There is no singular solution for addressing land degradation and achieving ecological sustainability. The problems are numerous, varied and often site-specific and interrelated. Hence, Australia’s response has been to develop an integrated package of mutually reinforcing projects that recognize this complexity and to encourage conservation and remediation. The following are some of Australia’s projects that address land degradation, desertification, and drought.
Traditional Small-Scale Burning
Large wildfires aggravated by climate change and rising temperatures are detrimental to Australia because these destroy the desert biodiversity in the country. As a solution to these destructive wildfires, the generations-old hunting practice of the ‘Martu’ people of small-scale burning was brought back in Western Australia. The aboriginals deliberately burn back grasses and other fire-prone plants so as to create clear patches that will prevent wildfires from taking hold. The practice encourages the growth of a diverse range of annual vegetation and provides foraging habitats for animals. 1
In Australia, planting management focuses on the process of assisting the recovery of degraded, damaged, or destroyed ecosystem by planting different native trees and shrubs at selected key sites especially non-productive farmland. Vegetation biodiversity is important because it sequentially creates a biodiverse-rich habitat for wildlife that will help protect and recover the country’s endangered and declining woodland and shrubland fauna. Aside from enhancing biodiversity and sequestering greenhouse gas emissions, reforestation contributes towards reducing soil salinity, saving and restoring water quality, cutting soil and water erosion and providing windbreaks. 2
Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) allows farmers and land managers to earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land. These credits can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions. The CFI also helps rural communities and the environment by encouraging farming and providing a source of funding for landscape restoration projects. 3
Carbon credits generated under the CFI represents the reduction in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through 3
- Increasing the amount of carbon stored in soil or trees, for examples by growing a forest or reducing tillage on a farm in a way that increases soil carbon; or
- Reducing or avoiding emissions, for example through the capture and destruction of methane emissions from landfill or livestock manure.
Australia, through Aalborg CSP, has created a world first integrated energy system for Sundrop Farms that is sustainable, self-sufficient, and highly cost effective. The newly operated energy system is an industrial scale based on concentrated solar power (CSP) technology enabling year-round horticultural activities in the Australian Desert. It utilizes both solar energy and salt water as sources of input to be used in the greenhouse facilities. The way the system produces and stores energy has been designed with minimum maintenance and operational costs in mind. The concentration of energy generates high temperatures which are then used to heat the greenhouses in wintertime and on cold summer nights, to provide freshwater by desalinating seawater, and to periodically run a steam turbine to produce electricity. 4
- “Burning to save Australia’s Western Desert.” Earthrise, Al Jazeera Media Network, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/earthrise/2017/06/burning-save-australia-western-desert-170614071437084.html.
- Biodiverse Reforestation Carbon Offsets, Carbon Neutral Pty Ltd, 2017, https://carbonneutral.com.au/biodiverse-reforestation-carbon-offsets/.
- Murray, Eliza. Building Resilience for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Agricultural Sector. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2012. Print.
- “Sundrop Farms, a leader in sustainable horticulture.” 6MWTH Integrated Energy System based on CSP, Australia, Aalborg CSP, 2017, https://www.aalborgcsp.com/projects/366mwth-integrated-energy-system-based-on-csp-australia/.