Category Archives: Threatened species & communities

Operational planning and logistics – introducing fire into the landscape

Robert Strauch

Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub (ESBS) is an Endangered Ecological Community that only exists in the eastern part of the Greater Sydney area – between North Head and La Perouse. From an original estimated area of 5300 hectares there’s only 146 hectares of this community left. From the 3% that’s actually left only 18% of that ESBS is on managed lands. A lot of it is in areas like golf courses, people’s backyards along coastal parts in the Sydney eastern suburbs and small pockets on Council reserves, most locations of it are quite sparse in area, with the North Head community being the largest portion in total area remaining.

In 2004, the key stakeholders developed a recovery plan for ESBS, with National Parks working with other land management agencies to try and protect and manage this community. One of the recommendations from the plan was high intensity burn at an 8-15 year rotation.

Fire and Rescue New South Wales (NSW) are re-introducing fire as a tool to restore ESBS at three sites: broad area burning at North Head, some windrow burning at La Perouse on the site of the NSW Golf Course and pile burning at Centennial Park in the Moore Park area. This involved three types of burns: an area burn, windrows and burn piles.

Fig 1. Broad area burning at North Head

Fig 1. Broad area burning at North Head

1. North Head

A burn was conducted at North Head, Sydney Harbour in early September 2012. This was done in collaboration with National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and also the North Head Sanctuary Foundation. Interestingly, the location of the fire is very close to the location Dr Geoff Lambert has identified as the site European people in Australia first recorded their observations of fire being used by Indigenous people on the 28th May 1788.

Methods and risk management. At North Head, three relatively small burns were conducted: third quarantine cemetery (0.8 ha), North Fort (1.5 ha0 and Blue Fish Drive (1.8 ha). These involved very high levels of operational logistics and operational planning, prior to waiting for the appropriate burn conditions.

(a) Public safety. Because of a history of fires getting out of control at North Head, precautions involved restricting public access to the headland, which meant confining all three burns to 1 day to minimise disruption. There was an overall incident controller, Superintendent Kel McNamara for the North Head complex, plus divisional commanders in charge of each of the burns. The divisional commanders essentially were running their individual burns managing their operations officers and resources required. From this we ended up with 10 firefighting appliances (trucks) and (including the incident management and logistical appliance) we had a total of 36 resources contributed by three agencies: Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Rural Fire Service Pittwater-Warringah. With all of that we had 121 fire fighters for our very small sites. State Emergency Service assisted us with closing down walking trails and making sure people weren’t actually coming onto the headland. We had a fire truck (Flying Pumper) sitting there as if it was in a fire station, so if any spot fires occurred they could go and deal with the fire and we could still carry on with our prescribed burning that we were undertaking.

(b) On the day of the burns there were 400 kids on the headland, which was worrying. I tried to encourage them to go into Manly for the day but they wanted to stay on the headland for their planned activities at the Quarantine Station. Because of that I then had to go through steps in the local emergency management plan and arrange with Sydney Ferries to make sure there was a ferry ready and available in case we needed to evacuate the headland as we could only evacuate by water. Also we had to speak with Harbour Control in case the fire got away and we had to shut down the shipping channels coming into Sydney Harbour.

(c) Heritage protection. We obtained mitigation funding through the NDRP National Disaster Resilience Funds to do some mitigation work around North Head’s historical stone walls criss-crossing the headland. This involved some clearing along those walls to protect the historical significance of them and this clearing doubled to create a strategic fire advantage zone over the headland.

(d) Miscellaneous risks. Among the other things I had to deal with was underground ventilation. There’s historical war tunnels through North Head with ventilation intakes that I had to make sure were covered and insulated so we weren’t dragging smoke into the underground tunnels, increasing the carbon monoxide load down there. This was so if people walked in there after the burns they weren’t going to asphyxiate themselves. The bonus carry over from Defence was possible unexploded ordinance out on the headland. Furthermore, the Sydney Water treatment plant opposite the blue fish drive burn involves an above-ground storage tank of highly explosive biogas.

(e) We could only burn in certain seasons. The breeding seasons of the Endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoot (Perameles nasuta) and also the penguins had to be considered. This also involved working in with studies of these that were being done by the University of New South Wales, researching the bandicoot’s pre and post-fire introduction. Then we had to put in a notification strategy. The weather window, given all the other constraints, was very narrow. We put out an email notification system where we were literally going to give people anything from 24 hours notice up to 48 hours notice to actually go ahead with the burn.

This high level of risk meant that I had to win the confidence of senior management of Fire and Rescue NSW to support the burn. We did get that support as well as support from all the other land managers, which was fantastic.

Burns themselves. In terms of the burns themselves, once the fire got into the burn area it developed to very good intensity. It was a very high fuel load situation and one interesting challenge was to try and stop the fire fighters from putting the fires out. The buildings were quite close and they were very small parcels of burns.

Ecological context. The burns that we did on North Head involved a range of experimental treatments that included burning, controlled thinning and untreated controls; with some sites fenced from rabbits, a study conducted by Dr Judy Lambert.

We burnt on a small scale to start with to see what type of regeneration we were going to get from broad area burning out on the headland. The regeneration that we’re getting out at North Head is outstanding. But the biggest problem that we have is the newly sprouted post fire vegetation degradation from rabbits and the bandicoots. So we suggest for any burning in ESBS, the advice is that it needs to be fenced post-burn to encourage the regeneration to thrive.

Fig 2. High biomass vegetation before burn, North Head

Fig 2. High biomass vegetation before burn, North Head

Fig 3. During burn at North Head

Fig 3. During burn at North Head

Fig 4. Water deliver from air, North Head

Fig 4. Water deliver from air, North Head

Fig 5. Mopping up after burn at North Head

Fig 5. Mopping up after burn at North Head

2. La Perouse

At the New South Wales golf course at La Perouse the dominant species, Coastal Tea Tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) was cut and dropped on the ground. They let it cure and then they come in and burn it in isolated pockets.  Burning on the golf course is a lot easier than North Head because there are far fewer risks to plan for and manage, and the eastern boundary is the Pacific Ocean. With this type of environment and preparation we can get extremely high intensity burns which are required for the ESBS. Once again the land managers fence the area to stop exposure to rabbits. At the La Perouse golf course site, we had arson this fire season so we had an additional 21 hectares of wildfire. We’ve put measures in place to monitor what introduced fire has done compared with what wildfire has done in the same vegetative area along Henry Head.

3. Centennial Park

Centennial Park, in the middle of Sydney, has an area of ESBS which is not even a hectare. The Park’s owners, the Centennial Park Trust, have been manually clearing weed from the ESBS, piling it and then conducting pile burns on the area, spreading the ash from that. Once again some really good regeneration has occurred there and the burn area is also fenced off to stop rabbits.

That’s our story of how Fire and Rescue NSW has been involved in broad area burning, windrow burning and pile burning, working with land managers for the recovery of Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub.

Acknowledgements: Fire and Rescue NSW acknowledge this project could not have happed without the collaboration of National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, North Head Sanctuary Foundation, Rural Fire Service Pittwater Warringah, Road and Maritime Services, NSW Police, Manly Council, Sydney Water, Sydney Ports, Sydney Ferries, Harbor Control, Department of Defence and many others.

Contact: Robert Strauch, Bushfire Officer – Metro East Command, Fire and Rescue NSW (Operational Capability, Specialised Operations, Bushfire Section – Level 1, 55 Dickson Avenue, Artarmon, NSW 2064. Tel: +61 2 9901 2445, +61 448 597 547; Email: E

[This project summary is a precis of a talk presented to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s 10th Biennial Bushfire Conference, ‘Fire and Restoration: Working with Fire for Healthy Lands’ 26-27 May 2015. For full paper see:

Fig 6. Windrows before the burn, La Perouse

Fig 6. Windrows before the burn, La Perouse

Fig 7. Burn La Perouse

Fig 7. Burn La Perouse

Fig 8. Mopping up after burn, La Perouse

Fig 8. Mopping up after burn, La Perouse

Wompoo Gorge Lowland Subtropical Rainforest Restoration Project, Coopers Creek, New South Wales

Key words : Connectivity, Lowland Subtropical Rainforest, Threatened Species

Introduction. Much of the state- and nationally listed Lowland Subtropical Rainforest at Wompoo Gorge, located on Coopers Creek near Rosebank, was partially cleared for pasture early last century. Parts of the cleared forest regenerated naturally with the removal of agricultural activities from the site during the 1940s-50s, but Lantana (Lantana camara) established in large gaps (Fig 1) and prevented any further rainforest regeneration. This weed domination reduced the function of an important habitat linkage between Nightcap and Goonengerry National Parks. Twenty-seven threatened species (10 threatened flora species and 17 vulnerable animal species) have been recorded on the site, which has been identified as a key climate change and wildlife corridor.

In 2009 a program of ecological restoration commenced, guided by the recommendations of the Wompoo Gorge (South) Ecological Restoration Plan (updated in 2013). The aim of the restoration works was to control Lantana and other weeds, restoring the integrity of the rainforest and helping to supporting the region’s exceptional biodiversity.

A monitoring program was established on site prior to commencement of works. This included eight transects and photopoints. Structural and floristic information has been collated and photos taken prior to the commencement of works, and subsequently over the course of restoration work. Data have been entered into then MERV (Monitoring and Evaluation of the Restoration of Vegetation) database and used to produce reports.

Figure 1. (map) Lantana cover prior to restoration. By 2014 very little lantana remained with regenerating rainforest taking the place of weeds.

Figure 1. (map) Lantana cover prior to restoration. By 2014 very little lantana remained with regenerating rainforest taking the place of weeds.

Works undertaken: Lantana has been controlled by a range of methods (Figs 2-4) including: mechanically with a tractor; spraying with a splatter gun; over-spraying dense, less accessible areas; hand weeding with brush hooks and loppers; and, cut/scrape and paint of scattered Lantana among remnant vegetation. Other less dominant weeds have been controlled to facilitate replacement of Lantana with regenerating rainforest. Follow-up work includes flattening down dead Lantana, spot spraying and hand weeding. No planting has been undertaken but fruit from native plants on site has been collected and spread throughout regeneration areas.

Figure 2. September 2009: Prior to lantana control

Figure 2. September 2009: Prior to lantana control

Figure 3.  17 September 2009: Tractor crushes down lantana

Figure 3. 17 September 2009: Tractor crushes down lantana

Figure 4. 21 October 2009: Second tractor run slashing lantana

Figure 4. 21 October 2009: Second tractor run slashing lantana

Results: Lantana has been virtually eliminated from extensive areas and vigorous regeneration of a high diversity of species has occurred (Figs 5-6). Common regenerating species include: Poison Peach (Trema aspera), Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa), Tamarind (Diploglottis australis), Sandpaper Figs (Ficus coronata) White Cedar (Melia azedarach) Bangalow Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana), Brown Kurrajong (Commersonia bartramia), Pencil Cedar (Polyscias murrayi), Celerywood (P. elegans), Quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis) , Black Bean (Castanosperma australis), Sally Wattle (Acacia melanoxylon). Groundcovers included Soft Bracken Fern (Calochlaena dubia), Cunjevoi (Alocasia brisbanensis) Juncus (Juncus sp.), Cyperus (Cyperus spp.) and Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus). A range of later stage rainforest species have also germinated including Hairy Walnut (Endiandra pubens), Maiden’s Blush (Sloanea australis) and White Bolly Gum (Neolitsea dealbata).

Figure 5. ‘’Oct 2010: Resilient native regeneration in tractor cleared area

Figure 5. Oct 2010: Resilient native regeneration in tractor cleared area

Figure 6. May 2014: Natives have replaced lantana throughout cleared area

Figure 6. May 2014: Natives have replaced Lantana throughout cleared area

What we have learned. Wompoo Gorge has proven to be a highly resilient site, located as it is between two major sources of propagules. The site’s unique location, resilience and beauty has made it an ideal site to educate and inspire the community to restore rainforest Field days held on site have assisted in raising regional awareness of the value of the Lowland Rainforest EEC, the habitat it provides and of the degrading impacts of weeds. Various weed control techniques have also been discussed and demonstrated. Involving Green Army participants alongside professional regenerators has helped Green Army participants gaining valuable knowledge, skills and training in ecological restoration.

In 2014 NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service acquired the property realising the goal of former property owner Dailan Pugh to protect the property in perpetuity for the benefit of conserving native species and for future generations.

Acknowledgements: The project has received funding from the NSW Environmental Trust’s Restoration and Rehabilitation program. Additional funding has been invested through the former Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative and a Raymond Borland Landcare grant. In 2015 Green Army teams have commenced working on site, alongside professional bush regenerators, undertaking additional and complimentary restoration works.

Contact: Paul O’Connor, Technical Manager, EnviTE Environment, 56 Carrington Street (P.O.Box 1124) Lismore  2480 Australia.

Tel: +61 2 6627 2841 Mob: + 61 427 014 692. Email:


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 (

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.

Scoping the knowledge requirements for Murray Crayfish

Key words: Murray Crayfish, crustacea, Murray-Darling Basin, knowledge gaps

Murray Crayfish (Euastacus armatus) is highly valued by recreational fishers in the southern Murray-Darling Basin, and is also listed as a threatened species across much of its range. Murray Crayfish is believed to have declined in distribution and abundance over the last 50-60 years. Because little of the research undertaken on the status, biology or potential threatening processes of this species has been published, it is difficult to validate the reported declines and develop successful management strategies. The majority of data are only available as unpublished departmental manuscripts, theses, secondary references to unpublished data, or in items published outside of peer-reviewed scientific journals. Consequently, the information that is available about Murray Crayfish is difficult to access.

Murray Crayfish are highly valued by recreational fishers, (Photo courtesy of Jamin Forbes)

Figure 1. Murray Crayfish are highly valued by recreational fishers, (Photo courtesy of Jamin Forbes)

As a slow growing, late maturing, long-lived species, Murray Crayfish are susceptible to overharvest. (Photo courtesy of Jamin Forbes)

Figure 2. As a slow growing, late maturing, long-lived species, Murray Crayfish are susceptible to overharvest. (Photo courtesy of Jamin Forbes)

Broad aim and methods: This project reviewed and assimilated all available information on Murray Crayfish (both published and accessible unpublished material sourced from electronic databases, unpublished reports and datasets and unpublished student theses). Key knowledge gaps relevant to sustainable management of the species were identified and recommendations provided.

Findings: The project summarised knowledge of the ecology, distribution and management of Murray Crayfish. Ecological knowledge summarised includes species description; taxonomy; systematics; historical and current distribution; population genetics; anatomy and sense perception; habitat use and requirements; environmental tolerances; diet; movement, migration and diel activity; diseases and parasites; reproduction and recruitment; age and growth; size at maturity; mortality; population structure; sex ratios; historical and current abundance; and, ecological role.

Management knowledge presented includes historical translocations in NSW; commercial and recreational fisheries management; and aquaculture. This project provides a range of management recommendations including requirements for improved monitoring, controls on trade and movement, improved water allocation, a community education program, improved habitat management and rehabilitation, promotion of interstate consistency of fishery regulations, increased enforcement capacity, and developing a collaborative management and conservation relationship with Aboriginal stakeholders.

Threats to the species are outlined including:

  • River regulation
  • Pesticides and pollution
  • Overfishing
  • Habitat degradation
  • Translocation of crayfish
  • Thermal pollution
  • Introduced fish species
  • Fish passage

The traditional ecological knowledge, historical use and cultural significance of Murray Crayfish to Aboriginal peoples were also characterised.

Lessons learned and future directions: Murray Crayfish has declined across most of its distribution, and is considered extinct in South Australia, vulnerable in the ACT and threatened in Victoria. The species was not considered threatened in New South Wales at the time the report was prepared. As a slow growing, late maturing, long-lived species it is susceptible to overharvest and so it is important that management regulations are regularly reviewed and updated. Locally extinct populations in South Australia and the Murray River downstream of Mildura may be amenable to population reestablishment and previous calls for a Murray Crayfish re-introduction program in the lower Murray River are supported with potential to trial the re-establishment of Murray Crayfish in flowing reaches of the lower Murray River. Subsequent monitoring of reintroduced populations would provide an opportunity to assess the criteria for population establishment and determine the timeframes required for populations to reach self-sustaining levels.

Stakeholders and Funding bodies: This project was funded through the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Native Fish Strategy, and conducted by a collaborative team from NSW Department of Primary Industries, University of New England, Macquarie University, ACT Parks, Conservation and Lands, Murray-Darling Basin Commission and NSW Department of Environment and Conservation.

Contact:  Dr Dean Gilligan Senior Research Scientist Freshwater, NSW Department of Primary Industries  Level 1, Braysyth Building Cnr Beach Road & Orient Street Batemans Bay NSW 2536. Tel: +61 2 4478 9100. Email:


Impacts of managed flows on fish spawning and recruitment

Key words: Managed flows, regulation, fish spawning

Natural recruitment (survival of fishes from eggs to reproductive stage) of native fish is vital for sustainable populations, however unfortunately the conditions required for successful recruitment of many freshwater fish species in the Basin remain unknown. This is especially true with respect to the natural timing and environmental conditions required for spawning, and to ensure the subsequent survival of larval and juvenile fish.

Research in the southern Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) suggests that many fish species still breed under modified flow conditions, but that high numbers of juveniles do not always result. This suggests that recruitment failure, rather than lack of spawning, may be the limiting factor behind low population size and restricted distributions of a number of species in MDB.

Mullaroo Creek one of the six rivers surveyed in this study. (Photo courtesy Paul Humphries.)

Figure 1. Mullaroo Creek one of the six rivers surveyed in this study. (Photo courtesy Paul Humphries.)

Broad aims and methods:

The specific aims of this study were to determine:

  • whether the level of recruitment in Australian Smelt (Retropinna semonii) is proportional to the abundance of newly hatched larvae;
  • whether spawning and recruitment are similar between flow-managed and non flow-managed rivers for fish in general;
  • whether spawning and recruitment are similar between years for fish in general;
  • whether timing of peak recruitment is similar for protracted and short spawners; and,
  • if environmental variables or food availability are associated with peak recruitment of Australian smelt in a subset of rivers sampled.

Sampling of larvae and juvenile fish using seine nets, drift nets and throw nets was conducted within six rivers in the MDB (some flow managed and some non-flow managed) (Fig 1). Water quality parameters and food availability were also sampled. All larval and a subset of juvenile fish were aged, and length/age relationships were explored to calculate hatch date. Daily flow data was used to investigate relationships between discharge, temperature and biomass of zooplankton and epibenthos (organisms which live on the surface of the riverbed or other structure in the river).

brown table 1

An Australian Smelt otolith showing increments used to estimate age. (Photo courtesy Paul Humphries)

Figure 2. An Australian Smelt otolith showing increments used to estimate age. (Photo courtesy Paul Humphries)


A total of 19 species — 14 native and 5 alien — were collected from the six rivers, and most showed evidence of spawning and recruitment in both years of the study. Because of small and patchy abundances, only Australian Smelt could effectively be compared among all rivers (Fig 2), whilst a small suite of species could be compared for a subset of rivers.

The project found that overall species presence differed depending on region. However, substantial differences in species composition were also found between pairs of rivers (flow-managed versus non flow-managed) within regions. In addition to this, the study found that in the Southern and Northern regions, common species tended to begin spawning earlier, and spawn for longer, in flow-managed rivers compared to their non flow-managed counterparts. In the Lower Region the opposite was the case. The results point to the fact that timing and duration of breeding of fish in rivers are likely influenced more by local differences in flow than broader climate and geographical influences.

The study identified three types of spawning strategies: ‘brief’ spawners (only spawn for one or two months), ‘flexible’ spawners (spawning period varies by river and by year), and ‘protracted’ spawners (spawning consistently spans more than two months). Only Gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki) fitted the last criteria. Australian Smelt were found to be a ‘flexible’ spawner, and its success cannot be purely because of its supposed protracted spawning behaviour.

Most species spawned over a long enough period to indicate that recruitment was not proportional to larval production. This was shown best for Australian Smelt — in most cases the early hatching events resulted in relatively poor recruitment, and later hatchings resulted in relatively good recruitment.

Whereas timing and duration of spawning seemed to be influenced by local factors, timing of recruitment tended to be similar for rivers within regions, except for the Ovens/King and the Goulburn systems. Preliminary comparisons of environmental variables with food availability suggested that temperature (positively) and discharge (negatively) influence production of the smallest size classes of zooplankton and that the first significant rise in zooplankton coincided with peak Australian Smelt recruitment in the Ovens River.

Lessons learned and future directions: This research will lead to better management of flows released from dams to facilitate spawning and recruitment of native fish species. This is likely to result in increased recruitment and enhancement of native fish populations. 

Stakeholders and Funding bodies: This project was funded through the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Native Fish Strategy, and delivered by a research team from the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

Contact: Dr. Paul Humphries, Charles Sturt University, (02) 60519920,

Plant communities of seasonal clay-based wetlands of south-west Australia: weeds, fire and regeneration

Kate Brown and Grazyna Paczkowska

Key words: regeneration, fire, seasonal wetlands

 While the majority of seasonal wetlands in south-west Australia are connected to regional ground water, some found on clay substrates rely solely on rainwater to fill. These seasonal clay-based wetlands fill with winter rains and are characterised by temporally overlapping suites of annual and perennial herbs that flower and set seed as the wetlands dry through spring. Over summer the clay substrates dry to impervious pans. The seasonal clay-based wetlands of south-west Australia comprise a flora of over 600 species, of which at least 50% are annual or perennial herbs, 16 occur only on the clay-pans and many are rare or restricted.

These ecological communities are amongst the most threatened in Western Australia and have recently been listed under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act as critically endangered. Over 90% have been cleared for agriculture and urban development and weed invasion is a major threat to those that remain. South African geophytes are serious weeds within these communities and Watsonia (Watsonia meriana var. bulbillifera) in particular can form dense monocultures and displace the herbaceous understorey.

Watsonia invading  a seasonal clay-based wetland

Watsonia invading a seasonal clay-based wetland

Regeneration following weed control and fire.  We investigated the capacity of the plant community of such a wetland to regenerate following removal of Watsonia, and the role of fire in the restoration process.

 Our study site, Meelon Nature Reserve, is a remnant clay-based wetland on the eastern side of the Swan Coastal Plain 200 km south of Perth. A series of transects were established in August 2005 and regeneration of plant community following Watsonia control and then unplanned fire was monitored until September 2011 (Table 1).

 Table 1: Six years of monitoring regeneration of a seasonal wetland at Meelon Nature Reserve

August 2005 Thirty 1m x 1m  quadrats established along five 30m transects in the wetlands where Watsonia was estimated to average greater that 75% cover.
September 2005 Cover ( modified Braun Blaquet) recorded for all native and introduced taxa and then Watsonia treated with the herbicide 2-2DPA (10g/L) + the penentrant Pulse® (2.5 mL/L).
September 2006 Cover recorded for all native and introduced taxa and then Watsonia treatment reapplied.
February 2007 Unplanned wild fire burnt across the study site.
September 2007  each year until September 2011 Cover recorded for all native and introduced taxa and then any Watsonia treated.

Analysis of similarity (ANOSIM) was undertaken to determine if there was significant change in species cover and composition from before Watsonia control to six years following the initial treatment. A  SIMPER analysis was used to ascertain the contribution of each species to any changes between monitoring years (Clarke & Gorley 2006).

Results. In the first year of the control program, a 97% reduction in the cover of Watsonia was recorded, but was associated with no significant change in the diversity or abundance of native flora. In February 2007, 18 months after the initial control program, an unplanned summer wildfire burnt through the reserve. In September 2007 monitoring revealed a significant increase in cover and diversity of native species in the treatment areas. Some species such as the Dichopogon preissii had not been recorded before the fire, others, such as the native sedges, Cyathochaeta avenacea and Chorizandra enodis increased greatly in cover following the fire. At the same time there was no resprouting of Watsonia or recruitment from cormels or seed.

Six years after the initial treatment the native sedges and rushes continue to increase in cover, the dominant native shrub Viminaria juncea is increasing, Eucalyptus wandoo seedlings are recruiting into the site and native grasses and geophytes are increasing in cover. The indications are that plant communities of the seasonal clay-based wetlands of south-west Australia have the capacity to recover following major weed invasion and that fire can play a role in the restoration process.

Table 2. Species that contributed to 90% of the significant change in cover and composition of species between 2005 and 2011.





Average abundance (% cover)

Average abundance (% cover)

Cyathochaeta avenacea



Chorizandra enodis



Viminaria juncea



Caesia micrantha



Briza sp. Meelon



Eucalyptus wandoo



Austrodanthonia acerosa



Hypoxis occidentalis



Lepidosperma sp. WT2Q5 Meelon



Meeboldina sp. MU3 Meelon 2011



Dichopogon preissii



Drosera rosulata



Contact: Kate Brown, Ecologist, Swan Region. Department of Environment and Conservation, PO Box, 1167 Bentley Delivery Centre, WA, 6983. Email:

Chorizandra enodis

Chorizandra enodis

Dichopogon preissii

Dichopogon preissii

Hypoxis occidentalis

Hypoxis occidentalis

Macquarie University – Turpentine/Ironbark forest Regeneration

John Macris 

Key words: Bush Regeneration, Privets, Pittosporum, in-situ conservation.

Less than 5% of the original extent of Turpentine/Ironbark forest of the Sydney Basin Bioregion remains and so this forest type is listed is listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth EPBC Act. Weed management and rehabilitation of remnants are priority conservation actions under the Act.

A 3.5 ha remnant of Turpentine/Ironbark forest located on the Macquarie University Campus has been the focus of a bush regeneration program that commenced in 2010.  Prior to the works, the site was variable in condition, with a core area near a watercourse having relatively high species diversity including Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa) and the rare shrub Epacris purpurascens, while edges of this area contained a diversity of weed species.  An upslope area was more highly disturbed as it had been used as a breeding enclosure for research into rare rock wallabies until around 2005.

Works to date. Commencing in Autumn 2010, contract bush regeneration works included culling of the over-represented native Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) in the core area, and removal of invasive weeds, principally a dense mid-story of the woody weeds Large-leaved Privet (Ligustrum lucidum) and Small-leaved Privet (L. sinense) throughout the treatment area.  Any large Privet logs were retained as habitat. Pampas Grass was removed from around the perimeter and, in a few places, Lantana  (Lantana camara) was also removed, although some has been retained as an interim small bird habitat in a few locations. Follow up work has mainly focused on a range of herbaceous weeds including Ehrhardta (Ehrhardta erecta), and gradual exhaustion from the seed bank of the problem woody weed species.

Results Prior to works, we estimated that about 10% of remnant was in relatively good condition.  About 2.5 years on, we now estimate that about 15% – 20% of the area is now in a resilient condition. Native species regenerating include a range of native grasses and forbs including Blady Grass (Imperata cylindrica), Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus), Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides), Tufted Hedgehog Grass (Echinopogon caespitosus),Blue Flax Lily (Dianella caerulea), Plume Grass (Dichelachne sp.), Finger Grass (Digitaria parviflora) Bordered Panic Grass (Entolasia marginata), Pastel Flower (Pseuderanthemum variabile) and Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens). Tree saplings including Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera) and Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora costata) have been uncovered and are developing in height. The colonizing shrub Kangaroo Apple Solanum aviculare has rapidly developed a rudimentary native mid story in the areas cleared of dense Privet.

Woody weed domination of the understorey before the works commenced

Same view 2years later (2012) showing ground stratum regeneration

Lessons learned. To create a robust weed buffer to the regeneration area, we decided it was important to start work in upslope areas, even though they were disturbed by the previous animal research enclosure (e.g. artificial soil profiles).  Due to same competing uses, such areas have been challenging stablise against weed resurgence, but a management edge is being established gradually.

Acknowledgements.  Sixty per cent of the first 15 months funding for the project was provided by Sydney Metropolitan CMA through their Saving Sydney’s Biodiversity Program with the rest covered by the University.  Subsequent work has been funded under Macquarie University’s Biodiversity restoration programs. Warren Jack from the contractor Sydney Bush Regeneration Company contributed much of the above species list of ground layer regeneration.

Contact: John Macris, Macquarie University. Tel: +61 (0)2 9850 4103

Fingal Headland Maritime Themeda Grassland Restoration

Keywords: Grassland, Themeda Grasslands on Sea-cliffs and Headlands, headland ecosystems, bush regeneration, Fingal Head Coastcare, Plectranthus cremnus

Kieran Kinney

Fingal Head, whose first inhabitants are members of the Cudginburra Clan, is a famous beauty spot in the far north coast of NSW, heavily utilised for recreation such as fishing, surfing, whale and dolphin watching and family outings. It is estimated that upwards of 50,000 visitors per annum use the site. As a result of this and other impacts including unfettered goat grazing (commencing around the lighthouse in the late 19th century), the site has many management challenges, including extensive gully and rill erosion, trampling of native vegetation, wildflower harvesting and weed invasion.

Prior to treatment, the ground cover layer was almost completely dominated by a form of the exotic Buffalo Grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) and a suite of other weeds including Bitou Bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp rotundata). Because similar headlands in the region (Norries Head and Hastings Point Headland) support the State-listed  Endangered Ecological Community Themeda Grasslands on Sea-cliffs and Headlands it is assumed that Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) was native to the site and became locally extinct due to the history of grazing and weed invasion.

Project works: In 2009 Fingal Head Coastcare determined that work to address the serious weed problems should commence and that trials be undertaken to reintroduce Kangaroo Grass.  Several small plots (100m² ea.) were sprayed with herbicide and slashed (Fig 1). Regenerating weed was regularly removed.

Fig 1: Trial plot 1 –  Natural regeneration within patch of treated Buffalo Grass

The plots were sown with Kangaroo Grass seed collected from other headlands in the region. The material used is a genetically distinct coastal form of Kangaroo Grass that exhibits a unique decumbent growth habit. Ripe fruiting culms were distributed in quadrats as well as randomly over the plots.

In addition to the Kangaroo Grass trials, efforts were made to plant a variety of typical Grass and Forbland species, including Golden Everlasting Daisy (Xerochrysum bracteatum), Evolvulus alsinoides and Chamaechrista maritima. These were propagated in the Fingal Coastcare nursery from seed and stock sourced at nearby headlands.

Results. Regeneration of native species  was extensive across the plots (Figures 2a and 2b). Regenerating native species included Prickly Couch (Zoyzia macrantha), Native Violet (Viola banksii), Angled Lobelia (Lobelia alata) Plectranthus (Plectranthus cremnus) and Beach Bean (Canavalea rosea).

Fig 2a: Typical Buffalo Grass infestation prior to commencement of trials.

Fig 2b: Example of regeneration of native grasses Prickly Couch and Blady Grass after works (Plot 1, 2011).

Both the Kangaroo Grass  and the Everlasting Daisy (Figure 3) have since naturalised on the site. However, the plots revealed very poor rates of germination of Kangaroo Grass, approximately 1 in1000. Germination rates were much higher under controlled nursery conditions

Fig 3: Everlasting Daisy re-established and recruiting on Fingal Headland.

Outcomes and lessons learned The low rate of Kangaroo Grass germination is not regarded as a major impediment to the overall success of the project. As natural processes and cycles come into play, it is probable that Kangaroo Grass will become a significant part of the biota on the headland. That is,  achieving the ultimate aim of a Closed Tussock Themeda Grassland is probably unlikely through reintroduction from the seed sowing methods we used, but may occur naturally over time.

The extensive natural regeneration of the threatened Plectranthus cremnus is a major success of the trials.  This herb species is habitat for a local population of Blue-tongue Lizards and Bearded Dragons. It is a major food source for the reptiles, supplementing their animal diet, which may be very seasonal.

Erosion control has been significantly reduced through active intervention, using hard infrastructure in combination with ‘low key’, passive techniques such as strategic plantings and bush debris.

Local school children are involved in the plantings on an ongoing basis, and have picked up vital local knowledge and site ownership along the way. This project has been a major education experience for the Coastcare group, the Tweed Byron local Aboriginal Land Council and many members of the Fingal Head Community who were previously not aware of this Endangered Ecological Community . The trial areas are now a profusion of wildflowers almost the year round and the Coastcare volunteers receive many compliments from the passing public. During working bees on the site considerable energy is devoted to educating the public about the Grasslands in the hope that this will assist in their protection (and also because it is a lot of fun!)  Anyone who visits the site will be captivated by the delicate beauty of the native flora, the awesome scale of the natural scenery and will surely agree that something special is happening here.

Where to from here?: One of the most challenging and pressing issues facing the headland is uncontrolled pedestrian traffic. Although this may be unavoidable to some extent, it is desirable for the long term health of the ecosystem that some control methods be introduced to the site. Trials have been conducted using bush debris with limited success. More permanent methods would have to be carefully designed and implemented in order to blend with the unique aesthetics of the site. Boardwalk construction has been very successful in key areas, however this type of construction is deemed inappropriate for the grassland proper.  Dense vegetative barriers consisting of tussock forming species such as Spiny Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia) and Knobbly Club Rush (Isolepis nodosa) are being planted to rationalise the trackways and guide pedestrians away from more sensitive areas.

In terms of the vegetation restoration works, ongoing and extensive follow-up weed control is required and it is envisaged that as each plot is stabilised and achieves manageable levels of autonomy, new areas will be opened up for weed control. It is recommended that a formal Restoration Plan be developed and implemented, perhaps through funding avenues or the involvement of Environmental Science students. This would greatly assist guiding the works over an extended period and help achieve the best possible outcomes for Fingal Headland and the wider community.

Partners and Investors: Fingal Head Coastcare Inc. consulted with the Tweed Shire Council, The Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council and a number of community groups to plan this project. The community groups include the Fingal Heads Community Association, the Fingal Head Public School, Fingal Rovers SLSC, local businesses and other Tweed Coast Dune care groups.

Contact : Kieran Kinney,  Fingal Head Coastcare Project Manager, 28 Kurrajong Ave Cabarita Beach 2488. Tel:  +61 266763002 Mob: 0457356175.   Email :

Jidaanga cultural project – endangered Phaius australis – Kempsey NSW

Key words: Indigenous land management, threatened species, translocation, recovery plans

Amie McElroy

In the early 2000s, Dunghutti/Gumbainggirr Elder and one of  the founding members of Booroongen Djugun College, Aunty Maggie Morris, advised the College board that there was a small colony of the nationally listed Endangered orchid, Phaius australis, also known as the Swamp Orchid or Swamp Lily, in the Kempsey Area on the mid north coast of NSW.  Finding this orchid then became a key aim of the Natural Resources Unit of the College. In 2007, volunteer staff member, Phil March, then retraced the ‘steps’ of Aunty Maggie and found the orchid in her childhood area. 

Figure 1. Phaius australis Jidaanga in situ (© Booroongen Djugun College)

NSW Department of Environment and Heritage (then DECCW) believe this newly located colony to be the southern limit of the Swamp Orchid, the next nearest colony being near Coffs Harbour approximately 100km north. There are currently about 14 known populations in NSW, most with very few plants.
Because the colony is at risk, the College formed an Aboriginal Natural Resource Agreement with DECCW who provided a grant of $25,000, to allow BDC establish The Phaius australis recovery project and the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority. Through this project, two plants were removed under scientific licence to be kept at separate locations as an insurance measure in case of the loss of the natural plants. These have been successfully nurtured, and seed collected from them is being held in laboratory conditions for propagation.

The population has been subjected to seed collection and minimal weed removal by a Dunghutti Indigenous weed management team selected by the local Aboriginal community, who received accredited training in Conservation and Land Management through the College. This has substantially improved the health and flowering of the remaining population of Swamp Orchids over the last three flowering seasons.

Figure 2. Conservation and Land Management students propagating Phaius australis from flask in June 2011. (© Booroongen Djugun College)

Cultural Heritage Officers from the Northern Country Culture Heritage Division of DEH trained the team in cultural site surveying, and emphasis has been placed on renewing cultural connection to Phaius in ways that consistently involve the Traditional knowledge holders and Elders for their ecological expertise and advice.

The College has been successful in obtaining a NSW Government Environmental Trust ‘grant  of close to $100,000 to develop and implement a Translocation and Management Plan.  The Phaius australis Recovery – Increasing Native Habitat project, recently renamed  ‘Jidaanga Cultural Project – Endangered Phaius australis  – which aims to:

• obtain 1500 plants from culture and seed growing to a size where there is a reasonable chance of survival and reintroduction to a suitable habitat (approximately 1000 have been raised) by Jan 2012)
• development and implement a Translocation and Management Plan to identify suitable habitat where there is a likelihood of successful reintroduction (Identification of suitable sites is in development).
• integrate the Traditional ecological knowledge of the Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir peoples with the orthodox scientific skills of the Department of Environment and Heritage , in training Aboriginal participants to create a geographic information system
• provide further training opportunities for Aboriginal communities in Conservation and Land Management, incorporating the management actions for on ground works on ‘country’.

Figure 3. Propagated plants housed at Booroongen Djugun College December 2011. (© Booroongen Djugun College)

Through the collaborative efforts of our partners and the Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir Elders, this work intends to acknowledge the Aboriginal contribution and importance of saving a very important part of our cultural heritage.

Contact: Amie McElroy, Aboriginal Extension Project Officer, Aboriginal Communities, Macleay and Hastings and Nambucca Catchments, Booroongen Djugun College,  Locked bag 3 Kempsey NSW 2440 Australia. Tel: +61 2 6560 2005; Mob: 0427 621 577, Email:

Natural and cultural resource management – The aspirations of the traditional custodians of the Bunya Mountains

Key words:  Araucaria bidwilii, Bunya, fire,  South East Queensland, traditional custodians

David Calland

Prior to colonisation, the Bunya Mountains was a place of large gatherings of the Aboriginal people of South East Queensland for the ‘Bonye Bonye’ festival; a time of feasting, ceremony, trading, betrothals and the settling of disputes. In years when there were heavy crops of the nutritious bunya nuts (from the native Bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwilii), invitations from custodians went out to groups towards the coast and to people as far away as the Clarence River in northern NSW and the Maranoa River over 350k to the west. Festivals took place from December to March and the last big recorded gathering was in the 1880s.

In August 2008 the first of a series of Stakeholder Forums were held on the Bunya Mountains of SE Queensland to discuss natural and cultural resource management issues and to explore ways for the Murri people of South East Queensland to become more actively involved in planning, research and on ground management of lands in the Bunya Mountains region.
Traditional Custodians from about twelve groups met with scientists, Government and Non Government Organisations and business representatives and as a result the Bunya Partnership Coordination Group (BPCG) and the Bunya Elders Council were formed to create Natural and Cultural Resource Management opportunities for Traditional Custodians.

Stakeholders on Mt Kiangarow (1126m).

Australian Government funding was secured to develop a Caring for Our Country Action Plan for the Bunya Mountains. The plan was published in late 2010.

In September 2009, a bid to the Australian Government for the Working on Country program was successful. This project is called the Bunya Mountains Murri Ranger Project. The project has employed 4 Indigenous Rangers, a Coordinator Ranger and a part time Administrative Assistant. The group is working collaboratively with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service on the Bunya Mountains National Park and the Western Downs Regional Council on Russell Park.

The Bunya Mountains support a unique assemblage of plants, animals and ecosystems and have been likened to an island of biodiversity surrounded by an ocean of plains of mainly cleared farmland. They are a biodiversity refuge, harbouring ancient species, distinct plant and animal communities and more than 30 rare and threatened species.

One hundred and nineteen grasslands, known locally as “balds”, are dotted across the Bunya Mountains. These balds have important cultural significance as they were maintained by traditional burning practice.

The first traditional burn in 100 years; Bunya Murri Rangers 2010.

A large component of the project involves the management of fire on the grasslands through experimental burns of varying frequencies and intensities. Researchers and rangers are working to find the right fire regimes to maintain the open character and species diversity of the balds before they are lost forever.

Contact: Dave Calland, Natural Resource Officer -Indigenous Engagement, Department of Environment and Resource Management. PO Box 573, Nambour Qld 4560, Australia.  Tel: +61 4 5451 2401 Mob: 0427 427246, Email: