Preservation of Ecological Corridors at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

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The Place

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (TNR) provides a range of educational, recreational and conservation opportunities. It is a popular bushwalking and animal-watching destination. The Northern Corroboree Frog and Southern Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby captive breeding programs, are among the park’s conservation initiatives.

We met a hand-reared S. Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby

We met a hand-reared S. Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby

The Project

Kunzea is a native shrub which can become invasive. At Tidbinbilla, past land-use and fires facilitated its colonisation. The first population boom, in the 60s, resulted from the clearing followed by removal of sheep from the area1. Another catalyst for their proliferation were the 2003 bushfires2, because their lignotubers enable fast recovery[1]. The increased prevalence of Kunzea is problematic because:

  1. It reduces grass-feed for native animals[2]
  2. It could reduce floristic diversity1, and
  3. It provides fuel for wildfires1.

I helped with a Kunzea ericoides and bird mapping project to inform conservation of ecological corridors. Insectivorous birds are particularly reliant on Kunzea for habitat and food, and the aim is to reserve the most critical patches. I mapped for six days around the Tidbinbilla Information Visitor Centre (TIVC) & Birrigai.

Lessons in…

Surveys

This experience gave me a taste of fieldwork, and its associated challenges. On the first day, I was given many things to carry and left with the instruction: ‘do it however you feel comfortable’. Initially, I mapped individual plants, still hopeful that a protocol would be provided, before realising it wouldn’t and experimenting with transects. I found myself zigzagging the plains. Flagging tape was my lifeline, but it was sometimes obscured by the undulating terrain and vegetation. A system of mapping developed using notebook (with a table of maturity, density, transect #, waypoint and observations) and a GPS. B[3] assured me that it would all come out in the wash. I never saw it happen due to ArcGIS problems, however I imagine there would be much time spent deciphering/entering my data. I didn’t realise I was meant to plan the survey, so hadn’t done any preparation – such as reading or site scouting. If I could do it again, I would develop a loose protocol before starting, and adapt. I would recruit more people to increase efficiency, knowledge and enjoyment. I might conduct seasonal surveys – to see the effect of flowering, for example. Additionally I’d investigate technology, such as transect tapes/wires, and waterproof GPS with better note-taking capabilities to improve data security and legibility. It would also help to look at the mapping software, e.g. ArcGIS, before designing the survey. B. repeatedly told me that fieldwork is best learnt by experience, this lesson itself is valuable and comes from experience.

Flagging tape on a young Kunzea

Flagging tape on a young Kunzea

  Ecosystem Connectivity

My experience allowed me to see systems within the environment. Birds nested in the eucalyptus canopy, swooping down to catch insects floating around the Kunzea. This demonstrated complex habitat use. There were other animals at my site that may be affected by Kunzea removal: pigs, wombats, emus, rabbits. The effect weed removal will have on pest species is unclear but needs to be monitored and managed to mitigate risks. My experience made me reflect on the difficulty of effectively researching and managing an ecosystem –when one species alone is hard enough.

Foreground: Emus enjoy a bush-tucker tuber. Background: Kunzea

Foreground: Emus enjoy a bush-tucker tuber. Background: Kunzea

[1] Kirschbaum, S. B. & Williams, D. G., 1991. Colonization of pasture by Kunzea ericoides in the Tidbinbilla Valley, ACT, Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology, 16:79-90 [2] TAMS, 2012. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Birrigai Plan of Management, ACT Government, available: http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/di/2012-193/current/pdf/2012-193.pdf [3] TNR Ranger

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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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One Response to Preservation of Ecological Corridors at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

  1. Chloe says:

    Interesting blog! I’d like to know more about the Kunzea – ecological corridors project, how will Kunzea facilitate movement? Is it only a bird-related project? What types of effects will removal/retention of Kunzea have on other taxa? How are critical habitat patches identified/defined?

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