Chereninup revegetation – a national first

Sunday 21 September, 2003

Bush Heritage landscape ecologist Phil Cullen reports on the revegetation work at Chereninup Creek Reserve in Western Australia.

One of the largest biodiversity revegetation projects in Australia has just been completed on the Bush Heritage Chereninup Creek Reserve in Western Australia.

National Tree Day on Sunday 27 July saw 24 people, including Bush Heritage supporters and Green Corps volunteers, plant the last of the 50 000 seedlings into ground already seeded with indigenous species. This was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by Jack Mercer of Greening Australia with help from Amanda Keesing from the Gondwana Link project.

The revegetation work at Chereninup Creek is significant for many reasons. It's the first time that Bush Heritage has replanted an area of this size (60 ha) and with such a diversity of species. The revegetated area will also significantly strengthen the effective habitat corridor between Chereninup Creek Reserve and the adjacent Peniup Nature Reserve, a development that will enhance the conservation value of both reserves.

The planting is equally exciting for the Gondwana Link project. It's the first of many such plantings that will gradually reconnect the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Parks via a string of existing bush blocks and revegetated corridors.

The work at Chereninup Creek represents a major development in the practice of planting for biodiversity, being probably one of the largest multi-species plantings in the nation to date. As Jack points out, the revegetation work will not just provide a paddock full of trees, as is usually the case, but will create a diverse and effective habitat with ground cover, shrubs and trees. In time it should more or less take on the characteristics of a natural piece of bush that will become progressively more attractive to a host of native mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.

The 60 ha revegetation site was cleared for cropping in the late 1980s, but retained a few stands of remnant bush and some small areas of natural regeneration where species with resilient seeds managed to struggle on through the multitude of crop weeds.

To replant the block Jack Mercer oversaw the collection of about 42 kg of seed (approximately 42 million seeds) from about 50 species in the adjacent bushland. The seeds were then sorted into three different seed mixes of species appropriate for low-, middle- and high-elevation areas on the block.

Some of the seed was used to produce 50 000 seedlings for planting but the bulk of it was sown by Jack into 280 km of rows (about 5 km of rows per ha) that follow the contours of the land. The contoured rows reduce soil erosion and help to gather water to nourish the seedlings.

Before planting, the site was sprayed with non-residual herbicides to further enhance the chances of seedling survival. The hard work was completed on National Tree Day when the last of the seedlings was placed into the ground.

We now need regular rainfall and kind seasons to get the seeds and small plants off to a good start. Over time it's expected that many more species will establish naturally on the site from adjacent areas of bush. We will follow the progress of the young plants in Bush Heritage News.

This project was supported by Bush Heritage, Greening Australia, Gondwana Link Inc. and the Commonwealth’s Natural Heritage Trust Envirofund. Our thanks to all the volunteers who helped. Special thanks to our neighbours Brian and Janette Penna for undertaking the spraying, looking after the seedlings on site and providing infrastructure and assistance. Thanks also to Murray Housan for providing planting equipment.

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