Thursday, 28th May, 2015
Our work here at Bohollow predominantly involves the rescue and rehabilitation of our native wildlife, but another aspect of our work is just as important, preserving vital habitat. Australia has such a wide variety of habitat systems which in turn gives us the amazing diversity of plants and critters which live here. From arid desert, to lush tropical rainforest, to seasonal wet/dry woodlands and grasslands, we are extremely lucky to have such a unique mixture of habitat. Many of our critters in Australia are endemic, totally unique and need particular habitat requirements to survive.
The health of our habitat is so vital to our native wildlife and the whole ecosystem from the bottom up..plants, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles..they all need specific habitat to survive.
A healthy environment means understory plants and grasses, fallen timber and a mixture of both old growth, new growth and dead trees. Many people are planting trees now and that is terrific because we have a lot of catching up to do to replace what we have cleared and plundered over the last couple of hundred years but the biodiversity on one old growth tree far outweighs numerous young trees. Insects and small critters such as lizards and bats prefer old growth trees with their bark, nooks and crannies. A eucalyptus tree usually takes up to 100 years to obtain any hollows large enough to support our larger birds and mammals. This means if we plant a tree today, we will not live to see a Kookaburra, parrot or owl nest in it's branches as all these birds require hollows for nesting as do many mammals and even reptiles.
In this area, some of our most prominent remaining old growth woodland is red gum. This is because red gum exists in low lying land, in other words, seasonal flood land. This land is generally not very good for cropping or farmland because, of course, it periodically floods and is usually clay ground. Therefore, we have lost most of our yellow box, yellow gum, grey box woodland and other species of trees and plants who only exist on high, fertile ground as this is the land most sought after for farming. These are the trees and plants we most need to replace but protecting old growth areas and habitat like that shown in these images is absolutely crucial in the protection of our environment and all that lives in it. Places such as this, often along creeks and rivers, act as a vital corridor for wildlife to travel between remaining woodland areas and provide valuable breeding sites and foraging grounds for many species.
Loss of habitat is a major concern and in conjunction with introduced animals such as foxes and cats, has caused the decline of many species and even local extinction of many species. A species does not just become extinct overnight. It can take many, many years and usually the first indication of a species being in trouble is their decline in specific areas where the pressures driving this are more prevalent.
Last year, I was called to a case where a Kookaburra had chosen an outdoor pizza oven to lay her eggs. They hatched but due to the location being a high traffic driveway, which caused the parent birds to abandon the nest every time a vehicle went past and the temperature of the concrete floor, the chicks were not going to survive even a day. This behaviour of nesting in inappropriate and unnatural sites often occurs when the surrounding environment no longer supports the nesting requirements a species needs. The area where this pizza oven was used as a nest lacks large, old growth trees with hollows large enough to accommodate large species such as Kookaburras.
Any habitat is better than no habitat. In farm paddocks, the value of trees outweighs the space that they take up. Trees keep the underground water table at the right level and where areas have been mass cleared for farmland, salinity has often become a real problem. This is caused when the water table rises due to the lack of trees and also irrigation practices, bringing with it the salt, which comes to the surface.
Trees support the life which helps keep pest species under control, such as introduced rodents and insects which can damage crops.
In my lifetime, I have seen many species decline in areas, especially many of the smaller bird species. Many of our bird species are migratory. They move down to Victoria from Northern Australia to breed and nest here for the Spring. Others arrive during the winter months from the mountain ranges, to escape the cold. These birds rely on habitat corridors for them to be able to travel safely and feed along the way. As more and more patches of remnant woodland become isolated, the diversity of these areas suffers as wildlife can find it difficult to come and go as they once did.
In my lifetime, I have also seen many species return over the last few years due to replanting in areas. We can make a difference.
Please protect what we have and continue to plant local native species. You can usually find out which plants and trees occurred naturally in your area by asking at a local conservation nursery or by contacting local landcare groups for information.
Every tree matters. Every fallen log matters. What may appear as untidy...fallen leaf litter, dead trees, logs, branches, grasses..this is all habitat and the home of our native wildlife.
If we can teach our children just how important our land is to our critters and in turn, is to us all, the world will be a better place...for us all and for generations to come.