Trees growing on ‘minefields’ – Andres Gordon

Trees growing on ‘minefields’

Throughout the last 800 years of human history, conflicts between different groups have opened paths for the use of imaginative and controversial tools to stop, injure and most of the times destroy one another (Truver, 2012). My experience and knowledge about warfare is limited to what is presented in books, movies or documentaries, yet one particular feature I noticed often is the use of minefields as strategic zones to stop the other’s side progress. I saw the relationship between a student’s academic progress and procrastination, human’s wellbeing and the lack of access to safe water, technological development and a global economic crisis as analogous to that of troops and minefields. After my involvement with a degree that focuses on the interactions between social, economic and environmental domains, I see similar relationships occurring in our natural environment. The pressures we exert to our ecosystems can be seen as minefields that have a detrimental impact on the cycles that describe many of the elements of our environment. My perception was narrowed by theory until I was able to participate on a fieldtrip where I monitored the status of a revegetation plan in the Scottsdale reserve. Now I see how there are more than one factor slowing down the success to recover the degraded landscape in the reserve.

 The field

Australia has a long story of landscape degradation through clearing for agricultural, urban development and industrial purposes. In the Scottsdale reserve 300 hectares of the total 1338 hectares of the property have been subject to the same fate (Bush Heritage, 2017). The reserve protects endangered temperate grasslands and grassy box woodlands, which in turn harbor a large amount of native birds, reptiles, fish and mammals. The projects effectuated at Scottsdale aim to restore an entire ecosystem by supporting natural regeneration through the replantation of key species. The latter was the main purpose of my visit to the reserve. Noticing at first sight a beautiful yellowish landscape, I was naïve to think that the fields were in a natural state. It took a day of constant participation with my peers and monitoring to see that the ‘mines’ in this place were a great obstacle to reach the objectives established by restoration projects

The mines 

David and I discussing about the monitoring process

I used to associate man induced disturbances and environmental stochastic events such as droughts, floods and fires as the main obstacles for restoration. Even though, while monitoring the conditions of planted trees along 100m transects, my peer suggested that many of the dead seedlings were the result of poor rainfall events, long hot days or the impact of foraging kangaroos and wombats, the role of a weed played on the overall success of a restoration project seemed the main pressure. Here the ‘mines’ are patches of African lovegrass. This plant species is a weed that has spread across Australia and due to its large amount of seed and quick development in red and sandy soils, it exerts great pressures to native pastures and other plant species (Coutts et al., 2013). Managing African lovegrass as stated by David Freudenberg – an expert at Scottsdale –  is difficult and requires of a lot of effort to eradicate. Facing this issue through integral approaches is the best option, but this cannot be done without the help of experts, donors and volunteers.

The fight for survival

The Scottsdale Reserve has a range of projects of restoration that aim to create an environment that supports native plants. One of the strategies mentioned by David inferred the removal of 10cm of nutrient rich top soil. A project that seemed viable, although expensive, has been fruitful as portrayed in one of the enclosed areas were a range of up to 30 different native species were growing healthy. This and other projects would have not been possible if the help from a large account of donors as well as the constant participation of volunteers concerned by the conditions of Australian’s native landscape. This experience has brought to my attention the overwhelming participation of volunteers that are part of a change, one that breaks any stigma separating humans from nature. At the end of the day it is up to us to help nature thrive were our ancestors have only destroyed. Although ‘mines’ will be persisting, it is our duty, as well as it is that of nature itself, to let the field rest upon calm and natural conditions. Be part of the change and volunteer to help the Scottsdale reserve on its admirable work and efforts.


 Bush Heritage. 2017. Scottsdale [Online]. Available: [Accessed 12 October 2017].

COUTTS, S. R., YOKOMIZO, H. & BUCKLEY, Y. M. 2013. The behavior of multiple independent managers and ecological traits interact to determine prevalence of weeds. Ecological Applications, 23, 523-536.

TRUVER, S. C. 2012. Taking mines seriously: mine warfare in China’s near seas. Naval War College Review, 65, 30.


About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
This entry was posted in Landcare, Restoration ecology, Scottsdale Reserve, Volunteer work. Bookmark the permalink.

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