Protecting rainforest doesn't stop at the cliff edge

Published on 01 July 2020

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A three year project to protect endangered stands of coastal littoral rainforest on exposed headlands at Burgess Beach, Cape Hawke and Seal Rocks will get underway soon.

The project has been made possible thanks to a grant of $100,000 received through the NSW Environmental Trust’s Restoration and Rehabilitation Program, and will be matched by funding from MidCoast Council’s environmental rate.

“The MidCoast has around 930 hectares of littoral rainforest, with a large proportion found on exposed headlands. Littoral Rainforest is listed as endangered under both State and Federal legislation,” said Council’s Manager of Natural Systems, Gerard Tuckerman.

Containing more than 100 types of tree and shrub species, and providing habitat for over 70 threatened plant and animal species, littoral rainforests are facing extinction on the MidCoast.

They provide some other key benefits that make them integral to our coastal environments, and the vegetation on our headlands is key to ensuring the rainforest’s survival.

“Littoral rainforest on exposed headlands is usually wind-pruned, but this dense canopy provides protection for the less salt-tolerant species of the rainforest. Damage to vegetation on the seaward side of a littoral rainforest can have devastating effects on the rest of the rainforest,” said Mr Tuckerman.

Once littoral rainforest is in decline, its role as an important buffer to coastal erosion and wind damage is significantly reduced.

Some of the key threats currently affecting this threatened ecological community include the loss and fragmentation of native vegetation, the invasion of weeds, urban development and the impacts of recreational use.

Working in partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the project will focus on reducing the presence of ‘transformer’ weeds such as Asparagus Fern, Morning Glory and Bitou Bush. 

Asparagus Fern in particular grows in dense monocultures in the understorey smothering native vegetation and prohibiting natural regeneration.  Given the difficulty in treating weeds on these exposed headlands, a team of abseiling bush regeneration contractors will be employed to undertake the control of these weeds.

This grant complements $913,000 recently received through the NSW Coastal and Estuary Grants Program to undertake environmental restoration works in Council’s coastal reserves, and a $15,000 grant from the Hunter Local Land Services to restore a bushfire affected stand of littoral rainforest at Crowdy Head.