Contributed by Georgina Jones, Member Big Scrub Landcare. 

Enhancing remnants, linkages and corridors across the Big Scrub is the focus of a $100,000 Big Scrub Landcare project funded by the NSW Environmental Trust. The project is enhancing and expanding critically endangered lowland subtropical rainforest across the Byron, Ballina and Lismore areas. This is the second project funded by the Trust working to convert mixed camphor laurel and rainforest areas to lowland subtropical rainforest.

Many areas of previously cleared Big Scrub rainforest have regrowth with a mix of camphor laurel and rainforest plants. Bush regenerators and nine private landholders are working to restore these areas to lowland subtropical rainforest.

Iain Stych, Envite Environment Bush Regeneration Team Leader, said “Restoration work involves drilling larger stands of woody weeds such as camphor laurel and large-leaved privet and controlling understory and ground stratum weeds including tobacco bush, small-leaved privet, ochna, mistflower and broad leaved paspalum.”

Dan Cox, Envite Environment Restoration Ecologist said, “Sites chosen have strong natural resilience, with rainforest plants regenerating to take the place of weeds. Ongoing control of germinating weeds is also required to ensure growth of young rainforest rather than weeds in the long term.”

“The nine landholders involved in the project are all committed to restoring lowland subtropical rainforest and contribute to the project by working alongside bush regenerators, assisting with keeping stock out of restoration areas and in many cases funding additional bush regeneration work with their own resources. Much of the long term success of the project is due to the efforts of landholders.”

This project is needed to improve connectivity and linkages across the highly fragmented Big Scrub landscape, assisting fauna movement and seed and pollen distribution. Works enhance natural rainforest regeneration and the viability of critically endangered lowland subtropical rainforest and increase habitat for 54 threatened species.

Lowland subtropical rainforest and the species that depend on it face major threats of fragmentation, climate change and weed invasion.

The project utilises the natural resilience of lowland subtropical rainforest to convert stands of mixed camphor laurel, other weed species and rainforest to patches of restored rainforest. These restored areas then act as additional stepping-stones across the Big Scrub landscape improving corridors and linkages between rainforest remnants.