Restoring the Balance Enrichment Program

Rebuilding Rainforests in the Northern Rivers, NSW

$91,300

raised of

$300,000

Rainforests are one of the most biodiverse and vital ecosystems on the planet, providing a wide array of benefits to not only the environment, but also to humans within the global ecosystem. Before agricultural clearing, the Byron Shire region of Northern New South Wales was home to the largest expanse of lowland subtropical rainforest in Australia. Only 1% remains today.

Threats:

Human Impact
Habitat Degradation
Climate Change
Invasive Weeds

Project Location:
Northern Rivers, NSW

NSW

The Project

The Enrichment Program is a long-term focused effort to continue converting new plantations into rainforests by manually adding species to the understorey and forest floor to strengthen their ecosystems. This ambitious project will improve structure and diversity, assist with protecting against soil erosion, and will provide habitat for vast arrays of wildlife species, many of which are endangered or threatened with extinction.

Why we need to act

Rainforests are essential to life on Earth. Not only do they provide air, water, medicine, food and shelter to a multitude of species and living beings, but they are also one of our best natural defences against climate change. Rainforests absorb carbon and in turn play a significant role in their contribution to global oxygen levels as well as helping to regulate local and regional climates through transpiration and evaporation processes.

By prioritising the conservation and sustainable management of rainforests, we can ensure their ecological resilience for future generations and maintain the myriad of benefits they provide to both humanity and the planet.

Approximately 128 endangered flora species have been identified in the region. By increasing our planting of native undergrowth, and introducing up to 160 plant species in existing tree plantations across the Byron Shire region, we can restore the balance and significantly diversify the ecological structure beneath the canopies. In returning these habitats to their former glory, more than 50 key endangered and vulnerable native fauna species will also benefit and be able to flourish.

Threats to the species

Since European settlement, almost 99% of the Byron Shire rainforest has been cleared for agricultural use. By the early 1990s, most of the remnants were degrading due to the impact of 140 different environmental weeds.

This incredibly degraded ecosystem has consequently had a negative impact on native wildlife species. As their habitats have disappeared, so have their food resources, shelters, and ability to safely nest their young.

Solution and approach

Partnering with ReForest Now, the project will enhance the composition of previous plantings of over 700,000 trees and regeneration sites to build richer understorey layers and add species that weren't suited to the initial open-paddock plantings.

This program, led by Maximo Bottaro, CEO of FAME’s on-ground partner, ReForest Now, follows a staged and formidable schedule of work.

  1. Site assessment and planning: It is crucial to ascertain what spaces exist between the previously planted 700,000 trees. Liaison with expert ecologists will determine via aerial and ground observational techniques, species selection, what should and/or can be planted there and if the sites will be suitable for sensitive endangered species.

  2. Seed collection, germination and sowing: This involves sourcing the rarest and hardest to collect or grow seeds in ReForest Now’s nursery. Advanced nursery techniques will be employed to germinate 10,000 trees from a minimum of 160 species. Existing suitable trees within the nursery will also be utilised.

  3. Purchase of additional species: There will be a need for additional species from a variety of suppliers to increase and ensure significant diversity.

  4. Site preparation: On-ground preparation of identified sites by spraying, slashing, brush cutting and hand weeding to remove unwanted grasses and weeds to allow new species to flourish.

  5. Manual tree planting: On big established plantations or regeneration sites vehicle access can be quite difficult to near impossible, which is why hand planting of the 12,000 trees each year throughout developed plantings will be necessary. Albeit this is a slower process, but vital, and can still double the species diversity of a site in a single day.

  6. Recording site data: Data management, storage and analysis is so important to the sustainability of the project. GPS locations, photographic records and species used on sites will be crucial.

  7. Ongoing Maintenance: A maintenance plan has been formulated to monitor growth and identify possible issues and ensure quick response times to sustain growth and species development.

The Enrichment Program reforestation will stay within the single Byron Bay LGA. The map below shows the potential sites for reforestation. The teal sites represent those most likely to be chosen. The yellow sites identified as proposed secondary options.

Benefiting Wildlife Species

More than 50 key endangered and vulnerable native fauna species will benefit and be able to flourish through this program. These include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and insect. Some are highlighted below.

Regent Honeyeater

The coastal forest habitats created are key habitats for birds such as the Regent Honeyeater.

Long-nosed Potoroo

Forest regeneration helps give species such as the Long-nosed Potoroo a range of materials to build nests.

Fleay's Barred Frog

Amphibians such as Fleay's Barred Frog rely on lush rainforest environments to survive.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

This cockatoo can survive off a range of foods that rainforests provide - they largely rely on banskias, acacias and casuarinas.

Tiger Quoll

Enriching forests habitats increases the supply of food sources for native top-level predators such as the Tiger Quoll.

Southern Pink Underwing Moth

This moth depends on the rainforest Carronia Vine as the host plant for its larvae.

Stephen's Banded Snake

This snake favours areas with hollow-bearing trees and dense understory vegetation.

Bush Stone-curlew

Coastal habitats are vital for protecting ground-dwelling birds such as the Bush Stone-curlew.

Project partners and additional funding information

We are proudly partnered with ReForest Now for this project.

Previous work
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