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Biodiversity and the Birds of Wurneet Laang Laang
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Biodiversity and the Birds of Wurneet Laang Laang

Biodiversity and our forests

The native forests planted by Greenfleet remove carbon from the atmosphere to restore and protect our climate, but they also do much more! With every planting project we undertake, our revegetation team take great care to select trees that are endemic to the area, replicating the ecosystem that once existed as closely as possible. This ensures that all Greenfleet forests foster biodiversity. 

Biodiversity refers to the array of species of plants, animals, insects and organisms found on our planet. Biodiverse forests not only provide habitat for native wildlife, but they play an important role in improving the quality of life for humans too. Healthy, biodiverse ecosystems provide us with clean air and water, allow us to grow food, and protect against soil erosion and salinity.

 

The study

In 2017, we teamed up with La Trobe University PhD student Cara Sambell to undertake a biodiversity study of one of our recently established planting sites. Given that Cara’s PhD is about the birds of Strzelecki, it seemed only fitting that she carry out her study at the first Greenfleet owned property in Victoria, Wurneet Laang Laang, which is situated in the hills of Strzelecki, South Gippsland. This 66-ha forest was established in 2016, when the Greenfleet team planted 50,000 native seedlings on the site. 

Through her study, Cara wants to monitor the timeframe in which birds return to a newly planted site that is transitioning from cleared agricultural land to a dense, temperate forest. She is comparing this with bird activity in an area of cleared and grazed agricultural land, as well as an area of intact forest at Mount Worth State Park, to provide a benchmark comparison. In doing this, Cara also hopes to gain insight into the differences in the number of bird species present at each site, and how long it might take for breeding to occur at the newly planted Greenfleet site. 

 

The study gets underway

Cara conducted some preliminary studies in autumn, winter and spring of 2017, surveying birds at each of the three sites. For the purposes of the study, birds were categorised according to their preferred habitat. Native birds were categorised as forest birds, open tolerant birds, open country birds and waterbirds. All non-native species were classed as exotic birds. 

Cara found that the intact forest site was dominated by a flourishing population of native forest birds not found in the Greenfleet forest or on the cleared land, including Superb Lyrebirds (Noveahollandiae) and Eastern Whipbirds (Psophpdes olivaceus). 

The bird species present at Wurneet Laang Laang were found to be similar to those present on the cleared site, with both sites containing greater communities of exotic, open country and waterbird species, meaning that at this stage, the Wurneet Laang Laang site shows biodiversity values more similar to farmland than forest.

 

A Miner point of interest

Cara also found the presence of the Noisy Miner (Manorina mlancoephela) at both the Greenfleet site and the cleared site. Highly territorial, these native honeyeaters are prone to aggressively chasing other birds, leading to an absence of other bird species in the areas it inhabits. 

The good news is that Noisy Miners prefer to live on the edges of native bushland, which will provide Cara with the opportunity to observe what happens to the Miner population as the Greenfleet forest grows. It is hoped that as shrub cover and organic litter develop in the understory, the Noisy Miner will begin to inhabit the edges of the forest, making way for more native forest species to move in. 

 

Long-term impact

Cara will continue her study for the next four or five years, which is exciting news for Greenfleet.
‘Cara’s study is really laying the groundwork for the long-term.’ said Greenfleet’s General Manager Revegetation Michael Coleman. 

‘For instance, we already know that increased bird populations can lower insect populations, which decreases the need for chemical pesticides. We expect that having a better understanding of how bird populations interact with our forests will inform future planting projects, and help us maximise our positive impact.’

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