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The restorative power of poo

Craig Allen (Web Officer)
Published 10 Aug 2018 by Craig Allen (Web Officer)

Our first poo photo is what was produced by an emu and is full of Sandalwood seeds 

Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) was once common across south-west Western Australia but was harvested extensively – with the trees being ripped out or the ground, roots and all, by camels, horses and trucks. So in many areas it is now rare.

Much of the Sandalwood on Charles Darwin Reserve suffered the same fate and few are left. But emus like to eat the seeds and are dispersing them across the landscape from the remaining trees.

Sandalwood is hemiparasitic, which means that when seeds germinate their roots seek out those of other plants and tap into them for nutrients and sugars.

So only seeds that land in just the right spot will survive to become adult trees. However, as the emus wander about they're clearly lobbing their droppings in the right places because we're now seeing a plenty of seedlings across the reserve .

Sheep, goats and rabbits were preventing regeneration but we've removed/substantially reduced their populations now, so not only Sandalwood but all the other plant species on the reserve are recovering nicely – all made possible by generous donations from both our supporters and the emus 

Read more about Sandalwood harvesting at Charles Darwin Reserve.

An Emu dropping full of Sandalwood seeds. Emus are important dispersers of seeds in the Australian Bush. Photo by Craig Allen. An Emu dropping full of Sandalwood seeds. Emus are important dispersers of seeds in the Australian Bush. Photo by Craig Allen.
The Sandalwood is hemiparasitic, needing to extract nutrients and sugars from other plants via its roots when it's a seedling. Photo by Craig Allen The Sandalwood is hemiparasitic, needing to extract nutrients and sugars from other plants via its roots when it's a seedling. Photo by Craig Allen
Emu. Photo by Wayne Lewis Emu. Photo by Wayne Lewis
A 14-ton semi-trailer load of de-barked and trimmed sandalwood pulled on Kadji Kadji Station about 60 km to the north-west of Charles Darwin Reserve, by Cecil Fogarty with his son Wayne and team, early 1980s. Photo courtesy Wayne Fogarty A 14-ton semi-trailer load of de-barked and trimmed sandalwood pulled on Kadji Kadji Station about 60 km to the north-west of Charles Darwin Reserve, by Cecil Fogarty with his son Wayne and team, early 1980s. Photo courtesy Wayne Fogarty

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