The Mulloon Institute’s long-term goal is to facilitate 100 landscape rehydration projects across Australia and overseas over the next decade.
We believe in a future where holistic landscape management is a mainstream practice and we want to help other communities adopt land management models that are productive, profitable and sustainable.
ROLL OUT INVOLVES
Collection and publishing of data and findings;
Development of handbooks and manuals, training materials and courses;
Preparation of financial tools to reduce commercial risks and increase financial outcomes;
Conducting of training courses and field days;
Development of a simulation tool for project planning, visualisation and management;
Outreach programs to inspire other communities to implement similar projects;
Packaging a body of expertise and experience to support and optimise the outcomes of future projects;
Develop policy guidelines to make future implementations easier.
Natural Sequence Farming Pilot Project
Prior to European settlement the water in Mulloon Creek moved slowly through a chain of ponds, surrounded by grassy floodplains. When these ponds flooded water spread across the floodplain, depositing sediments and nutrients and banking water in the landscape. The ponds even remained full during times drought.
With the introduction of European farming in the late 1820s, the delicate, energy-dissipating balance that existed between vegetation and the water cycle was dramatically altered by a whole suite of new plant and animal species. What followed was nearly 200 years of soil, nutrient, biodiversity and water loss that turned the creek into a continuous channel cutting through the floodplain like a drain.
In 2005, our late Founder Tony Coote AM and his wife Toni invited innovative landscape thinker Peter Andrews OAM to their property at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms. That first meeting of minds led to a union which transformed Tony’s property and the deeply eroded creek that ran through it.
Landscaping works began along 3kms of Mulloon Creek in 2006, with the objective of slowing the flow, raising the creek’s water level, de-energising and spreading flood waters, and reinvigorating the floodplain. This included installing a series of erosion control structures (living leaky weirs), fencing to exclude stock and wildlife, and planting of thousands of trees, shrubs, reeds and rushes. The project was supported and supervised by Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and co-funded by the National Landcare Program.
One of the most contentious issues for the project was how leaky weirs would affect the system’s hydrology (stream flow, groundwater and rainfall). To measure and understand this, stream gauges were installed above and below the project site, piezometers were set up throughout the floodplain, and a weather stations were installed.
Monitoring has shown an overall improvement to the creek’s flow as it discharges from the project site with the creek maintaining its flow during dry times, even when most of Mulloon Creek dries up completely. This is vividly apparent during drought periods.
Generally, the same amount of water is flowing through the system but it’s spread out over a greater area and over a longer time, allowing the water to soak in. This allows a greater diversity of creek habitat to develop including an abundance of flora and fauna. The increasing habitat complexity also captures and recycles nutrients more efficiently, which has created many benefits including improved water quality and a significant increase in the primary productivity of the floodplain.
Raising the water level of the creek has also raised the water level under the floodplain. During wetter periods the floodplain is able to recharge (bank water) to a greater extent than before the structures were built. During dry times, this 'banked'water is then slowly released from the floodplain back into the creek, sustaining the system downstream. The next wet cycle then replenishes ‘the bank’ again.
Over ten years later, the creek has become a healthy, vibrant ecosystem, filtering water through its extensive reed beds, capturing flood sediments, recycling nutrients and providing complex habitat for birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, fish and invertebrates. Productivity in the floodplain through which the creek flows has also increased by 60%.
The Natural Sequence Farming Pilot Project has successfully demonstrated improvements to the health and productivity of a degraded section of Mulloon Creek, resulting in:
increased flora and fauna
improved water quality
sustained water flow
60% increase in agricultural productivity.
Mulloon Community Landscape Rehydration Project
Ten years on from the original Natural Sequence Farming pilot project at Mulloon Creek, most of the landholders in the Mulloon catchment are involved in a major scaling up of the original project, which spans 23,000 hectares and 50 kilometres of creeks and tributaries.
Called the Mulloon Community Landscape Rehydration Project (MCLRP) and involving around 20 landholders, this project aims to rebuild the natural landscape function of the entire Mulloon catchment and boost its resilience to climatic extremes. This will lead to more reliable stream flows, improved ecosystem functioning and enhanced agricultural productivity.
The project area forms a critical biodiversity corridor by connecting the Tallaganda National Park with the protected State Reserve of the Mid-Shoalhaven Water Catchment. By helping rebuildthe functionality and resilience of Mulloon Creek, its riparian corridor, tributaries, floodplains, wetlands, hills and woodlands, the MCLRP is supporting several threatened and vulnerable species, including the Scarlet Robin, Diamond Firetail, and Dusky Wood Swallow.
Healthy creeks store water in the adjoining landscape, providing critical soil moisture for flora and fauna to thrive, building resilience for extreme weather conditions. The aim is to restore the creeks and floodplains to as close as possible to their original state and function.
The project focuses on creek repair and erosion control using small interventions to slow and filter water flow, preventing further erosion and beginning to rebuild the soil. Initial priorities are the floodplains, then the undulating slopes, then the higher country. It is a unique model of holistic landscape repair adaptable across Australia for regeneration and rehabilitation.
Interventions are made using natural materials and are complimented by holistic agricultural and landscape management practices, including sustainable grazing, fencing, tree planting, slope stabilisation and contouring.
Creek interventions– made of locally sourced materials such as logs and rock – help to:
prevent further creek incision
stop and then reverse erosion
raise the creek bed
slow and filter water flow
facilitate water storage in the floodplain.
Structural elements– Gullies are also being fenced and revegetated, and living structures are being built into them to slow the flow and capture sediments. Contours are being built to slow and spread water and fertility across the slopes. Green vegetation is encouraged at every opportunity.
So far in the MCLRP, seven creek structures have been installed along a further 2.5 kilometres of Mulloon Creek with thousands of native trees planted. This has raised the creek’s water level, slowed and spread the flow, improved water quality, increased habitat complexity, and resulted in more sustained stream discharge. Another 90 creek structures are planned to be installed throughout the rest of the system over the next two years.
BRINGING THE COMMUNITY ALONG
Community participation in the MCLRP includes 20 landholders across the catchment, and the Institute shares its knowledge of regenerative land management via field days, school tours, training courses, workshops, internships and has developed a dedicated training manual.
Capacity building – includes landholders undertaking training in planned grazing, holistic management, natural sequence farming, soil biology, landscape function analysis and surveying of flora and fauna.
Community engagement– involves identifying, notifying, and engaging with the project’s community of interest which stretches well beyond the landholders directly involved in the project. It includes the broader rural community, all levels of government, research and education institutes, philanthropy, NGOs and international bodies.
The Mulloon Institute is working with government to develop guidelines for other catchment communities wanting to undertake similar projects and actively shares its research with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network to help develop guidelines for sustainable, profitable and productive farming. It also contributes to the Australian Living Atlas.
* We’re currently seeking volunteers to help with MCLRP Stage 1, from 15 October to 1 December 2018.
RESEARCH & MONITORING
The MCLRP is about more than just landscape repair – it's about building hard science around historical landscape processes that have been lost through clearing and introduction of grazing animals. This is being done in the context of stakeholder and community engagement, bringing landholders and policy makers along demonstrating that this approach can lead to improved productivity, increased biodiversity and resilience to climatic extremes including drought.
Involving landholders in the scientific benchmarking and monitoring that accompanies the project benefits the science and gives landholders a deeper insight into the natural phenomena occurring on their properties and in the catchment. It also helps them develop a better appreciation of how their property influences, and is influenced by, the entire catchment.
The work combines practical experience and implementation backed by real data and scientific studies to improve the landscape as a whole, along with the farming enterprises that operate within it, and the wellbeing of the greater community.
Several scientific baseline surveys have been conducted prior to the MCLRP to help us monitor the impact of the project on the Mulloon Creek and surrounding catchment.