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What can we do to improve the health of the environment in which we live?

Nature provides us with goods and services at no cost. These natural goods and services are the basis of every element of our lives. We can do many things to improve the health of our local area, to restore our natural capital and consequently improve our own wellbeing.

To achieve anything we need a vision. We also need some friends with the same vision to help.

To improve the health of our natural capital we need a vision appropriate to our local area keeping in mind that any activity undertaken must be for the benefit of our natural resources (which may also benefit productivity) and the local community.

Your landscape may be agricultural, urban, natural or a combination, it does not matter which. It is possible to do many things in all landscapes to restore our natural capital.

Now let us look at some specific achievable and affordable visions that may be applied to your local landscape.

We can:

* improve the health of our soils. The beasties (micro-organisms or soil biota) in the soil are important for productive soils. Healthy soils are alive with microscopic and bigger organisms. These perform many natural services including maintaining the health of our air and water, and breaking down waste to produce nutrients that improve the health of our soils, crops and garden plants. One simple activity is to avoid using chemical fertilisers and pesticides which destroy soil biota. We can also increase native biodiversity (see biodiversity below) to favour our native micro-organisms which in turn will aid our gardens and crops.

* improve the health of our remaining natural areas through stimulating natural regeneration by simply removing weed species and other obvious threats to our natural areas. Don't forget to consider the habitat needs of local birds and animals before commencing. Engage your local community to identify the threats and in reducing these threats.

* increase biodiversity - by planting a variety of local native plants. When planning planting we need to have clear objectives about what we wish to achieve and why. Extending existing natural areas is a good place to start.

* increase habitat for our native birds and animals by increasing biodiversity. We can look at ways to extend our natural areas across private and public land. Start with a small project of planting local native plants in your own backyard. Talk to the people in your street about creating a street habitat corridor.

* improve the health of your local streams. Start by looking at the top of the catchment or sub-catchment. Identify the flow paths and the sources of pollutants.

* improve crop productivity by planting a diversity of native vegetation between crops and paddocks to increase soil life and nutrients.

* reduce reliance on chemicals by planting native plants which attract native birds to feed on the insects which attack your crops or garden plants.

* extend native vegetation and reduce fire risk by planting native vegetation in clumps rather than in continuous corridors.

* improve water quality by strategically planting a diversity of local provenance native plants in areas where the plants can filter the water before it enters the waterway.

* reduce salinity by planting native plants above the areas where salt is present, that is, plant at the source of the problem not where the symptom is showing.

* reduce erosion by planting native plants at the source of the problem not where the symptom is showing. Plant above the area of erosion to reduce the cause of the problem.

* control weed invasion by removing weeds from the best natural areas first and targeting new invasions of weeds (before they get a hold). Strategic weed management is the key to success.

* reduce the risks resulting from cliamte change and severe weather and climate events by improving the health of our soils and increasing biodiversity.

These are very simplified suggestions. But sometimes simple is best. Do consider the impacts of what you plan to do and also the impacts of not doing what you plan. Also don't forget to consult your local authorities.

Start with the low hanging fruit, the easy and simple things that can be achieved. A small group of friends or neighbours, if asked to help, will often surprise you.

To find out more - contact us at info@iewf.org

Visit the RNC Alliance website at www.rncalliance.org to find out about the science of Restoring Natural Capital (RNC) and how RNC is being implemented around the world.

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