WITH two-thirds of Mallee woodland lost since Europeans came to Australia, an experiment by Adelaide University may be just what the doctor ordered to help restore some natural balance.
Led by Professor Corey Bradshaw, a team from the university has been joined by Monarto Zoo staff and volunteers in an effort to recreate a native woodland to see how best to create long-term biodiversity and carbon benefits.
The project is framed around the new carbon economy but goes a step further as it not only considers the number of plants needed to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but looks at the best combination and number of trees necessary to entice animals and insects.
"It is basic science but it is amazing that it has never been done before, we are making a forest," Professor Bradshaw said.
"The more forest area there is the more species of animals and the more species the more resilient they are.
"We have done a lot of base-line surveys with pit fall traps to see what animals and insects were here before hand and this will continue to be monitored."
The group finished planting 3000 trees on 10 hectares of land at the Monarto Zoo site on Thursday in what will be a 30-year trial, with the first results expected within three to five years.
Professor Bradshaw said the experiment was important because South Australia had already lost about 130 species of plants and animals and without the return of woodland forests more major extinctions were likely.
"Across Australia we've lost 40 per cent of our forest cover, but in the Mount Lofty Ranges we've lost 90pc and the fragments that are left are so small that they don't provide adequate habitats for native fauna," he said.
Professor Bradshaw said the experiment at Monarto had been in the planning for the past few years and was designed around plantings of mallee box gum, South Australian blue gum and various shrubby species at various intervals to find which combination would give "the biggest bang for buck".
"We need to start somewhere," he said.
"We can wipe out an ecosystem in one afternoon with a bulldozer, but re-establishing it takes a long time."