Rainforest restoration and building wildlife habitat
On Bundjalung Country in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, Spurfield Road is being revegetated with native rainforest species.
While delivering critical climate action, this 8-hectare ecosystem restoration project will provide habitat to the region’s fauna, assist in improving water quality and support rainforest restoration in this region.
A creek runs directly through the property and the site is also home to three ephemeral lakes. Combined with high rainfall in 2022, this makes Spurfield Road quite a wet site.
Greenfleet has several projects in this region includingGreentrees, which is growing critical habitat for the local koala population. Find where more of our revegetation projects are growinghere.
Referred to as ‘Big Scrub’, subtropical rainforest once spanned around 75,000 hectares across this region. The impact of land clearing for timber production and agricultural purposes following European settlement has meant that there is now around 2% of this iconic ecosystem remaining.
Remnants of Big Scrub Rainforest are now scattered throughout the region in small reserves and Greenfleet’s work at Spurfield Road is one of several restoration initiatives underway to bolster this important ecosystem. Subtropical rainforest supports a high variety of plants that can provide habitat and food for a wide variety of fauna.
Greenfleet focusses on creating self-sustaining, forests that replicate the vegetation that existed prior to land clearing. Located in the Big Scrub region, the project at Spurfield Road will support rainforest restoration in the area.
Restoring native plant species
About 40 native species of sun and frost tolerant flora were planted as a part of this restoration project. More than half of the total trees planted were rainforest species while others were chosen due to their ability to thrive in the wet conditions found on this site.
Fast growing eucalypt species such as Flooded Gum(Eucalyptus grandis)and Swamp Mahogany(Eucalyptus robusta)were planted to create the canopy of the forest. Having an established canopy assists the growth of other plants by providing protection from the sun. Other species planted such as Sandpaper Fig(Ficus coronata)and Swamp She-oak(Casuarina glauca)were chosen as plants that grow well in wet conditions.
With up to 200 species making up Big Scrub, the species selected at Spurfield Road are those that can grow in wetter conditions and can survive growing in full sun as the forest becomes established. We expect the initial planting we have done at Spurfield Road will help additional plant species become a part of the forest as it grows.
Reflecting on species complexity development, Greenfleet’s Project Manager for Spurfield Road, Thomas Bell said,“converting a grazing paddock into a mature rainforest follows a standard progression from pioneer species to secondary species to mature species over decades.”He noted that“Greenfleet has selected mostly pioneer species to grow fast to provide early canopy closure and fruiting.”
Higher than average rainfall meant the site was much wetter than expected when planning the revegetation operations. Originally planned for planting in April 2022, the moisture on the site meant it was largely inaccessible until much later in the year and, the site was revegetated between September and November.
Flood impacts in the Northern Rivers
In 2022, widespread flooding in the Northern Rivers impacted homes, people, wildlife, and businesses. The weather events throughout 2022 had an ongoing effect on the operations of this project demonstrating the role that climatic events can play in our work.
Greenfleet engages local suppliers and contractors in the regions in which we work, and our Revegetation Team sourced the rainforest species for this project from Ben Hurley at Hurley Landscaping and Nursery. Located in the Lismore Shire, Ben’s business was directly impacted at the time of the floods. Setting up temporary business in another location, Ben and his team were able to provide these plants to Greenfleet later in the year.
Since the floods, Hurley Landscaping and Nursery has relocated to higher ground north of Nimbin in NSW. Ben is expanding his nursery as his business grows with every new order.
Building critical wildlife habitat
Not connected to other areas of vegetation, the forest growing at Spurfield Road will become a habitat island, utilised as a stepping stone by species with a large home range. As the forest grows it will provide primary habitat for those species with a small home range
While the focus of this project is climate action and restoring subtropical rainforest species, some species such as Forest Red Gum(Eucalyptus tereticornis)were used in the planting to supplement koala habitat and food sources for known populations in the region. Fast growing eucalypts will also be utilised by local birdlife.
The planting at Spurfield Road will be important for native bat species, which suffer as a result of habitat loss and increases in environmental temperatures. Trees planted such as Blue Quandong(Elaeocarpus grandis)will provide food for bats as they move across this region and when the forest is more established, tree hollows will provide roosting locations for them to use as shelter and protection.
Project Manager, Thomas Bell also noted the important role birds and bats will play in helping the forest become established.“The visiting birds and bats will deposit seeds from adjacent areas to replace some of the short-lived pioneer species with a variety of other rainforest plants increasing the biodiversity of the forest and over time changing the forest flora into the mature species.”
Rainforest vegetation is generally also home to native wildlife such as quolls and ground dwelling reptiles.
Greenfleet delivers climate action by restoring native ecosystems. As the forests we plant grow, they remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere to actively fight the impacts of climate change.
Across its lifetime, the project at Spurfield Road will deliver substantial climate action in the region with the forest removing nearly 16,600 tonnes of carbon throughout the next century. This is the equivalent of what 3,858 average cars emit in a single year.
Greenfleet is a 25-year-old Australian not-for-profit environmental organisation protecting our climate by restoring our forests.
Greenfleet plants native biodiverse forests to capture carbon emissions and help fight the impacts of climate change. Greenfleet is Australia’s first carbon offset provider and since 1997 has planted over 10 million trees creating more than 500 forests in Australia and New Zealand.
Our forests are legally protected for up to 100 years, conserving biodiversity, improving the health of our soils and waterways, and restoring habitat for wildlife, including many endangered species.
Greenfleet grows forests and climate hope by empowering people to take tangible and long-lasting environmental action.