It was a pleasant sunny day when I ventured out to Scottsdale reserve with David Freudenberger and one other student like myself. Just an hour and fifteen minutes South of Canberra, this 1328ha Bush Heritage reserve protects endangered grassy box woodlands, temperate grasslands, and animals such as birds, fish and reptiles. Unfortunately, 300ha of this reserve was previously modified for agricultural use. This meant that the land had been grazed, cleared, cropped and sown and the land was severely degraded and infested with weeds such as African lovegrass and thistles.
With the help of a partnership between Bush Heritage Australia, Australian National University (ANU) and Greening Australia, there is hope to restore and regenerate this 300ha area back to its natural state over time. Before being cleared this area was dominated by the Critically Endangered ecological community, Box-Gum Grassy Woodland. To help regeneration, volunteers planted the dominant tree species of Box-Gum Grassy Woodland in a hope to re-connect the landscape and re-establish the ecological community and its biodiversity assets. Scottsdale reserve isn’t just about ecological restoration; it is also about biodiversity conservation!
The objective of my visit to Scottsdale as a volunteer was not to plant trees, but to monitor the trees that had previously been planted by volunteers. Wearing long pants and boots to fight against the thistle invasion, myself and another student set out to record the progress of 10 different tree planting sites. Some of these trees had been planted by hand and some had been planted using machinery and along a 100m transect. We looked at confirming the species, deciding on a health score between 0 and 2 for the plant (0 being dead, 2 being healthy), measuring the height of the plant, and making notes if need be.
This monitoring is all part of a bigger picture. Our data will be analysed to show the success and mortality rate of the plantings done. If this aided regeneration is successful, it may in future provide a home to a diverse range of native flora and fauna as well as helping to reduce the risk of Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands becoming extinct. If successful, it will show that heavily modified and degraded land can once again support the life of native ecosystems and become a stepping stone in the right direction!
Volunteering is always a great way to participate in activities that are contributing to ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation. Its fun, rewarding, and helps you build a relationship with the world that you live in. Reserve areas like Scottsdale are very important for the protection of some species and ecological communities from threats such as clearing for agricultural land. Hopefully in time, this area will again thrive as it once did and wearing protection gear against thistles will never be an issue again.