The main body of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is long, thin and divided. Many smaller fragments of the Area, and other rainforest outliers, are separated from the main body by farmlands, roads and urban development. This is a particular issue on the coastal lowlands and the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands. Promoting landscape connectivity between isolated sections of the Area is important for its future conservation and the survival of its unique plants and animals, many found nowhere else in the world.
Climate modeling suggests that even a one degree celsius rise in temperature will reduce the habitat available for high-altitude plants and animals by half. The Southern Atherton Tablelands contain most of the potential areas which can be rehabilitated as rainforest habitat for numerous endemic upland rainforest species including Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos, lemuroid ringtail possums, green ringtail possums, golden bowerbirds, tooth-billed bowerbirds, mountain thornbills, Victoria’s riflebirds, Atherton scrubwrens, the endangered southern cassowaries and several endangered frog species.
Planting rainforest for connectivity has a range of potential benefits. It can:
From 2011 to 2013 the Wet Tropics Management Authority worked with local landholders and numerous land managers, conservation groups and researchers to create wildlife corridors in the Upper Barron and East Evelyn areas. The project was funded $600,000 by the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program. The basic achievements were:
Kickstart trials (pasture conversion plots)
Three sites were selected for kickstart trials to look for cheap and effective ways to restore rainforest on critical corridor areas covered with pasture grasses. Sites were sprayed and bird perches, remnant trees and water troughs used at selected sites to attract seed dispersers.
Initial monitoring shows positive results. Birds were attracted to the perches, trees and water and locally deposited seeds have started growing rainforest trees. More research over the next few years will show the success of these kickstart techniques. Dr Carla Catterall from Griffith University led the research team with assistance from Kylie Freebody, landholders, Conservation Volunteers and School for Field Studies students.
Dr Luke Shoo (University of Queensland) led a team to insert log piles into tree plantings of various ages at three corridor sites where tree plantings were underway. Monitoring of log piles for the first two years has already shown that they provide a home for rainforest skinks and some invertebrates. More years of follow up are needed to see what else colonises fallen timber in rainforest plantings and adds to the biodiversity of the new ecosystem.
Cath Moran led four workshops at different properties on how to use the Rainforest Revegetation Monitoring Toolkit. About 30 volunteers spent time amongst the trees learning how to measure site condition and structure, plant composition, bird use and carbon sequestration. Monitoring kits were distributed to community groups for future use.
The NCCARF Award
The Mobilising Landholders project won an award in 2012 from the National Climate Change Adaptation and Research Facility. The Community Category Award recognised people and groups taking concrete steps to change behaviour, techniques, businesses practices and policies to adapt to an uncertain future.
Six Traditional Owners were employed and trained through North Queensland Land Management Services in various land management techniques. This included all aspects of fencing construction with contractor Michael Edwards from gathering fence posts to erecting gates and straining the wire. The trainees also assisted with weed control and revegetation.
You can download a sixteen page brochure about the Making Connections project (4MB) or a two page leaflet about the benefits of planting native trees (1.3MB) by clicking on the pictures below.
The project would not have been successful without the hard work and expertise of:
In addition to the partners mentioned above, special thanks and acknowledgements are due to.- Paddy Boyton, Carla Catterall, Jessica Coulter, Alice Crabtree, Michael Edwards, Larry Crook, Brad and Kym Eaton, Carolyn and Phil Emms, Chris and Gary Forbes, Kylie Freebody, Amanda Freeman, Brett Fry, Bob GoSam, John Hatton, Barbara and Leo Hofmann, Dave Hudson and Robyn Land, Jason Kraft, Barbara Lanskey, Nick Mauger, Angela and Mark McCaffrey, Helen McConnell, Cath Moran, Adam Mott, Geoff Onus, Barry Pember, Catherine Pohlman, Deb Pople, Cassie Ryan and Greg Clark, Luke Shoo, Keith Smith, Nick Stevens , Sunny Thomson-Jones, Rohan Wilson and all the staff at Wet Tropics Management Authority.