Regenerate Australia: the concept

13 Mar 2014

This concept paper explores the potential and practical options for regenerating the resilience of bio-systems in Australia.


The United Nations, the World Bank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United States Department of Agriculture and the vast majority of senior scientists and analysts agree that, over the coming decades, humanity needs to address fundamental challenges relating to the provision of adequate and sustainable food and water supplies, protection of habitats and meeting changing climatic conditions over the coming decades. This challenge will become more pronounced as the global population increases from just over seven billion to about 10 billion by 2050.

Urgent action is required to regenerate the resilience of bio-systems so they can withstand increasing climatic extremes and reverse the process of soil degradation. The natural hydrology of the soil must be restored in order to bolster the resilience of these bio-systems to stabilise the climate. Fortunately, practical options exist to do this. They include:

Reduction of the impact of wildfires and thus their carbon emissions and the degradation and further aridification of the landscape. Currently, 30 to 70 million hectares of Australia are burnt annually by wildfires, releasing some 600 million tonnes of carbon or four times Australia’s industrial emissions. While these fires are deemed natural and are not included in the national register of carbon emissions, they severely impact the carbon draw-down capacity of residual bio-systems and Australia’s climate. If it were possible to bio-convert much of the fuel feeding these fires into dung and soil carbon by restoring former natural grazing ecologies, it should be possible to reduce these fires, their emissions and the degradation of soils and bio-systems and thus aid their nutrient cycling, health, resilience and carbon draw down capacity.

The restoration of more ecological grazing systems will aid the development of deep- rooted perennial pastures, capable of fixing and drawing down far more carbon in soils than our current grazing systems, which still often lose carbon. This will help with the restoration of the ‘in-soil reservoirs’ that formerly underpinned the high productivity and resilience of landscape and natural water habitats.

By restoring these natural surface water habitats and ‘in-soil reservoirs’, and thus the hydrology and resilience of the natural bio-systems that still extend across 90 per cent of inland and northern Australia, it should be possible to significantly extend the longevity of green growth and thus the carbon draw-down capacity of the landscape even with climate extremes.

This is an update of a paper, published in October 2013, which sought to outline and encourage discussion of these issues and how they might be addressed. It is based on detailed analyses of the science, practical grass roots experience, consideration of what has been done and proposals of what else can now be done. While not all the substantiating evidence can be presented in this brief, views, questions and alternatives of how to regenerate northern and inland Australia are welcomed.

The concept paper explores the potential and practical options for implementing such a commercial, grass roots regeneration strategy. This strategy could potentially cover half of rural Australia, or over 300 million hectares, and could deliver valuable outcomes for Australia in the decades ahead.

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