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Surveying vegetation in a threatened ecological community.View image slideshow

Project title: Restoration of Banded Ironstone communities in the Midwest - Koolanooka, Blue Hills and Weld Range exploration lines

Dates: 2012 - 2017

Funding: Sinosteel Midwest Corpororation

Location: Koolanooka Mine Site, 400 km NE of Perth

Research themes

  • completion criteria
  • ecohydrology
  • floristic communities
  • infiltration
  • restoration monitoring and targets
  • seed dormancy, ecology, germination and traits
  • seedling emergence
  • soil erosion and properties
  • surface heterogeneity

Project description

This research aims to provide effective ecological restoration of vegetation communities at Koolanooka, Blue Hills and Weld Range, which have been or will be impacted by iron-ore mining. The mine aims to restore 70 percent of the known original species diversity.

A framework of four well-defined logical steps, combining soil and vegetation sciences, has been implemented: 1) plant community and substrate definition, followed by optimising, 2) topsoil, 3) seeds and 4) plants.

We are interested in studying the interactions between seeds and soil to understand the processes and mechanisms behind seedling emergence to improve restoration. 

Key staff

Dr Lucy Commander, Dr Peter Golos, Dr Jason Stevens


Prof Kingsley Dixon (Curtin University), Dr Adam Cross, Dr Luis Merino Martin


Sonam Tobgay (Masters; UWA 2016) Physical seed dormancy and the mechanisation of approaches to render seeds water permeable.

Marlee Starcevich (Hons; UWA 2016) Seeds for restoration.

Sarah Boys (Hons; 2014) Seed priming for improved germination of semi-arid species from a Western Australian threatened ecological community.

Clare Courtauld (Hons; 2013) Seed ecology of semi-arid Western Australian species for restoration of a threatened ecological community.


Commander LE, Golos PJ, Elliott CP, Merino-Martin L, Stevens J and Miller B (2017) Sinosteel Midwest Corporation: Practitioner Restoration Manual. Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority for Sinosteel Midwest Corporation.

Merino-Martín L, Courtauld C, Commander LE, Turner S, Lewandrowski W and Stevens JC (2017) Interactions between seed functional traits and burial depth regulate germination and seedling emergence under water stress in species from semiarid environments. Journal of Arid Environments: 147, 25-33.

Merino-Martín L, Commander LE, Mao Z, Stevens JC, Miller BP, Golos PJ, Mayence E and Dixon K (2017) Overcoming topsoil deficits in restoration of semiarid lands: Designing hydrologically favourable soil covers for seedling emergence. Ecological Engineering: 105, 102-117.

Stevens JC, Dixon K. (2017) Is a science-policy nexus void leading to restoration failure in global mining. Environmental Science and Policy: 72, 52-54.

Miller BP, Sinclair EA, Menz MHM, Elliott CP, Bunn E, Commander LE, Dalziell E, David E, Davis B, Erickson TE, Golos PJ, Krauss SL, Lewandrowski W, Mayence CE, Merino-Martín L, Merritt DJ, Nevill PG, Phillips RD, Ritchie AL, Ruoss S and Stevens JC (2017) A framework for the practical science necessary to restore sustainable, resilient, and biodiverse ecosystems. Restoration Ecology, 25: 605-617.

Golos PJ, Commander LE, Elliott CP and Stevens JC (2017) Iron-clad partnerships essential for restoring banded ironstone communities. For People & Plants: 98, 27-31.

Starcevich M and Turner S (2017) Seed coating technology helps meet restoration challenge. For People & Plants: 97, 29-30.

Jiménez-Alfaro B, Silveira FAO, Fidelis A, Poschlod P and Commander LE (2016) Seed germination traits can contribute better to plant community ecology. Journal of Vegetation Science: 27, 637-645.

Courtauld C (2014) Size doesn’t always matter. For People & Plants: 84, 22-23.


Lucy Commander: Creating biodiverse restoration seed mixes to restore a Threatened Ecological  Community following iron ore mining, National Seed Science Forum, Mount Annan, New South Wales.

Lucy Commander: Restoring a Threatened Ecological Community following iron-ore mining, Ecological Society of Australia, 29 November – 3 December 2015, Adelaide, South Australia.

Luis Merino-Martín: Designing growth medium based on hydrological principles to improve seedling emergence, European Geosciences Union General Assembly Conference, 27 April – 2 May 2014, Vienna, Austria.

Lucy Commander: Starting from scratch - challenges in restoring vegetation when starting from bare earth. Invited keynote presentation, 57th Annual Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science, 1-5 September 2014, Perth, Western Australia

Luis Merino Martín: Understanding soil and vegetation interactions at different life stages to restore a threatened plant community in a semi-arid environment, Society for Ecological Restoration Conference, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Lucy Commander: Identifying and alleviating recruitment failures from seed and topsoil to improve restoration success. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia Conference, 28-30 November 2012, Perth, Western Australia.

Luis Merino Martin: Applying Ecohydrology in mining restoration projects: lessons from ecological succession of mine slopes for future research. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia Conference, 28-30 November 2012, Perth, Western Australia.

Ben Miller: Current practice fails to provide adequate data to plan or assess restoration in relation to targets of species richness and community type as set by law. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia Conference, 28-30 November 2012, Perth, Western Australia.


Association of Mining and Exploration Companies 2017 Environment Award – Sinosteel Midwest Corporation and the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority (17 November 2017).

Seeding experimental plots with a diverse seed mix on a waste rock dump to restore a threatened ecological community. Measuring infiltration on a waste rock dump. Planting tubestock on a waste rock dump slope. Preparing field experiments for restoring threatened ecological community.

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