Revegetation, bioenergy and sustainable use in the New South Wales central west

UNSW Press
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Conservation in a Crowded World: Case studies from the Asia-Pacific, 2012, 1, pp. 186 - 204
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Revegetation of heavily-cleared forest and woodland ecosystems is a widespread natural resource management (NRM) goal in Australia, including in the region that is the focus of this chapter – the central west of New South Wales. Tree plantings that generate commercial returns for landholders could help to promote greater uptake of revegetation practices. Bioenergy, in the form of electricity generation, industrial heat or transport fuels, has been suggested by a number of authors as an option to drive establishment of such plantations (for example, Howard & Ozlack 2004; Bell 2005; Total Catchment Management Services 2008). The idea of harnessing commercial drivers such as bioenergy production to promote revegetation raises a number of issues around the concepts of ecological restoration and sustainable use. Harvesting biomass from replanted ecosystems can create incentives for both the maintenance of such ecosystems and the establishment of more plantings. However, trade-offs are also likely to be required between ecological and economic objectives. Such trade-offs, as well as undesirable side-effects, have become increasingly topical for bioenergy production. Recent expansion of bioenergy crops, particularly for liquid biofuels, has demonstrated the capacity for bioenergy to act as both a driver of positive change through both revegetation and climate change mitigation (Simpson et al. 2009; URS Australia 2009), and a driver of negative change through deforestation, increased carbon emissions, dispossession and competition with food production (Gallagher 2008). This chapter explores whether the concept of sustainable use may have applicability for revegetation activities that seek to harness the commercial driver of bioenergy to deliver NRM objectives. Two case studies in the central west of New South Wales are explored in order to identify potentially viable revegetation strategies and highlight implications for policymakers
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