Completion criteria are regulatory conditions set during mine planning for the post-mined landscape. They reflect the required standards or levels of performance expected from the vegetation of restored areas, which are indicators of the point at which successful closure of a site following restoration has been achieved. Whilst significant progress has been achieved in the standards expected of mine site restoration in Western Australia, and we continue to improve restoration practices, there is a clear need to develop our understanding of what constitutes ‘restoration success’ and develop tools that enable its accurate measurement.
The measurement of restoration trajectory, as early as possible during restoration programs, is critical in the assessment of mine closure. A diverse suite of methods are currently being explored by the CMSR in an attempt to evaluate the level of recovery and project the progression of recovery into the future. Evaluation methods include the use of bio-indicator species as surrogates of biodiversity and ecological function, assessments of plant performance, early establishment and development, fauna behaviour as a measure of ecosystem recovery and functionality, and remote sensing and spatial modelling of abandoned and rehabilitated sites.
By Todd Buters
Mine site restoration is not only a legislative requirement of mine closures, but is also a means of preserving Australia’s fantastic biodiversity. Monitoring mine site restoration efforts is crucial as it provides early warning of potential restoration failures, which greatly improves the chances of restoring the environment in a timely manner. UAVs are a cheap, easy to operate means of surveying large areas in a short amount of time, and can provide aerial views of an area much more easily and cheaply than a manned aircraft. Able to be outfitted with a variety of sensors, they represent the future of aerial monitoring of flora, fauna, and geological features. Masters student Todd Buters is researching how to apply UAV technology to restoration monitoring.
Global environmental change (i.e. biodiversity loss, land clearing and climate) is extensively altering most natural ecosystems worldwide. But as mining operations cover a relatively modest proportion of Earth’s total surface area, they are often overlooked as significant catalysts of disturbance. However, with at least a third of mining occurring in pristine environments, often targeting geologically unique formations, located in edaphically specialised ecosystems, and in fragile habitats where ecological management is difficult - there is increased urgency to find ways in which we can better understand, and hence reduce, the ecological impacts of mining activities.
By Sophie Cross
Globally increasing rates of mine site discontinuations have brought the issue of restoration to the forefront of research interests. To date studies have focused primarily on floristic responses to mine site restoration, with little attention paid to faunal responses, especially in terms of behavioural responses and selective habitat use. Understanding the behavioural responses of animals to habitat change and restoration is key to determining the success of current and past restoration practices in returning degraded sites to a state approximating pre-mining conditions. PhD student Sophie Cross is undertaking research to assess whether current mine site restoration practices are effectively facilitating the return of fauna to these systems.
Reintroduction biology is an emerging science focussed on understanding translocation and reintroduction outcomes. Despite an increase in the number of reintroductions over time, many translocation programs end in failure. PhD student Holly Bradley is researching how to improve translocation protocol for an endangered skink, threatened by planned habitat clearing in the near future.