Big Scrub Restoration
Big Scrub Remnants & Nature Reserves
The Big Scrub clearing began in the 1840s by European settlers. The area was cleared for its valuable cabinet timber species, in particular red cedar, and to ultimately open up the land for agriculture and development.
The Big Scrub originally covered approximately 75,000 hectares extending from Lismore, east to the edge of the coastal plain inland from Ballina and from Meerschaum Vale in the south to the Nightcap, Goonengerry, and Byron Bay in the north, including the villages of Alstonville, Clunes, and Bangalow. Now only small scattered remnants of rainforest remain, most of these remnants are less than five hectares in area and cover less than 700 hectares in total.
The mosaic of remnants stretches across the Alstonville-Dunoon plateau and are important stepping stones for birds and bats that seasonally migrate between the forests of the coast to the south, and the Nightcap and Border Ranges. The remnants are important genetic pools for seed dispersal between rainforests in north-eastern New South Wales. The remnants have been and will continue to be used as very significant research sites, particularly for researching the effects of human land use and forest fragmentation on rainforest ecology, a topic of national and international concern. The remnants demonstrate the range of lowland rainforest alliances of the volcano.
The main Big Scrub remnants today include Uralba Nature Reserve, Andrew Johnston Big Scrub, Victoria Park, Davis Scrub, Hayters Hill, Boatharbour, Minyon Falls Nature Reserve, Big Scrub Flora Reserve, and Wilson Nature Reserve.
- Uralba Nature Reserve covers an area of approximately 155 hectares on the Blackall Range near Alstonville (Geo Co-ords -28.89375 153.46281). Uralba Nature Reserve was declared a protected area in 1976.
- Booyong Recreation Reserve covers an area of 16 hectares, 12 of which comprise alluvial rainforest containing 120 species of native trees and shrubs, 22 wet forest birds (of which thirteen are rainforest dependent), one rainforest dependent reptile, and eight plant species nationally listed as rare, vulnerable or endangered. Booyong Recreational Reserve contains a major flying fox camp and the largest ball nut (FLOYDIA PRAEALTA) seen in New South Wales. It is located 2.5km southwest of Nashua (Geo Co-ords -28.7433 153.4484).
- Andrew Johnston Big Scrub covers an area of 21 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1975. The Andrew Johnston Big Scrub remnant is located near Beacom Road off Eureka Road in Eureka (Geo Co-ords -28.69834 153.42299).
- Victoria Park covers an area of 17 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1975. The Victoria Park remnant is located on Victoria Park Road off Dalwood Road in Alstonville (Geo Co-ords -28.90445 153.411).
- Davis Scrub covers an area of 13 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1980. The Davis Scrub remnant is located 10 km southeast of Lismore.
- Hayters Hill covers an area of 8 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1989. The Hayters Hill remnant is located on Bangalow Road between Bangalow and Byron Bay (Geo Co-ords -28.67278 153.5851).
- Boatharbour covers an area of 24 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1987. The Boatharbour Nature Reserve is located on Bangalow Road 7 km northeast of Lismore (Geo Co-ords -28.78135 153.32979).
- Minyon Falls Nature Reserve covers an area of 112 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1979. The Minyon Falls Nature Reserve is located on Minyon Falls Road, 20 km west of Byron Bay (Geo Co-ords -28.6128 153.3902).
- Big Scrub Flora Reserve covers an area of 196 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1976. The Big Scrub Flora Reserve is located on Gibbergunyah Range Road near Rocky Creek Dam. (Geo co-ords -28.63334 153.31667).
- Wilson Nature Reserve covers an area of 28 hectares and was declared a protected area in 1993. The Wilson Nature Reserve is located on City View Drive off Wyrallah Road in Lismore (Geo Co-ords -28.83334 153.28693).
The Big Scrub once covered approximately 75,000 hectares
The Big Scrub was once the largest expanse of subtropical rainforest in Australia. It extended from the coastal plain inland from Ballina to Lismore in the east and to the edge of Meerschaum Vale in the south to the Nightcap, Goonengerry and Byron Bay in the north, including the villages of Alstonville, Clunes and Bangalow.
Now, less than 1% remains in small scattered remnants of rainforest, under five hectares in area and covering a total area of fewer than 700 hectares.
Big Scrub Threatened Species
The Big Scrub remnants are home to at least 61 threatened species of fauna, 9 of which are classed as endangered. Of the estimated 38 threatened plant species, 19 are endangered.
Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail
Giant Barred Frog
Greater Broad-nosed Bat
Large-eared Pied Bat
Eastern Bent-wing Bat
Eastern Tube-nosed Bat
Stephens’ Banded Snake
Eastern Long-eared Bat
Rough-leaved Queensland Nut
Red Lilly Pilly
Rusty Rose Walnut
White Lace Flower
Smooth Davidson’s Plum
Endiandra muelleri subsp. bracteata
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, heavyweight 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.
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.
Rocky Creek Dam
The area contains 148ha of rainforest, a high diversity of native trees and shrubs (181 species), wet forest birds (forty-five species, of which twenty-four are rainforest dependent) and other native vertebrates (twenty-five species, of which four are rainforest dependent mammals, one is a rainforest dependent frog and three are rainforest dependent reptiles), twelve plant species nationally listed as rare, vulnerable or endangered or have been recently recommended for listing as rare and thirteen vulnerable and rare species of fauna listed in Part Two of Schedule Twelve of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
Rocky Creek Dam was constructed between 1950 and 1953 and is the main water supply for many local areas located throughout the Far North Coast of NSW, including Lismore, Ballina, Byron and Richmond Valley. The dam is situated within the Richmond River catchment, approximately 25 kilometres north of Lismore and is located along the southern edge of Nightcap National Park. Rocky Creek Dam can be accessed by bitumen road from Lismore, via Rocky Creek Dam Road. On-site access to the dam is provided via an existing bitumen road from the picnic area. Rocky Creek catchment is located within the Mount Warning Caldera region.
As a result of the fertile volcanic soils and high rainfall, the catchment is an area of high native flora and fauna species richness and endemism. The National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Fisheries indicate that the Terania Creek system, of which Rocky Creek is a tributary, has high conservation value.
The dam wall is 27 metres high, 187 metres above sea level and the dam when full, holds 14000 megalitres of water. The 29 square kilometres of catchment area includes sections of Nightcap National Park, Whian Whian State Forest and revegetated farmland. The runoff produces a very soft clear water for distribution to consumers.
The dam has a platypus viewing platform, elevated boardwalk and pontoon bridge, picnic, BBQ facilities with wood supplied, benches, tables and children’s play equipment.
Three walks are available: 10-minute easy walk, dam and spillway, a 15 minute reasonably easy walk to Pontoon Bridge, spillway & dam, a 40 to 60-minute big scrub bush walk with the possibility of getting wet.
The loop drive connects with a number of walking tracks of varying lengths (400m to 9km). These will take you deeper into the different types of forest and through rainforest gullies and along creeks. Some of the walks have views of the Rocky Creek Dam, lowland rainforest, waterfalls, Mt Warning / Wollumbin and the escarpment of the Tweed Valley.
Big Scrub Flora Reserve
The Big Scrub Flora Reserve area contains covers an area of 196 hectares and contains 148 hectares of rainforest, a high diversity of native trees and shrubs (181 species), wet forest birds (forty-five species, of which twenty-four are rainforest dependent) and other native vertebrates (twenty-five species, of which four are rainforest dependent mammals, one is a rainforest dependent frog and three are rainforest dependent reptiles), twelve plant species nationally listed as rare, vulnerable or endangered or have been recently recommended for listing as rare and thirteen vulnerable and rare species of fauna listed in Part Two of Schedule Twelve of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
Big Scrub Loop Walk (1.5 km) This walk is a unique opportunity to view and experience the largest remaining area of the Big Scrub lowland subtropical rainforest. Originally covering more than 75,000 ha, the Big Scrub was the largest continuous area of lowland subtropical rainforest in Australia. Only a few hundred hectares remain as upwards of 99.7% of the rainforest on these deep red soils was cleared for agriculture.
Scrub Turkey Walk (3km back to Rocky Creek Dam Picnic Area) [This track is also known as the Northern Boundary Trail] This walk takes you through tall regrowth Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) and Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) forest, magnificent ‘old-growth’ eucalypt forest, and the lowland subtropical rainforest of the Big Scrub. The final kilometre of the walk passes through the Rous Water rainforest regeneration area, and across the spillway and dam wall to the picnic area.
Car and bus parking available.
Big Scrub Rainforest Day
Since 1999, the Big Scrub Rainforest Day has inspired and educated thousands of landholders and volunteers to tackle weeds, plant trees and grow their passion and understanding of rainforests. Through its innovative, fun program, the event engages the whole community.
Co-founded by Rainforest Rescue with the Big Scrub Rainforest Landcare Group, the Big Scrub Rainforest Day has grown to become Australia’s largest annual Landcare education event. People travel from all over southeast Queensland, northern NSW and beyond to join the festivities and discover practical ways they can help the environment.
The aim of the event is to provide a forum for education on the Big Scrub Rainforest. It has a particular focus on inspiring and motivating individuals and groups to become active in rainforest conservation and restoration.
Additionally, the event aims to raise funds to support the restoration of the Big Scrub rainforest.
Over the last few years, some of Australia’s leading biologists, ecologists and other scientists have provided walks, talks and presentations on flora and fauna and the latest conservation techniques. The food and information stalls, entertainment and kids festival make it a fun day out for all.
For further information please contact the Big Scrub Landcare Group
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