Piecing together the patchwork of biodiverse forests
Wednesday 10th of June 2015
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Piecing together the patchwork of biodiverse forests

Landscape fragmentation is a significant problem in Australia. Where once our landscape was one of connected native forests, there is now only small pockets of vulnerable native vegetation surrounded by a sea of open farmland.

However, a long-term partnership between Greenfleet and Cassinia Environmental is piecing together a patchwork of biodiverse forests.

The driving force behind Cassinia, Paul Dettmann has devoted his life to protecting Australia’s remnant vegetation on private land, and to reconnecting national parks through private land revegetation.

“I see myself as a bit of a ‘quilt maker’,” Paul says.

“I’m always looking for the bits and pieces that can be sewn together to better support the landscape,” Paul says.

Paul’s gift is his ability to find valuable pieces of land that can be ‘re-parcelled’. He places conservation covenants on significant bushland for long-term protection, while redistributing or consolidating other parts to maintain and enhance useable agricultural land.

Paul’s small team works with state governments, corporations and not-for-profits like Greenfleet to re-establish vital linkages between significant patches of natural vegetation, to address erosion and salinity, and to rebuild landscapes for threatened species.

From his base in Kyneton, half way between Bendigo and Melbourne, Paul has undertaken revegetation projects on more than 50 properties. His collaboration with Greenfleet alone has established more than 3,500 hectares of biodiverse forest for carbon sequestration.

According to Paul, Greenfleet’s carbon offsetting projects aren’t just about climate change.

“On one Greenfleet project, we discovered a species of orchid that had last been seen in 1946. Today, we have the largest private land population of this critically endangered orchid in the country,” Paul says.

“Climate change is a serious environmental challenge – but it’s not the only one. I think biodiversity loss is an even bigger challenge. We are rapidly losing species and habitat for species, and we can expect to lose a lot more in the future unless we act,” Paul explains.

Landscape fragmentation threatens many native species, with isolated populations more vulnerable to environmental fluctuations – such as drought and extreme weather events. When native species are unable to move to larger landscapes, seeking unrelated mates becomes harder as populations are restricted to isolated areas of forest. This lack of genetic diversity increases the potential for local extinction.

While his passion has taken him around the world – including the first African project to be issued with forestry credits under the Clean Development Mechanism for World Vision – Paul also feels an enduring connection with his ‘place’.

“My family has lived in the region since the 1840s, and on the family farm since the 1860s. With six generations living and working on the same piece of land, I feel a sense of stewardship for our native landscape.

“Governments may have given up on ‘triple bottom line’ thinking, but projects that protect and restore the land deliver on environmental, social and economic priorities – and there is plenty of this work out there to do,” Paul concludes.