In 2010 ERIE began the process to design and implement a large scale, long-term restoration experiment at the UWA Farm – Ridgefield. The experiment aimed to explore the provision of ecosystem services by different plant species in the context of restoration and global change in the wheatbelt of south-western Australia. This began with baseline sample collection, soil type mapping and species composition selection in what would come to be known as the Ridgefield Multiple Ecosystem Service Experiment.
In August 2010, 23 volunteers planted 14,000 trees inside a rabbit proof fence encompassing 21ha over a 2 day period. The 8 species planted reflect those historically found in York Gum (Eucalyptus loxophleba subsp.loxophleba) woodlands, which was the dominant ecological community prior to the land being cleared for agriculture.
Since its inception, the Ridgefield experiment has explored:
- how different plant species assemblages and their microcommunities interact and affect carbon storage
- the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil, including the work of soil microbes
- the role of fungi and invertebrate decomposers influence leaf litter
- interactions between native seedlings with non-native species
- plant-pollinator networks and the effect of non-native species and nitrogen fertilization
- restoration and the multi-trophic interactions between biota using functional traits
- recolonisation by native flora and fauna and the invasion of weeds
- Ant diversity and performance of ecological function in a restoration context
Ridgefield’s unique contribution is to simultaneously investigate trade-offs among services, environmental change impacts, and the contribution of novel components of the flora to the provision of multiple ecosystem services. It seeks to answer pertinent ecological questions, such as whether the restoration of former agricultural land can achieve multiple outcomes, including carbon sequestration, soil erosion control, biotic resistance, nutrient cycling, pollination and biodiversity.
Ridgefield is part of the global tree diversity experiment – TreeDivNet which looks to explore the relation between tree species diversity and ecosystem function in major forest types around the world.