The Impact of Local Environmental Volunteering
By Jonah Morris (u6381040)
For a total of 15 hours over 5 sessions from the 13th of September to the 6th of October on Thursday and Saturday mornings I volunteered at ‘The Pinnacle’ nature reserve. The Pinnacle is my local nature reserve located near Hawker in Belconnen and it is worked on and protected by the Friends of The Pinnacle volunteer organisation (abbreviated as “FOTPIN”). Over this time I assisted in different forms of weed control and relocating native kangaroo grass (aka Themeda triandra or Themeda australis) from a dried riverbank to an allocated restoration zone.
Previous location of kangaroo grass and the replanting and restoration area
This relocation was required due to kangaroo grass being a threatened native species that was in the path of development. The upcoming development is a pipeline that is planned to supply water to new suburbs on the opposite side of William Hovell Drive. The kangaroo grass is valued because it is a drought resistant, threatened native species that competes with weeds. Keeping the Pinnacle native is important not only because it is a place where people go to enjoy native Australian scenery and wildlife, but also because it is a site for multiple research projects that are studying native vegetation.
Additionally, the reserve plays a significant role in the broader biodiversity conservation of the entire ACT. Although it started as a restoration project of old farm land that had been degraded from decades of grazing from domestic stock, the Pinnacle is now a large reserve rich with biodiversity.
Transition from farmland to nature reserve
Credit: Hallam, 1991; Bond, 2011
Available at: http://www.fotpin.org.au/pinnacle_changes.html
This results in many of the benefits of large native habitat patches which we discussed in week 3. As a large patch of native vegetation, the Pinnacle allows for species that require large areas and species that require niches only available in large patches to gain a new habitat. Across it’s 138ha the Pinnacle now contains 150 native species of grasses, shrubs and trees, more than 100 species of birds (40% of the species known to be found in the ACT), several hundred eastern grey kangaroos, as well as echidnas and bearded dragons (Bond, 2018).
Bearded Dragon sunbaking as we had lunch
The importance of the Pinnacle’s ecology puts additional pressure on preserving native species and reducing the weeds that threaten the habitat that supports them. As we covered in week 8, weeds are one of the most significant threats to native Australian biodiversity and habitat loss due to the success they have in competing with native species. They do especially well in areas that have been heavily cleared or under the pressure of grazing like the Pinnacle. The majority of work that FOTPIN does is based around weeding and whilst I couldn’t have seen or contributed to any major changes in the few weeks I have been there, they have had great success against the weeds in previous years.
Example of successful weed control at the Pinnacle (Verbascum in this example)
Credit: Blemings, 2007; Bond, 2013
Available at: http://www.fotpin.org.au/weeds/verbascum_5ways.html
Before volunteering, I would have considered conservation work on this scale to be difficult to approach, but working with this group has demonstrated how easy, yet influential local volunteer work can be. This experience has shown that small tasks such as spraying weeds with weed wands, marking the locations of large patches of weeds with GPS devices and shovel work relocating native grass can have a major impact on an entire reserve when done consistently by a dedicated group.
Spraying weeds with weed wands
Bond, W. (2018). about The Pinnacle Nature Reserve. [online] Fotpin.org.au. Available at: http://www.fotpin.org.au/about_pnr.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].
Bond, W. and Blemings, R. (2018). Verbascum control, Friends of The Pinnacle. [online] Fotpin.org.au. Available at: http://www.fotpin.org.au/weeds/verbascum_5ways.html [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].