In the second half of 2014 I did a small research project for university on a whole of paddock rehabilitation (WOPR) site near Yass, NSW. The site was an 18ha paddock that belongs to a couple who bought it in 2008. It has a gentle slope and a flatter bit, with a NNE aspect. It was direct seeded in 2009, most with Acacia and Eucalyptus subspecies, making the trees five years old in 2014. Under the WOPR scheme, the owners can re-introduce stock at five years, a process they started in the spring of 2014.
My question was – what will the percentage cover of the site be in 100 years?
Percentage crown cover (the total percent of ground covered by tree crowns if you looked down at it from directly above) is an important thing to get right in agricultural landscapes. If there is too much cover you won’t be able to grow enough grass to graze your stock happily (I once met a farmer who said that he was a pasture farmer and that the sheep were just byproducts). If there isn’t enough crown cover – and if there aren’t enough trees overall – you might miss out on the benefits derived from them like the management of the water table; shelter and fodder for stock; and their value as habitat for birds, reptiles, bats, and mammals.
So it’s important to get the balance right, and we know that that balance is a crown cover of 20-30%. But is this site on track for that?
To figure this out I devised and used a pretty simple method using both fieldwork and some number crunching.
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