Protecting Illawarra Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs) – Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project
In 2012, Landcare Illawarra was successful in securing $500,000 of funding under the Australian government’s Clean Energy Future Biodiversity Fund Program over six years.
What does this mean for the Illawarra?
Previous funding programs which supported the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project were often short lived and no more than one year long. This meant that support for ongoing maintenance of environmental restoration and planting projects were unable to be supported and on-going extension services from the project officer to landholders and Landcare groups was limited to available funds.
Under this program, securing six years of funding support will allow Landcare Illawarra to support an increasing number of Landholders to better protect native vegetation on their properties with particular focus on Illawarra Lowland Grassy Woodland and Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest.
The Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project is a region-wide project which targets properties which contain vegetation from two Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs), Illawarra Lowlands Grassy Woodland and Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest.
Sites of interest are located in all local government areas of the Illawarra (Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama), NSW but Landcare Illawarra will especially seek where there is potential to improve connectivity across multiple properties and aims to work in (but is not limited to) priority vegetation corridors identified in the Illawarra. In this regard the project has complemented other regional projects to improve biodiversity corridors and establish connectivity of isolated patches of remnant vegetation. These are programs being delivered by organisations such as Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority under the Escarpment to Sea program.
Sites involved in the project under previous funding programs have carried out invasive species management and revegetation projects in partnership with Landcare Illawarra.
Under previous funding programs, Landcare Illawarra has been able to collect over 400 seed lots from a range of species from both these ecological communities. Landholders have had access to the propagated seed at no charge, and have been able to introduce these species and extend the range, and improve the quality and diversity of plants within these ecological communities on their properties in the Illawarra.
To date there are 30 properties involved in the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project. The project aims to engage a further minimum of 5 landholders per year to become involved in the project around the Illawarra. The selection of the location of newly involved properties will strategically work towards establishing better connectivity between remnant patches of Endangered Ecological Community vegetation on unengaged private landholder property, and properties which have previously been involved in biodiversity projects in the region. But other properties can benefit from resources the program will deliver as part of this funded project too in the form of access to tubestock, land management advice and access to free workshops and training days.
The two vegetation communities being addressed are Illawarra Lowlands Grassy Woodland and Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest. These two communities are restricted to the Illawarra region and are generally not well conserved. They are both listed as EECs under the Threatened Species Conservation Act NSW 1995.
Illawarra Lowland Grassy Woodland occupies Illawarra coastal plains and escarpment foothills. Much of this vegetation type has been highly fragmented and exists in isolated pockets due to land clearing and urban development. It is now threatened by degradation due to invasion of exotic weed species and overgrazing on private property as well as a loss of genetic diversity due to isolation of populations of species in this vegetation community across the landscape.
Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest occupies high nutrient volcanic soils in the Illawarra and has also become highly fragmented. It exists in isolated pockets around the region due to land clearing for urban development and agriculture. Management problems for landholders would ease with skills and knowledge in how to manage weeds and invasive species around the borders of their remnants, but it is always good to monitor what is happening under rainforest canopy in the Illawarra. It is often old, large, and weed free, and always amenable to restoration.
These EECs also provide habitat for a variety of endangered animal species such as Spotted Quolls (Dasyurus maculatus), and endangered plant species such as the Illawarra Zieria (Zieria Granulata) and the White-flowered Wax Plant (Cynanchum elegans).
Loss of genetic diversity in these EECs by fragmentation of populations of species, is also threatening the long-term survival of these vegetation communities.
As part of the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest project Landcare Illawarra will aim to engage landholders with these two EECs on their properties and assist them with the restoration of these communities, and help improve the resilience of these vegetation communities across the region.
Weeds of National Significance (WONS) such as lantana (Lantana camara) have become highly invasive in both these EECs. Noxious and environmental weeds also invade this remnant vegetation on most of the
properties containing these EECs.
Landcare Illawarra is working to educate landholders on lantana management, as there are many instances where it has been overcleared, with many secondary weeds are invading where there has not been significant natural regeneration or revegetation.
Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) is a key partner in this project over the next six years. CVA is Australia’s largest not for profit organisation with 30 years of knowledge and experience in managing volunteers in practical conservation.
As part of this project CVA has a key role in engaging the wider community to become involved in conservation efforts on private land. CVA actively leads teams of volunteers from the Illawarra community out of the Wollongong Office and these volunteers are providing valuable assistance to landholders involved in this program to carry out on-ground works including weed removal, tree planting, fencing and ongoing maintenance.
By involving a wider network of individuals from the community through CVA, this is helping to raise awareness of regional biodiversity issues and providing an opportunity for everyday people to come and lend a helping hand.
CVA volunteers work in the field under the supervision of a qualified team leader and under the guidance of the Landcare Illawarra Project Officer. Volunteers meet and work alongside the landholders and learn skills in native plant and weed identification, and how to better protect our native vegetation.
Conservation efforts aim to address issues such as:
- Separation of species’ populations leading to reiterative inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity
- Loss of genetic diversity in Rainforest and Woodland remnants as species fail to recruit new generations
- Loss of connectivity and high levels of fragmentation of remnant vegetation within the rural landscape
- Loss of biodiversity due to the impacts of invasive weeds
Landcare Illawarra will be attempting to address these issues through strategies such as:
- Seed collection, propagation and planting across the region to increase the resilience of these two EECs
- Supporting landholders to carry out revegetation and bush regeneration activities to protect biodiversity
- Complementing existing biodiversity programs which are being carried out in the region by working to support landholders which neighbour properties involved in programs and increase connectivity in the landscape
- Supporting and complementing work previously carried out by Landcare and the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority
- Carrying out diverse plantings
- Ensuring diverse plantings use local provenance species to add to the area of native vegetation in the Illawarra
- Seed collection will be carried out in as many local populations of the two vegetation communities as possible, targeting as many species as possible within Woodland and Rainforest to capture as much diversity as possible
- Provenance record keeping will be carried out using a database developed by Landcare Illawarra
- Distribution of diverse planting stock to rural landholders
- Revegetation will capture an improved level of genetic diversity in the planted populations, which aims to improve the resilience of vegetation communities
- Protecting and enhancing native vegetation through fencing out any stock which may have access to vegetation, or removing invasive weeds from the vegetation
- Improve landholder knowledge, skills and capacity in managing remnant vegetation and invasive species through on-site advice, training workshops, development of site plans for landholders
- Connecting remnant vegetation with Rainforest and Woodland corridors by identifying neighbouring properties which may have key vegetation
- Increased and improved cooperation of biodiversity projects facilitated by a range of stakeholders and organisations on both public and private land e.g. the Escarpment to Sea program delivered by the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority
The project will manage threats to biodiversity in a number of ways including but not limited to:
- Developing techniques in lantana and edge management so that remnants currently bordered by lantana, are not scarred by overclearing
- Improved weed management practices will be adopted by landholders and managed at a rate which the landholder is able to cope with
- Workshops on invasive species removal and management for landholders, volunteers and other residents will be regularly delivered as part of the program
- Landcare Illawarra will run community seed collection days for people who want to help to learn more about the project and contribute their time
How can you get involved?
Community Seed Collection Days
Landcare Illawarra carries out regular seed collection days where any interested community member can come out in the field and learn more about the project and contribute to collecting seeds from native species to be used in future planting projects as part of the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest Project.
If you would like to participate in a seed collection date contact Megan Rowlatt at firstname.lastname@example.org
Conservation Volunteers Australia team projects
As a key partner in the delivery of this program, Conservation Volunteers Australia transports teams of volunteers to private properties involved in the program. Here volunteers assist landholders under the supervision of a team leader and the Landcare Illawarra Project Officer, to carry out invasive species management, tree planting activities and any other activities appropriate to the site.
Volunteers are able to visit some spectacular vegetation only accessibly on private property and will be contributing to valuable biodiversity outcomes for the Illawarra.
If you would like to volunteer contact the Wollongong Conservation Volunteers Australia office on email@example.com or call 4228 9246 to book on to one of the regular projects.