Assisting natural regeneration in agricultural landscapes

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José Rey-Benayas

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Landscape transformation due to agriculture affects ca. 40% of the planet’s land area and is the most important driver of losses of biodiversity and its services (ES) worldwide. Strategic revegetation including living fences, road sides, riparian systems, and woodland islets are an alternative to designing ecological restoration in extensive agricultural landscapes. Some benefits of such green infrastructure are well documented in the scientific literature. However, the benefit of triggering natural regeneration is poorly quantified and guidance for large-scale restoration to provide multi-functional landscapes is often lacking. I provide evidence of natural regeneration in Mediterranean cropland 25 years after abandonment and introduction of small woodland islets. Over that time period, an average of 3.8 individuals per ha per year were established. Initial oak regeneration triggered by the planted islets is slowed down by high acorn predation, seedling herbivory, and stressful microclimatic conditions. In addition, I present seven guidelines for buffer strip and hedgerow restoration that stem from ecological principles, the scientific evidence, and experience as practitioner. I tailor these guidelines to a case study in a Chilean biodiversity hot spot as a step towards cost-effective restoration. The target landscapes require restoring 0.89 ha km-2 of woody buffer strips to meet Chilean law; 1.4 ha km-2 of new hedgerows are also proposed. The cost of restoration in this landscape is estimated in ca. USD 6,900 planted ha-1 of buffer strips and hedgerows. Financial incentives, education, and professional training of farmers are identified as key issues to implement the suggested restoration actions.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration