Rebuilding the bush in south-west Western Australia

Wednesday 20 June, 2007

Bush Heritage Beyond the Boundaries Coordinator Stuart Cowell provides an update on the land restoration work under way as part of Gondwana Link.

Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve with the Stirling Range behind. Photo Amanda Keesing.Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve with the Stirling Range behind. Photo Amanda Keesing.

‘You could get lost in the revegetation at Chereninup Creek Reserve now. It's looking fantastic!’

This excited exclamation from Amanda Keesing, who works at the Gondwana Link Coordination Unit, gives you an idea of just how well our burgeoning bushland is doing.

Chereninup Creek Reserve, the first property to be acquired for Gondwana Link, was purchased by Bush Heritage in 2002. This ambitious project is helping to restore the environmental health of this region by protecting and reconnecting native habitats across the South-West.

Planted in 2003, the 60 hectares of revegetation at Chereninup Creek Reserve was the first biodiversity planting to reconnect fragmented patches of bush. Now, just four years later, the she-oaks are about three metres tall and much of the rest is near headheight.

Black-gloved wallaby. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.Black-gloved wallaby. Photo Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.

There is bright-green, lush new foliage on many of the trees despite the drought.

This new bushland is already starting to perform its function as an ecosystem, which includes storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Many of the young plants – melaleucas, eucalypts, feather flowers and wattles – are flowering.

This is bringing back the insects and nectar-feeding species. Birds are using the young trees as nest sites. Quail, echidnas and snakes are back, and fungi are again colonising the ground. Native ants and spiders are also recolonising the area, and small tunnels, perhaps dug by reptiles or small mammals, are starting to appear in the sandy soil. Birds of prey are on the wing overhead.

But perhaps the most exciting development is that black-gloved wallabies are back. The black-gloved wallaby is one of the species of special conservation significance that's a target for action in the document that underpins our activities, the Gondwana Link Functional Landscape Plan.

Flowering eucalypt at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve. Photo Keith Tuffley.Flowering eucalypt at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve. Photo Keith Tuffley.

The presence of this species, and also of western grey kangaroos, shows that even after such a short time the habitats have linked sufficiently to allow the movement of animals through the landscape.

There's also further encouraging news. Kunzeas, velleas, wattles and a number of other wildflower species not present in the original seed mix are starting to emerge. Perhaps, with more favourable conditions, seed that has remained in the soil is now germinating after many years, or has been deposited more recently by the animals starting to live in and move through the plantings.

Volunteers putting in seedlings. Photos Amanda Keesing.Volunteers putting in seedlings. Photos Amanda Keesing.

Some of the emerging plants are likely to have come in from seed blown on the wind. As the complexity and health of this growing bushland increases, so will its importance as a refuge for the wildlife and as a sink for carbon.

The success of this revegetation work has been a precursor for, and is now dwarfed by, the next revegetation program at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve, a property jointly acquired by Bush Heritage and  Greening Australia (WA) in 2006 (See Bush Heritage News, Summer 2006).

About 600 hectares of Yarrabee needed to be replanted and the sheer size of this new task gave revegetation expert Jack Mercer the opportunity to test different methods of preparing the ground and spreading the seed. The aim was to produce bushland that as far as possible mirrored the original, a varied and diverse habitat with between 400 and 500 plant species.

The first plants emerge in the revegetation at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve. Photo Keith Tuffley. The first plants emerge in the revegetation at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve. Photo Keith Tuffley.

Jack began by analysing the nearby bush. He matched the vegetation types and their plant species to the soil type. Back on Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve he looked at the soils and remnant vegetation and then set about creating different seed mixes that would best suit the various soil types.

He wanted the right species growing in the right conditions. To date, about 420 hectares of the total of 600 hectares has been sown. About 600 kilograms of seed and 80 000 seedlings have been planted.

Another 70 hectares has been prepared for planting. With only half the expected rain having fallen in 2006, the remaining 110 hectares will not be prepared until after a good downpour. This remaining work should take only two to four weeks to complete.

Some resilient species have germinated and a second flush is expected once rain falls. We'll keep you up to date with the progress of this exciting landscape recovery program.

The revegetation work at Chereninup Creek Reserve was supported by the Australian Government’s Envirofund. The work at Yarrabee Wesfarmers Reserve was funded by the South Coast Regional Initiative Planning Team (SCRIPT) with the support of the Western Australian and Australian governments through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the Natural Heritage Trust.

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