Newswise — One of Australia's leading environmentalists will spearhead a world-class project to help revegetate the Mount Lofty Ranges, to stave off the effects of climate change and halt the loss of bird, animal and plant species.
Associate Professor David Paton AM from the University of Adelaide will lead a multi-million-dollar program that aims to:
"¢ help re-establish native vegetation to 30% of the Mt Lofty region " an unprecedented scale globally;"¢ prevent the loss of native flora and fauna;"¢ promote the return of some native species that have disappeared across the Ranges;"¢ provide major environmental outcomes that will benefit the State and local communities for generations to come.
Glenthorne, a 228ha property owned and operated by the University about 17km south of Adelaide, will play a pivotal role in delivering these outcomes.
Dr Paton from the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences is highly regarded for his research activities at Kangaroo Island and the Coorong, both of which are internationally recognised South Australian icons.
Under Dr Paton's leadership, the University of Adelaide will embark on a major research, education and community engagement program centred on Glenthorne called the Woodland Recovery Initiative.
This initiative will:
"¢ replenish approximately 100ha of Glenthorne with a native habitat that is as close to a pre-colonial state as possible;"¢ help scientists to better understand how the Mt Lofty Ranges can be revegetated with habitats that can support the region's wildlife;"¢ help scientists to tackle the added challenges presented by climate change;"¢ build on and contribute to existing government and community plans and initiatives aimed at conserving the biodiversity of the Mt Lofty Ranges;"¢ provide opportunities for the community " such as school groups and residents " to engage in this important work.
A vision you can see "from space"
"Species extinction is predicted to be severe in the Mt Lofty Ranges, with 50% of woodland bird species facing regional extinction because there is not enough native vegetation to support their populations," Dr Paton says.
"Ten species are already extinct in the Mt Lofty Ranges and a further 60 species continue to decline in numbers despite the cessation of vegetation clearance in the 1980s. Climate change will exacerbate these losses," he says.
"This will be a terrible loss for all South Australians, but it is avoidable, if suitable and resilient habitats are re-established. Our work is not just about revegetation but about reconstructing complex habitats to secure the region's biodiversity.
"The work at Glenthorne will extend across the Mt Lofty Ranges, effectively making the Ranges part of a regional multi-species recovery program the likes of which the world has never seen.
"We want this to be something South Australians can be proud of. One hundred years from now, we want the results of our work to be visible from space," Dr Paton says.
Glenthorne Trust Fund
The success of this initiative will be dependent on the University's ability to raise the funds needed to turn its vision into a reality.
The University estimates that it will cost a minimum of $20 million to establish the Woodland Recovery Initiative at Glenthorne over the first five years, with at least $5 million per year required to sustain the project over the following decades.
"We have a bold vision for Glenthorne and the Mt Lofty Ranges, but that vision does not come cheaply," says the University's Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor James McWha.
"In order to achieve our vision and ensure that the work conducted there is sustainable over many generations, the University of Adelaide will establish a Glenthorne Trust Fund. We will be seeking to appoint a high-profile individual to lead the Trust," Professor McWha says.
Dr Paton says: "My generation has a unique opportunity to arrest species losses that will not be available to future generations. If we do not address this now and at the necessary scales to make a difference, the environmental cost to the Mt Lofty Ranges will haunt all future generations."
Glenthorne was originally purchased under a Deed of Agreement with the State of South Australia in 2001 using State Government funding. Over the years the University has considered a number of options for the property. It is currently used as a small-scale commercial and research farm.
As part of the Woodland Recovery Initiative, the University aims to:
"¢ reclaim the farmland at Glenthorne and reconstruct a suitable habitat that encourages the return of native species;"¢ renovate buildings at Glenthorne to be used as the base for research, teaching and community involvement, and protect historically significant buildings;"¢ develop educational programs that involve local schools in the environmental works, so that young South Australians are engaged in the project and see it as important to the future of their community;"¢ employ about 30 people " including scientists, technicians, teachers and managers " to deliver the research, educational, community engagement, monitoring and on-ground works to deliver the vision.
"There is much to be done," Dr Paton says. "We not only need to work out how to return native vegetation to the Mt Lofty Ranges, we also need to work out what native vegetation will thrive there in a world affected by climate change. This means our work at Glenthorne will be extremely vital to the bigger picture of what we're doing."