More than a decade of bush regeneration at the Wootha Nature Refuge

Key words: Rainforest restoration, assisted regeneration, Nature Refuge, bush regeneration industry funding models

Spencer Shaw

Rainforest restoration work has been carried out at Wootha Nature Refuge since the property was purchased by its current landholder in the early 2000s.

The property, located on the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast region of south east Queensland,  contains a mix of pasture on the higher gently sloping ground and remnant rainforest community (Regional Ecosystem 12.8.3) on the escarpment below the range. When works started on this site the rainforest was highly fragmented, with Lantana (Lantana camara) dominating the gullies and patches of Broad-leaved Privet (Ligustrum lucidum) dominating the areas between the rainforest patches. 

Figure 1. Landscape context, Wootha NR is on the southern slopes of the Blackall Range. Greater than 90% of the plateau vegetation has been cleared.

The landholder has undertaken substantial restoration works, complementing his formal protection of the remnant and restoration areas under in-perpetuity agreements with both Local and State Governments (through a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) and Nature Refuge (NR)).

Works undertaken. Works have been undertaken by Brush Turkey Enterprises since 2002 on a monthly to fortnightly basis for the whole of the last decade. 

The initial control works consisted of the poisoning Broad-leaved Privet in-situ for a 500m strip along the western boundary. The technique employed for control of the Broad-leaved Privet early in the project was “frill & paint” (i.e. stem injection). This was undertaken with a small axe cutting 100mm wide cuts into the bark and allowing 100mm spacing, covering two full circumferences of each tree trunk. Herbicide was applied via a squirt bottle of 1:1 glyphosate 360 and water. Our contemporary control technique is a modification of this technique using small arbor chainsaws. 

Figure 2. Lantana camara control in gullies 2005.

Subsequent contract Bush Regeneration works have been relatively low key over the last 10 years, with as little as eight Bush Regenerator days per year – and have focused on the control of Lantana in the gullies to control exotic vegetation and facilitate rainforest pioneer recruitment.  Lantana control has been undertaken using the “track and overspray” technique. Tracks are cut with both brushcutters or fern hooks and glyphosate 360 herbicide is applied by backpack sprayers at a 1:100 dilution with water. Lantana works are preferably undertaken in winter months, due to access difficulties.

Results. Regeneration in the areas previously dominated by Broad-leaved Privet was rapid.  Many species recruited to re-establish a diverse native edge to the rainforest remnant areas; including rare species such as the Threadybark Myrtle (Gossia inophloia).

Approximately 2 ha of Lantana in the gullies have been replaced by naturally regenerating vegetation including species such as as Bleeding Heart (Homalanthus nutans), Black Wattle (Acacia melanoxylon) and Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa).

Figure 3. Dendrocnide excelsa recruitment. Also shows Basalt scree slopes which dominate this part of the escarpment.

Lessons learned. Until the early 2000s all funding for ecological restoration works in South-east Queensland were linked to ‘trees planted’, and only allowed for revegetation projects. The novel approach taken by the funding program that the works were initially supported by was to require recipients to quantify ‘trees established’ rather than ‘trees planted’ and it also considered eligible, projects that used natural regeneration as a revegetation method.  As such, the Wootha project was the first in our area to employ bush regenerators to facilitate natural regeneration of native ecosystems.

We consider this project to be a good example of what can happen if there is consistency of follow up undertaken (even if limited) over a long time period.  Too often projects undertake the ‘primary’ clearing of a site but undertake little or no ‘secondary’ or follow-up work.  Although relatively minor annual works take place on this site, the ongoing nature of the funding for this project and hands on involvement by the landholder provides for the steady and incremental restoration of the rainforest. This is achieving actual and long-term success.

Acknowledgements. Funding for our works came initially through the SE QLD Rainforest Recovery Project and later through the VCA with Sunshine Coast Regional Council. The project would not have occurred or succeeded without the landholder’s dedication to both rainforest conservation and the bush regeneration industry in SE Queensland.

Contact: Spencer Shaw, Brush Turkey Enterprises (Natural Area Management), P.O. Box 326, Maleny, QLD Australia 4552; Tel: +61 7 5494 3642 or Mob: 0428 130 769; Email:; Web:

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