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What's flowering in the park

15 Years on

Lane Cove National Park Bushcare: Volunteer-based Restoration of weed-damaged bushland

This summary has been adapted from Reidy M, Chevalier W and McDonald T (2005) Lane Cove National Park Bushcare volunteers: Taking stock, 10 years on Ecological Management & Restoration.6:2, 94-104. Click here to download the original as a pdf

 

 

Figure 1. Location of Lane Cove River
in relation to Sydney Harbour,
on the NSW coast.

On this page:
The site and need for restoration

Vegetation communities and reference sites
Stakeholders
Restoration actions
Progress to date
How many groups are there now and how are they progressing
Lessons learnt
Further reading

Location maps
Lane Cove National Park location map
Bushcare sites location map

Summary

While the Bushcare program started in 1991 with a small group of volunteers, high intensity bushfires that swept through the Park in 1994 prompted the formation of 19 community-led ‘Bushcare’ groups, scattered in trouble spots within and around the perimeter of the park and complementing the existing restoration program. Ten years after the fire, the groups had grown in number to thirty. Fifteen years on, there are now 28 regular groups (numbering around 200 Bushcare volunteers) working on 34 sites in thePark.

The rationale for the restoration campaign was to take advantage of the fire to remove well-entrenched weed from burnt areas and allow post-fire native vegetation recovery. Over the 15 years of the project to date, the vast majority of sites have progressed well, with many transformed back to their goal of reinstating pre-existing healthy bushland. Other sites, however, will always require maintenance due to the dispersal of seed propagules when creeks flood at times of heavy rain. The program is managed by Lane Cove National Park, supported by Friends of Lane Cove National Park.

The site and need for restoration

Regeneration of native plants after 18 months on a site cleared of weeds such as Lantana and Balloon Vine.

The 690 ha Lane Cove National Park (previously 332ha in 1994 prior to more recent additions) stretches along the middle and upper reaches of the Lane Cove River, one of the main rivers draining into Sydney Harbour. The Park is a popular area of parkland within Sydney’s northern suburbs, attracting up to 1 million picnickers, bushwalkers, cyclists, joggers and birdwatchers per year. As such it is subject to boundary effects such as nutrient elevation, altered fire regimes and weed invasion arising from its location in a suburban catchment.

Weeds have been a major symptom of ecological decline, particularly in moist gullies that have been unburnt for long periods. Species of weed on site included both Small- and Large-leaved Privets (Ligustrum lucidum and L. sinense), Winter Senna (Senna pendula var. glabrata), Morning Glory (Ipomoea indica), Turkey Rhubarb, Asparagus (Asparagus spp.), Tradescantia, Crofton weed (Ageratina adenophora), Mist Flower (Ageratina riparia), Montpellier Broom (Genista monspessulana), Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and a range of persistent herbaceous species.

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Vegetation communities and reference sites

The healthy bushland areas of the Park - which are many - act as reference states for the degraded sites. The Park contains, for example, extensive healthy examples of a variety of vegetation communities no longer well represented in the region, ranging from closed forests along creeklines (dominated by Water Gum, Tristaniopsis laurina) through tall open forests of Blackbutt /Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus pilularis/E. saligna), to open woodland and heath on upper slopes and mangroves along the Lane Cove River. It provides habitat for three plant species listed as vulnerable under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act): Darwinia biflora, Tetratheca glandulosa and Prostanthera marifolia. In terms of fauna, a total of 156 species have been recorded within the park and its surrounds since 1950, including 19 threatened species.Threatened fauna found in the Park in recent years include the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua), Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae), Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis), Eastern Bent-wing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis), and Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus); all these species are listed Vulnerable under the TSC Act.) The area supports particularly high numbers of Powerful Owl and Red-crowned Toadlet, contributing signifcantly to the survival of these species within the region and plays an integral role in the survival of a number of native animals within the region (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service 1998; Department of Environment & Conservation 2004.)

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Stakeholders

The program is managed by Lane Cove National Park, supported by Friends of Lane Cove National Park Inc. Funding was received in the early days of the project from Westpac Bank, Lord Mayor’s Appeal fund, Jewish National Fund, and Frontier Touring Concert. In following years, projects were funded by the Australian Government (e.g. Natural Heritage Trust); State Government (e.g. Environmental Trust); and the local Catchment Management Committee. Donations, small and large, have been received from various banks, conservation groups, and individuals, and support from local businesses including The Body Shop, Lend Lease, MLC, AMP, and various other corporations. The Friends have also received a number of monetary awards. The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, Ryde TAFE and The Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR) have also contributed to the program.

Restoration actions

Figure 2. Location of the 31 volunteer work sites in existence in 2004.
The first 19 numbered sites are those on which work commenced in 1994, while other sites have gradually been added as the program has expanded. (Sites worked by the same team have the same number.)

With the guidance of two Bush Regeneration Coordinators, employed through grants, and interim volunteer bush regeneration supervisors (experienced restorationists from the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators AABR), the first volunteers started work on 19 priority sites in May 1994. The sites were all burnt, highly weed-infested sites, containing many small native seedlings and requiring the application of skilful weed removal.

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Priorities were based on the: (i) predicted capacity of a site to securely recover if treated (i.e. relatively low level of impacts other than weed); (ii) size and shape in relation to adjacent area of undamaged bushland (reducing edge:area ratio of healthy bushland);
(iii) weed species present (there were some priority weeds such as vines); and (iv) accessibility of the site to local volunteers.

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Progress to date

Regular removal of weeds prior to their seeding enabled sites to progressively stabilize with a gradually coalescing native plant cover. In due course, a range of sclerophyll shrub species (that had been long absent from the sites because of fire exclusion and weed domination) flowered and fruited, rebuilding native seed banks; with the parent plants thinning out over time as the cover of longer-lived dominant trees such as Eucalyptus spp. increased. (See Reidy et al. 2005 on this website for monitoring details)

These results would not have occurred had the fire not occurred and had weed control not been carried out after the fire. Successional behaviour of the main weeds on site suggests that, without intervention, the sites that were previously dominated by these species (and which showed evidence of resprouting) would have again become dominated by such weed.

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How many groups are there now and how are they progressing?

There are now 28 regular groups (numbering around 200 Bushcare volunteers) working on 34 sites in the Park. Sites are distributed fairly evenly throughout the valley, both at the problematic bushland/ suburban interface as well as creekline locations well within the Park.

The nature conservation outcomes after 15 years appear substantial. Although six of the original 19 sites (and four of the newer sites) have been abandoned for a range of reasons; 34 sites are now under treatment. An assessment of the current condition of these sites has been made on the basis of two sources of information:
(i) changes observed by regular assessment of the sites over the 11 years by the staff coordinators; combined with (ii) long-term observation (by volunteer coordinators) of trends in frequency and duration and duration of treatments needed at each specific site. (Note: this type of qualitative assessment is necessary because recent treatments can render direct measures of weed abundance unreliable.)

This assessment shows that most of the initial work areas on the 31 sites have been converted from a condition of medium to very high weed cover (with few natives) to a condition where natives dominate and very little weed is evident. A total of 15 of the 31 sites are on ‘maintenance’, which means that the restoration phase has been completed and weeding is minimal; directed at maintaining the restored state. At the remaining 18 sites, the initial treatment areas are on maintenance but treatments have been extended outwards into new problem areas (M Lane, Department of Environment and Conservation, pers. obs., 2005).

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Lessons learnt

As usual with restoration projects, some failures have occurred within the project.

• The project suffered its share of loss of volunteer coordinators due to ‘burnout’, a not-infrequent occurrence among ‘care’ groups where some individuals take on (or are left to carry) a higher burden than others. As a result, personnel problems have been better addressed in various ways over the years.

• It has become clear (from observing sites that have been treated but later abandoned) that the post fire weeding was essential for the recovery of the sites. Of the seven sites abandoned, the core areas (despite at least 3 years of work on five of them) have regressed to weed dominance.

• Some of the sites favoured by volunteers were on creeklines downstream of untreated sites and so they were constantly vulnerable to reinfestation. As a result such sites have been made either a lower priority or have been subjected to more selective, gradual treatment to avoid them becoming a constant drain on resources needed elsewhere.

• There is a necessity to think much more carefully in future about working in extremely weed-dominated sites using a one-off effort by contractors or a large group of volunteers – as maintenance on such sites is very resource-demanding and not highly cost-effective.

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Further reading
Bradley J. (1971) Bush Regeneration. Mosman Parklands and Ashton Park Association, Sydney.
Bradley J. (1988) Bringing Back the Bush. Lansdown Press, Sydney.
Buchanan R. M. (1990) Bush Regeneration: Recovering Australian Landscapes. T.A.F.E. Learning Publications, Sydney.
Buchanan R. A. (2009) Restoring Natural Areas in Australia. NSW Department of Industry and Investment, Tocal College, Paterson NSW.
Chevalier W. (2004) Why do We Care: A Brief History of 13 Years of Bushcare in Lane Cove National Park. Friends of Lane Cove National Park Inc, Sydney.
Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW). (2004) Systematic Survey of Vertebrate Fauna in Lane Cove National Park. Unpublished report funded by Sydney North, Central Directorate Parks and Wildlife Division of Department of Environment and Conservation Conservation Assessment and Data Unit, Conservation Programs and Planning Branch, Environment Protection and Regulation Division. [Cited 4 April 2005]. Available from URL: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/surveys/LaneCoveNPVertebrateFauna.htm
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). (1998) Lane Cove National Park Plan of Management. NPWS, Sydney.
Reidy M, Chevalier W and McDonald T (2005) Lane Cove National Park Bushcare volunteers: Taking stock, 10 years on Ecological Management & Restoration.6:2, 94-104. Available from URL: http://www.friendsoflanecovenationalpark.org.au/Publications/Lane_Cove_bushcare_EMR_article.pdf

See also Why do we care: a brief history of 13 years of Bushcare in Lane Cove National Park, published by the Friends to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

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