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.
They typically rely on fire to open up and release seeds, yet if those same fires are too hot or reoccur too frequently the species won’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’s led to their listing as a nationally endangered species.
They’re also an important part of the nationally vulnerable Black Gum – South Esk Pine forest community, which has been reduced to just 600 hectares growing along the banks of a handful of Tasmania’s rivers.
That’s why in 1998 we stepped in to save this tiny but important patch of bushland. This reserve is among the largest stands of South Esk Pine left in the world.
And it’s now protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What South Esk Pine Reserve protects
Plants: Tasmanian Bertya (nationally endangered), South Esk Pine (nationally endangered).
Vegetation communities: Black gum–South Esk pine forest (nationally vulnerable), Black gum forest (critically endangered nationally).
What we’re doing
We’ve put an end to damaging practices such as firewood collection, tree felling and the operation of a gravel pit. We’re monitoring the progress of revegetation at the old gravel pit, and may trial other techniques to reach a greater diversity of species.
Access onto the reserve is discouraged to protect it from invasion by the plant-killing disease Phytophthora cinnamomi and keeping out Gorse (one of Australia’s worst weeds) is vital if we’re to protect the native South Esk Pines from fire.
Past disturbances have left the reserve vulnerable to gorse infestation. 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 can grow into impenetrable thickets, preventing native plants from regenerating and increasing the risk of wild fires.
Thanks to a small but dedicated team, gorse has been all but removed. The task now is to remain vigilant. Future floods events can return seeds to the soil, where they will wait for a chance to spring back to life.
South Esk Pine Reserve was dedicated to the memory of Rosslyn (Ros) Jones who, in 1980 (aged 18) drowned rafting on the Denison River in Tasmania’s south-west. A student at the University of New England, Ros had gone to Tasmania for a bushwalking holiday and stayed for a year to campaign for the Franklin River and Tasmania’s forests.