Category Archives: Rainforest

Subtropical rainforest restoration at the Rous Water Rainforest Reserve, Rocky Creek Dam, 1983 – 2016

Key words: Lowland subtropical rainforest, ecosystem reconstruction, drinking water catchment, continual improvement process.

Introduction. Rous Water is actively engaged in ecosystem reconstruction within the drinking water catchment areas it manages on behalf of the community. The aim of these activities is to improve the functioning of essential natural processes that sustain water quality. The methodology used for rainforest restoration by Rous Water has evolved over time through an ‘adaptive management’ process at Rocky Creek Dam. This adaptive management approach has demonstrated that effective large scale sub-tropical regeneration at Rocky Creek Dam is achieved through complete removal of competing plants. The technique has become known as the Woodford Method and is now being applied at other Rous Water restoration sites.

The Rous Water Rainforest Reserve at Rocky Creek Dam is set in the northern headwaters of the Richmond River catchment, on the southern rim of the Tweed shield volcano. Basalt flows from the volcano have produced nutrient rich Red Ferrosol that supported diverse sub-tropical rainforest ecosystems across the region, until the rainforest was largely cleared for agriculture in the late 19th century. The Rocky Creek Dam site is adjacent to the Big Scrub Flora Reserve, the largest remaining remnant subtropical rainforest in the region. This reserve acts as a reference site for the restoration project (Fig 1).

Figure 1. Detail of the regeneration areas at Rocky Creek Dam, showing the areas treated and the year of the initial works

Figure 1. Detail of the regeneration areas at Rocky Creek Dam, showing the areas treated and the year of the initial works

Clearing of land in the vicinity of Rocky Creek Dam by early settlers commenced in the 1890s, with the cleared lands used for the establishment of dairy farms and a sawmill. In 1949, following acquisition of the site by Rous County Council (now Rous Water) for the construction of a water supply dam, this former farmland had reverted to weedy regrowth characterised by a mosaic of native/exotic grass, Lantana (Lantana camara) and Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) which supressed any expansion or recovery of scattered rainforest remnants. Transformation of the site commenced in 1983 when Rous Water became actively engaged in ecosystem recovery by systematically removing weeds that suppressed rainforest regeneration, a practice that continues today.

Rainforest restoration methods. The practices and management tools used in rainforest restoration at the site have been previously described by Woodford (2000) and Sanger et al. (2008). The work method typically involves the systematic poisoning and slashing of weeds to promote recruitment of rainforest plants from the soil seed bank and then to facilitate the growth of suppressed rainforest plants, providing a structural framework for further seed dispersal by wind and, particularly, flying frugivores and thus further colonisation by later phase rainforest trees.

Since 1983, an area of approximately 70 ha has been progressively treated in 1-2 ha blocks using this methodology (refer Fig 1), with progressively diminishing amounts of follow-up treatment needing to be conducted in the treated areas over subsequent years to secure successional progression of the rainforest species.

Use of this method means that, due to recruitment from the seed bank and the use of stags (from dead camphor laurel) as perches for seed dispersing birds, very limited planting has been required on the site. This has preserved the genetic integrity of the Big Scrub in this location.

Results. A total of approximately 70 hectares of weed dominated regrowth has been treated at the Rous Water Rainforest Reserve since commencement in 1983 (Figure 1). This is approximately 35 ha since the report previously published in 2000 and represents approximately 30 % of the Rous Water property at Rocky Creek Dam.

This progressive treatment of compartments of weedy regrowth at Rocky Creek Dam has continued to lead to rapid canopy closure by shorter lived pioneer and early secondary tree species, with a gradual progression to higher proportions of later secondary and primary species with increasing time since treatment. All tree species that are listed as occurring in the reference site are not only now present in the restoration area, but informal observations suggest that most, if not all, are increasing in abundance over time (Figs 2-6)

Figure 2. Treated regrowth at the Rous Water Rainforest Reserve, Rocky Creek Dam After 1 year (foreground)

Figure 2. Typical regeneration of rainforest species 1 year after Lantana removal at the Rous Water Rainforest Reserve, Rocky Creek Dam (foreground).

Figure 3. Same photopoint after 6 years

Figure 3. Typical recovery after 6 years

Figure 4. Same photopoint after 12 years

Figure 4. Typical recovery after 12 years

Figure 5. Same scenario after 20 years

Figure 5. typical recovery after 20 years

Figure 6. After 30 years

Figure 6. Typical recovery after 30 years

The structure of the older treated regrowth areas sites appears to be converging on rainforest conditions, as noted by Kanowski & Catterall (2007). Thackway & Specht (2015) depict how 25 ha of systematically treated compartments that were covered almost entirely with lantana are progressing back towards the original Lowland Subtropical Rainforest’s composition, structure and ecological function (Fig 7). Overall the vegetation status in this area was assessed at between 85% and 90% of its pre-clearing status.

This process is, at its oldest 33 years old and in some locations much younger. So it is clear that the development of the subtropical vegetation still has many decades, possibly centuries, to go, before it approaches the composition, structural and habitat characteristics of a primary forest. Notwithstanding the large areas of natural regrowth that are yet to be worked, it is evident that a large proportion of the assisted regeneration areas progressively worked by Rous over the past 33 years now requires only a low level of ongoing maintenance. This shows that these sites are maturing over time and have largely reached a self-organising state, and in the fullness of time will achieve a high degree of similarity to the reference state.

Fig 7, Thackway fig rocky creek dam1

Figure 7. Assessment of change in indicators of vegetation condition in a 25 ha area. This depicts the degree of recoveery of Lowland Subtropical Rainforest found at Rocky Creek Dam, Big Scrub, NSW against a pre-clearing reference. (Graph reproduced with permission. The method used to generate the graph is described in Thackway, R. and Specht, A., (2015). Synthesising the effects of land use on natural and managed landscapes. Science of the Total Environment. 526:136–152 doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.070. ) Condition indices for transition Phase 4 were derived from prior reports including Sanger et al. 2008 and Woodford 2000. Metadata can be viewed at .

Lessons learned. Using this method of harnessing the natural resilience processes of the rainforest, we have been able to progress the recovery of an important water catchment area, restoring very high biodiversity conservation values in a landscape where rainforest was, and remains, in serious decline., The ability of the high resilience sites at Rocky Creek Dam to respond to the Woodford Method is clearly demonstrated, but there is ample evidence that application of this and similar resilience-based rainforest restoration methods can harnessed resilience at other sites in the Big Scrub that are at greater distances from remnants.

Figure 8. Distribution of management intensity classes across the Rous Water Rainforest Reserve at Rocky Creek Dam.

Figure 8. Distribution of management intensity classes across the Rous Water Rainforest Reserve at Rocky Creek Dam. (Legend for this map is in Appendix 1)

Current work and future directions. Work continues at the site and management is supportive of-site evaluation to assess the extent to which the treated areas are undergoing successional development using a range of available assessment tools.

To assist future planning, and in order to address the issue of how to best estimate and plan for restoration works and associated costs, Rous Water has adapted the methodology developed on the Tweed-Byron Bush Futures Project, where each restoration site/area was assigned a Management Intensity Class (MIC) based on a generalised assessment of site condition, weed composition and cover and other management requirements. (Fig 8) The MIC describes the frequency of restoration work required to restore the site to a minimal maintenance level and how many years this would take to achieve. The MIC aims to describe the extent of management intervention necessary to restore the site to a minimal maintenance level. For this analysis this equates to the establishment of a self sustaining sub-tropical rainforest buffer zone. Each management intensity class is associated with a particular restoration trajectory/cost per hectare, based on visitation frequency by a standard 3 person team and expressed in terms of number of visits required to control / manage weeds. Appendix 1 below shows details of the MIC classification, showing for each class, relevant site criteria, and the estimated level of bush regeneration resources required to bring each class to a low maintenance level.

Contact: Anthony Acret, Catchment Assets Manager,  Rous Water. Tel: +61 (0) 2 6623 3800, Email:

Appendix 1. Legend for Management intensity classes used in Fig 8. (From Tweed-Byron Bush Futures)

Appendix 1. Legend for Management intensity classes used in Fig 8.

Establishment of an assisted natural regeneration model for Big Scrub sub-tropical rainforest: The Woodford Method

The results of long-term restoration at Rocky Creek Dam, have informed the development of an assisted natural regeneration model for sub-tropical rainforest known as The Woodford Method (named after the pioneering restoration work of Ralph Woodford). This method is now commonly applied across the Big Scrub region, particularly on high resilience sites and is more fully explained in Woodford (2000).

Figure 1. Remove Lantana thickets.

Figure 1. Remove Lantana thickets.

1. Winter (July-August) – refer Figure 1. In a typical area of secondary regrowth dominated by weeds such as Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), Privet (Ligustrum sinense) and Lantana (Lantana camara), Lantana is the weed that should be killed first. Winter is the best time to do this as it is dry and it won’t reshoot when on the ground. In extensive areas, this can be done effectively by flattening thickets of Lantana with a tractor, then slashing it repeatedly to create a deep mulch, and pulling the Lantana stumps out to disturb the soil. Removing the Lantana thickets also allows access to tree weeds.

Figure 2. Kill Privet and Camphor Laurel.

Figure 2. Kill Privet and Camphor Laurel.

2. Spring (September-October) – refer Figure 2. Tree weeds such as Camphor and Privet have their biggest growth spurt, so this is a good time to give them a shot of herbicide to kill them. (Leaving the Camphor in place rather than cutting them down means that they act as ‘perch trees’ for birds and bats to land on and spread seeds through their droppings). As the Lantana, Camphor and Privet die, their leaves and branches fall to the ground and form a rich mulch on the forest floor. Light is also able to reach the forest floor, where previously it had only reached the canopy.

Spring storms come and wet the mulch, and fungal mycelium (the feeding filaments of fungi) move through the mulch and break it down, fertilising and leaving bare patches of soil where the mulch layer has totally receded.

Figure 3. Remove annual weeds.

Figure 3. Remove annual weeds.

3. Late spring / early summer (November-January) – refer Figure 3. Where you have bare soil, and there is moisture, light and an appropriate temperature, you will get seed germination. The first things to come up are annual weeds such as ‘Farmers Friends’ or ‘Cobblers Pegs’ (Bidens pilosa); ‘Blue Billy Goat Weed’ (Ageratum houstonianum); and ‘Crofton’ or ‘Mistweed’ (Ageratina spp). Annual weeds are always first to appear. They will germinate on the smell of a storm and a slight increase in temperature. Camphor and privet seedlings often come up at the same time.

When the weeds grow, they form a canopy just like the forest but at a height of one metre. In this way, weeds stop light from reaching the forest floor, inhibiting the growth of rainforest seedlings.

Therefore, it is important to remove these annual weeds and not let them go to seed. Depending on time available they are either pulled or sprayed. The experience at this site has been that the seedbank is strong enough to lose some rainforest seedlings in this initial spraying. If using herbicide, two sprays during this season generally removes all the weeds and their seeds.

Figure 4. Weed around rainforest seedlings.

Figure 4. Weed around rainforest seedlings.

4. Late summer / early autumn (February-March) – refer Figure 4.The seeds of rainforest species tend to germinate after the highest summer temperatures (sometimes up to 38 and 40 degrees) have passed. By late February and early March, daytime temperatures don’t generally go over 30 degrees, but the soil temperature and moisture is at its maximum. These conditions can produce a massive germination of rainforest seeds and those seedlings grow up very rapidly. Hand weeding is usually needed around these rainforest ‘pioneers’.

Figure 5. Enjoy the growing rainforest.

Figure 5. Enjoy the growing rainforest.

5. Early winter (May-June) – refer Figure 5. On a good site, with the best seasonal conditions, many of these rainforest seedlings will have grown to saplings above head height and can create a closed canopy within the same year. This means that less light reaches the forest floor, which reduces the amount of weed regrowth in this area – but there is still enough light for later successional rainforest seedlings to germinate, building the rainforest diversity over time.

Note: The process may be slightly different depending on the type of ‘before restoration’ landscape. Refer to Woodford (2000) for more information.

Contact: Anthony Acret,  Catchment Assets Manager, Rous Water, NSW Australia. Tel+62 2 6623 3800; Email:

Donaghy’s Corridor – Restoring tropical forest connectivity

Key words: tropical forest restoration, habitat connectivity, small mammal recolonisation, ecological processes, community partnerships.

Introduction. Closed forest species are considered especially susceptible to the effects of forest fragmentation and habitat isolation. The Wet Tropics of north Queensland contains many forest fragments between 1ha and 500ha, mostly surrounded by dairy and beef pastures, and crops such as maize, sugar cane and bananas. Larger blocks are often internally fragmented by roads and powerlines. The Lake Barrine section of Crater Lakes National Park is a 498ha fragment that is 1.2km distant from the 80,000ha Wooroonooran N.P, and ecologically isolated since the 1940s with detectable effects on genetic diversity of rainforest mammals.

In 1995 the Qld Parks and Wildlife Service, along with landholders and the local ecological restoration group TREAT Inc., began riparian forest restoration along Toohey Creek to re-connect the Barrine fragment to Wooroonooran and to document colonisation by small mammals and native plants typically associated with rain forest environments (Fig 1).


Fig 1. Donahy’s Corridor, Atherton Tablelands, linking Crater Lakes NP and Wooroonooran NP, Qld (Photo TREAT).

Connectivity Works. Prior to works commencement, small mammal communities (e.g. Rattus spp. and Melomys spp.) along and adjacent to Toohey Creek were sampled, along with a full vegetation survey, to determine base-line community composition and structure. Permanent stock exclusion fencing was erected and off-stream stock watering points established.

A 100m wide corridor of vegetation was established over a four year period using local provenances of 104 native species comprising around 25% pioneer species, 10% Ficus spp., and the remainder from selected primary and secondary species. In total, 20,000 trees, shrubs and vines were planted along the creek, and a three-row shelterbelt was planted adjacent to the corridor to reduce edge effects. Species were selected on a trait basis, including suitability as food plants for targeted local fauna e.g. Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii).

Ecological furniture (e.g., rocks, logs) was placed prior to planting. On completion, the 16ha Donaghy’s Corridor Nature Refuge was declared over the area, recognising the Donaghy family’s significant land donation and the corridor’s protection by legislation. A three year monitoring program, conducted quarterly, commenced on completion of planting.


Fig. 2. Developing rainforest in Donahys Corridor (Photo Campbell Clarke)

Monitoring. Flora monitoring was conducted along transects bisecting the four annual plantings (1995/96/97/98), and small mammal colonisation in 11, 20m x 20m plots located in the plantings, adjacent open paddocks, and in forests at either end. Small mammal sampling included mark-recapture and DNA studies, to determine colonisation and movement patterns and genetic effects.

Results. Three years after establishment, over 4000 native plants were recorded – representing 119 species from 48 families. This included 35 species naturally dispersed from the adjacent forest (Figs 2 and 3). Small mammal sampling showed 16 long-distance movements by Rattus species and the appearance of an FI hybrid Bush Rat (Rattus fuscipes) in the central section of the corridor in the third year of the study. The rainforest rodent Fawn-footed Melomys (Melomys cervinipes) had established territories in the second year of the study. A study of wood-boring beetles (Coleoptera)in ecological furniture showed 18 morpho-species in a three year period. Many other orders/families were also recorded.

Water quality in Toohey Creek was not studied but has continued to increase since the replacement exotic grasses with woody vegetation, and the exclusion of cattle from accessing the stream. There is increased shade available for stock and less pressure on the limited number of existing paddock shade trees.


 Fig. 3. Indicators of rainforest structure (species and layering) and functions (habitat providion, nutrient cycling, recruitment) are now highly evident. (Photo Campbell Clarke).

What we learned.

  • Plant colonisation was rapid, dominated by fleshy-fruited species (10-30mm diameter), of which a proportion are long-lived climax species
  • Plant colonisation was initially highest in the interior, close to the creek margin, but has become more even over time
  • Vegetation structural complexity and life form diversity have continued to increase since establishment
  • Small mammal communities changed in response to habitat structure, grassland species dominate until weeds are shaded out when they are replaced by closed forest species
  • Many long distance mammal movements occurred that were only detected by genetic analysis
  • Monitoring showed small mammals used the new habitat to traverse from end to end until resources were worth defending: at that time long distance movements declined and re-capture of residents increased
  • Partnerships between government, research bodies, community groups, and landholders are essential if practical solutions to fragmentation are to be developed and applied

Acknowledgements: Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tableland acknowledges and appreciates the support of all the volunteers involved in this project, staff from the Qld Parks and Wildlife Service-Restoration Services, , James Cook University, University of Qld, Griffith University and UCLA Berkely. In particular we would like to acknowledge the Donaghy family.

Contact: TREAT Inc. PO Box 1119, Atherton. 4883 QLD Australia.


Global Restoration Network Top 25 report:

Watch the video on RegenTV – presented by Nigel Tucker









Thiaki biodiversity-ecosystem functioning and restoration experiment


Fig 1. Research students measuring planted Queensland Maples for modelling studies

Noel Preece

Key words rainforest reforestation, carbon sequestration, cost-effectiveness, old fields, weeds

Introduction. Restoring agricultural landscapes to forest is time-consuming, expensive and often hit-and-miss. Trees take years to show survival and growth rates and effects of planting methods and maintenance. World-wide, there are few large-scale reforestation experiments designed to test the effectiveness of and functional responses to reforestation, especially in the tropical regions for biodiversity and carbon benefits.

In the wet tropics of Australia, far north Queensland, the Thiaki Restoration Research project was established to examine aspects of reforestation (Figs 1-3). The reference model for the project is ‘Simple to complex notophyll vine forest of cloudy wet highlands on basalt, Regional Ecosystem 7.8.4’. Three fully-replicated experiments were established in 2010, 2011 and 2013 to examine different approaches to reforestation. The experimental plots are all replicated, with control plots, to examine different aspects of reforestation. Plot size varies from 25 m square up to 50 m square, and we now manage 90 experimental plots over more than 30 hectares of planted land.

Experimental design. The first experiment is examining the effect of different planting methods; the second is researching three combinations of native rainforest species and two treatments (high and low planting densities); and the third is examining the effects of two different herbicide treatments (blanket spraying and strip spraying). One of the major emphases of the experiments is to analyse planting practices for their cost-effectiveness for the carbon sequestration industry. Reducing establishment and maintenance costs for carbon sink forests is essential, as published and anecdotal costs of establishing forests in the region and elsewhere has been so high as to make the carbon economy unreachable for environmental planting practitioners to ‘make a buck’ from carbon farming. We will publish these findings in the near future, as most of the plantings have reached an (almost) self-maintaining height and size.

Current work, which will be published from the experiments, includes:

  • examination of field-based measurements compared with national modelling tools;
  • effects of herbicide spraying and grass suppression practices; rates and patterns of natural recruitment;
  • functional responses of trees to soil nutrients and characteristics (such as compaction, moisture and organic content); functional responses of dung beetles and mammals to restoration;
  • responses of ants to restoration and remnant patches and proximity to remnant forests; and
  • the functioning of barriers to recruitment by rainforest fauna.

Weeds also present a significant research component, and examination of the effects and faculty of weeds to restoration is being conducted. We are also examining the effects of different planters on survival rates, which is of vital interest to restorationists.


Fig. 2. Sampling soils and roots to study functional responses of tree families.

Results to date. The experiments have resulted in important findings which affect reforestation success, and publications which have contributed some of the first replicated experimental results on: planting methods; allometrics for young trees; functional responses of several taxa to restoration; young tree root:shoot ratios; improved wood density data on young trees; and cost-effectiveness of planting methods. Some of the related research has contributed to better Australian models of carbon sequestration in the tropics.

Lessons learned and future directions. Top priority lessons include the preparation and planting stage, as all else follows and mistakes made at this point ramify later. Vital considerations are: site preparation, especially early weed control; selecting species which will survive the harsh exposed conditions; nurturing and sun-hardening seedlings; ensuring that the soil is very wet and that seedlings are soaked immediately before planting; and, ensuring that planters plant in ways that don’t damage the seedlings.

Collaborators. Charles Darwin, James Cook, Adelaide, Lancaster (UK), and Queensland Universities. Funding: Australian Research Council Linkage project LP0989161, Biome5 Pty Ltd, Terrain NRM, Greening Australia, Stanwell Corporation, Biodiversity Fund.

Contact. Dr Noel Preece, Director, Biome5 Pty Ltd, PO Box 1200, Atherton Qld 4883, +61407996953; email: Website

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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:


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:;

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, 2








0.6 – 1






1, 2














1, 2








































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

Rotary Park regeneration project, Lismore NSW

Key words: Dry rainforest, regeneration, Anredera cordifolia, long term project, flying-foxes.

Rainforest regeneration works at the 11.5 ha dry rainforest remnant, Rotary Park, Lismore, commenced in in June 1985 under the leadership of Keith King, the then Parks and Gardens Supervisor for Lismore City Council, and inspired by the success of John Stockard at Wingham Brush.

The site, surrounded by residential areas and bordered by a main road, was considered (prior to treatment) so degraded by weed vines that many considered it beyond redemption. The canopy was infested with vines including Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia), Asparagus africanus and A. plumosus and Morning glory (Ipomoea spp.) (Fig 1).  Within the forest, the ground was blanketed by Tradescantia (Tradescantia fluminensis) and Madiera Vine tuberlings, with Large- and Small-leaved Privet (Ligustrum spp.) dispersed throughout more degraded areas and edges and gaps often dominated by Lantana (Lantana camara).

Works and results. The project initially trialed minimal disturbance techniques promoted by the bush regeneration movement in Sydney but soon found that higher levels of disturbance were needed to trigger regeneration and render the tuberlings of Madeira Vine and other weed susceptible to herbicide spray.  Adapting the Wingham Method to local conditions, Keith King and the regeneration team led by Rosemary Joseph radically transformed the rainforest into a relatively healthy dry rainforest patch over a period of 10-15 years, although primary work in some parts of the site is still not completed.

Lessons learned. While the project has been highly successful, some problems have arisen that reflect the vulnerability of small areas of forest in a matrix of cleared land. Populations of  Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) and Black Flying-fox (P.  alecto) established roosts in the forest some years after recovery was apparent but before the project was completed.  This added significantly to the work load as it increased the density and number of weed species, with new species including by Flying-foxes including Giant Devil’s Fig (Solanum chrysotrichum) and tropical fruits such as Guava (Psidium guajava).  When the trees were stripped of foliage by the flying-foxes, the trees were then used as roots by White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca). This contributed additional ammonia which resulted in deteriorated working conditions for regenerators and limited their ability to complete the primary works.  While the project remains on a maintenance budget and most of the forest is holding its restored condition well, current budgets have been insufficient to complete the primary work on all parts of the site.

Acknowledgements. The site is managed by Lismore City Council who have funded the project since its inception.

Contact: Rosemary Joseph  c/o Lismore City Council

Canopy Gap at Rotary Park dry rainforest, Lismore in 1987 (prior to restoration works). (Photo Rosemary Joseph)

Same canopy gap at Rotary Park dry rainforest, Lismore in 1988 (1 year after primary clearing). (Photo Rosemary Joseph)

Same  canopy gap at Rotary Park dry rainforest, Lismore in 2006. (Photo Rosemary Joseph)

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:

Rainforest restoration on private land – Wompoo Gorge, Huonbrook, NSW

 Key words: Rainforest restoration, assisted natural regeneration, Lantana control, threatened species conservation

Maree Thompson

Wompoo Gorge is a private property located at Huonbrook in the Byron Shire hinterland, north coast NSW. The property provides a link between Nightcap and Goonengerry National Parks with Coopers Creek running along the eastern boundary. Originally covered by lowland subtropical rainforest with a stand of eucalypt forest extending down from the 100m high escarpment, half of the site was cleared early last century and partially converted to pasture and banana plantations. At the commencement of the project, the area contained various stages of rainforest regeneration and dense infestations of Lantana (Lantana camara). Twenty-seven threatened species (10 threatened flora species and 17 vulnerable animal species) have been recorded at Wompoo Gorge. The site has exceptional restoration potential and overall conservation significance.

Lantana infestation before works

An ongoing ecological restoration project is being implemented at the property, based on the recommendations of the Wompoo Gorge (South) Restoration Action Plan. In the three years to date, dense areas of Lantana in the area originally cleared have been controlled by mechanical means. A 4-wheel drive tractor was used to drive over and flatten Lantana over 2ha, returning a few weeks later to slash the Lantana. This method (first developed by Ralph Woodford at Rocky Creek Dam) resulted in the death of the majortiy of Lantana treated. Care was taken to aviod any existing regrowth of rainforest species near edges and regrowth patches.

Bush regeneration works have now been extended over an additional 14ha. A range of weed control techniques (including overspray and use of a splatter gun) have been used in the denser areas of Lantana not accessable by tractor. Hand weeding with brush hooks and loppers and cut/scrape and paint of Lantana is being undertaken in the more lightly invested native vegetation. Fruits from native plants on site have been collected and spread through out regeneration areas, adding to seed in the soil bank and that which is naturally distributed.

Tractor clearing of Lantana

A monitoring program was established on site prior to the commencement of works. This included eight monitoring transects. Structural and floristic information was collated and photos taken prior to the commencement of works and then at the end of the first year. Data were entered into MERV (Monitoring and Evalution of the Restoration of Vegetation) database and used to produce reports.

From Lantana to bare ground in Year 1

Results. The previously dense Lantana areas have converted from weed to strongly regenerating rainforest by means of natural regeneration occurring over the 3 years since treatment. The areas first treated in Year 1, in particular the area where a tractor was used to control Lantana, have had impressive growth of native species, now up to a height of over 5 metres. Common regrowth species include White Cedar (Melia azederach), Trema (Trema tomentosa), Red Cedar (Toona ciliata), Tamarind, Sandpaper Fig (Ficus coronata), Bangalow Palm (Achontophoenix cunninghamiana), Brown Kurrajong (Commersonia bartramia), Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa), Pencil Cedar (Polyscias murrayi), Celerywood (Polyscias elegans), Blue Quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis), Black Bean (Castanospermum australe) and Sally Wattle (Acacia sp.). A strong mix of later phase rainforest species are also germinating. Groundcovers include Soft Braken Fern (Culcita dubia), Cunjevoi Lily (Alocasia brisbanensis), Juncus spp., Cyperus spp. and a range of basket grasses (including Oplismenus spp. and Ottochloa gracillima).

Regenerating natives at the end of Year 2. By the end of Year 3 it was difficult to get a view above the regenerating trees to take overview photos.

Lessons learned. As with all projects, follow-up weed control is essential to ensure that native species come to dominate the site in the long term. The project has recently gained funds to continue the works for a further 3 years. This will allow the project to to continue works into nearby areas where it is known that significant and sustainable environmental outcomes can be achieved on a cost effective basis.

Funding. The project is funding by a 3 year NSW Environmental Trust project with addtional support from the 2010 DECCW Great Eastern Ranges Initiative-Connectivity Conservation Incentives; the Northern Rivers CMA Invasive Species Weeds of National Significance program, and the EnviTE Jobs Fund and Green Jobs Corps teams. Further funding has been gained through the Raymond Borland Bequest Grants program and the Big Scrub Rainforest Landcare Group’s Caring for Our Country project.

Contact: Maree Thompson, EnviTE Inc, 56 Carrington Street (P.O.Box 1124), Lismore NSW 2480; Tel: +61 2 6621 9588, Email:

Thiaki Creek: Cost-effective Rainforest Restoration for Carbon & Biodiversity

Key words: landscape resilience; rainforest fragments; connectivity; endangered species

Noel Preece

A large-scale reforestation experiment has begun in the Wet Tropics to examine the best and most cost-effective ways of reforesting a long-cleared grassed landscape to rainforest. The project is on Thiaki Creek, a highland tributary of the North Johnstone River which flows onto the Great Barrier Reef of Far North Queensland. The project is based on a fully replicated experimental design of 64 plots, covering over 20 hectares.

Part of the 20 ha experimental area in which the 64 plots are laid out. Rows were sprayed to suppress the exotic pasture grasses and the planters are planting the seedlings directly into the ground with planter spades.

The local ecosystem is moist complex notophyll vine rainforest (type 7.8.4) which can be seen in the background. This is State-listed (endangered) rainforest, home to endangered Cassowaries and six species of possum, and more than a hundred species of bird including the rare Grey Goshawk.

Aims: While forestry practices using monoculture tree species are well developed, reforestation practices using mixed native species for carbon sequestration and biodiversity are relatively poorly understood. Results of mixed plantings have been variable, regularly producing less than optimal outcomes and high establishment and maintenance costs have resulted in poor returns from investment. This is due to inadequate research on optimum site preparation, species mixes, spacings and propagation to achieve more cost effective outcomes.

Results and lessons: 27,000 trees were planted in January 2011, a few days before Cyclone Yasi. Early lessons learned are that spraying pasture grasses in strips, rather than blanket spraying the whole planting area, provides protection from erosion, wind and desiccation. Planting when the ground is saturated improves survival rates. An early experimental result demonstrates that forestry planting methods using planting spades take ¼ the time and 1/6 the expense of using augers, a common practice among landholders in the region, and the responses of mixed rainforest species is very good, with less than 6% loss.

Future directions: A range of studies has commenced on the site, including studies on soil carbon and nutrients; above ground carbon; plant diversity and plant functional traits; bee, fly, ant and dung beetle diversity and function; review of restoration practices; and economics. Future studies could include vertebrate roles and responses; competitive effects of tree mixtures; relationships of spacings and species to site capture rates and natural suppression of grasses; diversity versus productivity and resilience; mycorrhiza and other soil microbiota studies; soil hydrology and micro-climatology.
Stakeholders: The project is supported by a 5-year Australian Research Council Linkage grant, with the Universities of Queensland, Adelaide, Charles Darwin, Cambridge and Lancaster and Linkage partners Stanwell Corporation, Terrain NRM Ltd, Greening Australia and Biome5 Pty Ltd.

Contacts: Dr Margie Mayfield, University of Queensland,; Dr Noel Preece, Biome5 Pty Ltd, Outlines of the Thiaki project are shown on: and