount of water. Any willow control being undertaken will be in conjunction with rehabilitation of habitat and associated fencing and revegetation as an imperative. Funding available for willow control is limited. Control will involve stem injection with Glyphosate at some sites, while other sites will require an excavator with specialised attachment (log grab, saw, rake and sprayer). The most appropriate option depend on cost, safety and specific site requirements (in terms of ongoing management). These methods have proved successful in the Rivers of Carbon project area in the past.

We are continuing our work with the Southern Pygmy Perch and the community that is established in the Pudman is still there and breeding.  This is brilliant, as the Southern Pygmy Perch is endangered and had been wiped out in many other NSW streams.  We have recently installed a rock wall on Blakney Creek to protect the Southern Pygmy Perch from invasion by Redfin and European Carp – you can read more on that story here.

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    We spent a lot of time peering into nets and buckets. Lori from GA became know as the Southern Pygmy Perch fish whisperer…

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    Southern Pygmy Perch: small but very beautiful and feisty!

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    Elaine Sainsbury’s wedding present became a fish tank!

To get a more detailed understanding of the work we are doing, here are four stories from landholders who are part of the Rivers of Carbon team:

In addition, we have a range of River of Carbon products designed to assist people who want to learn more about riparian rehabilitation.  All of these are in the resources section of our site and you might also want to read about the theory and practice behind our project on our ‘What is a river of carbon’ page.  We are now working in many more catchments as a result of the success of the Southern Riparian Linkages project, take a look at Our Projects page to see where we are and how you can get involved.

 

  • River of carbon fact sheet

    River of carbon fact sheet

  • Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition for the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales

    Rapid Appraisal of Riparian Condition for the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales

  • RipRap Edition 37 - Rivers of Carbon, Rivers of Life

    RipRap Edition 37 – Rivers of Carbon, Rivers of Life

  • What is a river of carbon? Technical guideline

    What is a river of carbon? Technical guideline

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