Revegetation: the way forward for landowners

As we come to terms that it is our responsibility to fight the effects of man-made climate change, many landowners are choosing revegetation. Neighbours with large blocks of land in Christchurch and Canterbury are working together to put native trees back on their land. In areas of the Port Hills, landowners that share a property boundary with council reserves are blurring the property lines, visually bringing the reserve into their backyards or working with community groups like Port Hills Park Trust to further revegetate the surrounding reserves, too.

Other landowners who have larger properties aim to revegetate their land for beautification and ecological value. They work together, share information and resources to improve the larger landscape their properties share. Each landowner may have different reasons for wanting to put native bush back on their property. Organisations like Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (ESAI) provide a forum where farmers can exchange expertise, share experiences, and discuss innovative techniques. This knowledge-sharing fosters the potential for enhanced farm productivity, sustainability, and the attainment of positive outcomes. So why are landowners opting into revegetation?

Revegetation for Native Bird Settlement

While birds make up a minority of animal species, they are frequently chosen as indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience. This is because many bird species are high in the food chain. If they’re present, there will be fruit, seeds and bugs for them to eat. As an indicator of heightened biodiversity, attracting native birds to the area can help you see how well your revegetation project is working. Working under this idea,  Te Ara Kākāriki works to create a wildlife corridor. This corridor links the Southern Alps to Ahuriri Lagoon. They plan to increase native vegetation on the Canterbury Plains with their Greendot Programme. It’s working and if you want to help them, get in touch via their website.

soil erosion

A steep bank showing the finest roots containing the soil, and the more stony subsurface layer, where there are thicker roots. Photo: Pere Casals.

Erosion and Weed Control through Revegetation

This practice focuses on preventing water erosion in agricultural settings, coastal areas, and riverbanks. Farmers and lifestyle blockers on the Canterbury plains tend to revegetate for this purpose. Preventing erosion is good for agriculture as well as overall water health. Plants with fibrous root systems like Carex secta and Carex geminata are great bank stabilisers along waterways.  This is often evident where undercutting has occurred along a steep bank but a plant’s roots are exposed and holding the soil in place. (As pictured on the right). The deep and fibrous roots hold soil in place in high water events and with successive plantings can effectively control erosion. Furthermore, the roots act as a filter reducing runoff of excess fertiliser and other pollutants into the water. This, when paired with a fenced 3m planted setback along waterways, improves overall water quality.

Simultaneously, once the trees have reached the height where they provide a closed canopy, there are fewer weeds. In the realm of water management, for instance, farmers working together can implement practices that not only enhance water quality but also ensure its sustainable availability for agricultural activities and broader ecological health. Erosion control can mitigate the adverse effects of soil erosion, preserving the fertility of agricultural land and preventing downstream environmental impacts.

Preservation of Bush Remnants

This pertains to the ecological restoration of remaining vegetation areas with the explicit goal of preventing further degradation of native bush. It usually entails reinstating lost species or lost physical conditions in an ecological community. Remnant vegetation or bushland can be defined as those patches of native trees, shrubs and grasses not removed for agriculture or development. Often this action is required for larger developments to gain resource consent. Preservation can also be done via legal covenants on parcels of land. Covenants typically entail specific guidelines and restrictions aimed at mitigating the impact of human activities on the environment. These may include regulations on land use, development, and resource extraction, with the overarching goal of fostering sustainable practices that harmonize with the natural landscape.

Contribute to Enhanced Property Values and Social Benefits

Remnants have the potential to augment property values and offer various social advantages, including opportunities for tourism, education, and recreation. For the landowner, hedges and trees give a property a natural feeling of privacy. That can contribute to its overall value in the eyes of buyers. Trees have been shown to add anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5 per cent to the value of the property, with hedges only slightly lower at 3.6 to 3.9 per cent. The modern home buyer is also time-poor. They want a property that requires little maintenance. Whether the land is the iconic quarter-acre section or a 10-acre lifestyle block, people want privacy and to feel like their place is just for them. Many lifestyle block owners don’t want the miniature farm, but they want the peace and seclusion of country living. Often, these people will put aside a few acres for reforestation. Once one neighbour starts, another that shares the property line joins in and the revegetated block no longer follows a property line. Eventually, it may become an organic edge and naturally regenerate, attracting all sorts of wildlife.

Revegetation native hedgerow

An established native hedgerow

Revegetation Provides Shelter for Livestock and Crops

The patches of native vegetation act as natural shelters, offering protection for both livestock and crops against adverse environmental conditions. A slight increase in the width of your hedgerow allows for more biodiversity. This improves how the farm interacts with the larger landscape. Hedgerows of native trees can also help crop yields.  Numerous studies have found that having more native plants near crops could attract insects that help with pollination and combat some harmful pests.

Dairy farmers report that cows with access to shade produce more milk. Cows under heat stress have less of an appetite. Using natives to reach this goal is sensible as they require less maintenance once established and provide the same opportunities for stock as trees that have no ecological benefit. There is an interesting document from the New Zealand Forest Research Institute from 2007 that discusses farming with Native Trees in the Waikato. While it isn’t specific to Canterbury, the questions, implications and reasoning apply to us in Canterbury today.

In essence, the collective strength of landowners working together enables a more impactful response to complex environmental challenges. The collaborative approach fosters a sense of shared responsibility and promotes the adoption of sustainable practices, ultimately contributing to the long-term resilience and health of the entire regional environment.

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