The Wildlife Corridor project in the Byron Shire of northern NSW is assisting with the restoration and enhancement of a wildlife corridor that connects habitat from the eastern Byron Bay nature reserves up into the western habitat areas of Nightcap National Park. Over 20,000 trees will be planted at this location along a streamline and this will create new habitat, connect habitat, and support the functioning of this creek and its water flow.
But why this area? what is a wildlife corridor? and what do they do?
The subtropical rainforest in Northern New South Wales, Australia, was devastated during the 1800's and 1900s. Clearing removed 99% of the subtropical rainforest in this region for agricultural and residential development.
Despite being 1% of the former rainforest size, this area is home to a huge diversity of plants, animals and wildlife and this rainforest is imperative for local and regional climate stability. The remaining forests provide ecosystem services such as flood control, landslide prevention, soil erosion. Without it, this region would be drier and inhabitable for local wildlife.
Northern NSW is home to Australia’s second most diverse range of species. Some of which are found nowhere else in the world and nowhere else in Australia.
A fragmented forest. Disconnection leads to vulnerability.
The remaining rainforest in this region is highly fragmented meaning it is made up of smaller components scattered across the landscape. Smaller parts or 'fragments' are vulnerable to climate change as the increased size of the forest edges loose moisture which a rainforest needs.
Fragmentation is also a big problem for biodiversity and species genetics. Imagine this, a species of animal is confined to a small fragment of habitat but needs to get to another fragment five kilometers away to mate and have offspring and these fragments are separated by open paddocks that make a crossing animal vulnerable to predators and humans. The animal may not ever cross, or it may risk its life. This is why a fragmented forest poses dangers for biodiversity and genetic lineages.
The fragmented forest of northern NSW. The forest has little connection left between the easterly coastal region and the national parks to the west. Wildlife corridors help to connect these smaller parcels of forest to allow for habitat connectivity.
What are wildlife corridors and how do they help?
Wildlife corridors are connections made up of trees that cross the landscape to link up areas of habitat. They support natural processes that occur in a healthy environment, including the movement of species to find resources, such as food and water.
Promoting landscape connectivity between isolated forest patches of the area is important for future conservation and the survival of unique plants and animals. A connected forest with patches that link up across the landscape is far more functional and resilient than a disconnected forest.
Planting rainforest for connectivity has a range of potential benefits. It can:
- create extra habitat and food resources
- provide access to new and varied habitats and foraging areas
- allow seasonal or permanent migration of animals, seeds and fruits to colonise new areas
- improve genetic dispersal and variation in previously isolated populations
- increase the resilience of animal and plant populations to the impacts of threats such as climate change, weeds, feral animals, diseases, floods, cyclones and wildfire
- provide opportunities for animals to adapt and find a range of ecological refugia and ecological niches and microclimates
- Provide possible escape routes from predators
- Improve water quality and reduce erosion along creeks and rivers
An incredible wildlife corridor north of our working sites in the Atherton Tablelands. This mature corridor is a demonstration of wildlife corridor plantings and the success in connecting fragments across a landscape of pastures and paddocks. Photo credit: Steven Nowakowski
Species selection for wildlife corridor reforestation.
We plant a diverse mix of over 200 species in efforts to mimic the natural landscape and the species needed for wildlife including habitat and food species. The rainforest restoration method adopts a scheme that incorporates the principles of ecological succession. Harnessing natural succession processes in rainforest restoration projects results in a greater chance of success.
A selection of 54 species was chosen for this site to reflect the forest surrounding the area. Selection also includes food and habitat species for birds and other wildlife who will be attracted to the corridor. Birds will help to enhance the corridor by dropping additional seeds as they perch on branches and eat from food trees.
The future of this wildlife corridor project
Wildlife corridors can assist a regional forest ecosystem that is made of many smaller parts with large distances between. Wildlife corridors provide landscape connectivity that is a necessity in this region if we are to support our wildlife and if we want the forest to continue to provide humans with ecosystem services we rely upon.
Our Wildlife Corridor Project in northern NSW of Australia is an exciting project we are proud to create. We look forward to sharing updates and progress on this project with the Tree Nation Community.
Our incredible planters at our wildlife corridor site in Goonengerry, NSW. This site will see over 20,000 trees planted. From left to right: Lucy from CoconutBowls, Jimmy HalfCut, and Zia the Rainforest Rangers Conservation Program Manager.