Tasmania is Australia's last refuge for many threatened animals – species that are now virtually extinct on the mainland, including Tasmanian Devils, Eastern Quolls, Eastern Barred Bandicoots and Eastern Bettongs. In the diverse but highly fragmented landscape of the Tasmanian midlands, Greening Australia is working with local farmers, researchers, businesses and government to restore 6,000ha of habitat to create a stronghold for these critically endangered animals, whilst revitalising local farming communities.
More than 200 years of farming have impacted heavily on the habitat of the Tasmanian midlands, serving to carve it up into small fragments that sit in a sea of intense agricultural production. These remaining patches are vulnerable to further loss of habitat, invasion by weeds and feral animals, and are more susceptible to the impacts of climate change. An urgent program was needed to reverse the decline of biodiversity, and reconnect people and nature in this globally significant landscape – Tasmania Island Ark.
Greening Australia originally received a grant from The Ian Potter Foundation in 2011 ($450,000) to restore 480ha and then were awarded a second grant in 2014 ($550,000) to do a further 550ha – resulting in 1000ha being restored.
They also leveraged just under $5 million in additional funding for this project, including an ARC Linkage grant to the University of Tasmania to demonstrate the value of linking these restored landscapes to native woodland birds and small-medium marsupials.
Aims & objectives
Through Tasmania Island Ark, Greening Australia is working with local farmers, researchers, businesses and government to recreate 6,000 hectares of habitat in the Tasmanian midlands, forming wildlife corridors connecting the Eastern Tiers to the Central Highlands. By managing threats, improving critical habitat and re-linking the land, the program is creating a stronghold for the region's threatened mammals and woodland birds, greatly improving their survival into the future.
Before commencing, ecological modelling was used to identify priority areas for restoration – those that would provide the greatest benefits for native wildlife.
Wide-spaced plantings are used on some areas to create open grassy woodlands, providing stepping stones across the landscape for more mobile animals and birds, while dense plantings are used on riverbanks to provide habitat for less mobile and secretive species.
Science is firmly embedded in all aspects of Greening Australia's work, with Tasmania Island Ark backed by scientific support from the University of Tasmania. Through four Australian Research Council supported research projects, more than 15 PhD candidates and post-doctorate staff from the university are assisting Greening Australia to better design and implement on-ground work.
The program is carried out in a way that complements local farming businesses and encourages economic activities by creating jobs, engaging forestry and agricultural contractors, improving aesthetic and amenity values, and stimulating tourism.
Since 2014 Greening Australia has partnered with landholders in the northern midlands of Tasmania to protect, restore and reconnect over 1,000 hectares of habitat for native woodland birds and mammals. Over the next decade, this will increase to 6,000 hectares, enabling populations to expand and species to move through the landscape more easily in search of food, habitat and breeding partners.
Unlike previous restoration projects which have struggled due to browsing pressure and the unpredictable climate of the midlands, Greening Australia's unique approach has achieved excellent results, with 95% of seedlings on woodland sites surviving and a good establishment of a mixed range of species in riparian areas. This success has resulted in a great response from landholders, with several approaching the organisation to offer more land for restoration.
The University of Tasmania's associated research work will provide long-term benefits by providing information for landholders and informing future restoration.
Tasmania Island Ark is demonstrating how significant, landscape-scale results can be achieved by working in partnership with local landholders and communities. In the agriculture-dominated landscape of the midlands, Greening Australia, with the support of The Ian Potter Foundation, is showcasing how it is possible to create healthy productive landscapes where nature and people thrive.
Sebastian Burgess, Director of Conservation – Tasmania, Greening Australia
Greening Australia's collaborative approach underpinned the success of this project: driven by the science of restoration ecology, facilitated by landowner interest and participation, and delivered by GA's hands-on workforce.
Tasmania Island Ark shows that holistic, landscape-scale, science-based interventions can deliver higher than anticipated success in plant survival and ecosystem restoration. Cleverly, Greening Australia adapted planting technology from the commercial plantation forestry industry, resulting in more than 50% survival in riparian plantings, and greater than 95% survival in woodlands plantings, despite both drought and floods.
Their specific and considered planting and plant protection techniques were expensive, but the investment was worth it. For instance, wide-spaced plantings of 50 trees per hectare, each caged to prevent damage by stock and feral deer, proved attractive to farmers because they can use the paddock immediately following restoration.
The subsequent expansion of this project, from the original plan to restore 1000 hectares, to the current goal to restore 6000 hectares, is heart-warming. This integrated approach is robust and inclusive, creating goodwill and tangible benefits, and community gatherings spread the word and generate an appetite for further farmer and volunteer participation.
Louise Arkles, Environment & Conservation Program Manager