Island restoration project finds rare species

Published on 18 August 2017


A three year project to restore wetland habitat and improve biodiversity at Gereeba Island on the Wallamba River near Tuncurry is nearly complete and Gereeba is showing positive signs of recovery with a surprise discovery of a rare and threatened species thrown in.

Funding from the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust enabled this project, which got underway with revegetation of six hectares of cleared and degraded land on the Island.

"The revegetation project involved 8,000 native plants and over 26 species of native grasses, rainforest and eucalypt species" says Council's Environmental Officer, Peter Goonan, "these plants are thriving in the fertile floodplain soils with numerous trees now reaching four to five metres in height."

Control of invasive and environmentally damaging weeds across the Island was important to allow the native species space to thrive.  The project has included three years of primary and follow-up weed control programs. "Previously, there was a high density and distribution of weeds across the Island which has now been significantly reduced to manageable levels - and we are also observing a good level of native regeneration in areas subject to weed control" says Peter Goonan.

The project got exciting when the team turned their attention to improving the Island's habitat for native species. Using sensor cameras to identify and control feral foxes, the team was delighted to capture a brush-tailed phascogale on the footage.  The phascogale is a threatened species in NSW which is preyed on by foxes.

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Along with sugar gliders and other small native mammals, the phascogales will now be safer on Gereeba, as the project has removed five foxes from the Island, thanks to biannual control programs.

Habitat for native species has also been enhanced through the installation of 20 nesting boxes across the Island. Many native bird and mammal species rely on hollows in trees for shelter and for breeding. These hollows are formed when the centres of tree limbs rot away due to fungal or termite action. Hollows take many years to form naturally and so are only present in aged trees, usually at least 60 years old.

"By providing nesting boxes, we give nature a helping hand to provide habitat for wildlife" says Council's Senior Ecologist, Mat Bell. Camera monitoring of nesting boxes has shown occupation by sugar gliders and brush-tailed and ring-tailed possums.

Situated within the Wallamba River floodplain, Gereeba Island possesses regionally significant vegetation and is classed as an endangered ecological community.  The funding from the NSW Environmental Trust has been invaluable to protect and restore native vegetation and wetland habitat within this important natural asset.

The works will now move into the maintenance phase with periodic weeding and feral pest animal controls continuing to ensure the biodiversity on Gereeba is maintained and strengthened. These works will contribute to the enhancement of the Wallamba River and the wider Wallis Lake estuary through water quality improvements, which support aquaculture and fishing activities.

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