Forest to Stirlings
The significance of the area
From the forests of the Walpole Wilderness Area to the Stirling Range is a distance of about 70 km. Across this distance there is a steep rainfall gradient, from above 750mm to only 450mm. As you would expect, this climate range supports a number of vegetation types from forest and woodlands of jarrah, marri in the west, through wandoo woodlands and to mallee-heath and proteaceous shrublands in the east and on laterite hills northwest of the Stirling Range. Yate dominates the swamp vegetation complexes around the wetlands and in parts of the river valleys. With such a range of vegetation types and such a complex mosaic of land systems, it is not surprising that it has high plant species richness, and mapping of species richness in fact show that it overlies one of the species-rich hotspots of the southwest and includes many species endemic to this area. Adding to its ecological complexity are the many wetlands, some of which are nationally important, and the four major catchment systems the area straddles.
Species richness and endemism are not just confined to the plants of this area: some surveys show that the invertebrate communities of the wetlands also have high diversity with many species only occurring in this part of the southwest.
Other fauna, including Red tailed Phascogale and Southern Brown Bandicoot, occur here but in diminishing numbers as their habitats contract and predators like cats and foxes become more widespread. As in the Stirling to Fitzgerald area, the Black-gloved Wallaby was once far more abundant than it currently is, and restoring and maintaining its numbers is a conservation priority. Like the mammals, many of the birds that are of conservation concern are dependent for at least part of their lives on the woodlands, but for species like Carnaby’s Cockatoo, it is nesting hollows in woodland trees in close proximity (less than 12km) from the proteaceous shrubs that provide food that is critically important.
The Balicup Lake System is one of wetlands systems that is listed under the National Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia and consists of several wetlands, such as Lakes Balicup, Camel, and Jebarjup, that occur in small nature reserves or on private land. They are important partly because of the numbers and range of species of waterbirds that they support, including some like the Banded Stilt that are protected under international treaties. Similarly, there are important wetlands in the Upper Kent catchment, such as Lake Kwornicup, that also support large numbers of waterbirds Banded Stilt and other protected waterbirds. Wetlands like Lake Nunijup are also important for recreation for local people.
The Story So Far
Green Skills and the Gillami group have been active in:
- Undertaking a range of assessments to look at the conservation values and health of key remnant wandoo woodlands, invasive weed surveys and identifying opportunities to work with landholders and plantation companies;
- Bringing wide involvement to development of a Conservation Action Plan which determines key threats, builds agreement on what needs to be done, and articulates objectives and priorities; and
- Working with landholders and other groups such as Greening Australia to fence off important bushland areas and to undertake strategically placed biodiversity plantings.
Both organisations have held a number of field days and other events to get the word out.
Green Skills has also been instrumental in the establishment of the Balijup Eco-Sanctuary - a fenced 111 hectare fox and cat free enclosure sited in Wandoo and Jarrah eucalypt forest. The overall Balijup property is an eco-restoration focal point for this part of the Gondwana Link. Since the Eco-Sanctuary’s launch in May 2016, a citizen science program is monitoring ecosystem recovery. Quenda (Southern Brown Bandicoot - Isoodon obesulus) have been successfully reintroduced into the Eco-Sanctuary. One goal is to investigate the role of soil digging Australian mammals such as Quenda in ecosystem function. This project is a collaboration between Green Skills and the WA Conservation Council’s Citizen Science program, supported by many agencies and groups.
A number of Eco-art camps have also been run from the Balijup property - a great initiative for getting people out on country and really seeing nature and what it needs.
- A network of groups and community members that work together on Gondwana Link planning and activities. Compilation of a Conservation Action Plan for the Forest to Stirling [link] area which outlines the conservation priorities for the area and strategies for addressing them.
- A number of reports that compile knowledge to support the work, many of which are available here.
- Public workshops and field days to build awareness of and engagement in Gondwana Link work and to view on-ground achievements.
- Eco-Art Camps at Balijup and other Gondwana Link sites.
- Balijup Bandicoot population established in the fauna sanctuary, including wallaby Gates to enable free flow of Black-gloved wallabies.
- Assessment of roadside vegetation.