Last Wednesday, Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group were privileged and delighted to be visited by David Holmgren, co-originator of the Permaculture concept. We were especially glad to get his input regarding the conduct of a 'Non-Destructive Revegetation Trial' along part of Flood Creek, which hosts a diverse natural assemblage of non-native species, including an overstorey of mainly crack willow (Salix fragilis). Knowing how damaging and ineffectual willow removal has been (and continues to be) across southeast Australia, Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group are keen to demonstrate some non-environmentally-destructive landcare alternatives for establishing native vegetation in these situations.
David was accompanied by a small group of interested Landcarers to walk the site and to discuss past and future Landcare projects in this area. David's hometown of Hepburn has a similar semi-urban creek, called Spring Creek, where David and other members of the Hepburn community have been working for over a decade on their own community-forest management project.
David spoke to us about the potential for real willow management, here and across southeast Australia. This would see willows actually managed for productive benefit. This idea can be contrasted with the inappropriately (mis)named "management" presently practiced by some NRM agencies (which is actually just pointless and counterproductive eradication). Regular coppicing of willows can provide a great deal of highly nutritious and sustainable fodder for livestock. As well as this, vigorously-regrowing willows will more actively absorb excess nutrients, which are then effectively withdrawn from catchment runoff. A side benefit of coppicing that I have noticed is that regrowth on coppiced crack willows is much sappier and less brittle than twigs on mature, unmanaged trees, hence coppice management may also help to allay fears of spread by snapped-off vegetative 'cuttings'.
Coppicing is a management technique we may utilise at Flood Creek in future, AFTER alternative overstorey species become established, and promoting ecological succession is considered desirable. Several plant species were proposed for use at Flood Creek as part of our Non-Destructive Revegetation project. Given the diversity of aspect, light exposure, existing species and structure, it will not be a case of us simply converting this entire area to a forest of "X". It is the nature of non-destructive revegetation that Flood Creek will continue to be a diverse riparian system. Future landcare activities in this area should only augment the existing biodiversity and habitat value.
One of the main goals for this project is to clearly demonstrate (to ourselves, to the wider community, and to 'the-powers-that-be') that the establishment of native vegetation can be achieved by natural succession, without the need to turn an existing riparian forest into a lifeless 'ecological ground-zero' first. Feedback from some of the participants on the day was that it had been a great treat to be able to discuss and assess our site, and the species within it, in a calm and rational manner; without automatically labelling some species as undesirable "weeds"; and without beginning from the ridiculous presumption that this incised, eutrophic and urban creek "should" contain only the native species that were present in 1788.
As stated above, we felt privileged and delighted to be visited by David. He's an intelligent and experienced ecological practitioner who has a great wealth of wisdom to share. As an early adopter of the conceptual framework of 'Ecosynthesis' he holds perspectives that can be of great use to the Flood Creek Non-Nativist Landcare Group, and to other landcarers of all permutations. These perspectives provide clear understandings to guide our interactions within Australia's demonstrably non-native modern-day ecological reality.
For further information, check out our blog: nonnativistlandcare.org or get in touch via Twitter: @nonnativist or email email@example.com