The Western Australian Wheatbelt, covering an area of ~14 million ha, was once a mosaic of habitat communities, from tall open woodland to low heathland, with incredibly high native species diversity and endemism. Extensive land clearing for agriculture and livestock production occurred in the early-mid 20th century, leaving much of the remnant vegetation in small, often isolated, fragments. The rapid habitat loss from clearing, coupled with the unique biodiversity values, has resulted in south-west WA (including the Wheatbelt) being identified as Australia’s only Biodiversity Hotspot, a dubious honour with ~90% of the primary vegetation cleared. The clearing has led to many problems for both conservation and agriculture. Economically, the region is incredibly important, producing ~50% of Australia’s total wheat production, as well as significant contributions to livestock products. From a conservation perspective, the Wheatbelt has suffered many biodiversity losses, however, despite this it contains remarkable floristic diversity and many amazing animals. The Wheatbelt is an excellent area to explore key ecological theories and restoration opportunities.
Previous research in the Wheatbelt by ERIE researchers has explored issues of habitat loss and fragmentation, ecosystem processes, including seedling recruitment, pollination and litter decomposition, impacts of declining woodland health on fauna and novel restoration techniques. Current research aims to explore the relationship between the woylie (a previously abundant digging mammal) and ecosystem processes in the Wheatbelt and a variety of projects at the UWA Farm – Ridgefield.