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Naree Reserve Homestead, Budjiti Country, NSW. By Andrew Corrick
Naree Reserve Homestead, Budjiti Country, NSW. By Andrew Corrick

Our network of reserves

Conserving Australia’s unique species and irreplaceable landscapes on a vast scale.

Published 25 Aug 2023

Restoring flow

Across Australia, many landscapes are drying out – and it’s not all due to our changing climate. Overgrazing, land clearing, soil compaction and the installation of artificial water points have made it increasingly harder for land to hold its hydrology. 

After rain, water flows too quickly across the altered landscapes for it to infiltrate properly. The result is not just less water for native plants and animals, but also the loss of riverside and wetland plant species, the destruction of natural springs and soaks, and erosion.

With support from our donors and partners, we are currently rolling out several rehydration projects on our reserves including: 

  • Nardoo Hills, Dja Dja Wurrung Country, Victoria.
  • Boolcoomatta, Adnyamathanha and Wilyakali Country, South Australia.
  • Yourka, Jirrbal and Warrungu Country, Queensland.
  • Scottsdale, Ngunnawal and Ngarigo Country, NSW.
  • Bon Bon, Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara Country, South Australia.

Boolcoomatta Reserve Manager Tim Zweirsen has seen too much of the reserve’s topsoil disappear in floods, by being swept into erosion gullies. A former sheep station, Boolcoomatta’s erosion issues were primarily the result of overgrazing, invasive species, vehicle tracks, and loss of vegetation. In this vast, flat landscape, even the smallest non-natural indent in the soil can erode over time and create drainages that prevent water from spreading out and reaching more vegetation.

In 2022, major earthworks were undertaken to address some of Boolcoomatta’s erosion gullies and create structures to help water disperse more evenly across the landscape.

The work will be complemented by other, volunteer-led erosion-control measures such as brush packing.

Similarly significant earthworks are being completed on Nardoo Hills Reserve to restore a natural spring and the watershed around it. When in good condition, this spring is a vital water source for native animals, even after months of no rain. With the removal of an upstream dam and levees, as well as other erosion control measures, it’s hoped the spring waters will be flowing again soon. 

The project – a collaboration with BioLinks Alliance and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation – will be further enhanced with plantings of ecologically and culturally significant species to restore the wetlands and reduce erosion.

With warmer conditions predicted for a climate-changed future, the rehydration projects we are delivering now will help safeguard water – the source of life – on our reserves for years to come.

“We want to slow the water down, to keep as much of it on the land as possible, because that’s going to create more plant establishment and growth and therefore more habitat for native animals. If the water is slowed down, it won’t take our soil away with it either.“ 
Tim Zweirsen, Bush Heritage Boolcoomatta Reserve Manager.

The first recording of a crayfish in the <em>Tenuibranchiurus</em> genus since Bush Heritage commenced management of Reedy Creek Reserve, Bailai, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Taribelang Bunda Country, Qld. By Stephen Kearney

A fresh record

In January, an undescribed crayfish species from the genus Tenuibranchiurus, was recorded in an unlikely location during a freshwater survey at Reedy Creek Reserve, Bailai, Gooreng Gooreng, Gurang and Taribelang Bunda Country, Queensland. The record highlighted the urgent need to protect this region’s important ecosystems

The new species was recorded by Freshwater Ecologist Dean Gilligan, Ecologist Stephen Kearney, and Reserve Manager Christian McCollum, just a short distance from the well-trodden paperbark forest boardwalk. Our team had set up their third survey location when they made the find

Only one of the species in this genus has been formally described, and interestingly, it was found significantly further south than Reedy Creek Reserve. The reserve protects several threatened ecological communities and the team’s find bolsters the need to continue protecting these precious ecosystems, which are threatened by the region’s growing tourism and development interests.

We will continue to closely monitor Reedy Creek’s freshwater inhabitants and implement vital land management practices to ensure populations continue to thrive.

“In a quite shallow part of the creek amongst melaleuca and ferns, strangely where we get lots of visitors, we managed to identify a crayfish in the Tenuibranchiurus genus which has not been recorded here before.”
Stephen Kearney, Bush Heritage Ecologist.

An island refuge for Western Grasswrens

In 1616, when Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog first arrived at an island off the coast of what is now Western Australia, he encountered a pristine landscape known as Wirruwana by its Malgana Traditional Owners. However, since Hartog’s arrival, the wildlife on the island has suffered from feral predation and habitat loss.

Western Grasswren at Hamelin Reserve on Malgana and Nanda Country. By Aline Gibson Vega

The Return to 1616 ecological restoration project run by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) aims to return Wirruwana, Dirk Hartog Island, to a similar ecological condition before being explored in 1616

In November 2022, 85 Western Grasswrens were successfully translocated to the island from Francois Peron National Park and Bush Heritage managed Hamelin Station Reserve on Malgana and Nanda Country.

The translocation was informed by researcher Aline Gibson Vega’s PhD and is part of a collaboration between DBCA, Bush Heritage Australia and the University of Western Australia.

It is hoped that the translocated species will become self-sufficient and that the island will provide a safe haven for them to thrive.

Aline’s research was supported by the DBCA, Paul Hackett Memorial Scholarship, Wettenhall Environmental Trust, Holsworth Wildlife Endowment and The University of Western Australia. The Return to 1616 project is supported by the Gorgon Barrow Island Net Conservation Fund.

A win for waterbirds

In June 2022, one of Australia’s most significant waterbird breeding areas gained an added layer of protection and vital additional funding in the form of two conservation covenants. 

Yantabulla Swamp is 150 kilometres north-west of Bourke, on Budjiti Country and contains breeding habitat for at least 42 waterbirds. The swamp is also home to significant Budjiti cultural sites, threatened Coolibah-Black Box woodlands and mammals such as the Little Pied Bat, Stripe-faced Dunnart and Sandy Inland Mouse. 

A Coolibah Swamp on Budjiti Country,  Naree Reserve, NSW. By Leonie Corrick

Bush Heritage’s Naree Station Reserve and the neighbouring Yantabulla Station (owned by South Endeavour Trust) protect all of this and more on 31,266 hectares in the Paroo Warrego region of the Murray-Darling Basin

The conservation covenants, which are proudly supported by the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust, provide in-perpetuity legal protection to both reserves. They also guarantee ongoing annual funding to support work such as the control of feral pigs and goats, which damage the sensitive wetland ecosystems, and the management of invasive weeds, which exacerbate the threat of wildfires.

“These in-perpetuity payments recognise the importance of protecting the natural and cultural values of these landscapes forever, as well as the legacy of our donor support for future generations.”
Brenda Duffy, Bush Heritage Healthy Landscapes Manager NSW.

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