My Turtely Awesome Conservation Experience

Throughout the recent break (4/7/16 – 11/7/16) I had the unique opportunity to experience the (very sandy!) life of threatened flatback (Natator depressa) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacae) turtles. I assisted in data recording of both species (though primarily flatbacks) as they nested and started new lives along the shores of Bare Sand Island, one of a small chain of islands, about 50km off the coast of Darwin. Green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles also forage in the area, though focus now occurs primarily on recording nesting populations, so I did not interact with these guys. Over an amazing week long period, I assisted in the daily routines of locating, measuring and recording tags of adult female flatbacks past the hours of high tide (tidal range on the island restricts the nesting periods to approximately 2 hours following high tide).

Female flatback turtle laying eggs on the beach

Female flatback turtle laying eggs on the beach

 

Mornings then involved the fascinating task of following nestling tracks to locate hatched nests. We then dug up these nests to record hatching success, through the number of shells, extended tracks and occasionally (if we were lucky) live hatchlings in the nests! We also had the nitty gritty (often very smelly) task of opening unhatched eggs to determine whether eggs were depredated, embryos or undeveloped. Eggs unhatched after initial hatches are very unlikely to be successful so this did not interfere with development.

Opening flatback eggs to determine contents

Opening flatback eggs to determine contents

This routine helps to document the overall success of laying turtles and of different nesting locations. Any live hatchlings were then taken back to camp for short periods to show to visiting tourists in the evenings, and occasionally to take individual hatchling data recordings, if found in sufficient numbers.

Some live hatchlings found in a morning nest assessment

Live hatchling found in a morning nest assessment

Hatchlings are then released to the ocean and begin their long perilous journey for survival. Sadly, the average hatchling has between 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10 000 chance of survival (largely due to natural predation from both land dwellers (such as; birds, crabs, goannas) and sea dwellers (such as fish, sharks and sea birds). Still we tried our best to send them happily on their way (can only hope)!

But why conduct this research?

Australian waters represent one of the most important havens for marine turtles in the world, particularly for nesting in the Indo-Pacific region. Over these areas contain 6 of the only 7 marine turtle species globally. Unfortunately, each of these species are listed as either vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN Red list, due to a long history of human-induced decline thanks to factors such as; pollution, overharvesting, accidental captures, disease, marine debris and, of course, the destruction of critical habitat.

Waste material washed up from the ocean

Waste material washed up from the ocean

These issues (along with predation) continue to threaten populations globally and Austurtle works to combat further decline by continuing to monitor population size and abundance of nesting turtles in addition to determining any threats to survival. Data collection is limited due to funding but the interest from both volunteers and the ever-growing tourism helps in the quest to inform conservation efforts.

Some issues of contention: turtle and egg munchers

One of the more debated threats to these conservation efforts I found, was the allowance of local indigenous harvests of both sea turtles and eggs for food and ceremonies. These rights have remained over time despite continual depletion of turtle population numbers and increasing pressure to retain species survival. Undoubtedly these harvests are not the most pressing of threats to population survival though continue to arouse debate around many of the public with interest in the marine conservation.  Rights are exclusive to tribes associated with the area, though this eligibility is often difficult to prove, particularly in times with little visitation from researchers or public.

Some issues of contention: tourism

Another interesting and debatably threatening issue to conservation in the area, is the growing interest and funding for tourism on the island. Nearly every evening of my week-long trip, the island was visited by a small boatload of tourists, who would remain on the island for several hours to view available hatchlings and upcoming nesting females. This, importantly, sparks an awareness for conservation and a reasonable amount of tourist money contributes to Austurtle research (particularly through fundraising dinners), though large proportions of money are specifically used to fund the associated tourism businesses. These visits are not generally an issue, as most tourists are prepped on the appropriate behaviour to use around the turtles and supplied with red headtorches to view them. Turtle behaviour is generally associated with the lunar cycle, and they are attracted to bright light of the moon to navigate seaward. However, the use of occasional flash photography, fast movements and bright lights of tourism boats and tourist technology can seriously confuse and distress the turtles, and (critically) redirect both adults and hatchling turtles off their natural path to the water (as I noticed several times during my trip). In addition, any disturbance noted by a laying female may cause her to abandon the nest and often return to sea. Tourism impacts to the turtles are yet to be formally assessed, though it was one that concerned me several times during my volunteering, and will likely have more effect as the recreational attraction for the area grows.

Continuing the conservation: my Austurtle experience

Overall I had an amazing experience with the program and hopefully will make some small difference in providing the data needed to find conservation solutions. Hopefully with continued funding from volunteers and the public, this program may be extended to provide better management of threats and encourage the future survival of these wonderful Aussie turtles. This funding will be critical in the future conservation efforts of such programs, along with providing greater scientific research to address the impact of potentially risky issues such as tourism before they become problematic. Furthermore, I found volunteering to be a really profitable way to contribute to future conservation and feel so lucky to have been a part of it! Thankyou so much to my amazing research and volunteer team!

DSC09671

Further reading

http://www.austurtle.org.au/volunteer.htm

https://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine-species/marine-turtles

http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-the-reef/animals/marine-turtles

http://www.daveharasti.com/articles/speciesspotlight/turtles.html

~ Alicia Palmer – u5520212

 

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The proposed biodiversity reforms in New South Wales: an opportunity lost

In pursuit of economic growth, Australia still clears equivalent to 170,000 Sydney Cricket Grounds (or 150,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds) of native forest every year.

Impacts from clearing native vegetation are well documented.

Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to biodiversity in Australia, promotes dryland salinity, contributes to soil loss and deterioration of water quality and represents approximately 7% of our carbon emissions.

The main driver for land clearing in Australia is agriculture.

However, policy development within this space in Australia looks something like this: Labor Governments periodically introduce reforms to curb land clearing; and these are subsequently relaxed by Coalition governments.

This cycle is currently playing out in New South Wales: biodiversity law reforms introduced by the Carr Government in 2005 are about to be repealed by the Baird Government.

reforms

I recently led the Ecological Society of Australia’s submission on the draft biodiversity law reforms in NSW. Here, I summarise the key issues.

Key issues with the NSW reforms

There is a perception that farmers are overly hamstrung in their ability to clear native vegetation in NSW under current laws. The proposed reforms seek to redress this in several ways, such as reducing the amount of clearing that requires formal approval.

However, using formal statistical analysis, I found that land clearing rates have not significantly changed in NSW since 1989-90 (Figure 1), suggesting the argument that the existing laws have gone too far in protecting native vegetation is without foundation.

Annual clearing of native woody vegetation (ha) for rural land uses in NSW before (black bars) and after (white bars) introduction of the NSW Native Vegetation Act that the proposed reforms seek to repeal. The dotted line represents the moving average (calculated over 3 years).

Figure 1. Annual clearing of native woody vegetation (ha) for rural land uses in NSW before (black bars) and after (white bars) introduction of the NSW Native Vegetation Act that the proposed reforms seek to repeal. The dotted line represents the moving average (calculated over 3 years).

Further, 87% of all clearing for rural land that occurs in NSW (as detected by satellite imagery) does not appear in the public register of clearing approvals, which means that the vast majority of clearing has been permitted without formal approval. This suggests that further relaxing the requirement for formal approval to clear native vegetation is also not a well-targeted reform.

“87% of all clearing for rural land that occurs in NSW has been permitted without  formal approval”

There is also an argument that the current regulatory regime impedes productivity in the agricultural sector in NSW. Farmers’ terms of trade has been falling nationally in Australia for several decades despite periods when changes to land clearing laws in other states, such as Queensland, allowed large areas of native vegetation to be cleared (Figure 2). That is, the profitability of agriculture in this country is not linked to the amount of land that is cleared—a pattern seen in developed countries generally.

Annual land clearing in Figure 2. Australia (blue) and national farmers' terms of trade (grey).

Figure 2. Annual land clearing in Australia (blue) and national farmers’ terms of trade (grey).

However, there is evidence to justify why land clearing should be reduced in NSW. Habitat loss is associated with the majority of threatened species in Australia and is listed as a key threatening process in NSW and Commonwealth threatened species legislation. Preventing broadscale clearing is one of the most cost-effective way to protect biodiversity, while restoration of threatened species habitat is costly and unreliable.

The proposed reforms in NSW are contradictory in this respect. On one hand considerable tax payer money is allocated to conserve threatened species and their habitats (e.g., $240 million for conservation of priority areas on private land and $100 million for the Saving our Species Program). On the other hand, threatened species habitat can be cleared under the same reforms.

Another issue for biodiversity is that impacts of land clearing on native species begins to rapidly accelerate once a landscape has less than 30% native vegetation remaining. Approximately one quarter of the landscapes in NSW are now below this threshold, which means that every new hectare of native vegetation that is cleared in these landscapes will affect more species than it did in the past. The reforms are likely to accelerate clearing in these already over-cleared landscapes and thus accelerate the loss of biodiversity.

Thus, we predict that the proposed biodiversity law reforms in NSW will not meet the stated objectives: they will not provide a boost for agricultural profitability and they will have a negative impact on biodiversity.

What does genuine reform look like in this space?

In Australia’s National Food Plan it is argued that improving the profitability of Australian agriculture requires a focus on research and development to support productivity growth, innovation and adoption of new technology across the supply chain and value adding. A reform package that seeks to improve the profitability of agriculture needs to invest in these areas rather than spending resources to stimulate further land clearing.

Preventing broadscale clearing is a more cost-effective way to protect biodiversity than trying to reintroduce species to areas where their habitats have been previously cleared. The rate of biodiversity loss is greatest in already over-cleared landscapes. Thus, policies that stop broadscale clearing in threatened species habitats and over-cleared landscapes and increase the representation of these areas in the existing reserve system will improve outcomes for biodiversity.

Unfortunately the Baird Government appears to be charging ahead with its biodiversity law reforms, which neither offers a pathway for growth of the agricultural sector nor improvements for biodiversity conservation.

Phil Gibbons

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Mapping Bettong habitat at Tidbinbilla

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, where I hung out for an incredible week in the mid-semester break, is playing an integral role in reintroducing the Eastern bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) back onto the Australian mainland through its breeding program for the species.

The species was exiled from the Australian mainland in the early 1900’s due to a combination of the usual pressures brought by European settlement. Fortunately, Tasmania has been an oasis for the species where it remains common, however the recent advent of the European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) onto the island is a significant threat given Tassie’s geographic isolation.

Testament to the devotion of all staff involved, success in the breeding program has led to robust populations of Eastern (aka Tasmanian) bettongs at Tidbinbilla and Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary, the result of a momentous journey that originated with the translocation of six wild individuals from Tasmania in 2011.

The next step for Tidbinbilla’s Bettong breeding program is to establish a free-ranging population with less active management.   My project involved using a GPS tracker (to be followed by ArcGIS analysis) to map the locations of suitable Bettong habitat inside the 30acre woodland where the new population will call home. The findings of the mapping will enable staff to focus camera monitoring in areas with maximum likelihood of bettong presence.

A little Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby being cared for by staff!

A little Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby being cared for by staff!

Research into the ecology of the species helped me to adopt a bettong mentality by thinking about how they interact with their environment; basically I just combed the landscape pretending to be Bettong, which was good fun.

‘Bettong Bel-Air’ habitat features I searched for included ground story complexity through mature tussock grasses and logs amongst which to build their woven grass nests, over and mid-story coverage to conceal from aerial predators and foraging opportunities offered by patchy ground cover in conjunction with Eucalyptus or Acacia trees where fruiting fungal bodies (a staple of the bettong diet) are often well established.

Good mature tussock grass, but too open as no overstory

Good mature tussock grass, but too open as no over-story

Some grasses suitable for nesting (could be a bit more for concealment), coarse woody debris offers complexity, patchy ground cover for foraging, sufficient canopy cover but more mid-layer complexity for added protection from predators needed

Some grasses suitable for nesting (could be a bit more for concealment), coarse woody debris offers complexity, patchy ground cover for foraging, sufficient canopy cover but more mid-layer complexity for added protection from predators needed

I was lucky enough to attend the fine-tuned operation of a trapping night with three of the Tidbinbilla wildlife team; Leith, Kym and Lindsay. We identified all Bettong individuals by microchip, weighed, checked pouches of females, measured scrotal diameters of males and checked their general condition.

We also trapped a female Southern brush-tailed Rock wallaby who had a pouch young about 10cm long. It was pretty amazing, recognizing how with such critically low population numbers, this individual is a vital part of the species future. This little critter will be flown in a humidi-crib to Adelaide to be mothered by a surrogate Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby as part of the cross-fostering technique helping to rescue this critically endangered species.

Invading the privacy of a female Bettong, but note their cool prehensile tails!

Invading the privacy of a female Bettong, but note their cool prehensile tails!

It was cool to see how the scientific principles of conservation breeding programs pervaded everyday management decisions regarding each individual animal. Particularly ensuring maximum genetic diversity and the need for an intimate knowledge of the species biology and ecology.

While interventions for species whose futures hang in the balance can have great outcomes, as the success of the bettong program shows, breeding programs cannot be seen as a fallback that prevents us tackling the pressures on their habitats at the source. For conserving one element of biodiversity is problematic if the ecological community they belong to is not also conserved and protected. Furthermore such programs are costly (resulting in triaging) and are too risky to rely upon, as some species cannot thrive in a captive breeding environment such as the Northern-hairy nosed wombat.

Conserving intact ecosystems with all their parts, including bettong ‘ecosystem engineers’ is a far superior option than trying to piece an ecosystem back together again, as these systems are likely far more complex and fine-tuned than us mere humans can grasp.

Tiger Durie u5333695

 

 

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Lambs to the slaughter? Reintroducing Bettongs to the Lower Cotter Catchment

FERAL CAT DEVOURS PADEMELON

A feral cat devours an adult pademelon – a small marsupial similar to a kangaroo. Image: Bronwyn Fancourt

I recently discovered the Australian Government’s 2015-16 budget for the Environment portfolio is worth just 17 days of spending on Australia’s Defence portfolio.

With such limited funds for research and management, both nationally and locally, and uncertainty around funding continuity; scrutinising and evaluating the effectiveness of environmental research and management is crucial to ensuring appropriate investments in the future.

One projects which seems unnecessarily wasteful (and cruel) is the threatened species conservation project to reintroduce Eastern Bettongs (Bettongia Gaimardi) to the wilds of the Lower Cotter Catchment in the ACT.

TASMANIAN BETTONG Bettongia gaimardi Dry grassy woodland of eastern Tasmania

Eastern Bettong Image: Dave Watts/Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary

Although once widespread in the south-east of mainland Australia, the Eastern Bettong became extinct on the mainland following the spread of the European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) after 1900, and are now only found in eastern Tasmania (where they are susceptible to forest clearfelling, burning and 1080 poison), and in captivity (here at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve).

With feral predators and competitors like foxes, cats, pigs, hares and rabbits relatively unmanaged and roaming the Lower Cotter Catchment, rangers are now spending limited time and money monitoring feral wildlife using expensive cameras – which have been lost or stolen – and from today, will begin targeted fox baiting over 60 square kilometres.

A recent discovery of a feral cat devouring a 4-kilogram adult Pademelon – a small marsupial similar to a kangaroo – shows that controlling fox populations may not be enough to stop the decline of medium-sized marsupials – let alone small bettongs.

While Eastern Bettong’s prefer habitat of dry open eucalypt forests and grassy woodland – the regenerating Lower Cotter Catchment instead offers large swathes of dense blackberry, further degraded by the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), which is also a competitor.

With all these threats, the Bettongs stand little chance of survival if reintroduced this year, and face even more threats now than prior to extinction.

The project poses several questions, most notably – How effective is this investment? Is this the best management option? And how do we determine where to invest in threatened species conservation?

An example of a similar bettong translocation project was in 2001, when 85 brush-tailed bettongs (Bettongia penicillata) from Western Australia and South Australia were translocated to Yathong Nature Reserve in western New South Wales.

Brush tailed bettong

Brush tailed Bettong. Image: Gerald and Buff Corsi/Atlas of Living Australia

Despite there being sufficient food, and getting the red fox under control after five years of aerial baiting, 73 per cent of the bettongs fitted with radio transmitters died within the first six months, and all were dead within 13 months, mostly due to cat predation.

Although demonstrating that foxes no longer posed a threat, the effectiveness of this and similar projects must be remembered.

While some bettong ‘reintroductions’ have been successful thanks to barrier fences, these are not long-term sustainable solutions nor are they ‘real’ reintroductions to the wild.

If successful, the project could have substantial benefits socially, ecologically and economically.

Socially because it’s cute and it’s extinct.

Ecologically because the woodland ecosystem would benefit from the Bettongs extensive foraging which increases the soil’s capacity to capture and absorb water, and dispersal of fungi spores (which help plants like eucalyptus and acacia trees extract nutrients from the soil).

Economically, it could potentially have a good return on investment in terms of reduced spending on land management.

While the benefit cost ratio and the probability of the project’s success are unknown, in my opinion – the likelihood of success is the critical issue. Predators like the feral cat are in no way near under control, nor could they be before years’ end, and the habitat is far from ideal.

Our conservation priorities must not simply be based on the extent to which a species is threatened.

Simply because the Eastern Bettong is extinct on the mainland, should not give it’s reintroduction a higher priority than other more effective conservation efforts with a greater likelihood of success.

But it seems we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

 

-Josie Banens

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Our friend: The Mountain Pygmy Possum

Our friend: The Mountain Pygmy Possum

This year, when I went to the snowy mountain, I saw this kind of cute animal. People call it Mountain Pygmy Possum. Mountain Pygmy Possum is a small-size rodent usually at the length of 25 cm (11 cm for body & head and 14 cm for tail) and 45 grams weight. It was first discovered in 1895. Nuts, seeds and insects are suitable for them to eat. Normally, its back was covered with the smooth, dense and gray fur and its eyes were surrounded by a darker gray ring as well. However, its ventral side was covered with a pale cream color. It prefers to live in the high alpine region and pray moth. For its reproduction, it will mate in October and November. The baby will be taken good care by their mother for about 7-8 weeks.

mountain pygmy possum

 

However, the pity thing is that it is experiencing the decline of its population. It was listed on IUCN Red List because its habitat is less than 100 km2. What’s worse, there are numerous of indications show that its rare habitat is experiencing the seriously decline of quality and extent. As the consequence of this decline, the numbers of Mountain Pygmy Possum mature individuals show a rapid downward trend.

In the snowy mountain, the Mountain Pygmy Possum are seriously affected by human activities. For example, people built lots of resorts which will lead to fragmentation of its habitat. What’s worse, visitors waste will decrease the quality of the snow and it decreases the quality of habitat as well.

Thus, scientists have put lots of effort to protect its habitat and population.

A. Save the rest of the species

As the number of the rest mature individual is less than 1,200, some artificial propagation has been taken to increase the number of the population. People make special cool room for the Mountain Pygmy Possum and provide enough high quality food for them.


B. Protect it from hunting by red fox and feral cat

Each year, many of the Mountain Pygmy Possum were killed by red fox and feral cat. Control the number of them is significant. Red fox and feral cat hotline has been set by government. Public can report to office about their findings and government will take action to control the number of the red fox and feral cat.

C. Get attention from society

Governments also use media to tell the story of the Mountain Pygmy Possum and want to increase the awareness of public and donation. And fortunately, this dose work. More and more people stat to pay attention on the Mountain Pygmy Possum and are willing to donate for the conservation plan.

These are some useful links you can get information, I really hope you can do something for this lovely animal and let our future generation appreciate it in the real world.

http://www.iucnredlist.org/search

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBxVe6cVySI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-sMNUIRNoY

By   LU Shangming

fenner school ANU

u5651930

 

 

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You “cannot” get married unless you plant trees here! Trees of Love: educating people, a way to combat Climate Change

A girl plants a teak seedlings on a bare land.
A girl plants a teak seedling on a bare land.

As one of the most diverse countries in the world, Indonesia has been struggling to reforest landscapes and save biodiversity. With the deforestation rate shown in the graphic below, Indonesia has been considered contributing to global warming. In 2009, the country has committed to reduce emission up to 26-41% by 2020.

To address that commitment, the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia has launched Gerakan Menanam 1 Milyar Pohon (One Billion Indonesian Trees). One interesting program is tree plantings by the bride-and groom-to-be. Many regions/ municipalities in Indonesia (the map below) have made the program compulsory, and work together with other local institutions (e.g. local forestry department and office of religious affairs), although it is not a national mandate.

The map of regions/municipalities implementing the policy of tree planting for bride-and groom-to-be (modified from Googlemaps with some online sources)

The map of regions/municipalities implementing the policy of tree planting for bride-and groom-to-be (modified from Googlemaps with some online sources)

From one region to another, the method is varied for the number of seedlings bride and groom have to plant, the planting area, and the species that should be planted. The bride and groom obtain a tree certificate that will be used as a proof of the planting for authorities. They have to look after the trees, or penalties apply. Kendal regency, one of the regions which implemented this policy since 2012, was awarded as Green City by the Environmental Online (ENO) from Finland, and Jambi City had a chance to present the program at one of the United Nations (UN) Meetings: UNECA.

The Mayor of Jambi City exposed to UNECA(source: http://jambiupdate.com/artikel-walikota-jambi-ekspos-di-depan-uneca-.html)

The Mayor of Jambi City exposed to UNECA(source: http://jambiupdate.com/artikel-walikota-jambi-ekspos-di-depan-uneca-.html)

How could this program help biodiversity? Studies have found that planting is beneficial for biodiversity and at least two benefits from tree planting can be gained. First, vegetation is habitat for animals and vegetation itself is also biodiversity. The habitat provides shelter, space, food, and water for the biodiversity to live (details here and here). Second, beside the controversy of tree planting, but the key concept of this unique policy is to combat climate change from CO2 emission as mentioned in this document. A single tree can absorb 28 tons of CO2/year, in the simple words: more trees planted more CO2 absorbed and less it emitted. Climate change is one of the main direct drivers of biodiversity loss. The climate change impacts on geographic range shrinkage or even forest dieback. Visualization of  the connection of those components is described in the diagram below.

Simple Diagram of the Connection of Tree Planting and Biodiversity Loss. Green arrow indicates the effects from tree planting and red line/ arrow indicates the variables contribute to biodiversity loss, while black line means the component of habitat.

Simple Diagram of the Connection of Tree Planting and Biodiversity Loss. Green arrows indicate the effects from tree planting and red line/ arrows indicate the variables contribute to biodiversity loss, while black line means the component of habitat.

Although there is debate if such program can effectively address the issue of climate change, but the bottomline is that such program can raise awareness of the people on the role of trees and how they can contribute. As with other conservation programs (such as for the Javan Gibbon and Langur), education programs are key to achieving successful outcomes, as is actively engaging people saving the environment. It is not only planting trees for them, but the timing of the planting is closely related with important life events for them, thus it raises their sense of belonging to the trees.

[Choiriatun Annisa]

Additional Reading

Loehle, C. 2000. Forest ecotone response to climate change: sensitivity to temperature response functional forms. Can. J. For. Res.,30: 1632–1645

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute: Washington, DC

Regent of Kendal. 2012. Peraturan Daerah Kabupaten Kendal Nomor 3 Tahun 2012 Tentang Penanaman Pohon Bagi Calon Pengantin dan Ibu Melahirkan di Kabupaten Kendal (Regional Regulation of Kendal Regency Nomor 3 Year 2012 on Tree Planting for Bride-and-Groom-to-be and Mother in Kendal). Regent of Kendal

Renwick, A.R., Robinson, C.J., Martin, T.G., May, T., Polglase, P.,Possingham, H.P., Carwardine, J. 2014. Biodiverse Planting for Carbon and Biodiversity on Indigenous Land. Plos One: Volume 9, Issue 3, e91281

Supriatna, J., Tilson, R.L., Gurmaya, K.J., Manansang, J., Wardojo, W., Sriyanto, A., Teare, A., Castle, K., and Seal US (eds.).1994. Javan Gibbon and Javan Langur: Population and Habitat Viability Analysis Report, IUCN/ SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG). Apple Valley: Minnesota, 11 2pp

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Webbed surprise from the Grassy Woodlands.

Our capital is surround by areas of beauty, from the very bottom of Namadgi National Park which covers almost 50% of the Australian Capital Territory to the very top of Mount Majura nature reserve. These are the areas that we need to look after and have constant plans for future improvement, without keeping these areas protected and looked after then we are losing huge amounts of biodiversity. Every little bit helps and with my work experience I choose to participate in restoring and conserving Mount Majura nature reserve.

With my volunteering I choose to help out “Friends of Mount Majura”. They are a small group of volunteers which meet every Friday for various conservation activities (which include weeding, planting, frilling and more).

Nature Reserve.

Nature Reserve.

We met up on a dewy Friday morning opposite of the The Fair in Watson, one Day One we set out to complete a few jobs, namely to use GPS to locate the rubbish that Waltraud (main volunteer) had located on a previous run. Rubbish, especially dangerous rubbish like the barbed wire pictured below is harmful to all species around the area, native or not, and needs to be removed to keep the area pristine.

White "mittens" left from careless visitors.

White “mittens” left from careless visitors.

The next job was to remove last years trees which did not survive and to re-dig holes and re-mulch with new plants which will hopefully survive the winter this year. (Mostly Acai and bit of Yellow Box).

Small plantings like these will help see the reserve back at pre-european settlement health.

Small plantings like these will help see the reserve back at pre-european settlement health.

Day Two included just me and Waltraud coming back to the reserve on a Monday morning, again the same dewy fog filled mystic field laid ahead of us but this time with a small surprise.

With the morning fog, we could see the spiders webs spun from the night before, biodiversity at its most visible light.

With the morning fog, we could see the spiders webs spun from the night before, biodiversity at its most visible light.

We then walked further into the reserve to tackle our main problem of the day, the Woody weeds. These weeds are introduced species from post-european settlement which inhibit the native species from seeding, remove these will give the native species to grow and seedy naturally without the competition for soil against the weeds.

Before. We applied herbicide straight after the cut to ensure the when sap recedes to the roots, it takes the herbicide.

Before. We applied herbicide straight after the cut to ensure the when sap recedes to the roots, it takes the herbicide.

After cuts and herbicide (coloured pink)

After cuts and herbicide (coloured pink)

As we dulled deeper into the reserve we could see that across the gully there were many less invasive species, although some including the Hawthorne and Primose weeds, still required removing we could see that the nature reserve was indeed recovering well. With previous years work across the gully showing vast improvement in restoring of the reserve. Although there is still a fair way to go, the nature reserve is indeed large and the Friends of Mount Majura definitely need few more working hands before restoring it to anywhere near the pre-european settlement.

Me doing some good old fashioned frilling of a hybrid invasive tree.

Me doing some good old fashioned frilling of a hybrid invasive tree.

This was definitely a rewarding and refreshing experience. Being able to go out to the reserve and make a short but noticeable difference was definitely rewarding. I urge everyone to visit and help out, events are every Friday at The Fair, Watson.

U5183951 (539 Words)

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