Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

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duane
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Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby duane » Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:43 pm

This is the third in the series written by Ian Sutton.

Water is life: LANDSCAPE HYDROLOGY

There is no more important function in the environment than the water cycle. While the food web is the medium in which chemical energy is distributed throughout the entire biota, water is the medium in which thermal energy is distributed throughout the entire biosphere.

To understand the miracle of water you need to know about the energy layers within its chemistry, that allow it to dissolve salts, conduct electricity and absorb huge amounts of thermal energy.

It’s the unique qualities of the polarised water molecules that create this incredible liquid energy system that not only fills and facilitates biological life; it also facilitates the global energy system that sustain biological life.

Matter is energy:

Remember I told you that everything is energy, that would mean matter is simply condensed energy. In fact it is, Quantum physics is now telling us that waves of energy collapse into photons of light, and then light condenses to form sub atomic particles.

Since atoms are made up of sub atomic particles (condensed light) and held together by photons of light, matter is energy, and also has the propensity to flow when there is an energy imbalance. We see this in the environment as wind in the atmosphere and currents in the ocean.

If thermal energy increases, this causes atoms to vibrate faster, creating an expansion force. If many atoms are all interacting together their combined expansion force creates a pressure wave. In both the liquid state and gaseous state atoms and molecules are free to move, enabling the medium to expand.

If there is a variation in the distribution of thermal energy, the volume of liquid or gas will develop high pressure zones and low pressure zones. This energy imbalance creates pressure variations, causing matter to flow from the area of high pressure to the area of low pressure.

This is what creates our whether and network of ocean currents, air and water flowing from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. These pressure systems create a network of feedback loops that distribute thermal energy more evenly throughout the biosphere.

A volume of warm rising air is a low pressure cell. As the air, heated from the landscape, expands and rises, a pocket of low air pressure develops at ground level. However, above the pressure cell, air is piling up and creating a pocket of high air pressure. To balance these pockets of uneven pressure, air can be exchanged with a neighbouring high pressure cell.
High pressure cells are volumes of cool air, contracting and sinking. The dense sinking air begins pilling up, creating a pocket of high air pressure at ground level. Above the pressure cell the falling air creates a pocket of low air pressure.

Both pressure cells are polarised.

Cool air will flow from the pocket of high air pressure, below the high pressure cell, to the pocket of low air pressure, below the low pressure cell. As the air moves between cells it absorbs heat from the warm surroundings, eventually expanding and rising through the low pressure cell.

Warm air will flow from the pocket of high air pressure, above the low pressure cell, to the pocket of low air pressure above the high pressure cell. Because the air is much colder in the upper troposphere, this flow of warm air cools, as the thermal energy is rapidly absorbed by the colder surroundings. As the air cools and becomes more dense, it eventually sinks back through the high pressure cell.

When two pressure cells connect, they create a feedback loop, transferring thermal energy from areas of high pressure (hot) to areas of low pressure (cold). It’s the pockets of uneven pressures within the atmosphere that create the flow of air, but it is the influence of the earth’s rotation that causes the huge air cells to rotate and mix.

The energy exchange between pressure cells creates a force of attraction. If conditions are suitable the cells will be drawn together.

If a low pressure system forms over a tropical ocean, the rising warm air is saturated with humidity being evaporated from the surface of the warm water. As the ocean water evaporates, the water molecules absorb a quick blast of thermal energy from their surroundings. This enables them to break free from their attraction to the other water molecules.

As water molecules evaporate from liquid to gas, they absorb thermal energy from their warm surroundings. Later when the molecules condense from gas back to liquid, that energy is then released and absorbed by the new colder surroundings.
As the water molecules are far more energetic than the other gas molecules in the atmosphere, this greatly increases the kinetic energy within the low pressure cell, increasing the wind velocity and turbulence. As the water molecules rise, cool and condense, the thermal energy they release give even more kinetic energy to the pressure cell.

Having moisture in the air flow vastly increases the efficiency in which pressure cells can re-distribute thermal energy.
If there is sufficient moisture in the air, clouds will form at the altitude where the water molecules begin condensing. If there are high amount of moisture in the air, dense, energetic and high velocity storm cells will develop.

The tropical and sub tropical zones with high sun intensity and warm oceans are where cyclones and hurricanes form large powerful low pressure cells.

Natural area restoration:

The major environmental catastrophe we are facing across the Australian continent is the destruction of our river systems and the loss of our ground water. The removal of the vegetation layers has destroyed the landscape functions, sending the entire system into meltdown. We need to re-establish the balance, but the lack of available water in many of these systems, prevent plants from being able to reverse the cycles alone.

Before we can re-establish the full diversity of vegetation we must first return the water. However, there are many repair plants that can be used to shade and insulate the landscape, while water systems are under re-construction.

If soils are bare, we must first develop a primary succession ground cover. Casting seed balls, (seeds coated in a clay and compost mix), and waiting for rain, will likely be the most effective way to achieve a good cover over a large area. Ensure you cast a mix of repair plants and other herbs and grasses, including annual, biannual and perennial herbs.
How degraded the soils are will determine how dominate the weed succession will need to be.

Cover the ground with as much vegetation as possible, remembering the rule that the plants with the largest green surface area, grows fastest under the local condition and takes up the least amount of space at ground level, will be the best repair plants for the job.

Once you have established a thick protective ground cover, your hard wooded perennials, propagated earlier, are ready for planting out as the primary succession canopy. These need to be repair plants as well, and whatever the locals have cursed as woody weeds will be perfect for the job.

Two of the best geneses of native woody weeds are Acacias and Casuarinas; both create a canopy quickly and fix nitrogen into the soil. In the more degraded areas, shrub forms will be more effective than trees. In a lot of degraded areas, these kinds of plants may well begin growing in thick stands naturally.

There is nothing more to it than that. If in any location, exotic weeds are all ready fulfilling the role of either the ground layer or the canopy layer, we leave them be. We focus our revegetation projects on areas that have little or no plant cover and develop layers of vegetation quickly, using specialised repair plants.

We revegetate the hill tops and upper slopes first, always with a focus on eroded flow lines, and then move down onto the flood plains and valleys. At no point do we remove a single plant. This will allow the plants to begin managing the landscape functions again, and in some less degraded areas may be all that is required.

All areas with existing vegetation layers are considered low priority and may require only rehydration. Some areas with severe degradation may not be possible to revegetate before the landscape hydrology is restored. These will likely be low lying areas that have become salt laden.

Restoring landscape hydrology:

So now, how do we return the water? It seems like a mighty feat, and one that may be too impossible to achieve. At least that’s what I believed before I met Peter Andrews.

There is a simple process of using manmade structures, placed in strategic locations within eroded river and stream channels. These blockages slow the flow of water and cause the channel to fill, creating steps of ponds running along its entire length.

Through a series of contour channels, water is re-distributed from the ponds, out across the slopes on the hills, and back into the old flow lines on the flood plain. If water courses are dry, then we are preparing them for when it rains.
This replicates the way plants distributed the water, and allows seepage into the ground from the hills and the high points on the flood plain. This creates a fresh water perched ground table that sits like a lens above the saltier ground water. Because the fresh water pressure is coming from the high points in the landscape, salts are relocated from the topsoil and leached down below the fresh water lens.

Due to the way plants distribute water, trapping sediment and building the flood plain system, the primary and secondary flow lines of the river are in fact sandy deposits running along the high points on the floodplain. During high flows the larger and heavier sand particles settle out first, depositing on the banks and the bottom of the river channels, while the lighter silt and clay particles get washed out and over the flood plain.

The entire river system works as a water sink, with the flow lines sitting above deep sandy deposits. These deep sandy channels crisscross the floodplain. and allow water to infiltrate quickly and flow laterally underground. They also increase the infiltration of water into the surrounding clay loams via lateral movement from below the ground. It’s through this sand network does the river system fill the floodplain with water.

Once the flood plain is full and the ground table in the hills are recharged, the network of springs releases water slowly from the landscape, trickle feeding the river system. If there are extended periods of dry whether the secondary flow lines may stop flowing, but the network of billabongs and wetlands are continued to be feed from the ground water flows.
Only during extended droughts would the primary flow line stop flowing, but because the flood plain is still full of water, the ground table continues to keep the, ponds and billabongs full.

As the bulk of the water is underground, it is safe from evaporation. Only the mirror of the ground table filling the low points in the floodplain, creates any surface area exposed to the sun. As long as the water in the ground remains available to plants, the vegetation cover will continue to thrive long into a dry period.

Even when there is no rain, but there is water in the landscape and a strong vegetation cover, the micro water cycle will still function. Evaporation from the ponds and wetlands, and transpiration from the plants create humidity, which rises up the slopes of the valley during the day and cools and condenses during the night. The micro water cycle re-distributes the water from the low ground to the high ground, enabling the soil moisture content in the hills to remain available to plants.
The moist air above the landscape then contracts as it cools creating a high pressure cell of dense sinking air. If this high pressure cell is large enough it can connect with a low pressure cell over the ocean, drawing moist air inland.

If this process creates sufficient moist air above the landscape, the low pressure system will be drawn inland, off the ocean, feeding on the trail of moist air, and bringing drought braking rain with it. Since the vegetation cover is able to remain during extended dry periods, it will moderate the temperature extremes and vastly increases the opportunity for rain.

We now have water in the ground and the primary succession of vegetation established. This is the end of our interference for bushland areas, allowing them to regenerate naturally. However, it’s just the beginning of our new land management systems for farmland areas.

We have developed vegetation layers to shad and insulate the soil, rebuild soil structure and stabilise erosion. We have re-hydrated the landscape and removed the erosive forces of water during flood events. We have relocated excessive salts from the top soil and re-established the natural landscape functions to distribute and process nutrients and excessive salts.

We have also repaired the micro-climate, providing the conditions necessary for the soil succession to move towards diversity and layering. This will increase energy flows to the plants and the plant succession will quickly move forward.
As one trophic layer becomes more disordered, it influences the layers above and below it to become more disorder. As energy flows between the trophic layers becomes less restricted, due to increasing disorder, the feedback loops becomes more efficient.

The repair plants succession will be quick and effective and in front of our eyes will we see the plant successions move forward. Reeds and grasses will thrive on the floodplain wetlands and water courses, while riparian zones will explode into life. Woodlands and forests will establish quickly on the hill and slops and increasing diversity will be appearing everywhere.
The re-establishment of the micro water cycle will draw moist air inland from the oceans, providing ideal conditions for more regular and less extreme rain events. Temperature fluctuations between day and night and summer and winter will become far less extreme. Both these climatic conditions will benefit soil biota and plant growth, driving the successions forward.

Of course there are limits to how much moisture we can return to any one location, so the result will be a patchwork of different plant community blanketing the landscape, and diversity will thrive. As taller and more layered plant communities establish, there influence will have even more beneficial effects on the climate.

We will have re-connected land, ocean and atmospheric feedback loops and in the process repaired the micro-climates across Australia. In the mad rush towards bio-diversity, the explosion of life will draw down on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. We will have restored our landscape and climate and led the world by example!

Many of the processors driving climate change are related to the deforestation of the globe and the resulting disruption to the water cycle. The rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere must absorb more energy from the sun, but equally as important, it’s very existence increases density in the atmosphere. Both of these conditions create more available energy.
Our human impact has increased energy levels within the atmosphere, but at the same time disrupted the feedback loop system that distributes that energy more evenly. The result is more extreme climate conditions, but little understanding of how each micro-climate around the world will be affected.

If our human impact causes the great ocean currents to re-connect their feedback loop system, dramatic changes to the world’s micro-climates will occur. Areas like Europe and Britain may well be completely covered in ice, while areas like Africa and Australia become desert landscapes.

Written by
Ian Sutton

Edvagg0
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby Edvagg0 » Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:09 pm

Just read Ian Suttons brilliant summary of Landscape Hydrology. He is spot on with what has to be done to fix the degradation of our environment. The inspiration of Peter Andrews to rehydrate the water courses with simple engineering is the trigger for us to go and do it NOW. The crackpot politicians are coming out of the woodwork during this present La Nina event and it's consequent floods and their lemming constituents will follow them into the dam water they want to hold back.
The floods are a perfect example of denuded drainage where water rushes down in a hurry with no time for rehydration. Flood mitigation is not in dams. Flood mitigation is in Landscape Hydrology as explaned in Ian Suttons article. Flood mitigation is in Peter Andrews engineering.

ghosta
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby ghosta » Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:21 am

The theory is not too difficult to understand. Unfortunately practical implimentation is a different matter entirely.
We can demand our politicians "do something" but what do we actually want them to do?

duane
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby duane » Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:00 pm

The pollies could begin by taking themselves to see first hand "how these natural hydrological processes work".

It isn't rocket science : The discrete roles and functions of the catchment habitats and landscape ecosystems on the floodplain can be restored through adaptive strategies that simulated natural seasonal flooding, notably stalling and storing floodwaters through induced recharge. Suites of seepage weirs and infusion swales discourage accelerated runoff and flood drainage. The floodplain at Tarwyn Park was restored from a water drainage dominated system with a low water table and annual water deficit, to a floodwater storage system with high water tables and annual water surplus using the above techniques.

This could be done almost everywhere across the floodplain systems.

Shirley Henderson
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby Shirley Henderson » Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:04 pm

Hi Duane, First I want to say that my heart goes out to the people caught up in this tradedy. This is a terrible natural disaster. I dont know how the affected communities are going to recover but know that Australians will be there to help each other through it.
I wanted to mention the Wivenhoe dam and the possibility that it could have overflowed or collapsed. I am so glad that it held up but it may not have. This is a good reason to think carefully before building huge storage dams and I cant help wonder how the land would have functioned if that dam was not there. If it had overflowed or collapsed, well there is no need to go there thankfully. I hope that the discussion is raised at a later date before shouting for more dams.
This disaster appears to be getting managed very well and I am happy to see so many helping. Right now that is all that is important. Later of course all hell will break loose. In the mean time I hope those affected stay safe and get through it with their families and friends unharmed.

ghosta
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby ghosta » Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:51 am

duane wrote:The pollies could begin by taking themselves to see first hand "how these natural hydrological processes work".

It isn't rocket science : The discrete roles and functions of the catchment habitats and landscape ecosystems on the floodplain can be restored through adaptive strategies that simulated natural seasonal flooding, notably stalling and storing floodwaters through induced recharge. Suites of seepage weirs and infusion swales discourage accelerated runoff and flood drainage. The floodplain at Tarwyn Park was restored from a water drainage dominated system with a low water table and annual water deficit, to a floodwater storage system with high water tables and annual water surplus using the above techniques.

This could be done almost everywhere across the floodplain systems.


Its the practical implimentation that presents enormous problems on a larger scale. Nobody seems to know how or where to start. Im sure many politicians in rural areas are well aware of the theory, but simply cannot see a way the theory can be implimented.

The Wivenhoe dam has been such a blessing to many of the people of Brisbane. Although it could not prevent major innundation, it has saved millions of dollars of damage, heartache,and who know how many lives. But it does illustrate that nature cannot be completely controlled.

duane
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby duane » Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:26 am

There have been HUGE interuptions to our unique natural systems since settlement.

Still today, we HAVE failed to understand many of these natural processes.

Most of our coastal rivers were undectable from the sea.

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the Bribane River:

History Aerial view of Brisbane and the Brisbane River.
Before European settlement, the Brisbane River was a vital food source for the Aboriginal people of the Turrbal Nation. The Turrbal people were fishing people. The river was also important to the Turrbal people for spiritual and recreational activities.

Four European navigators, namely Captain Cook, Matthew Flinders, John Bingle[2] and William Edwardson,[3] all visited Moreton Bay but failed to discover the river. The exploration by Flinders took place during his expedition from Port Jackson north to Hervey Bay in 1799. He spent a total of 15 days in the area, touching down at Woody Point and several other spots, but failed to discover the mouth of the river although there were suspicions of its existence. This is consistent with accounts of many other rivers along the east coast of Australia, which could not be found by seaward exploration but were discovered by inland travellers.

Taken from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brisbane_River

We are looking at vastly altered systems....we cannot put them back together but we can mimic the once natural components and their functions. But firstly, we need to recognise that this country had a very different system to the one we all came from.

Even today, 220 years or so later we are still failing to understand this very important information.

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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby ghosta » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:07 am

Duane you said "Even today, 220 years or so later we are still failing to understand this very important information."

If you were to read a little further from the same Wikopedia article you quoted, then you might understand this "very important information".

"From 1862 the Brisbane River has been dredged for navigation purposes.[13] Throughout much of the 20th century large quantities of sand and gravel were extracted from the estuary of the river. Since the rate of materials being deposited is not as high as that which was removed, the river has acted as a subaqueous mine."

and

"The Kangaroo Point Cliffs were created by a quarrying operation that, according to Allan Cunninghams' Field Book, was underway prior to 1829 when he observed a "stone wharf presumably used for landing the blocks of stone ferried across the river for the construction of buildings in the settlement". This was in the vicinity of Edward Street ferry terminal. The volcanic rock or rhyolite lava flows which formed the cliffs were deposited in the Tertiary period about 30 million years ago and filled up an ancient river valley. They currently form the banks of the Brisbane River."

duane
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby duane » Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:18 pm

I read the whole article like you and selected out the information that was relevant to my point.

I gave the reference to allow you and others the opportunity to read the complete article.

The recent dredging has further exacerbated the drainage paradigm imposed on a landscape which encouraged landscape rehydration.

This is my point: we have continued to fail to realise HOW this landscape functioned naturally and we have inflicted our own engineering solutions to control and dominate the landscape.

This arrogant, ignorant attitude has perpetuated since the Irishman Busby dug his bore and drained the wetlands of Centennial Park after Phillips engineers had turned the once pristine fresh water of the Tank Stream into a drain, gutter and sewer.

We have the same contemptous and ignorant attitude still prevalent in todays authorities.

Put simply BUREAUCRATS CONTINUE TO MANAGE FAILURE.

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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby ghosta » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:11 am

Duanne you cannot have your cake and eat it too.
Brisbane is a city, a large built up area. Shipping provides supplies to the town and an oulet for exports from the hinterland. The original mangroves were dug out to provide shipping acsss and quick drainiage of built up areas through the river channel.

I think most people understand how the landscape originally functioned and the need to make changes is pretty obvious. What would you like to see? The suburbs under water for weeks, a festering cesspool of disease and misery?

Its a shame to see you seem to display the very " contemptous and ignorant attitude" that you accuse todays authorities of having. Given that this whole scenario doesnt have anything at all to do with NSF, I cant help but wonder what your motives are....

I urge you to get down off your soap box and have little humility in the face of what many Queenslanders are going through at the moment.

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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby jenni » Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:21 pm

funny,it has everything to do with nsf theory and ghosta lets say what we're all thinking.YOU ARE A TROLL

ghosta
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby ghosta » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:42 pm

Jenni dont believe you talk for everyone else, and please take off that nasty hat.

If you would be so kind to explain how the development of a city like Brisbane can have anything to do with Natural Sequence FARMING principles.

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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby jenni » Sat Jan 15, 2011 5:02 am

ok then so i will just speak for myself then.ghosta you have been nasty since the moment you arrived on this site.this is why I THINK YOU ARE A TROLL. natural sequence farming was the name given to peter andrews theories.they can be applied to urban areas as well, as i'm sure someone more eloquent than i can discuss.isn't part of nsf about preserving or creating natural fuctioning hydrological systems????this includes steeped floodplains,keeps the system hydrated and mitigates the 'drain effect'. people are part of this too and the way people live in relationship with our landscape.this brings me to a point that often irks me.people seem to disconnect 'farms' from 'the environment' from 'the cities'. i hear talk about the floods being "natural" and so they are.but upstream affects downstream and that is how nsf theories are very very revellent.im sure you are going to ask me for me detailed explanations and references as seems to be yr want.to this i say.just go read the book.

ghosta
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby ghosta » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:12 am

jenni wrote:ok then so i will just speak for myself then.ghosta you have been nasty since the moment you arrived on this site.this is why I THINK YOU ARE A TROLL. natural sequence farming was the name given to peter andrews theories.they can be applied to urban areas as well, as i'm sure someone more eloquent than i can discuss.isn't part of nsf about preserving or creating natural fuctioning hydrological systems????this includes steeped floodplains,keeps the system hydrated and mitigates the 'drain effect'. people are part of this too and the way people live in relationship with our landscape.this brings me to a point that often irks me.people seem to disconnect 'farms' from 'the environment' from 'the cities'. i hear talk about the floods being "natural" and so they are.but upstream affects downstream and that is how nsf theories are very very revellent.im sure you are going to ask me for me detailed explanations and references as seems to be yr want.to this i say.just go read the book.


Thanks for the reply. I guess parts of this thread do illustrate that the theories behind Peters work are difficukt for some to interperet in a practical sense, and nobody likes their wild ideas or sweeping statements criticised. I do not point out these errors in thinking to be a "troll" as you put it, rather to bring the debates back to earth so that ordinary people reading these threads can gain some realistic perspective. NSF is an option to be explored to improve landscape sustainability...it certainly isnt the "fix it" for all our landscape problems as some wildly dream. The natural systems has been so hugely changed by man, often for very good reasons. and this often cannot be undone nor is it always desirable to do so.

Shirley Henderson
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Re: Understanding: Landscape Hydrology

Postby Shirley Henderson » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:25 am

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011 ... 112645.htm
Follow this link and you will see a connection between nsf and the urban built environment. Brisbane and queensland are a part of the landscape and that is the connection. The landscape is connected, be it city, farm or waterway. This is where the common sense must prevail in designing towns and cities and using the land wisely and well. Unfortunately in the early days nothing was understood about the hydrology of Australia and now that more is understood little is changing in the regard to town planning and development. I heard Anna Bligh make a statement that in rebuilding of homes there may have to be major changes to design and some homes should not be rebuilt. I hope this is a hint of sense coming into planning the future. It is sad to say goodbye to old ways but sometimes we have to let go and look to better ways. I do not want to detract in any way from the pain and grief felt by the people in these floods and their losses. I am only continuing this discussion.
Ghosta if anyone is nasty on this site is because so many people have taken their time to discuss with you how nsf works and the possibilities of implementing the principles in all Australian Landscapes. We are all investigating possibilities with open minds. As much as information has been forwarded to you it seems you have not really absorbed it. You dont answer questions posed to you and you dont reflect any of your own thinking. It is easy to find and quote the work of others but I believe you are and envionmental scientist? Where is your sense of exploration?? Where is your passion. In regard to previous mistakes made, yes it is hard to undo damage but there is only one way to affect change and that is to start!


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