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Reconnecting through the decades

Published 21 Dec 2015 

A seedling in hand.Photo by Jessica Wyld Photography.

On the southwest coast of Western Australia, the Stirling Range emerges from the earth like the spine of an ancient dinosaur.

Beneath it, on the rugged open landscape that stretches 70km to the extraordinary heathlands of the Fitzgerald River National Park, stands a rudimentary basecamp filled with researchers and scientists, nature enthusiasts and students.

For the past ten years, these people have worked diligently to restore the land that was cleared for farming, back in the 1950s.

Simon Smale and Angela Sanders.Simon Smale and Angela Sanders. Photo by Jessica Wyld Photography

It’s part of a bigger plan to reconnect 1000km of country from Margaret River to the Nullarbor Plain – a global biodiversity hotspot.

“We’re operating in a really important part of the continent,” says Bush Heritage’s Gondwana Link Landscape Manager Simon Smale.

“The area we’re working in now has been badly fragmented by a burst of clearing from agricultural development. We’re progressively buying and conserving properties to protect the bush that is left, while also physically restoring and reconnecting the wider landscape.”

Honey Possums.Honey Possums. Photo by Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.

Already, they’ve made enormous progress. Over the past three winters 1,000 acres of cleared country has been restored back to bush by direct-seeding, supplemented by the planting tens of thousands of seedlings – a physically demanding job made possible by the hard work and dedication of stakeholders, partners and volunteers.

But what’s really exciting to Simon is the ground-breaking work being done to monitor the wildlife, led by Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders.

“What sets this project apart is the rigour of data we’re collecting,” Simon says. “This is robust, world’s best-practice fauna monitoring which is rarely coupled with revegetation projects.”

Four different fauna monitoring methodologies are being used to record how birds, mammals and reptiles are using the landscape. Simon and his team also have a range of other projects on the go, including re-planting proteaceous species, such as banksia and grevillea, an important food source for the Carnaby’s cockatoo.