Community News

VOICES FOR THE EARTH

Floodplain Forest Rehabilitation

Eighteen months ago, I reported on an Environmental Trust funded project, aimed at rehabilitating two areas of very recognisable floodplain forest, commonly referred to as Paperbark Swamp, or Swamp Sclerophyll Forest.

At the outset both swamps, totalling over 40 hectares, were devastated by the 2019 bushfire that hit at the height of the worst drought on record, and was followed almost immediately by major flash flooding. With no ground cover vegetation, the subsequent erosion was horrific, cutting deep channels across the swamps and depositing sand across both sites to a depth of 20cm.

However, with the Lantana removed and two years of higher-than-average rainfall, both swamps are showing remarkable resilience and are bursting back to life, despite the loss of many Swamp Mahoganies and Broad-leaved Paperbarks that had formed the forest canopy.

Now in its third and final year, that project has been responsible for these remnants of endangered ecological communities being brought back to life.

As with any weed eradication program, follow-up after the initial primary work is essential, as there is always a soil seed bank that will immediately reinfest the area if not addressed. Fortunately, the follow-up process is relatively simple, a matter of pulling up seedlings before they themselves flower and seed, and generally after 2-3 years there will be no seed bank left.

The fortunate thing about this particular project, being delivered by the Clarence Environment Centre, is the fact that the bushfires were so intense that a lot of the original Lantana infestation was killed outright, allowing the team to also extend their work upstream into the feeder gullies, thus removing a further seed source.

This is a major benefit of multi-year projects, and we commend the Trust for providing longer-term funding which allows follow-up to occur. All too often we see a burst of weed eradication funding, usually triggered by disasters that cease after just 12 months, such as the 2019-20 bushfires, resulting in the problem returning in a few years.

All we need now is for fires to be excluded for an extended period.

John Edwards

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