Trees

Regrowth Forest

In Australia, regrowth forest has been in the news recently. Our conservative Government requested that an area of regrowth forest be removed from the World Heritage listing.  Thankfully the request was refused because this regrowth is  part of a beautiful old growth forest in Tasmania. Over the last few weeks, when I ventured into areas of local bushland, the discussion of whether regrowth had conservation value  prompted me to take notice of the condition of a local nature reserve.

Local History

I’m led to believe that most of the natural bush in this area is regrowth from logging which occurred in the 1850′s. This was  when the gold rush was at its peak; when timber was needed to line mines, lay railway tracks and serve as building materials for the fast-growing new nation.  There is the occasional old huge-girthed tree in our area, but most trees are in their prime, reaching for the sky and small enough to grasp your own hands on the reverse side of the trunk.  With the limited knowledge I have, it seems that the regrowth bushland which still exists has been largely undisturbed since that time, with the exception of felling to make space for  houses or to create paddocks here and there.

The Reserve

Not far from where we live is a reserve which has the same species of trees and under-story shrubs that we have on our property. Walking through the reserve, I couldn’t help but notice the number of exotic plants (or weeds as they are more commonly known) covering the ground. Among the species I noticed were couch grass, oxalis, thistles of various descriptions, but there were many more.  During my walk, I could not see one example of a native plant growing low to the ground.

The history of the reserve is unknown to me, but it has obviously been exposed to higher level of traffic than our land.  The weediest areas are those alongside the road.

Despite the weeds, the mature trees in the reserve do offer real value for wildlife in the form of  hollows to nest in, bushy cover to hide in, and sufficient food to host a healthy population of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects.  It also has a higher ratio of old growth trees than we have here.

How Do We Compare?

Looking more precisely at our own property,  it seems that it has never been grazed, nor has it been used for agricultural crops.  In comparison to the reserve,  we have relatively few weeds in our bushland.  The ground in our  regrowth bush area  is covered with bracken, moss, and a myriad of  native plant species such as orchids, lilies,  sundews, heath, tea tree, to name a few.  I’m still building my native species list, but already I have identified forty-nine (49) different species of plants and thirty-eight (38) species of birds on our property.  This feels like only the beginning as I have tens of unidentified plant photos to add to the list, and I know there are many bird species I am yet to photograph.

However, I don’t want to give the impression that our bushland is pristine when it is far from it. We have a number of exotics (weeds) across our property, some of which I have documented.  Grass, in particular, has encroached into some sections, most notably the transition zone between house and bush.  I guess this is to be expected when we don’t back onto bushland, but onto other properties.  Wildlife will have tracked in seeds from other locations, including the roadside across many years, and the land is inhabited by us, and our predecessors.  Somewhere on our property there is rumoured to be a filled in mine shaft from the 1850′s.  If this is true, then mining would also have affected the land, even if the impact was minimal, and for a very short time.

On balance though, I think our bushland has survived relatively intact  and it can support a wide range of native species.

The Value of Regrowth Forest

Returning to the question of whether regrowth forest has conservation value, I strongly believe that it does.  The key to ensuring it has a high conservation value is to protect it from invasive and exotic species.  It would help if it was difficult to access; if the passing traffic was minimal or non-existent.  It seems to me that a section of regrowth forest surrounded by World Heritage listed old growth forest provides the best chance for native species to repopulate and flourish.   In time,  protected regrowth forest will become high conservation value old growth forest.

regrowth-bushland-showing eucalypt-trunks-and-bracken

A typical section of our bushland showing regrowth from logging in the 1850′s.

moss-covered-walking-track-through-bushland

This section of the forest floor is typical of most of our bush in that it is weed free. Sections not covered by moss have a ground cover of bark, dead leaves and in patches, exposed soil.

ant-hill-surrounded-by-forest-floor-leaves-new-growth

This section of the forest floor has ant hills surrounded by moss and tiny native plants such as climbing sundew and heath,

moss-strewn-with-bark-and-young-orchid-leaves

Some sections of our forest floor are covered with moss and orchid leaves

forest-floor-showing-fallen-branch-and-native-grasses

Other sections of the forest floor resemble this section of the walking track with fallen bark and leaves. There is evidence of some grass, but it is not the dominant plant species. Native species such as Xanthorrhoea, heath and flax lily, along with orchids, lilies and native peas create a spectacular display in Spring and Summer – right here…

 

 

5 replies »

  1. Lisa, ecologically, and artistically, you did a superb job! You always use your scientific knowledge to discover, compare, and come to conclusions. Australia is lucky to have citizens like you, who get the facts and reach conclusions by themselves. Hope a reverse on the decision of the carbon tax will occur soon. In regard to the photos, all of them are excellent, but number one is a masterpiece for me. Best, and take care! Thanks for this awesome post! :)

    • Hi Fabio, Yes, with the Carbon Tax decision, the World Heritage listing request and on other environmental issues, it is a bit depressing of late. At the moment, money is being cut out of scientific research as well – this government removed the office of Minister for Science too, when Australia was one of the leaders in specific areas of research. While I try to keep this blog apolitical, there seems to be an increase in the things to worry about. I won’t comment more on this right now.

      Thanks also for your comments on the photographs. I like the first photograph too. :-) Lisa

  2. very nice article , Lisa, and thanks for the lovely twilight walk we did the other day. Loved seeing the orchids, opening my eyes through another aperture.

    • Thanks Bernie, you taught me a few things about the bird calls too, today I was listening to a call when I walked up to the house from the gate and I think it was the White Faced Honeyeater. It makes me realise that I don’t know a lot about bird calls. That’s another thing to learn. It was lovely to see you and show you the orchids. :-) Lisa

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s