Big Scrub Restoration

The Big Scrub was once the largest expanse of subtropical rainforest in Australia. Today less than one percent remains as fragmented remnants scattered across 75,000 hectares between the towns of Byron Bay, Ballina and Lismore in far north NSW.

As the Big Scrub remnants are the most diverse ecosystem in NSW it is of vital concern that we nurture and care for them. The remnants contain a rich diversity of flora and fauna, supporting more than 300 species of trees and shrubs.

At least 38 threatened species of flora and 61 species of fauna are found in the remnants. Their high conservation value is reflected in the inclusion of the thirty-two largest remnants in the Register of the National Estate, ‘places we should keep’. Lowland Subtropical Rainforest is also listed as an Endangered Ecological Community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.

The Threat to Big Scrub Remains
The Big Scrub rainforest remnants require ongoing care and maintenance. Their condition has steadily deteriorated over the years due to the impact of many damaging weed species that spread rapidly throughout the remnant. These vigorously growing weeds smother native plants, seriously degrading the forest structure and arresting the potential for natural regeneration. Without effective weed control the remnant’s health and viability will decline and future regeneration works will increase exponentially.

Many weed species are responsible for the degradation of the Big Scrub remnants. The most troublesome are Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia), large- and small-leaved privet (Ligustrum lucidum, Ligustrum sinense), morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) and wanderer (Tradescantia fluminensis).

Madeira vine is the most destructive due to its extremely efficient reproductive system, very rapid growth, heavy weight and capacity to blanket even large trees. It can reduce healthy rainforest to a stand of vine-draped poles within one to two decades. Privet effectively invades the understorey, dominates the mid storey, and covers the forest floor, displacing native species. Wanderer forms a thick mat, effectively inhibiting the germination of rainforest seedlings.

Rainforest Rescue Responds
Rainforest Rescue has been working with project partners, Big Scrub Landcare (BSL), to restore the Big Scrub since 1999. With the support of tax-deductible donations from individuals and sponsorship from businesses Rainforest Rescue has committed over $100,000 to Big Scrub restoration and education so far.

The funds are used to engage professional rainforest regenerators who work in the remnants to remove weeds and facilitate natural regeneration of the rainforest. The rainforest regenerators are able to distinguish between 300 native rainforest species and 150 species of weeds and are highly skilled in weed control techniques.

The initial focus of the restoration works was on the Booyong Flora Reserve. In June 2002 Rainforest Rescue announced the completion of the primary works required to restore Booyong. Now at a ‘care and maintenance level’, Booyong requires ongoing follow up work to ensure weeds do not return. Work is now actively underway to restore all Big Scrub remnants.

Rainforest Rescue is committed to supporting the restoration of Big Scrub and the efforts of BSL through fundraising, education, promotion and on-the-ground partnership.

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