Blending Landscape Restoration & Carbon Farming

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We sat down with Mulloon Institute’s Carolyn Hall to learn about the rehydration strategies they implemented at Paraway Pastoral.


This month we welcomed Carolyn Hall, CEO at The Mulloon Institute to speak at our Q & A webinar. She joined us to talk about the landscape restoration work that her team has done on the Paraway Pastoral Property in Boyup Brook. This 664-ha property is home to Blackwood Beef and is the first of three landscape rehydration demonstration sites across WA. The average rainfall at the property is 720 mm. 


Historical clearing on the property has interrupted the hydrological cycle at the landscape scale, which has had limiting effects on farm productivity. With an objective to slow the passage of water through the property, and address salinity and waterlogging issues, Mulloon Institute developed a whole farm plan. Their robust, strategic vision for the property integrated various techniques to restore how water moves, is stored and cycled through the landscape. It included graders circling its hillsides with 3.3 km of 35 cm deep contour-banks, fencing off remnant bushland and creek lines to encourage tree regrowth and establishing hand-built weirs to rehabilitate areas affected by erosion and emerging salt scours. 


Planting 28,000 trees of 25 different species across 25 acres of the farm played a critical part in achieving the plan’s aims. It is also where the CFF became involved, helping to register the project under the reforestation method. If the project sounds familiar, that’s because we have published an in-depth conversation with the farm’s manager, Warren Pensini, on his drivers to undertake such an ambitious project. 


This conversation centres around unpacking the work that Mulloon Institute has undertaken and how their framework for rehydration has helped to build carbon stocks in soil and trees. Let’s dive in!


How did Mulloon Institute become involved in the Paraway project?

We received a call from Warren Pensini and Dr Ben Cole in 2019 asking if we could collaborate on some landscape rehydration work for Paraway. Carolyn Hall, CEO and Managing Director, and Gary Nairn, AO Chairman of the Mulloon Institute, then met Ben Cole while in Perth in March 2019 and we got to know each other a little better.  Ben introduced us to Jim MackIntosh (Co-director / Team lead, Landscape Development & Support) at Commonland and the Mulloon Institute and Commonland agreed to co-fund the farm plan for Paraway. 


How did Mulloon Institute go about developing the farm plan? What role did carbon farming play in determining the strategy?

The Mulloon Institute sent our Principal Landscape Planner Peter Hazell across to WA in September 2019.  He delivered a presentation at the Regen WA conference in Perth and then headed down to Paraway to explore the property with Warren and deliver two landscape rehydration workshops. This allowed the initial farm planning work to be undertaken with Warren and Lori and the plan unfolded from there.


Subsequently, we were successful with a WA Community Stewardship grant, and we employed WA based Landscape Planner and Hydrologist Lance Mudgway. Lance has assisted with the delivery of the farm plan.


Carbon farming didn’t directly play a role in determining the strategy. The farm plan was all around restoring hydrological function and addressing key management issues on farm. Carbon farming can be a reality for farmers like Warren who are managing for their natural assets, it is a co-benefit of managing well. 


Can you give us specific examples of techniques that were used in the farm plan to improve the hydrological processes on land and what the results have been?

Contours have been used in strategic areas across Paraway to hold water higher in the landscape and to slow the flow of water across the landscape. Contours are designed to capture surface flow, soak it in and spread it from the gullies to the ridge lines.


Three contours at Paraway have different roles, one to filter and guide water into dams, one to intercept and infiltrate overland flow and spread it on the ridges and support tree plantings and one to help to ameliorate a salt scald.  It is early days as the contours have only just been finished but so far, they are working well. 


This has been combined with tree planting scheme with four goals to:  

1.         re-calibrate the water balance of the farm landscape to reduce the impact of salinity located in recharge zones

2.         increase the biodiversity of the farm landscape located in connecting zones

3.         arrest erosion on the property located in filtration zones

4.         increase primary productivity on the higher parts of the farm landscape to feed fertility to the lower part of the system located in recharge zones. 


Water balance plantings have been targeted into the recharge areas upslope of the worst salt scalds on the property. By drawing groundwater high up in the landscape, these plantings will help to prevent expression of salt in the valleys.


Habitat connectivity plantings serve primarily to increase the biodiversity of the property by improving the movement of insects, birds and small animals across the property. Habitat connectivity plantings have been proposed to link existing stands of native forest on the property.


Riparian plantings serve primarily to reduce erosion in the lower parts of the landscape by slowing and spreading flood flows and add to biodiversity values.


Deciduous plantings can be used to generate fertility higher in the landscape along with fodder crops to improve the water balance while providing a useful resource for the grazing enterprise. 



Where have you seen the greatest impacts on soil and forest carbon stores across the property? Why do you think this is?

Planting and contours have combined at Paraway to deliver an overall 90% success rate in planting across the property.


This is around increased levels of soil moisture and so increased plant available water for plantings. Increased soil moisture and a reduction in synthetic inputs and herbicides can contribute to soil health. This increase in soil health creates the conditions for healthy plant growth and for sequestering carbon into the soil.



How do you think farmers who are looking to initiate a carbon project can leverage and integrate the work that Mulloon Institute does to rehydrate the landscape for the best farm-wide benefits?

Landscape rehydration can be integrated into whole farm planning for landholders looking to restore hydrological function of their landscapes. So, when farmers are looking for benefits in terms of water in the landscape, they will be considering landscape rehydration, that is the way water is stored, moves and is cycled in the landscape. Considering the function of their landscape in putting together a whole farm plan can assist with improving the outcomes of carbon projects and deliver farm-wide benefits. 



Where do you see synergies between a landscape rehydration project and carbon project? 

The synergies between landscape rehydration and carbon projects are around the need for a functioning small water cycle. Water is key to absorbing, transferring and releasing the vast amounts of solar energy that arrives on the earth’s surface everyday. To manage that energy, we need intact functioning small water cycles and that requires a living mantle of soil and vegetation to enable evapotranspiration of all the energy. When we rebuild the small water cycle on farm, we create the conditions to sequester carbon into the soil.  If a carbon project includes tree planting (like many do in WA) then we are contributing to increased plant available water for those trees over space and time increasing the likelihood of successful plantings like we have seen at Paraway.  We know that we are observing around a 90% success rate in plantings across Paraway and modelling indicates likely increases in soil carbon.   


The outcomes of landscape rehydration include increased and sustained soil moisture, this can mitigate the impacts of climatic variations including drought on soil carbon levels over time.


Landscape rehydration projects at the catchment scale are ideal for reinstating the way water moves, cycles and is stored in the landscape. Catchments or watersheds are the natural unit for landscape rehydration and can also be the basis for aggregating carbon projects.


The social nature of catchment scale landscape rehydration can also provide an opportunity for landholders across a catchment to learn about how they restore their landscape’s function and so how they can create the conditions for a successful carbon project on farm whether that is planting or soil carbon.


What resources do you have available for landowners looking to identify and design solutions for existing issues such as salinity, surface erosion, gully formation, poor water recharge and waterlogging?

We have the Mulloon Institute Landscape Rehydration Hub Western Australia kindly hosted by our friends at Regen WA that has all manner of resources for WA farmers to explore landscape rehydration.  We also have an education and capacity building program with workshops and bootcamps delivered in WA.  These programs explore small scale, low risk interventions that farmers can apply on their own farms. Mulloon Consulting also provides landscape rehydration detailed design services.  Shane Hunter, our WA Landscape Planner, can assist with getting landowners on their landscape rehydration journey. You can drop him an email at: 


Ready to find out more?

Explore our range of educational resources in our Carbon Farming Education Hub where we frequently publish educational articles, webinars, and guidebooks. 


When you’re ready to explore the feasibility of undertaking a carbon project on your property, email us at or give us a bell at (08) 6835 1140 to be connected with one of our project facilitators.

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