Category Archives: Restoration & management theory

Twelve years of healing: Rehabilitating a willow-infested silt flat – Stormwater Management.

Alan Lane

Key words: urban stream, erosion, siltation, soft engineering, head wall

Introduction: Popes Glen Creek is a small permanent stream rising close to the centre of the township of Blackheath, NSW, Australia. Its upper catchment (10 ha) comprises low-permeability urban development, roadways, shops and parklands.

The funneling of runoff from the low-permeability catchment into the headwaters of Popes Glen Creek resulted in intense and destructive runoff after rain, carrying down large and small debris, depositing sheets of silt, uprooting or burying vegetation, causing erosion of the creek banks and threatening to undermine the head wall of the silt flat downstream. This resulted in the formation of a 1 ha silt flat at the headwaters of the creek, covered with dense infestations of mature Crack Willow (Salix fragilis), Purple Ossier (S. purpurea) and mid-storey and ground-layer weeds. This has been revegetated as a permanent wetland as described in a previous summary (http://site.emrprojectsummaries.org/2015/02/22/)

This summary describes the runoff management aspects of the project, where the aims were:

  1. to reduce the impact of runoff
  2. to reduce the incursion of silt
  3. to remediate the main channel
  4. to stabilise the head wall.
Fig 1: Notched weir diverting water towards sedimentation pond.

Figure 1: Notched weir diverting water towards sedimentation pond.

Figure 2: Sedimentation pond

Figure 2: Sedimentation pond

Works carried out:

1. Diversion of part of the flow and capturing sediment. A diversion channel was constructed with flow regulated by a notched weir in the main stream. This diverts approximately half the volume of the flow into a sedimentation pond were silt is captured, reducing the quantity deposited downstream (Figures 1 and 2).

2. Construction of low-impact detention cells. “Soft engineering” detention cells constructed across the silt flat from coir logs and woody debris found on site retain and slow the release of flow, dispersing it across the silt flat and raising the water table, suppressing weeds and supporting the vegetation of the created wetland (Figures 3 and 4).

3. Elimination of the highly incised main channel. Natural debris falling into the main channel creates a series of small pondages. These retain and slow the flow and allow overflow to disperse across the silt flat. (Figure 5).

4. Protection of the creek banks. Dense plantings of deep-rooted swamp vegetation e.g. Red-fruited Saw Sedge (Gahnia sieberiana) and Black Wattle (Callicoma serratifolia) (Figure 6), and loosely woven structures constructed from woody debris (Figure 7) protect creek banks and silt flat from erosion and scouring.

5. Stabilisation of the headwall. Contractors employed with funds from the Environmental Trust have constructed a major structure with railway sleepers and rock armouring to stabilise the head wall (Figures 8 and 9).

Figure 3: Volunteers building a detention cell from woody debris found on site.

Figure 3: Volunteers building a detention cell from woody debris found on site.

Figure 4: Raised water table enabled wetland sedges (Carex gaudichaudiana and Eleocharis sphacolata) to displace Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens).

Figure 4: Raised water table enabled wetland sedges (Carex gaudichaudiana and Eleocharis sphacolata) to displace Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens).

 

Lessons learned and future directions:  This project is on track to replace the forest of willows with wetland vegetation, transform a highly incised creek and weed-infested silt flat into a healthy Upper Blue Mountains Swamp – an endangered ecological community scheduled under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The volunteer group will continue working with Council and contractors to complete the planting program and to monitor the evolution of the site, including its vegetation, water quality and colonisation by macroinvertebrates, birds and frogs.

Stakeholders and funding bodies: This work is supported by a grant from the Government of New South Wales through its Environmental Trust and by the Blue Mountains City Council,  which also oversaw the engineering works. All photographs: Alan Lane and Paul Vale.

Figure 5: A natural pondage formed when debris was allowed to remain in the stream.

Figure 5: A natural pondage formed when debris was allowed to remain in the stream.

Figure 6: Dense plantings of Black Wattle (Calicoma serratifolia) and Gahnia (Gahnia sieberiana) protect creek banks from erosion.

Figure 6: Dense plantings of Black Wattle (Callicoma serratifolia) and Gahnia (Gahnia sieberiana) protect creek banks from erosion.

Figure 7: Volunteers using woody debris to protect the silt flat from scouring.

Figure 7: Volunteers using woody debris to protect the silt flat from scouring.

Figure 8: Part of the original head wall approximately 3 m high and 20 m wide.

Figure 8: Part of the original head wall approximately 3 m high and 20 m wide.

Figure 9:  Part of structure constructed to stabilise the head wall.

Figure 9: Part of structure constructed to stabilise the head wall.

Contact information: Dr Alan Lane, Coordinator Popes Glen Bushcare Group, PO Box 388, Blackheath NSW 2785, Australia. Tel: +61 2 4787 7097; Paul Vale, Deputy Coordinator Popes Glen Bushcare Group, 81 Prince Edward St, Blackheath NSW 2785, Australia. Tel: +61 2 4787 8080; and Ray Richardson, Chairman of Steering Committee, Environmental Trust Grant 2011/CBR/0098. Tel: +61 2 4759 2534.

Reconstructing Western Sydney Grassy Woodland Understorey at Hoxton Park, Sydney, NSW

By Christopher Brogan

Purpose of the project. Endeavour Energy sought to restore a small highly disturbed Cumberland Plain Woodland bushland remnant at the West Liverpool Zone Substation at Hoxton Park, to offset 12 native trees removed to facilitate construction works at their electricity substation.

Condition of the site. The Cumberland Plain Woodland remnant was very small (approx.0 3.ha) and contained relatively healthy examples of four native trees (Grey Ironbark Eucalyptus crebra, Grey Box E. moluccana , Forest Red Gum E. tereticornis and some Paperbark Melaleuca decora). However, the native shrub and ground layer was generally absent and the soil surface was highly compacted with a low organic matter content. This was due to historic clearing for agriculture, recent clearing for the installation of electrical infrastructure and the fact that a layer of coarse fill material and asphalt had been deposited over the topsoil in some areas (probably for car parking).

Goals. As we found fragments of 3 grasses and 6 forbs remaining on site, our goals were to protect and enhance all remaining plants by ecologically sensitive weed control and planting of missing species from the Cumberland Plain Woodland community.

We had 24 months to achieve the revegetation, with performance criteria being: a survival rate of >80%; a reduction in the percentage cover weed to < 5%; and, an increase in percentage cover of the herbaceous layer to 67% – 100%.

Fig 1. Weed control included cut stump poisoning of woody weeds and high volume herbicide spraying of invasive perennial grasses.

Fig 1. Weed control included cut stump poisoning of woody weeds and high volume herbicide spraying of invasive perennial grasses. (Photo C Brogan)

Around 260 cubic metres of recycled wood waste was used to mulch to a depth of 100mm over 2,600 square metres.

Around 260 cubic metres of recycled wood waste was used to mulch to a depth of 100mm over 2,600 square metres.(Photo C.Brogan)

What we did. We identified two zones on site: Zone 1 – with capacity for assisted regeneration; and Zone 2 – without capacity for assisted regeneration. Zone 1 was treated using standard bush regeneration techniques – i.e. removal of weed to facilitate natural regeneration. Zone 2 treatments included: weed control, mulching with recycled wood waste (2,600m2 x 100mm deep); planting with 9,100 native tubestock (3-4 plants /1m2) raised from Western Sydney seed; and watering throughout the first month.

After some assisted natural regeneration and planting 9,100 native tubestock (raised from Western Sydney seed) a strong cover of native understorey was reinstated.

After some assisted natural regeneration and planting 9,100 native tubestock (raised from Western Sydney seed) a strong cover of native understorey was reinstated. (Photo. C Brogan)

The Presentation Title

Same part of the site taken before and after treatment.

Same part of the site taken before and after treatment. (C Brogan)

What advice can we offer?

  • Always check your project site to identify any fragments of native species which may be present and protect them during weed control works, particularly when spraying herbicide.
  • Use good quality tubestock of the appropriate provenance and budget for a seed collection program if the project timetable allows.
  • Never underestimate the need to water tubestock during hot months and allocate sufficient resources to watering.

Contact: Christopher Brogan, Earth Repair and Restoration Pty Ltd, PO Box 232 Panania NSW 2213. Tel: +61 (0)2 9774 3200 Email: chris@earthrepair.com.au; Web: www.earthrepair.com.au

Acknowledgement. This is summarised from a talk first presented to the symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems: What are the Principles?’ Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, November 13th, 2014, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR).

 

 

Twelve years of healing: Rehabilitating a willow-infested silt flat – Revegetation

Alan Lane

Key words: weed management, National Park, headwall, instability, Salix

The site: Popes Glen Creek is a small permanent stream rising in Memorial Park, Blackheath New South Wales, Australia. It flows through Popes Glen Bushland Reserve and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (GBMWHA), joining the Grose and Hawkesbury/Nepean River systems. The upper catchment drains a significant sector of the urban township of Blackheath.

The problem: Decades of erosion from surrounding unsealed roads resulted in a 1ha silt flat forming at the headwaters of the creek and terminating in a highly incised headwall 3m high and 20m wide. Upstream, the silt flat and severely braided creek were populated by a dense forest of mature, multi-trunked specimens of Crack Willow (Salix fragilis), as well as thickets of Purple Ossier (S. purpurea), Small-leaf Privet (Ligustrum spp.), Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster spp.) and immature S. fragilis. There was also a ground layer of Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora), Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus agg), English Ivy (Hedera helix), Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).

This dense and complex infestation of weeds threatened to spread downstream into susceptible remote areas of the GBMWHA, where it would rapidly become extremely difficult to remove and would ultimately threaten the Grose and Hawkesbury-Nepean River systems.

Fig 1. Feb 2005 - the creek bank, dominated by weeds prior to work.

Fig 1. Feb 2005 – the creek bank, dominated by weeds prior to work.

Fig 2. Sept 2014 - same site nearly 10 years later, showing established plantings and some natural regeneration.

Fig 2. Sept 2014 – same site nearly 10 years later, showing established plantings and some natural regeneration.

Works carried out: Phase 1: 2002 – 2008  In 2002, the Pope’s Glen volunteer bushcare group, supported by Blue Mountains City Council and funding from the Urban Run-off Control Program, established trial plantings on four sites (100m2 each) to identify a limited range of local riparian and wetland species and the planting techniques best suited to revegetating and stabilising the silt flat. The species included Red-fruit Saw-sedge (Gahnia sieberiana), three teatree species (Leptospermum lanigerum, L. polygalifolium, and L. juniperinum), Broad-leaved Hakea (Hakea dactyloides), and three ferns (Blechnum nudum, B. watsii and Cyathea australis).

A 3-year grant from the Environmental Trust (2005-2008) then enabled a program of weed removal and replanting, encompassing the upstream half of the silt flat and expanding the list of plant species to about 30.

The weeds were removed progressively in a patchwork to preserve the stability of the silt. The willows were killed by stem injection and felled when dead. Over these 3 years, the volunteer group planted approximately 7000 plants and carried out approximately 1200 hours of site maintenance. This has resulted in a diverse and resilient wetland community, with high levels of plant establishment from both planting and from natural recruitment (Figs 1 and 2).

Phase 2: 2012 – 2018 At the commencement of this phase, stability of the downstream portion of the silt flat and headwall was dependent upon the integrity of the roots of the remaining dense stands of weeds. These could be removed only as part of an integrated program of works to stabilise the silt and the headwall. A second grant from the Environmental Trust (2012-2018) is enabling an integrated, 6-year program of stabilisation, restoration and revegetation to be carried out by a team of experienced contractors, using both “soft” and “hard” engineering strategies.

The volunteer group is responsible for on-going site maintenance, photography, monitoring surface water quality and water table depth and quality, and for surveying vegetation, macro-invertebrates, frogs, birds and stygofauna.

Overall results. The formerly highly degraded silted flat is now a thriving community of wetland and riparian vegetation, home to a rich diversity of small birds, dragonflies and mayflies. Frogs are beginning to populate the site. Water quality has been significantly improved, with up to 85% of faecal coliforms and 75% of nitrate-N removed in the wetland. This improves the water quality in Popes Glen Creek and reduces the pollutant load into the GBMWHA.

Fig 3. Feb 2013 - a portion of the headwall viewed from downstream. (Plunge pool approx.3m below. (Image Damon Baker www.nomadgraphics.com.au).

Fig 3. Feb 2013 – a portion of the headwall viewed from downstream. (Plunge pool approx.3m below. (Image Damon Baker http://www.nomadgraphics.com.au).

Fig 4. Nov 2014 - same site showing heavy retaining wall and spillway now constructed. (Plunge pool has been stabilised with rock armouring.)

Fig 4. Nov 2014 – same site showing heavy retaining wall and spillway now constructed. (Plunge pool has been stabilised with rock armouring.)

Lessons learned and future directions: This is an example of how an apparently overwhelming challenge can be tackled by a dedicated group of volunteers with critical mass, commitment and longevity, provided that the group has support from a body such as a local Council and that it can raise funds to employ skilled assistance as needed. It is anticipated that the ambitious program of rehabilitating the extensive and highly degraded silt flat will be completed within the life of the present grant.

Stakeholders and funding bodies: This work is supported by a grant from the Government of New South Wales through its Environmental Trust and by the Blue Mountains City Council. Unless otherwise stated, photographs have been provided by Alan Lane and Paul Vale.

Contacts: Dr Alan Lane, Coordinator Popes Glen Bushcare Group, PO Box 388, Blackheath NSW 2785, Australia. Ph +61 2 4787 7097; Paul Vale, Deputy Coordinator Popes Glen Bushcare Group, 81 Prince Edward St, Blackheath NSW 2785, Australia. Ph +61 2 4787 8080; and Ray Richardson, Chairman of Steering Committee, Environmental Trust Grant 2011/CBR/0098. Ph +61 2 4759 2534.

Constructed Saltmarshes in two urban sites, Kooroowall Reserve and Gough Whitlam Park, Sydney, Australia

By Mia Dalby-Ball

Key words: Wetland, Saltmarsh, Intertidal, Urban Ecology, Construction

Introduction: Coastal Saltmarsh is an intertidal ecosystem under threat and currently listed on both the state (New South Wales (NSW)) and Australia’s national list as an Endangered Ecological Community. Saltmarsh provides a variety of ecosystem services, including providing habitat for crabs which then release larvae during some high-tides. Crab larvae from saltmarshes have been found to be key food for small fish.

Over 80% of urban saltmarshes in NSW have been filled for a range of uses including playing fields, often after their use as rubbish dumps. With an increase in awareness of the value of these ecosystems, the restoration of saltmarsh in urban areas is occurring globally and locally. Here we describe two saltmarsh reconstruction projects at Kooroowall Reserve and Gough Whitlam Park, Sydney.

Aim of the works. In each example the aim was to create a functioning saltmarsh – that is a saltmarsh with appropriate tidal inundation, appropriate plant species and cover and invertebrate species (e.g. crabs, molluscs).

Works undertaken. In both cases works commenced with soil testing (soil type, pollutants, acid sulfate soils and depth to ground water) followed by the development of a detailed design.   Hydrology was observed from surrounding areas to identify location-specific elevations connected to nearby existing intertidal areas. Substrate was then excavated to the desired level, top-soil was put in place to provide appropriate nutrients, then planting carried out and/or natural regeneration encouraged.

Figure 1. Reconstructed saltmarsh at Kooroowall Reserve, 2015

Figure 1. Reconstructed saltmarsh at Kooroowall Reserve, 2015

Figure 2.  Gough Whitlam Park January 2015 in 2m tide. (Photo M. Dalby-Ball)

Figure 2. Gough Whitlam Park January 2015 in 2m tide. (Photo M. Dalby-Ball)

Results to date. Around 80% cover of saltmarsh plant species has established and persists at both sites to date. (Figs 1 and 2.) Non-saltmarsh plants dominate the upper 5m of the Gough Whitlam Park as this was not excavated low enough, with a similar area occurring at the Kooroowall Reserve saltmarsh (Fig 3). Saltmarsh crabs and gastropods are present at both sites. Density of saltmarsh plants at both sites is greatest where the tidal inundation is most frequent. The before and after images show the dramatic change from a weed dominated, neglected area of fill (Kooroowall reserve) to Saltmarsh and from Turf (GWP) to Saltmarsh.

Natural regeneration and establishment of saltmarsh plants was highest where there was “wrack” covering the exposed sandy substrate. (Wrack is organic material such as washed up sea-grass or a mix of leaves fine twigs.) That is, saltmarsh seedlings that germinated in areas without wrack were found to die during consecutive hot dry days while those in wrack generally survived.

Figure 3. Kooroowall Saltmarsh January 2015. (Photo: M. Dalby-Ball)

Figure 3. Kooroowall Saltmarsh January 2015. (Photo: M. Dalby-Ball)

Lessons learned. Lessons include the importance of achieving the required tidal inundation. In both examples the level of some sections of the sites could have been lowered at the time of construction. In the case of Kooroowall an area of heavy clay was encountered and additional resources would have been required to implement the planned works. As the resources were not available, this was not done. The higher area now has Coastal Wattle growing on it, shading out the saltmarsh. There is now either a reoccurring cost to remove this plant, or if nothing is done, that area becomes terrestrial vegetation.

Fencing was found to be essential at the Kooroowall Saltmarsh as its proximity to a children’s play area resulted in it becoming a de facto bike jump area. No fencing was required at Gough Whitlam Park; however there is a high level of community engagement and interpretive signage.

It is likely that the wrack was beneficial in retaining moisture to assist survival of species.

Acknowledgements: Both Saltmarsh creation projects were facilitated and managed through local government. Kooroowall by Pittwater Council and Gough Whitlam Park by Canterbury Council. Both projects had grant funding (over 50%) from federal government sources distributed through the then Catchment Management Authorities. These agencies have now changed name to Local Land Services. Dragonfly Environmental designed the Saltmarsh re-creation and Gough Whitlam Park.

Contact: Mia Dalby-Ball, Director, Ecological Consultants Australia, 30 Palmgrove Road Avalon Beach Sydney NSW, 2107, Tel: +61 488 481 929, Email: ecologicalca@outlook.com

Acknowledgement. This is summarised from a talk first presented to the symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems: What are the Principles?’ Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, November 13th, 2014, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR).

Directly transplanting of native monocots from donor areas to suitable reconstruction sites

By Edgar Freimanis

Key words: urban bushland restoration, site remediation, direct return topsoil, plant salvage, transplanting.

Introduction: As a bush regeneration contractor often working adjacent to development sites in the Sydney Region it occurred to me that plants and topsoil earmarked for destruction at a development site could be salvaged and translocated to improve results in nearby or similar restoration areas. Monocots lend themselves to this process due to their comparatively shallow, fibrous and stoloniferous root systems that have adapted to regrowing after disturbance.

Works undertaken and results. Over the years our bush regeneration contract team has translocated monocots at a range of project sites where natural regeneration potential is very low. Typically this technique accompanies our more conventional planting of nursery grown tree and shrub tubestock in these areas. The soils in these recipient areas are usually similar to those of the donor sites from where they were sourced. If weed management is needed, the recipient sites are typically weeded before transplanting takes place. We use hand tools such as shovels to dig-up variable sized sections of mostly native grasses and some other native monocotyledonous plant sods from areas that have been designated for development and other similar authorised clearing.

The sods are placed into plastic trays, moved and directly transplanted into parts of adjoining bushland conservation areas that have been designated for reconstruction planting. The transplants can be placed within recipient sites at similar densities to grassy ground layer tubestock plantings, (e.g. at densities of between 1-4-plants per m2, or more) or laid out like turf in continuous sections,

Plant establishment aids such as water retention crystals and fertilisers are also applied to each transplant at planting to assist with plant survival and establishment. The transplants are watered-in initially and on subsequent occasions, depending on prevailing soil moisture conditions, project resources and project timing.

Ongoing follow-up bush regeneration weeding is typically undertaken in the recipient sites, as required. (Fig 1). Monitoring has been confined to ‘before and after’ photo documentation, as shown in the following examples.

Figure 1. A sod of the native grass Entolasia stricta being transplanted at 4 plants/m2 into the old driveway at the Tuckwell Road. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 1. A sod of the native grass Entolasia stricta being transplanted at 4 plants/m2 into the old driveway at the Tuckwell Road. (Photo: Ecohort)

1. Tuckwell Road, Castle Hill Shale Sandstone Transition Forest and Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest Regeneration and Reconstruction of low residence sections. The recipient site was a rehabilitated old bitumen driveway within an estimated 0.40-hecatre bushland conservation and restoration area Native grasses and other monocots were transplanted from a bushland area that was being cleared for associated road widening works at a density of four plants/m2. (Figs 2 and 3).

Figure 2. Tuckwell Road ‘before’ (note: exotic plants already removed). (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 2. Tuckwell Road ‘before’ (note: exotic plants already removed). (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 3. Tuckwell road about 2-years later showing transplanted native monocots and planted native shrubs. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 3. Tuckwell road about 2-years later showing transplanted native monocots and planted native shrubs. (Photo: Ecohort)

2. Kellyville (Cumberland Plain Woodland site). The recipient site consisted of an edge of a bushland conservation area, that was subject to earthworks associated with a retirement village development. The recipient site’s soils were ripped to alleviate compaction and topsoiled with local clay-based topsoil. Native grass sods were transplanted from donor areas that were located within the approved development footprint area adjoining the bushland conservation area. The sods were cut into 200-300mm sections and placed in close proximity to on-another, not too dissimilar to a jig-saw puzzle or hand cut turf, to make a continuous grassy layer, with minimal gaps between transplanted sods. The transplanted sods were lightly filled and top-dressed with local topsoil to fill and level out any gaps between the sods, and then trimmed to surrounding ground levels and watered-in well. (Figs 4 and 5)

Figure 4. Native grasses being transplanted, very close together like turf sods at Kellyville. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 4. Native grasses being transplanted, very close together like turf sods at Kellyville. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 5. Same Kellyvillle site about a year later. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 5. Same Kellyvillle site about a year later. (Photo: Ecohort)

3.Spinifex transplanting on coastal sand dunes. In this project the rhizomous native grass sprinfex was transplanted into dunes from nearby areas at Corrimal Beach in the Wollongong local government area, as a part of works associated with Council’s 2013 Dune Management Implementation Plan. The spinifex transplanting works were undertaken in conjunction with weed control and tubestock reconstruction planting works.(Figs 6 and 7)

Figure 6. Spinifex being transplanted into a section of dune at 2-4-plants per m2. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 6. Spinifex being transplanted into a section of dune at 2-4-plants per m2. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 7. Section of spinifex that has established from previous transplanting. (Photo: Ecohort)

Figure 7. Section of spinifex that has established from previous transplanting. (Photo: Ecohort)

Benefits and characteristics of direct transplanting include:

  • Reduction of lengthy plant propagation and seed collection phases;
  • Avoidance of seed maturity restrictions and clashes with project construction phases;
  • Guaranteed achievement of local provenance material;
  • Ability to obtain species that are difficult to propagate or collect seed from;
  • Potential inclusion of other plant species from donor to recipient sites (translocated as seed in the soil of transplanted sods);
  • Achievement of similar densities to tubestock planting or turf-laying;
  • Ease of implementation (transplanting monocots is a technique that has been long-practiced by bush regenerators, gardeners and horticulturists);
  • Ability to conduct the treatments on a small scale using hand tools, or large scale using heavy machinery.

Barriers and challenges to direct transplanting include:

  • Timing/gaining consent difficulties relating to compatibility of works between donor and recipient sites;
  • Convincing consent authorities of the efficacy of this method;
  • Technical issues: proximity of donor and recipient sites;
  • Cost, (including maintenance and watering) which can be higher than other methods;
  • Difficulty in transplanting some monocots;
  • Potential for soil pathogen spread.

Acknowledgements:  This summary was originally presented to the November 2014 Symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems’ held at the Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, Sydney by the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR)

Contact: Edgar Freimanis, Ecohort, ( PO Box 6540 Rouse Hill NSW Australia 2156 Tel: +61 418 162-970 Email: ed @ecohort.com)

Acknowledgement. This is summarised from a talk first presented to the symposium ‘Rebuilding Ecosystems: What are the Principles?’ Teachers’ Federation Conference Centre, November 13th, 2014, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR).

From Rainforest to Oil Palms and back again: a Daintree Rainforest Rescue in far north Queensland

Robert Kooyman, Joe Reichl, Edie Beitzel, Grant Binns, Jennifer Croes, Erryn Stephens, and Madeleine Faught

The establishment of Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis) plantations is responsible for massive rainforest clearing and destruction throughout the tropics of Southeast Asia and beyond, and has captured the attention of conservation organisations around the world. One such organisation is Rainforest Rescue (RR), a not for profit Australian based conservation NGO. Through local and international projects (including in the Daintree region of Australia and Sumatra in Indonesia) RR has undertaken conservation actions that include removal of Oil Palm plantations to re-establish rainforest close to National Park areas.

The rainforest of the Daintree region provides an active window into the evolution, biogeography, and ecology of the southern (Gondwanan) rainforests, and their interaction with Indo-Malesian floristic elements. It has many (ca. 120) federal- and state- listed Threatened, Vulnerable, Of Concern, and Rare plant and animal species and a range of rainforest types.

To achieve restoration of a small (27.6 ha) but important piece of the global distribution of lowland tropical rainforest, RR purchased Lot 46 Cape Tribulation Road in the Daintree area of far north Queensland, Australia in 2010 and, in 2012, secured funding to set the property on its long journey back to rainforest.

The property was partly cleared in the 1960s, first for cattle grazing and later for Oil Palm cultivation. It has a mix of cleared (ca. 11 ha) and early stage natural regeneration (ca. 10ha) areas, bounded on two sides by more intact and mature rainforest (ca. 7 ha). Soils are mostly free-draining sandy clay loams on flat terrain

The on-ground works.  The property was divided into five working Zones as part of the restoration planning process (Fig. 1). Because of a nearby large seed source forest a key objective of the project is to maximise and protect natural regeneration, as well as planting larger openings. Up to 30,000 trees representing 100 species are expected to be planted during the 2-year life of the project, with around 10 ha of natural regeneration interspersed.

Figure 1. Map showing property, work zones (ZONE 1-5), permanent photographic points (Photo point 1-9), location of planting trials (Zones 1 and 2), and primary weed control area (2013) in orange. (Courtesy Google Earth)

Figure 1. Map showing property, work zones (ZONE 1-5), permanent photographic points (Photo point 1-9), location of planting trials (Zones 1 and 2), and primary weed control area (2013) in orange. (Courtesy Google Earth)

Trial tree plantings were undertaken in early 2011 and 2012, and selective weed management (herbicide based grass and soft weed control) began at the same time to optimise natural regeneration prior to identifying and preparing suitable planting sites.

Plantings.  The planting trials were each one hectare in area and designed to test the efficacy of two different high diversity (60-90 species) planting designs. In Zone 1 tree spacing was 2.5m, and in Zone 2 the spacing was 1.5m. Seedlings for rainforest plantings were propagated and grown in the RR nursery in the Daintree lowlands. Seed collection was undertaken north of the Daintree River and included seed collected from the property. A low number of vines were included in the species mix for subsequent plantings.

A total of 90 species have been planted to date. The species mix included some early stage (pioneer type) tree species from genera such as Polyscias (Araliaceae), Alphitonia (Rhamnaceae), Macaranga (Euphorbiaceae) and Commersonia (Malvaceae); and tall fast growing species such as Elaeocarpus grandis (Elaeocarpaceae) and Aleurites moluccana (Euphorbiaceae). The remaining species represented mostly moderately fast growing species, and some slower growing mature phase rainforest species.

Weed control. Where possible, large Oil Palms were removed mechanically, but to protect existing rainforest regeneration many required stem injection with herbicide. Several methods are currently being trialled to determine the most time and cost effective approach to controlling this large and difficult weed.

Late in 2012 and early in 2013 extensive mechanical and chemical weed control was undertaken in Zones 3, 4 and 5 (Fig. 1). This included mechanical clearing of large areas dominated by Giant Bramble (Rubus alceifolius) and other weeds, and some mechanical removal of Oil Palm seedlings on the southern side of the creek that traverses the property (Zones 3 and 4). Follow up chemical control (systematic backpack spraying of glyphosate) was conducted immediately (as required) to complete the site preparation for planting. This was targeted at grasses, broad-leaf weeds, and regrowth of woody weeds.

Monitoring design. Monitoring plots (7 / 50 x 20m plots, each with 10 / 10 x 10m subplots) and permanent photographic points (12 in total, 7 in association with monitoring plots) were established in the five working Zones. Cover, number of species and density will be recorded in these plots at each stratum at 12 month intervals. One monitoring plot was established in each of Zones 1 and 2, three in Zone 3 (including directly adjacent to Zone 4), and two in Zone 5 (in the north of the property; yet to be measured). Zone 4 will be monitored visually and by photo point as it is mostly natural regeneration enhanced by weed control.

Preliminary Results. The first round of project monitoring (year 1 establishment) provided base-line information for future development of the plantings and natural regeneration through assessing canopy cover, leaf litter cover, and a range of other factors that will change over time (Table 1). Informal observations have shown that site dominance was achieved by the trees planted 12 and 18 months ago in Zones 1 and 2.  Substantial numbers of wildling seedlings (of up to 11 species in a plot; and 15 in total) were found in the sites monitored prior to more recent planting.

Mechanical weed control was reported to be extremely effective and the operator was able to minimise damage to existing regrowth of species such as Melicope elleryana (Rutaceae), Glochidion harveyanum var. harveyanum (Phyllanthaceae), Macaranga involucrata var. mallotoides (Euphorbiaceae), Polyscias australiana (Araliaceae), Rhodamnia sessiliflora (Myrtaceae), Alphitonia incana (Rhamnaceae) and Aidia racemosa (Rubiaceae). In combination with the early implementation of broad and targeted spraying this maximised the retention of substantial existing saplings and seedlings.

Project funding will cease in 2014, and control of all weeds and rainforest establishment is expected to be completed in 2015; with only minor weed control required thereafter once canopy cover is established. Monitoring will continue at 12 month intervals and inform future publications.

Acknowledgements: The project is dependent on the generous support of RR donors and the on-going efforts of RR staff in FNQld. Funding for the project was provided by a Federal Government Biodiversity Fund Grant.

Contact:  Robert Kooyman, National Herbarium of NSW, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney 2000 Australia.   Email: robert@ecodingo.com.au;

Figure 2 Mechanical weed control in Zone 3 (January 2013) prior to planting. Note remaining natural regeneration.

Figure 2 Mechanical weed control in Zone 3 (January 2013) prior to planting. Note remaining natural regeneration.

Figure 3. Newly planted trees in Zone 3 (March 2013). Note surrounding natural regeneration.

Figure 3. Newly planted trees in Zone 3 (March 2013). Note surrounding natural regeneration.

Figure 4. Zone 2 planting trial established in late 2011 at 18 months. Tree spacing at 2 - 2.5m.

Figure 4. Zone 2 planting trial established in late 2011 at 18 months. Tree spacing at 2 – 2.5m.

Table 1.  Synthesis of baseline data for natural regeneration, and progress (including planting) up to February 2013 measured on (50 x 20m) permanent monitoring plots (PP), in Zones (1,2,3), by Themes (1 – planting; 2 – natural regeneration). PD – total planted diversity on plot; PS(n) – number of seedling planted on plot; WS – wildling seedlings (0.5-1m in height); WD – wildling diversity; Av. CC(%) – Average Canopy Cover (%); Av. L(%) – Average Litter Cover (%); Av. LBC(%) – Average Log-Branch Cover (%); Av. PCHt – Average planted canopy height (m); dbh – diameter at breast height (1.3m); NR – Number of stems, natural regeneration >1cm DBH; NR-div – Diversity of natural regeneration >1cm DBH; Age (mths) – Age of planting in months. Zone 4 (not shown) has permanent photo points and visual monitoring.

PP Zone Theme PD PS(n) WS WD Av.CC(%) Av.L(%) Av.LBC(%) Av. PCHt NR NR-div Age(m)

1

3

1, 2

82

424

236

7

27.5

52

7

0.6 – 1

218

12

1

2

3

1, 2

0

0

587

11

41

61.5

6.7

NA

248

11

0

3

3

1, 2

0

0

133

5

18.5

48.8

4.6

NA

109

9

0

4

2

1

85

390

45

7

13

30.6

3

1-2m

45

5

12

5

1

1

85

207

95

5

45.5

58

5

2-3m

48

7

18

Appendix 1 List of main weed species located and treated on the property.

Common Name Species Family Life Form
Sanchezia Sanchezia parvibracteata Acanthaceae herb
Brillantaisia Brillantaisia lamium Acanthaceae herb
Goosefoot Syngonium podophyllum Araceae vine
Toothed Philodendron Philodendron lacerum Araceae climber
Oil Palm Elaeis guineensis Arecaceae palm
Dracaeana Dracaeana fragans Asparagaceae small tree
Sensitive Plant Mimosa pudica Fabaceae creeper
Calopo Calopogonium mucunoides Fabaceae creeper
 Green Summer Grass Urochloa decumbens Poaceae grass
Giant Bramble Rubus alceifolius Rosaceae scrambler
Snake Weed Stachytarpheta cayennensis Verbenaceae herb

Restoration of Tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) during prescribed burning in southwestern Australia

Katinka Ruthrof, Leonie Valentine and Kate Brown

Key words:  fire, regeneration, coarse woody debris, ashbed

Regeneration of Tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala), in many parts of its fragmented distribution in Western Australia, is nominal. Previous work has shown it has specific regeneration niche requirements, recruiting in ashbeds within canopy gaps. We conducted a field trial to determine whether regeneration could be facilitated by creating coarse woody debris (CWD) piles that would become ashbeds during a low-intensity, prescribed burn.

Regeneration experiment. Paganoni Swamp Bushland, a peri-urban Eucalyptus-Banksia woodland, was due for prescribed burning in 2011. Prior to the burn, twelve canopy gaps within the bushland were chosen to have CWD piles built up in the centre (5mx5m wide, 0.5m height). Six gaps were chosen to have no ashbeds, and so had any naturally occurring CDW removed. Adjacent to each plot (whether ashbed or no ashbed), an extra 5mx5m plot was marked out as a control.

The six gaps without ashbeds, and half of the 12 ashbeds, were broadcast with Tuart seed in plots of 5m x 5m following the prescribed burn.  Approximately 375 seeds/per 25m2 plot (after typical forestry seeding practice) were sown within one month of the prescribed burn.

The temperature of the control burn that moved through the area was measured in the gaps using pyrocrayons. These temperature-sensitive crayons were used to draw lines onto ceramic tiles. Five tiles were placed into each gap, either on the surface in the non-ashbed plots, or beneath the CWD piles, totaling 90 tiles.

Results. The majority of CDW piles burnt during the prescribed burning activities.  These piles burnt at high temperatures (~560Co) compared with the control plots (~70 Co). After six months, the ashbeds, especially those that were seeded, contained a significantly higher number of seedlings (0.7/m2 ± 0.3) than ashbeds without added seed (0.01/m2 ± 0.01) or control plots (0.0-0.05/m2 ± 0.0-0.05).

Lessons learned. Tuart regeneration can be facilitated at an operational scale as part of prescribed fire activities, through creation of CWD piles and broadcast seeding. However, higher rates of seeding could be used. Raking the seeds following broadcasting to reduce removal by seed predators may also increase seedling numbers.

Acknowledgements. Thanks go to the  State Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health, Murdoch University; Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation; and to Friends of Paganoni Swamp.

Contact: Katinka Ruthrof, Research Associate, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, 6150, Western Australia; Tel: (61-8) 9360 2605; Email: k.ruthrof@murdoch.edu.au

A created coarse woody debris pile within a canopy gap, ready for the prescribed burn

A created coarse woody debris pile within a canopy gap, ready for the prescribed burn

A created ashbed following the prescribed burn

A created ashbed following the prescribed burn

Pyrocrayon markings on - a tile showing the temperature of the prescribed burn

Pyrocrayon markings on – a tile showing the temperature of the prescribed burn

Tuart seedlings recruiting following ashbed creation and broadcast seeding. Note that this is the same ashbed as in Figure 2.

Tuart seedlings recruiting following ashbed creation and broadcast seeding. Note that this is the same ashbed as in Figure 2.

The Ridgefield Multiple Ecosystem Services Experiment: restoring and sustaining function in degraded ecosystems

Key words: carbon sequestration, invasion resistance, nutrient cycling, novel ecosystems, intervention ecology

Mike Perring

Introduction. Multiple, simultaneous, and rapid environmental changes make sustaining and restoring ecosystem functions an increasingly important but challenging task. The Ridgefield Multiple Ecosystem Services Experiment, being undertaken at the University of Western Australia’s Future Farm in the Western Australian wheat belt, tests the application of current ideas in ecology to ecological restoration, and seeks insights into how management interventions can sustain and restore multiple ecosystem functions in an era of rapid environmental change.

Design. Our experiment tests how different woody plant species mixtures affect provision of ecosystem functions and services, including carbon storage, nutrient cycling, invasion resistance, biodiversity maintenance, and prevention of soil erosion. We also consider potential tradeoffs in the provision of ecosystem functions, how different plant species mixtures may respond to simultaneous environmental changes, and how different plant species assemblages may affect other trophic levels, both above and below ground.

Experimental treatments, across 124 23x11m rip line plots, comprise native tree and shrub species, and span a diversity gradient from bare and single-species to mixtures of eight species. Species belong to four different functional groups based on differing nutrient acquisition strategies and morphologies. Plant assemblage treatments are replicated across former grazing and cropped landscapes.

The Ridgefield experimental site with formerly cropped area to the right and grazed blocks in middle and left (December 2010)

In addition to the role of species composition in determining ecosystem functions and services, we will examine the effect of simultaneous environmental changes (nitrogen deposition and weed invasion) on our chosen functions and services, particularly since the presence of exotics creates potentially novel ecosystem states. Our experiment will allow us to understand more about how combinations of plant species, and their associated traits, can be utilized to intervene and manage ecosystems to ensure capacity for ongoing function and service provision in the Anthropocene. In terms of theory, we are also interested in whether the provision of multiple ecosystem functions requires greater biodiversity than provision of single services, if there are tradeoffs among services as diversity levels increase, and how the traits of included species affect functioning.

York gum only plot (January 2011)

Participants and potential for collaboration. Participants include: Mike Perring, Kris Hulvey, Rachel Standish, Lori Lach, Tim Morald, Rebecca Parsons and Richard Hobbs. The study provides a platform for the investigation of a wide variety of ecologically and socially important questions, and we encourage interested parties to contact us should they wish to collaborate or conduct trials at the site.

Contact: Mike Perring, School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia; Tel: +61 (0)8 6488 4692; Email: michael.perring@uwa.edu.au