Working together as volunteers in Mount Majura Nature Reserve

Introduction

Living in Ainslie district for over two years, I have been used to the scenes of Mount Ainslie and Mount Majura Nature Reserves every weekday back to home. Sometimes, I feel grateful to live in such a nice suburb enclosed by the mountains, enjoying beautiful scenes and fresh air directly from nature. Friends of Mount Majura (FoMM) Park Care Group gave me the opportunity to do something for the blessing.

Mount Majura Nature Reserve (MMNR), located at the Northeast of Canberra City, plays an important role in Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) conservation as Canberra Nature Park. Listed as the Critically Endangered species under the Federal EBPC Act and the recent report of less than 5% remained patches, we must act as quick as possible to prevent further loss of Yellow Box and other native gum species from land clearing by city development.

We worked at the site located at the North of MMNR, northeast of Watson Woodlands that we went before in Week 4 during the field trip, east of the Fair. This site is a Box Gun Grassy Woodland (BGGW). It provides habitats for diverse native fauna and flora, for example, the critically endangered Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) and Canberra Spider Orchid (Caladenia actensis). This site was heavily damaged from grazing by cattle, sheep and horses, resulting in loss of native species and replacement by exotic weeds and shrubs. Thanks to the volunteer work over the past two years, this landscape has been improved by manually planting native species and removing exotic species, returning to a good habitat for a lot of local endangered fauna and flora.

Figure 1: Map of Planting Area we worked on.

Figure 2: view of part of working site slope. (Sheng, 17 Sep 2017)

Working Party

On 17 Sep, I joined this session of working party to experience the conservation work they have done for the past two years. There were some new ideas about conservation working I learned from this experience.

We watered over wattle, eucalyptus seedlings and orchids one by one, each with at least four litres of water. Waltraud noticed us we must be careful of watering slowly instead of heavy pour. We must make sure the water soaked the soil thoroughly by slow watering.

Then we applied a layer of mulch around the plants and nearby land. This work is to suppress exotic and native weeds growth which impact on tree growth via competition for limited water and nutrient resources. Manual mulching was really a heavy work as we only used buckets to manually move the mulch particles and built a layer of mulch on a large area of ground.

Some findings

We spotted a brown thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla) nest spreading wattle (Acacia genistifolia) when we were watering the seedlings. This observation was exciting. It proved the work by FoMM in conserving this land, providing a good habitat for the native birds.

Figure 3: Brown thornbill nest found in Spreading wattle planted in the working area. (Sheng, 17 Sep 2017)

During the break, I noticed the two exotic trees providing shelter for us. Waltraud told us as long as they did not harm the landscape by propagating its offspring, FoMM kept them alive. They did not harm the native species while providing shelter for our volunteers, why not just keep them. Practically, recovering the site to the exact original reference site is not necessary as long as the exotic species does not stress the growth of native species. ‘Friendly’ exotic species can grow together and contribute to biodiversity, kind of ‘win-win’.

Figure 4: ‘friendly’ exotic trees providing us shelter during the break. (Sheng, 17 Sep 2017)

Reflection

After several hours of working of watering and mulching, I should be honest to say it was not an easy job. A lot of manual work must be done by volunteers on such a small site, how about the other sites? I was also worried about the future work if fewer and fewer people involved in this kind of work if we do not continue. Education and promoting the importance of biodiversity conservation to the local people are equally important as what we are doing now. Conservation cannot be done with the help of people from all of the society. As long as I still live in Ainslie and receive the blessing from these nature reserves, I would appreciate continuing this voluntary work.

Acknowledgement

Thanks for Waltraud Pix, the project manager of FoMM, assisting us during the work and giving us a lot of information about this working site. I also want to thank Crystallene Fernando who worked at this site much earlier (definitely a veteran), assisting me during the work and sharing some important information about this site.

Reference

Map of 2014 Planting Area

https://www.flickr.com/photos/61627737@N03/14094870527/sizes/l

Mount Majura Nature Reserve, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, ACT Government

https://www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/parks-and-reserves/find-a-park/canberra-nature-park/mount-majura-nature-reserve

White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland, Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment and Energy

http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=43

Lathamus discolor — Swift Parrot, Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment and Energy

http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=744

Caladenia actensis — Canberra Spider Orchid, Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment and Energy

http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=76138

Waltraud Pix’s blog on FoMM

http://majura.org/author/waltraud/

 

Yuwei Sheng (u5897754)

 

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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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