Category Archives: Urban ecosystems

Grey Box grassy woodland restoration: Mandilla Reserve, Flagstaff Hill, South Australia

Key Words:  Minimal disturbance, bush regeneration, Eucalyptus microcarpa, volunteer, Bush For Life

The Site:  Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) Grassy Woodland is listed as an endangered ecological community under the EPBC Act 1999. This ecological community was once widespread on the drier edge of the temperate grassy eucalypt woodland belt of south-eastern Australia. In South Australia, this community occupies less than 3 percent of the area it once did before European settlement. One of the remaining suburban remnants of this community can be found in Mandilla Reserve, Flagstaff Hill, SA. The reserve is surrounded by suburban houses and remains under threat from weed and pest invasion, lack of recruitment of canopy species plus degradation associated with urban encroachment (pollution runoff, rubbish, excessive stormwater). Since 1996 the Bush or Life program together with the City of Onkaparinga have supported community volunteers to care for and manage the bush regeneration work within the reserve. The objective was to restore the highly degraded Grey Box remnant into a woodland community representing the unique diverse vegetation it once housed.

Geoff and Barbara Moss, volunteers at Mandilla Reserve

Works:   Two very dedicated community members adopted the site in 1996 and began visiting on average 3 times per week. They used minimal disturbance bushcare techniques to tackle a carpet of bulb weeds such as Sparaxis (Sparaxis bulbifera), Soursob (Oxalis pes-caprae), Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides) and Cape Tulip (Moraea flaccida) mixed with highly invasive annual and perennial grass species. In the surrounding degraded areas, some strategic planting was also carried out using Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), Sticky Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) and Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and local sedge seedlings. Four areas were also hand direct seeded with native grasses to encourage ground cover recruitment and discourage weeds. All seed used was collected on site to ensure local provenance was maintained.

The flourishing Grey Box Grassy Woodland now found on the reserve

Success of the combination of natural regeneration and supplementary plantings

Results After thousands of volunteer hours, extensive regeneration of natives occurred on site. The volunteers’ work has transformed the reserve into a flourishing area of lilies, native grasses and understorey shrubs. Today, the vegetation in the reserve is virtually weed free and even native orchids are beginning to return. In addition, the area that the bushland covers has expanded as a result of the planting and direct seeding. Since these works, natural regeneration has also been observed of native sedges including Senecio, Carex, Juncus and native grasses.

Lessons learned:  Regular follow up for several years is vital to the success of any primary clearance work whether or not minimal disturbance techniques are used. Facilitated regeneration can be successfully used with bush regeneration providing it is strategic and complementary to and considerate of existing natural regeneration processes. Maintenance of the plantings or hand direct seeding is also vital to minimise competition from weeds and ensure their success.

Acknowledgements: This site is owned by the City of Onkaparinga Council and is managed in partnership with Trees For Life who train and support volunteers through its Bush For Life program. Thanks goes to Geoff and Barbara Moss, the site’s main volunteers.

Contact:  Jenna Currie, Bush For Life Regional Coordinator, Trees For Life jennac@treesforlife.org.au

Sustainable Streets Program, Byron Shire Council, NSW

Graeme Williams

Byron Shire Council’s ‘Sustainable Streets’ program aims to foster community-inspired sustainable behaviour change at a neighbourhood level. The program consists of regular neighbourhood gatherings and sustainability education workshops on topics, including: organic gardening; bush-friendly backyards; rainwater harvesting; solar power and energy efficiency; ethical shopping; green cleaning and, cooking with local produce.  .

Activities. In each participating neighbourhood, residents get together for sustainability workshops and build bonds in the neighbourhood, whilst raising points to fund their own local sustainability project. Currently seven streets in neighbourhoods across Byron and Tweed Shire Councils have participated in the Sustainable Streets program, including: Brunswick Heads; Mullumbimby; South Golden Beach; Mullum Creek; Murwillumbah; Cabarita Beach; Uki.

Analyses of the street’s consumption of energy, water and ecological footprint (i.e. the number of planets needed if everyone lived that lifestyle) were made prior to the program and calculated again after 6 months. (Results are shown in Table 1.)

Table 1. Decreases in energy, water and eco footprint of residents in participating Sustainable Streets in the Tweed-Byron area.

Location of Street Energy Water Eco Footprint
South Golden Beach 5.0% decrease 43.0% decrease 5.5% decrease
Uki 13.0% decrease 23.0% decrease 14.5% decrease
Mullumbimby Creek 13.5% decrease 62.0% decrease 21.0% decrease
Cabarita 26.0% decrease 23.0% decrease 20.5% decrease
Brunswick Heads 12.3% decrease 41.5% decrease 15.3% decrease

Results to date.

Energy. Participants have changed to Greenpower, with 8 families having installed their own solar power system. Other changes have been changing consumption patterns including turning off standbys, installing low wattage lights, wearing jumpers instead of turning on heaters, manual operation of electric hot water boosters, adjusting pool pumps minimum use or converting to a natural pool and insulative cooking.

Water. Five families have installed water tanks, others use shower timers, less frequent bigger clothes and dish washing loads.

Food and garden. Participants have converted to efficient composting or worm farms or installed poultry. Others meet more regularly for neighbourhood food and plant swaps and and buy more local food from a nearby organic farmer and at the Farmer’s markets.

Fuel emissions. Changes included reducing air travel, downsizing the family to more fuel efficient models, increased carpooling and pushbike use.

Environment. Nine families cleared their land of invasive weeds

Lessons. A major aspect of the project has been the strengthening of social connections in the neighbourhood, with many participants drawn into the program to ‘get to know their neighbours’. In an increasingly isolated society, the enhancement of social capital has been one of the most significant achievements of the program and platform to develop local sustainability. It is hoped that additional streets will be launched in the future.

Contact Byron Shire Council’s Sustainability Officer on 6626 7305. Also see http://www.byron.nsw.gov.au/sustainable-streets-program to access the ‘Sustainable Streets doco’ which can be borrowed from local libraries.

Sustainable Streets residents (Photo Byron Shire Council)

Brunswick Heads Sustainable Streets participants (Photo Byron Shire Council)

Geary’s Way Bushcarers – Success is in our sights

Key words: bush regeneration, community engagement, habitat restoration, urban bushland, follow up

Hugh Lander

Geary’s Way Bushcare team tends a small, but important area of recovering bushland in Kylie Avenue, Killara, NSW in the Local Government Area of Ku-ring-gai. In its “native” state the area would have been recognised as a Sydney Turpentine, Ironbark Forest (STIF) but in the century or so since the development of the suburb, the site had degraded to a point where it was highly infested by a wide range of weed species including Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum) and Small-leaved Privet (Ligustrum sinense).

Council records show that, over the last 40 years, several groups of concerned local residents have made attempts to rehabilitate the area and these well-meaning efforts have invariably ended in failure as interest waned or people moved on. However this latest attempt began in earnest in January 2008 and with the help of Ku-ring-gai Council staff, the Council’s Wildflower nursery at St Ives, several successful applications for funding to the Council’s Small Grants Scheme funded by the Environmental Levy and a small but very enthusiastic team of local residents – the project now really looks like it will succeed.

How the site looked before work started just 4 years ago – native trees being “swamped” by Balloon Vine

When the work began there was a deal of consternation in certain quarters because the site had been the subject of several previous attempts at rehabilitation – all of them had failed and each time it seemed that things just got worse. Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia), Lantana (Lantana camara) , Balloon Vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) and Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica) covered the site to a depth of 4 metres with Lantana and Balloon vine growing 7 – 10 metres up whatever native trees remained, although many of them had already died. Beneath all this nearly every weed known to Ku-ring-gai’s Bushcarers grew in profusion: Crofton weed (Ageratina adenophora), Fleabane (Conyza bonariensis), Onion Weed (Nothoscordum gracile), Senna (Senna x pendula), Slender Celery (Cyclospermum leptophyllum), Moth Vine (Araujia sericifera), Ehrharta (Ehrharta erecta), Tradescantia (Tradescantia fluminensis), African Ivy (Delairea odorata), Fishbone Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia), Turkey Rhubarb (Acetosa saggitata) , Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus.), Fumaria (Fumaria sp.) Nutgrass (Cyperus rotundus) and a wide range of other exotic grasses and forbs.

A recent view of the site – ground cover is Native Geranium (Geranium solanderi)

But things have changed. The small group has made good progress in the 4 years since the current project started but we are well aware that there is a lot more to do. Natural regeneration is occurring all over the site, including Basket Grasses (Oplismenus spp.), Berry Saltbush (Einadia hastata), Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum), Bleeding Heart (Omalanthus populifolius), Common Hopbush (Dodonaea triquetra), Gahnia (Gahnia sieberana), Lesser Joyweed (Alternanthera denticulata), Right Angle Grass (Entolasia stricta) and White Dogwood (Ozothamnus diosmofolius). Some recent discoveries include a self-seeded Running Postman (Kennedia rubicunda), a Geebung (Persoonia sp.), Breynia oblongifolia and Pastel Flower (Pseuderanthemum variabile).

A Tawny Frogmouth resting under one of the Turpentine trees planted on site

Wildlife is returning. Swamp wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) have been seen on the site as well as, Eastern Whipbirds (Psophodes olivaceus) a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), Satin Bower Bird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) Brush Turkeys (Alectura lathami), and recently a male Lyre Bird (Menura novaehollandiae) and male and female Satin Bower Birds.

A Bower Bird’s bower on site

Outcomes and lessons learned. One of the lessons learned by the Geary’s Way team (comparing our success with the efforts of the past) is that groups intending to work on bushland site rehabilitation should not open up more of the site than they can reasonably follow up with limited resources and time. To do so will only end in failure with the inevitable result that the weeds return in even greater numbers than before.

 

Our Trainer, Liz Mackay, delivering her Geary’s Way Bushcare Site Assessment to members of the team

 

We feel that, as a group, we have made real progress. We have worked hard, we have formed a team of (bush)caring locals, we have learned a huge amount (one of the things that we have learned is that there is still so much more to learn), we have gained a real sense of achievement and we want to continue to look after our small site, to nurture it, for the native animals that will benefit from our work, for the native vegetation that is now returning, of its own “free will” to the site and for the generations of Australians who will come after us.

The Geary’s Way Bushcare Team (L-R): Di Harry, Marilyn Algeo, Sue Bardwell, Hugh Lander, Alan Bardwell, Barry Kirtley, Liz Mackay, Barbara Walsh and Ian Coffey

Contact: Hugh Lander, Geary’s Way Bushcare Group Site Convenor; 0411 7547349.

Pool to Pond – converting backyard swimming pools to ponds for biodiversity

Key words: urban wildlife, backyard habitats, environmental education, fish conservation

Peter Clarke

Since 2007 Ku-ring-gai Council in northern Sydney, NSW, has assisted residents in converting their unwanted swimming pools into ponds. The Pool to Pond program has assisted over 40 households with the conversion by supplying technical advice, native fish and native aquatic plants.   The residents often use exotic aquatic plants alongside the native plants provided by Council and, although natives are preferred, the exotics nevertheless provide useful habitat.

Fig 1 Pool converted to pond, Shirley Rd Roseville

Converting a swimming pool into a pond is an eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to ongoing maintenance or removing a pool altogether. Once converted, the ponds become local biodiversity hot spots, attracting a wide range of wildlife including birds, ducks and frogs.  The water quality of ponds is well within Australian recreational standards and is far above the quality found in Ku-ring-gai streams (Ian Wright, University of Western Sydney, 2010, pers. comm.).

Many people interested in the idea were concerned about mosquitoes.  Fortunately this is not a problem because, out of the approximately 60 mosquito species that live in the Sydney area, only three or four are considered pests.  These pest species prefer shallow, ephemeral water and dislike living in depths greater than 30cm.

Pool converted to pond, Gordon NSW

The motivation for the over 40 or so pools converted to date are many and varied.  Advantages to householders are reported to include the following.

  1. The conversion is reversible.
  2. The ponds can still be used for refreshing ‘dips’ and provide a peaceful reflective place
  3. A considerable reduction of the household energy bill is achieved by not running the pool pump and filter. (Saving up to $1,000 and avoiding release of approximately 400 tons of greenhouse gases.)
  4. A pond will also enhance household sustainability by no longer requiring the use of toxic chemicals. It also provides water for garden irrigation, car washing etc.
  5. Maintaining a pond is not labour or capital intensive.
  6. Ponds are a very useful educational resource; for example children can use dip nets to collect a wide range of aquatic wildlife.
  7. Pool to Pond allows people to become custodians of a species of threatened native fish in their pond.  (Species such as Rainbow fish and Gudgeons from genetically significant populations have been used in this initiative and have proven to be extremely fecund.)

Contact: Peter Clarke, Community Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Ku-ring-gai Council, Tel: +61 2 94240 811, Mobile: 0418 277099, Email: clarkep@kmc.nsw.gov.au

Tweed-Byron Bush Futures Project – Management of significant urban bushland

Key words: bushland restoration, community engagement, council, landcare, costing

John Turnbull , Byron Shire

Two north-east NSW local government areas – Byron Shire and Tweed Shire – are collaborating in a Project that focuses on the management planning and restoration of 985 ha of urban bushland within both shires; i.e. the public lands that fall within about 2kms of urban areas.  These lands have been subjected to threats including land clearing, fragmentation, weed invasion, domestic and feral animal incursions, waste dumping and altered hydrology.  The Project involves more than 10 vegetation communities including seven Endangered Ecological Communities, two ecosystems covered by State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and habitat for a wide range of threatened flora and fauna species.

Figure 1 Tweed Byron Bush Futures Project Study Area

Early in the Project a rapid assessment methodology was developed to determine bushland health based on key ecological attributes. The field data sheet used in the audit is now used by restoration contractors for monitoring and evaluation of on-ground works. The audit also determined prioritisation of sites for on-ground work and provided a cost estimates for ten bushland restoration classes.

Figure 2: Site signage put up at all work sites

Extensive on-ground restoration works include weed control (employing best practice bush regeneration methods) and habitat restoration, rubbish removal and recycling, nest box installation, feral animal control and installation of interpretive signage. In addition community and Council engagement programs, education events and workshops are being delivered and educational resources developed including a public land volunteers manual.

One of the Project goals is to generate institutional change and reinforce the role that Council has in managing natural areas, particularly those areas directly under its control It is hoped that this may lead to allocation of an ongoing core budget for NRM.

Results to date: 23 Site Action Plans (SAPs) have been prepared encompassing 43 worksites and 145 hectares of urban bushland. Primary bush regeneration work is underway at 52 sites covering 225 hectares resulting in a significant reduction in weed density and severity. Thirty nest boxes have been installed and monitoring to date has recorded Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) and Long-eared Bats (Nyctophilus sp.) in treated sites. Ten Landcare workshops have been delivered and six fact sheets prepared on biodiversity management issues.

Figure 3: Sugar gliders using nest box installed as part of the project

Lessons learned and future directions: The monitoring and evaluation process within the SAP guidelines will allow for determination of each project’s effectiveness, as well as effectiveness of the overall program.  SAPs, restoration costing and our rapid assessment bushland health methodology will all inform future bushland management decisions, while our volunteers manual will provide ongoing support for bushland ‘care’ groups.

Stakeholders and funding bodies: The main funding is from the NSW Environmental Trust Urban Sustainability Grants Program; with in-kind contributions from the Council’s involved. Stakeholders include Brunswick Valley and Tweed Landcare Incs, NRCMA, local land management agencies, Council staff and environmental groups.

Contact information: John Turnbull, Bush Futures Project Manager, Tweed Shire Council, PO Box 816 Murwillumbah NSW 2484 (02)66702732 jturnbull@tweed.nsw.gov.au
http://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/BushFutures/