Converting flood prone paddocks into paperbark plantations
The common melaleuca or paper-bark tree could be a powerhouse in storing carbon and filtering farm runoff. Farmers and scientists are teaming up to understand how big an impact these native trees can have.
Revegetating was a good way to use this land. These paddocks are so close to the coast – the planted trees are great for holding sediment and they help with erosion during floods.
James Cook University Tropwater Centre’s Dr Adam Canning is working with Ingham farmer John Cardillo and Greening Australia on a project that has converted 15 acres of flood-prone cane farm into melaleuca plantations.
The project investigates the amount of carbon stored by these plantations compared to non-restored areas, and their role in capturing nutrients from farm run-off during high rainfall.
Adam says the research looks at how restoration can fit in with the agricultural landscape, so there are benefits for both farmers and the environment.
“Planting melaleuca plantations on flood-prone farms has dual benefits – they are powerful carbon sinks, and they can help improve water quality. But if agricultural land is restored, it could be at a production loss to farmers, so we need to think about how restoration can have co-benefits for farmers.
“This project is finding the best way to use flood-prone paddocks to support the long-term success of the agricultural economy by leveraging emerging ecosystem service markets.”
Cane farmer John Cardillo, who has been involved in various revegetation projects, says the low-lying paddocks were wasted on cane because they were flood-prone.
“Revegetating was a good way to use this land. These paddocks are so close to the coast – the planted trees are great for holding sediment and they help with erosion during floods.
“It might seem like a drop in the ocean, but it all adds up.”
Greening Australia’s Sean Hoobin says land that isn’t good for cane can be converted to carbon farming, both from vegetation and blue carbon methods, giving landholders additional income.
“Greening Australia’s work with James Cook University to measure the water quality benefit of melaleuca wetlands means that farmers may also be able to receive a Reef Credit payment to increase the overall value of restoration.”
He says there’s likely to be many flood-prone cane paddocks in Queensland that could be converted to melaleuca wetlands, and the results could play a big part in future restoration initiatives within the agricultural landscape.
“We have also been scoping the potential for planting over 120 other water-tolerant native tree species in locations across the Great Barrier Reef catchment to support carbon sequestration, nutrient run-off treatment and biodiversity.”