While most of the properties we purchase in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest are covered in intact rainforest Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road required a little TLC.
Getting ready to tackle the patch of Giant Brambles
Lot 11 Buchannan Creek Road, Cow Bay shares a boundary on three sides with the Daintree National Park. This made its acquisition a priority, however, there was one challenge. A previous owner had cleared around 4,000 sqm of the rainforest on the 12,000 sqm property with the intention of building a house. This large gap in the canopy provided an opportunity for the Giant Bramble (Rubus alceifolius) to completely dominate the site.
So our purchase of Lot 11 came with a challenge and an opportunity - through the removal of the weeds, we could regenerate the rainforest and an important regional ecosystem.
Rainforests have evolved to respond to disturbance. When a large old tree falls it creates a gap in the canopy. Ecologists describe what happens next as ecosystem succession and in the rainforest this progresses though three stages - pioneer, secondary and mature or a climax community. Our approach to restoring the rainforest on Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road follows this natural process.
In December 2021, we settled on the purchase of Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road at Cow Bay and the restoration works began in February 2022. The first task was the removal of the Giant Bramble.
Giant Bramble (Rubus alceifolius) is a native species of South-East Asia and is an environmental weed in Queensland. It fills a similar niche to that of Lantana or the Blackberry to which it is closely related.
As the name suggests Giant Bramble is a vigorous, scrambling, perennial shrub, capable of covering other plants and forming dense thickets. This suppresses the natural regeneration of rainforest plants. It also has small hooked prickles (up to 4 mm long) making it difficult for wildlife to utilise areas where it dominates. It produces a small succulent fruit that is attractive to birds who spread the seeds through their droppings.
We started with four days of intense activity using a battery-powered hedge trimmer to cut the majority of the Giant Brambles down to ground level. Near the edge of the existing rainforest, there were many seedlings of rainforest trees and we worked carefully with secateurs and loppers to remove the Giant Brambles shading them. This work was undertaken by a local bush regeneration contractor with some help from our staff.
Giant Brambles reduced to ground level
Removal of the Giant Brambles exposed the site to direct sunlight and eliminated competition. This provided an opportunity for the seeds of native plants to germinate that had blown in on the wind or had been dispersed onto the site by birds and bats. Over the following months, we have monitored the rate of natural regeneration occurring on the property, which has been very encouraging. We are now expecting the majority of the cleared area to be regenerated without planting many trees.
To complement the natural regeneration we conducted a trial of direct seeding. We collected fruits of native rainforest trees on other properties we have purchased for conservation over several weeks as we travelled around the Daintree and these were dispersed on Lot 11. Through a combination of these two techniques, thousands of seedlings of rainforest plants have germinated.
In addition to this 150 trees were planted by the Jabalbina Rangers and by volunteers.
Tree planting with dead canes of the Giant Brambles as mulch.
Over the last six months, we have revisited the site several times to remove Giant Brambles that had regrown from the stumps and to control grass competing with the small rainforest plants. This will be required for another 2-3 years or until the canopy of the rainforest has reformed and is shading out the weeds.
Restoring the gap in the canopy will reduce the impacts of fragmentation caused by the past clearing. The regenerating rainforest can be used by wildlife and we have recently observed that Cassowaries have been visiting the property.
Lot 11 was different from most of the properties we are acquiring for conservation which are covered in undisturbed rainforest. Of the 24 properties we have purchased, only one more requires restoration works of this scale.
In the remnant and established regrowth rainforest on Lot 11, our ecologist found another 13 species of exotic plants. They included Mangos, Passionfruit, and Cashew nut, the source likely being nearby gardens on developed freehold properties. Other environmental weeds on Lot 11 included Tobacco weed, Lantana, Rose Apple and Ardisia, the propagules being transported by Cassowaries, other birds, or bats. These exotic plants are all being removed.
Restoring a special ecosystem
Small areas on the very wet lowlands, especially between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation, harbour plant species that are extremely restricted and uncommon. Many areas of this ecosystem are considered a refuge in nature and are local centres of endemism. The vegetation community on Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road is Regional Ecosystem 3.3.10a. This forest type is listed as ‘Of Concern’ under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. Lot 11 has also been mapped as essential Cassowary habitat by the Queensland Government.
The vegetation survey of Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road, Cow Bay identified 185 species of native plants including three Threatened species listed in the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992. They are the China Camp Laurel (Beilschmiedia castrisinensis), Gray's Walnut (Endiandra grayi), and Noah's Walnut (Endiandra microneura). Significant Daintree endemics that occur on Lot 11 are the Cooper Creek Haplostichanthus (Polyalthia xanthocarpa) and Daintree Satinash (Syzygium monospermum). You can read a summary of the vegetation survey undertaken by our ecologist here and learn more about Lot 11 here.
If you are visiting the Daintree this is an easy property to find and you won't need a 4x4 vehicle. Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road Cow Bay is located on the corner of Buchanan Creek Road and Silkwood Road in Cow Bay.
Thank you to everyone who donated towards the purchase and protection of Lot 11 Buchanan Creek Road. This is one of 24 Daintree Rainforest proerties we have purchased for conservation. Please see more information on the property here.
The project to purchase and protect land in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest is a partnership involving the Rainforest 4 Foundation, Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, and fellow non-profit HalfCut. The Rainforest 4 Foundation and HalfCut recognise that we are Stronger Together and now we collaborate to raise funds for the buyback of properties in the Daintree Rainforest.