The Scottsdale Experience

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My day of work experience began bright and early on a cool, windy autumn morning driving down the majestic Monaro highway, towards Bush Heritage Australia’s site, Scottsdale Reserve (Figure 1), with Dr David Freudenberger and ENVS3039 students Robin and Robert.

Figure 1: Scottsdale Reserve

Around 300 ha of Scottsdale Reserve has been set aside for rehabilitation works aimed to return agriculturally cleared paddocks back to the critically endangered box-gum grassy woodland ecosystem (Bush Heritage Australia, 2014). This is a nationally important project, as over 90% of the box-gum grassy woodland ecosystem’s extent has been lost since colonisation (DECCW NSW, 2010). Rehabilitation work has been carried by Greening Australia volunteers and funded jointly by the Australian Government and Bush Heritage Australia. Upon completion, Scottsdale Reserve will also form a crucial part of the Kosciuszko 2 Coast project, a community run partnership aiming to connect remnant woodlands and grasslands between the NSW, ACT Alps and the NSW far south coast (Bush Heritage Australia, 2012).

My work experience assignment involved monitoring the health of native trees planted in 2013 intended to form the future box-gum woodland environment. Species assessed included, Eucalyptus pauciflora (snow gum), Eucalyptus melliodora (yellow box), Eucalyptus bridgesiana (apple box), Acacia dealbata (silver wattle) and Casuarina cunninghamiana (she-oak). Most of the woodland species planted have been propagated on site using local cultivars to allow the seedlings to adapt to the climate conditions from germination (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Seedlings within the Scottsdale Reserve nursery

Site preparation for planting within the Scottsdale reserve involved contour ripping to break up the soil to allow young roots to establish and have easier access to water. Weed matting was also trialled beneath a number of trees to reduce the competition of introduced grass species, giving the seedlings improved access to water, nutrients and light while they established. Trees were also planted with plastic shields to protect the young saplings from grazing and wind damage.

The task for day one was to identify and confirm the two-year old trees had been named correctly in past experiments, measure the height of each tree with a builders tape and assess each tree’s health. We followed pre-marked maps identifying each row of trees for measurement (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Transect map of the weed mat experiment area, provided by Dr David Freudenberger

Day two of this assignment was spent in a rather less exciting manner with our old friend excel, entering the trees’ identity, health and height data. Despite being cooped in front of a computer this process presented some rather interesting and pleasing results for the Scottsdale rehabilitation project. Especially the impressive survival rates of up to 98%, indicating high recovery potential for this woodland site into the future.

This work experience project provided a practical insight into the difficulties of returning a cleared agricultural landscape back towards the original, native woodland ecosystem. Hopefully I can return to Scottsdale in 20 or 30 years and observe a box-gum grassy woodland thriving, full of native biodiversity.

References

Bush Heritage Australia, 2014, “Scottsdale Reserve”, http://www.bushheritage.org.au/places-we-protect/new-south-wales/scottsdale

Bush Heritage Australia, 2012, “Scottsdale reserve scorecard”, found at http://www.bushheritage.org.au/places-we-protect/new-south-wales/scottsdale

DECCW NSW, 2010, “National Recovery Plain for White Box – Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland”, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, NSW, Sydney.

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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