A review of tree planting for dryland salinity control in Australia


Man-induced salinisation is a major form of land and water degradation in the drylands of southern Australia, particularly in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, and has occurred as a result of native vegetation clearance for conversion to agricultural land. Tree planting, in combination with other vegetation treatments, is regarded as a leading solution to salinity reversal. This paper reviews various aspects of tree planting programmes in the affected regions.

Six State and general scientific papers were reviewed, the aim being to draw together experiences and views upon successes, failures and constraints of tree planting programmes.

Small test sites, demonstrations and farmer plantings are abundant in some areas. Research shows that planting trees can significantly lower groundwater tables, and thereby reverse the causal process of salinisation. Substantial progress has been made towards ascertaining which tree species to grow, how to plant, where to plant, at what density and configuration to plant, and how much area to plant. The economic potential for commercial tree planting has given impetus to partial reforestation in higher rainfall (> 600 mm/yr) areas. Major tree planting programmes, however, are struggling at an early stage.

The main constraints identified are primarily related to cost and uncertainty of success. Tree planting should be progressively tested and researched, ensuring availability of results so that others can gain knowledge of best practice, and so that techniques can be refined accordingly.

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