I am an Environmental Engineering student from Brazil. When I decided to come to Australia, I cannot deny, I had some preconceptions in mind. As in most people’s heads, the images that come up when they hear “Australia” is something like this.
Then, during my exchange course at ANU, this is what I’ve found.
I saw the richness that Australia has, from rangelands to woodlands, open forests to rainforests. That’s amazing, I must say! However, not everything is perfect. Just as in Brazil, here we have some amazing landscapes under the “threatened” classification. This is the case of the Box-Gum grassy woodlands, in the tablelands region of NSW. These ecological communities have been heavily cleared and degraded along the years.
Greening Australia and Bush Heritage Australia, with the support of the Australian Government, are working to change this scenario. The Scottsdale Reserve (PDF) located 75km south of Canberra, is where they plan to deliver 300 hectares of Box Gum grassy woodlands. In 2013, a group of ANU students did a “planting session” for the Australia’s Forests course, with Dr. David Freudenberger. They planted about 400 seedlings!
My field work this year, 2014, with the same Dr. David, was to assess the survival rate of these seedlings. The last monitoring was carried on October 2013 and the assessment variables were stem height and “health score”. This health score was just a fuzzy way – when you put numbers for “how good/how bad” – to check if the seedlings’ health was getting better or worse. These numbers were: 0 for dead, 1 for poor health and 2 for good health.
After one day of hard work, wandering around the scenic reserve, measuring stems, checking how the plant was doing, and which species it was, we got to some nice numbers.
First, in terms of health, among the 430 plants assessed, in October 2013 we had 146 dead or in poor health seedlings. However, in 2014, only 39 plants were in that situation, and just 21 were dead. This is a 95% survival rate, this is not a “just a few”! We did not only have a smaller number for worse cases, but from all the 430 seedlings, more than 380 showed improvement.
In terms of stem height, they also are doing very well, thank you! The mean stem height in 2013 was 32.8 cm and amazing 44.5 cm in 2014. “Oh, they grow up so fast…”
These survival rates are encouraging numbers for this amazing project, which aims to deliver a big area with native species such as Silver wattle (Acacia dealbata), Snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora), Yellow box (E. melliodora), and many others.
As a foreigner amazed with this country, I have to say, projects like this deserve respect! I crossed the whole world, trust me!
PS: I even got my photo in the Australia’s Forests course advertisement!