The South Esk pine trees growing on the banks of the Apsley River just north of Tasmania's Freycinet National Park live a precarious life.
The riverside woodland of South Esk Pine Reserve, with its eponymous pines. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.
They typically rely on fire to open up and release the seeds they need to regenerate, and yet if those same fires are too hot or reoccur too frequently then the species can't survive.
It's this sensitivity to fire and the fact that they grow on Tasmania's rich, alluvial flats, now largely cleared for agriculture, that has led to their listing as a nationally endangered species.
This conifer – a member of the cyprus family – also forms an important component of the nationally vulnerable black gum – South Esk pine forest community. They have been reduced to just 600 hectares growing along the banks of a handful of Tasmania's rivers.
And that's why in March 1998 Bush Heritage stepped in to save this tiny but incredibly important patch of bushland. This reserve is among the largest stands of this sub-species left in the world.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What this reserve protects
South Esk Pines. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.
The habitat protected is suitable for animals such as the Tasmanian devil. Photo: Matthew Newton.
South Esk Pine Reserve protects one of largest stands of nationally endangered South Esk pine trees left in the world, as well as the nationally vulnerable community, black gum-South Esk pine forests.
South Esk Pine Reserve also protects these significant species and communities:
- Tasmanian bertya (nationally endangered)
- South Esk pine (nationally endangered)
- Propeller plant (nationally vulnerable)
- Black gum–South Esk pine forest (nationally vulnerable)
- Coastal black peppermint forest
What we’re doing on the property
Yellow-tailed black cockatoos are among the animals that use the habitat at South Esk Pine Reserve. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.
Protection of this reserve has spelled an end to damaging practices such as firewood collection, tree felling and the operation of a gravel pit.
We are monitoring the progress of revegetation at the old gravel pit, and may trial other techniques to encourage a greater diversity of species.
Access onto the reserve is discouraged to protect it from invasion by the plant-killing disease Phytophthora cinnamomi.
Keeping out gorse, one of Australia's 20 worst weeds, is of primary importance, and is essential if we are to protect the native South Esk pines from fire.
Life on the edge
An ever-present threat: a gorse-infested paddock over the river from South Esk Pine Reserve. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.
One of Tasmania's most devastating weeds is no stranger to the South Esk Pine Reserve.
Past disturbances mean that the reserve has been left wide open to gorse infestation.
Gorse seeds can lie dormant in the soil for up to 30 years, and germinate in response to heat and soil disturbance.
When left unchecked, fire-loving gorse infestations have grown into impenetrable thickets, preventing native plant species from regenerating and increasing the risk of deadly fires wiping out the remaining South Esk pines found on this reserve.
However, thanks to a small but dedicated team working through the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council, the gorse plants have been all but removed from South Esk Pine Reserve.
The job now is to remain ever vigilant. Future floods can bring gorse seed back into the reserve, and seed buried in the soil will remain a ticking time bomb, just waiting for disturbance or fire before launching another attack.