Ecological Restoration

Dispossession of First Nations communities in Australia and the United States of America (USA) was accompanied by extensive settler degradation of unique natural ecosystems. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the idea of repairing these degraded ecosystems emerged; desire to conserve valued indigenous biodiversity was one compelling reason (Jordan III, Lubick 2011: 2, 38-43).

This page of the website, Ecological Restoration, presents those early Australian degraded area repair projects that displayed practices and ideals comparable to the principles of the contemporary repair practice, ecological restoration. Ecological restoration aspires to the reinstatement of high levels of ecological function to degraded ecosystems.

The goal of ecological restoration is full recovery, insofar as possiblein some cases, constraints
may limit potential to less than full level of recovery. Such cases can still be referred to as
ecological restoration projects as long as the aim is for substantial recovery relative to the
appropriate local native reference ecosystem (SERA 2021: 14).

References:

Jordan III, W. Lubick, G. Making Nature Whole. A History of Ecological Restoration (Island Press : Washington 2011)

SERA (2021) Standards Reference Group ‘National Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration in Australia’ Edition 2.2. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia  www.seraustralasia.com

 

David Stead, Walter Froggatt 1930s 

The earliest known and successful Australian degraded area repair projects that extensively displayed practices and ideals comparable to the principles of ecological restoration commenced in 1935 and 1936. Certainly, throughout the 1910s and 1920s Melbourne conservationist Donald MacDonald espoused environmental repair principles that strongly resembled ecological restoration, but unfortunately, opportunities for him to implement such a project did not arise (see Rehabilitation: Port Phillip Bay 1896). South Australian arid lands restoration projects of the 1930s displayed aspirations typical of ecological restoration and are presented in this section, but few other details about these projects are available. Also, two conservation focused but ultimately unsuccessful Australian degraded area repair projects were initiated in ca.1930; perhaps there were more.

Biologist David Stead was a determined campaigner for the conservation of indigenous Australian biota, and founded the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia in 1909. He launched an attempt in ca.1930 to restore to the state of New South Wales (NSW) the much slaughtered Australian koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), a tree climbing herbivorous marsupial, often referred to, rather inaccurately, as a bear or the native bear.

Although historically interesting, the project did not achieve its goals. Ongoing disputes over methodology and finances arose, and quickly led to the collapse of the undertaking. The details of Stead’s actual restoration plans are unknown, but it is quite likely that he would have aspired to extensive reinstatement of the koala to its natural range in New South Wales, had the project proceeded.

 

Original caption: 'A favourite pose when shooting koalas ("native bears") in the bush' approx. 1900-1912 Source CG Lane State Library Victoria
‘A favourite pose when shooting koalas (“native bears”) in the bush’ 1900-1912   Source: CG Lane State Library Victoria

In 1931 distinguished entomologist Walter Froggatt recruited North Sydney Council, New South Wales, and launched a degraded area repair project at Balls Head reserve, Waverton, on Sydney harbour. The reserve is located within the traditional homelands of the Eora First Nations community.

 

'Ferry passing Balls Head' 1920 Source: Stanton Library Historical Services
‘Ferry passing Balls Head’ 1920 Source: Stanton Library Historical Services

As outlined and planned by Froggatt, the project had ambitious ecological objectives. For example, he aspired to create ‘a home for the trees, flowers and birds of old-time Sydney Harbour’ (Ardill 2021). The regional Hawkesbury sandstone flora was to serve as a model for the revegetation work. Today, this form of model is referred to as an ‘indigenous reference ecosystem’ (SERA 2021). Botanical knowledge was utilised: plant surveys were conducted by interested volunteers, and tree species typical of the site were planted.

Unfortunately, after several years of successful operation, the initial repair imperative faded with Froggatt’s death in 1937. A number of disparate organisations were involved with the project, Froggatt’s leadership and knowledge were sorely missed, and the project dissolved into sporadic landscaping and beautification events, involving non-regional flora species (Ardill 2021).

Froggatt was a member of David Stead’s Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia, and possibly the two men discussed their respective restoration projects. It is also interesting to note that at the same time that Froggatt was working on his Balls Head repair project, he was also campaigning, unsuccessfully,  to prevent the release of cane toads on the Australia mainland, to serve as an insect biological control. The poisonous toads are now a declared noxious pest in Australia.

Reference: 

Peter J Ardill (2021) ‘Innovative Federation and Inter-war Period repair of degraded natural areas and their ecosystems: local government and community restoration of Coast Teatree Leptospermum laevigatum at Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia’ The Repair Press Sydney (February) https://ecologicalrestorationhistory.org/articles/

SERA (2021) Standards Reference Group ‘National Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration in Australia’ Edition 2.2. Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia   www.seraustralasia.com

Images courtesy of the Stanton Library Historical Services, State Library of Victoria and State Library of Queensland.

 

Arid lands restoration, South Australia, ca.1930

Ecologically focused restoration of degraded arid-zone vegetation communities in Australia can be traced to a series of South Australian projects dating from approximately 1930. Aspiration to restore high levels of indigenous vegetation complexity was exhibited. Also, the restoration techniques employed were highly innovative. However, other aspects of contemporary ecological restoration practice, such as how effectively stakeholder engagement and conservation outcomes were pursued, are not revealed by the historical documentation.

The British parliament annexed First Nations homelands in 1834 to form a new colony in Australia named South Australia. Following the 1836 proclamation of the capital, Adelaide, on lands known to Aboriginal communities as Tarntanya, the forced dispossession of First Nations communities was effected by settlers and colonial military forces. Government legislative and social oppression of these communities continued for many decades.

By approximately 1870 a pastoral industry featuring primarily sheep and also cattle grazing had been established in the central and north-eastern regions of the colony. Arid-zone climate conditions prevailed: low rainfall averaging approximately 250 millimetres or less per year and hot summers.

Inappropriate land management practices and exploitative stocking rates were prominent features of the new industry, and widespread degradation of the indigenous vegetation soon followed. Stripped of protective plant cover, soils were eroded by regular winds, and massive soil-drifts and bare plains came to typify the landscape (see Gallery).  

From approximately 1920, University of Adelaide botanist and plant ecologist Professor T G Osborn conducted extensive research into the disappearance of the arid-zone indigenous vegetation communities of South Australia. Concluding that overstocking was the prime cause of vegetation loss, he advised pastoralists to carefully manage stocking levels on their properties. At the university’s Koonamore research centre, Yunta, Osborn demonstrated that key indigenous vegetation species saltbushes (Atriplex spp.) bluebushes (Maireana spp.) and Mulga (Acacia aneura) had capacity to regrow, or naturally regenerate, provided that they were protected from grazing animals (stock exclosure).

From approximately 1930 South Australian pastoralists concerned by vegetation degradation and the resultant wind erosion undertook indigenous vegetation restoration projects on their properties. Although not directly confirmed, it is quite likely that they were informed by Osborn’s research and its outcomes.

At Wirraminna station, north of Port Augusta, owners George and Dick Jenkins developed ‘flora reserves’. The reserves utilised stock exclosure and natural regeneration concepts to successfully restore indigenous vegetation to soil-drifts (Ardill 2022: 20). The Jenkins brothers appear to have aspired to substantial and possibly even full restoration of the indigenous vegetation within each fenced reserve, but little else is known about their revegetation work (Ardill 2022: 61). Throughout the 1930s flora reserves were also developed on other South Australian arid-zone pastoral stations.   

 

A Wirraminna station flora reserve in 1936 after five years of fencing Source: H Peters Collection State Library South Australia B77568/86
A Wirraminna station flora reserve in 1936 after five years of fencing Source: H Peters Collection State Library South Australia B77568/86

South Australian pastoralists also furrowed soil stripped and hardened eroded land known as scalds, with the intention of facilitating natural regeneration of the indigenous vegetation (see Gallery) (Ardill 2022: 26). At Melton station in ca.1930, manager Walter Smith, encouraged by Koonamore researcher Terrence Paltridge, initiated a particularly successful furrowing project on a wind exposed soil-drift. Moisture and plant seed accumulated in the sheltering furrows, and substantial natural regeneration of the indigenous vegetation was achieved. Furrowing of soil-drifts and scalded plains had become a widespread restoration practice in South Australia by ca.1940 (Ardill 2022: 29).

The success of these arid-zone revegetation projects was noted and applauded by prominent scientists such as Dr A E V Richardson, an executive member of the national Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and influential Adelaide newspaper editors, government administrators and legislators. Desperate to protect the state’s pastoral industry, in 1936 the South Australian government of premier Richard Butler endorsed stock exclosure, natural regeneration, furrowing and environmentally sensitive stocking practices as official state erosion management policies. Financial aid was offered to pastoralists who wished to restore indigenous vegetation to eroded lands on their stations. Additionally, these policies were codified in a new state Soil Conservation Act 1939 (Ardill 2022).  

Reference:

Ardill, Peter J (2022) ‘Rekindling memory of environmental repair responses to the Australian wind erosion crisis of 1930–45: ecologically aligned restoration of degraded arid-zone pastoral lands and the resultant shaping of state soil conservation policies’ (January) The Repair Press Sydney. Available at https://ecologicalrestorationhistory.org/articles/

Wirraminna station image courtesy of H Peters Collection, State Library of South Australia.

 

Restoring the Big Scrub, Lumley Park, Alstonville 1935

The biologically diverse vegetation community, Lowland Rainforest of Subtropical Australia, once flourished for hundreds of kilometres along the coast and hinterlands of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales (OEH 2019). From approximately 1830 colonising timber loggers progressively expanded into these regions. First Nations communities, including the Bundjalung nation of present-day Alstonville and the broader Lismore region, were forcibly dispossessed of their homelands.

Following logging, a further wave of farmers cleared most of the remaining rainforest, primarily to enable dairy farming and other agricultural pursuits. Only scattered remnants of forest, or scrub, as it was frequently referred to, had survived by the 1930s.

 

Clearing scrub on the Tweed River 1907 Source: Kerry and Co National Library of Australia
‘Clearing scrub on the Tweed River 1907’ north-east NSW   Source: Kerry and Co National Library of Australia

On the north coast of New South Wales, dairy farmer Ambrose Crawford, alarmed at the looming extinction of the rainforest community, regionally termed the Big Scrub, mustered widespread community support for a rainforest restoration project. Local government entity, Tintenbar Shire Council approved and financially supported the project.

Work on a two hectares patch of remnant, highly degraded Big Scrub located within Lumley Park, Alstonville, commenced in 1935. Advised by botanists and ecologists, Crawford apparently selected and replanted plant species that he considered to be typical of the rainforest community, and weeded the exotic climbers and shrubs that infested the site (Lymburner 2018). As well as progressively reversing the degradation, Crawford and his small group of restoration colleagues also persevered for decades with the conservation management of the restored rainforest. Their legacy is significant, a rare and treasured stand of protected Lowland Subtropical Rainforest.

 

Lumley Park regeneration area 2018 Source: P Ardill
Lumley Park regeneration area 2018   Source: P Ardill

The successful repair and regeneration of other Big Scrub remnants has been undertaken in more recent times, commencing with Victoria Park Nature Reserve in 1978. These projects have been initiated and undertaken by coalitions of ecologically skilled and conservation minded local residents, regional rainforest advocacy organisation Big Scrub Landcare, government agencies and private landowners (Parkes et al. 2012)

Bibliography:

Ardill P J (2019) ‘Colonial and twentieth-century management of exotic species threatening intrinsically valued indigenous flora: Susan Island, Lumley Park, Broken Hill’, Australasian Plant Conservation 28:2 (September – November).

Peter J Ardill (2021) ‘Innovative Federation and Inter-war Period repair of degraded natural areas and their ecosystems: local government and community restoration of Coast Teatree Leptospermum laevigatum at Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia’ The Repair Press Sydney (February) https://ecologicalrestorationhistory.org/articles/

Lymburner S (2018) ‘Lumley Park and rainforest restoration’s early champion. Ambrose Crawford – Regeneration Pioneer. The Lumley Park story.’ (Sydney. Australian Association of Bush Regenerators) Newsletter 137 July. https://www.aabr.org.au/images/stories/resources/newsletters/AABR_News_137.pdf

McDonald T in Jordan III W Lubick G (2011) Making Nature Whole. A History of Ecological Restoration (Washington: Island Press) pp. 71-73

OEH (2019) ‘Lowland Rainforest in the NSW North Coast and Sydney Basin Bioregions – NSW North Coast: Distribution and vegetation associations’ Office of Environment and Heritage NSW Government  https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profileData.aspx?id=20073&cmaName=NSW+North+Coast

Parkes T Delaney M Dunphy M Woodford R Bower H Bower S Bailey D Joseph R Nagle J Roberts T  Lymburner S with McDonald T (2012) ‘Big Scrub: A cleared landscape in transition back to forest?’ Ecological Management and Restoration 13:3 (September)

Tweed River image courtesy of the National Library of Australia

 

Broken Hill regeneration area 1936

Pastoralists commenced seizing the Baaka (also known as the Darling River) and the extensive plains and low ranges of arid western New South Wales from approximately 1840. The First Nations communities of these regions, which included the Barkandji nation, were forcibly dispossessed of their homelands.

Communities were confined to government reserves, frequently experiencing harsh conditions and ongoing discrimination (OEH 2021). For many decades strict state control over individuals and families was imposed by New South Wales state legislation, the Aborigines Protection Act 1909. After a protracted seventeen year administrative and legal process, the Barkandji, including the Wilyakali community of the Broken Hill region, were awarded Native Title rights to their homelands in 2015.

As was the case in South Australia, by ca.1900 vast expanses of the indigenous saltbush (Atriplex spp.) and Mulga (Acacia aneura) vegetation communities of the west had been destroyed and the land degraded, predominantly due to pastoral industry overstocking practices. Constant exploitation of timber resources, plus exotic fauna species’ impacts (particularly rabbits and goats), also contributed to the destruction of the vegetation. Extended dry periods, a feature of the arid climate, impeded vegetation recovery. Large areas of the regional landscapes, including the environs of Broken Hill, the major western New South Wales city, had been reduced to barren, eroded wastes by approximately 1900 (Ardill 2017).

 

Cable Hill Broken Hill 1915 a degraded landscape Source: SLSA
Degraded landscape ‘Cable Hill Broken Hill 1915’      Source: SLSA 280/1/27/108

Due to the degraded condition of the surrounding countryside, soil-drifts and dust storms regularly afflicted the residents of Broken Hill. Albert Morris, a mining assayer and resident of the city, was determined to address this issue, by restoring a protective cover of indigenous vegetation to the bare, destabilised soils.

However, it is well documented that Morris closely studied and delighted in the evolved biological qualities of the regional ecosystems, and this factor also strongly motivated his interest in their restoration. He was distressed by the degradation of the beautiful arid landscapes, the widespread loss of indigenous plant communities and the resultant indigenous fauna extinctions. He also perceived the need to reform the environmentally unsustainable pastoral industry (Ardill 2017).

Acquiring considerable expertise as an arid-zone botanist, Morris studied and trialed various environmental repair techniques in the 1920s and 1930s. It is highly likely that he was influenced by the 1920s restoration research work conducted at Koonamore research centre, South Australia, by plant ecologist Professor T G Osborn (see the earlier entry ‘Arid lands restoration, South Australia, ca.1930’).

Confronted by a conservation management vacuum, in 1936 Albert Morris initiated the Broken Hill regeneration area project, another historical Australian degraded area repair project that featured many of the principles of contemporary ecological restoration practice. The regeneration area project successfully utilised an innovative stock exclosure technique and natural regeneration concepts (not irrigation and planting, a common misunderstanding) to restore a wide range of the local indigenous flora species and high levels of ecological functioning to hundreds of hectares of wasted terrain around western Broken Hill (Ardill 2017).

Residents and government officials were amazed by the dramatic revegetation outcomes. Threatening soil-drifts were stablised. From 1939 botanists, ecologists and wind erosion researchers studied the widespread natural regeneration of indigenous plant species that had been fostered by the protective fencing (stock exclosure) of the degraded landscape.

Following Albert Morris’s death in 1939, his wife and conservationist Margaret Morris, and other Broken Hill field naturalists, campaigned for the completion of the regeneration area by promoting its botanical and amenity values. The final reserve was fenced in 1958, and the indigenous flora and fauna were formally conserved (see Gallery).

 

A Broken Hill regeneration reserve 2017 Source: P Ardill
A Broken Hill regeneration reserve 2017   Source: P Ardill

The historical record suggests that opportunities for the Wilyakali community, Traditional Owners of regional homelands, to consider engagement with the regeneration area project, contribute traditional ecological knowledge and repair degraded homelands did not arise. Pearce (2017: 581) acknowledges the achievements of Albert and Margaret Morris and their environmental repair colleagues, but maintains that ‘The Regen portends a trend in ecological restoration to overlook Indigenous people, stories and local knowledge…’ 

The regeneration area project strongly influenced the New South Wales government’s subsequent development of soil conservation policies and legislation that addressed the severe erosion problems of the arid western regions of New South Wales. In particular, Soil Conservation Service researcher Noel Beadle, appointed in 1939, was deeply impressed by the revegetation outcomes achieved within the regeneration area, and derived practical erosion management lessons from the project. State legislation passed in 1949 endorsed the use of stock exclosure and natural regeneration programs as effective means of combating erosion in the west; overstocking was outlawed (Ardill 2022).

The regeneration area, consisting of a series of fenced regeneration reserves, persists today, supported by Landcare Broken Hill, local field naturalists, and the broader community. The beautifully crafted film, ‘Renewal in the desert‘, presents a compelling visual account of the development of the regeneration area project and the work of local botanists and conservationists.

View the page, Rehabilitation, for a description of Albert Morris’s work in South Australia.

Bibliography:

Ardill, P J (2017) ‘Albert Morris and the Broken Hill regeneration area: time, landscape and renewal’ (Sydney : Australian Association of Bush Regenerators) July https://www.aabr.org.au/morris-broken-hill/

Ardill P J (2019) ‘Colonial and twentieth-century management of exotic species threatening intrinsically valued indigenous flora: Susan Island, Lumley Park, Broken Hill’, Australasian Plant Conservation 28:2 (September –November)

Ardill Peter J (2022) ‘Rekindling memory of environmental repair responses to the Australian wind erosion crisis of 1930–45: ecologically aligned restoration of degraded arid-zone pastoral lands and the resultant shaping of state soil conservation policies’ (January) The Repair Press Sydney https://ecologicalrestorationhistory.org/articles/

Jones, D (2016) ‘Evolution and significance of the regeneration reserve heritage landscape of Broken Hill: history, values and significance’ Historic Environment. 28:1

McDonald T in Jordan III W Lubick G (2011) Making Nature Whole. A History of Ecological Restoration (Washington : Island Press) pp. 73-75

OEH (2021) ‘Bioregions of NSW/A Brief overview of NSW/NSW-Regional History/New South Wales- Aboriginal occupation-Aboriginal occupation of the Western Division’ New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. Sydney. NSW Department Planning Industry Environment  https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/-/media/OEH/Corporate-Site/Documents/Animals-and-plants/Bioregions/bioregions-of-new-south-wales.pdf 

Pearce L M (2017) ‘Restoring Broken Histories’ Australian Historical Studies 48:4 569-591

Pearce L M (2019) ‘Critical Histories for Ecological Restoration’ (PhD thesis, Australian National University) https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/173547

Outback Archives, Broken Hill Library, houses the archives of the Barrier Field Naturalists Club, and other relevant archives.

Cable Hill image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Film link ‘Renewal in the desert’ courtesy Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR) 2021. Director: Virginia Bear, Little Gecko Media. Script: Virginia Bear, Tein McDonald.

 

Australian Alps ca.1960

The traditional lands of the Ngarigo and Walgal (or Wolgalu) nations embraced the high country alps and Monaro plains of south-east Australia. Settlers commenced seizing these lands in the 1820s, dispossessing the Ngarigo and Walgal communities and rapidly disrupting their traditional cultural practices; introduced diseases devastated communities (Environment 2016). Over time, the grazing and burning activities of the settlers significantly degraded the alpine high country. In particular, severe erosion afflicted expanses of sensitive alpine bog and fen ecosystems.

 

'Cattle on Blue Lake near Kosciuszko' 1909 Source George Bell National Library Australia
Degrading impacts. ‘Cattle on Blue Lake near Kosciuszko’ 1909 Source: George Bell National Library Australia

 

The film ‘Snowy Hydro – Conservation in the Snowy Mountains’ vividly illustrates the erosion issues that had developed in the Snowy Mountains by the 1950s. The erosion management techniques portrayed in the film, although in many respects quite innovative,  sometimes involved the inappropriate use of introduced plant species. See  https://aso.gov.au/titles/sponsored-films/snowy-hydro-conservation-snowy/clip1/#

A need to manage the substantial sediment flows generated by the grazing induced erosion motivated the development of innovative ecological restoration projects. Generous funding for the projects was provided by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which operated a series of hydro-electric stations and associated reservoirs in the alps; the storage capacity of the reservoirs was threatened by the sediment flows.

The initial repair projects commenced in approximately 1960 and were managed by ecologist Roger Good and the New South Wales Soil Conservation Service. Good and his colleagues aspired to the progressive reinstatement of indigenous biological diversity to the sites, and restoration of the alpine flora was a major priority (Good, Johnston 2019). With the flora and soil cover reinstated, flows of sediments into the reservoirs dramatically decreased.

Management of the Australian Alps repair projects passed to the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service in the 1970s, and Good’s extensive ecological knowledge and environmental repair skills were retained; he also managed post 2003 bushfire recovery projects in the alps. A culture of professional Australian scientific expertise evolved throughout the course of the Australian Alps projects: alpine botany, alpine ecology, and restoration ecology (Good, McDonald 2016: 14-15).

Today, members of the Monaro Ngarigo community work with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to manage the Kosciuszko National Park, which extends across the Australian Alps (ABC).

 

Successful swamp restoration by Roger Good, Blue Mountains NSW, undertaken ca.2010 Source: P Ardill 2019
Detail of successful swamp restoration work designed by Roger Good, Blue Mountains, NSW ca. 2010 Source: P Ardill 2019

References:

ABC (2016) ‘Snowy Mountains Aboriginal people to be formally involved in managing Kosciuszko National Park’ Australian Broadcasting Commission  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-26/ngarigo-people-to-be-formally-involved-in-managing-kosciuszko/7543734

Environment (2016) ‘ Australian Alps – regional history – Aboriginal occupation’ Australian Alps Bioregion NSW Department Planning, Industry, Environment April https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/bioregions/AustralianAlps-RegionalHistory.htm

Good R Johnston S (2019) ‘Rehabilitation and revegetation of the Kosciuszko summit area, following the removal of grazing – An historic review’ Ecological Management and Restoration 20:1 January

Good R McDonald T (2016) ‘Alpine restoration in the NSW Snowy Mountains: Interview with Roger Good’ Ecological Management and Restoration 17:1 January

Malcolm H (1955) Film: “Snowy Hydro – Conservation in the Snowy Mountains’ Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority https://aso.gov.au/titles/sponsored-films/snowy-hydro-conservation-snowy/clip1/# 

Snowy Mountains image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

 

Tower Hill, Victoria 1961

Tower Hill, near Warrnambool, Victoria, is a place of great cultural significance and value for regional Traditional Owners and Custodians, the Eastern Maar nation.

At Tower Hill reserve, a state government funded project pursued the reinstatement of the indigenous flora and fauna to the highly degraded site. The environmental ideals of USA ecologist Aldo Leopold, active in the important 1935 University of Wisconsin Arboretum ecosystem reconstruction project, influenced the project.

A group of Warrnambool field naturalists and Victorian Fisheries and Wildlife Branch officers commenced replanting the reserve in 1961. The project appears to have aspired to the reinstatement of substantial, and possibly even all potential levels of ecological function to the site. The pre-degradation indigenous vegetation communities were investigated, replanted flora was propagated from locally collected seed, additional botanical advice came from Melbourne’s National Herbarium and re-introduction of the indigenous fauna was attempted. Two nineteenth-century items, a landscape painting and a travel guide book, served as additional repair guides.

 

‘Tower Hill’ 1855   Source: Eugene von Guérard National Gallery Victoria

Reference:

Bonyhady T (2000) The Colonial Earth (Melbourne University Press : Melbourne) pp.340-366.

Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria

 

The Bradley Method, Sydney ca.1960

From approximately 1960 sisters Joan and Eileen Bradley developed a keen interest in the management of the introduced flora species, or weeds, that were threatening the quality of their local bushland at Mosman, Sydney. They devised a weed and degraded area treatment technique that became known as the Bradley Method . Their technique made use of the potential of indigenous flora species to naturally regenerate and recover from degrading impacts (Bradley 1971; May 1996).

The Bradleys’ work sparked wider interest in the restoration of Sydney’s degraded bushland ecosystems. The New South Wales National Trust took up the Bradleys’ ideas in the 1970s (May 1996). The Trust became involved with professional bush regeneration contract work, and was undertaking work for nine Sydney local government councils by 1983 (Buchanan 2007). In 1980 the Trust commenced offering training courses in the principles of bush regeneration to professional bush regenerators and volunteer bushcarers (Buchanan 2007).

From ca.1980, an increasing number of Sydney’s local government councils commenced employing professional bush regenerators to manage local bushland degraded by weeds (Gye, McDonald 2019). Subsequently, councils also employed professional bushcare officers to guide the work of volunteer resident bushcarers and their bushcare groups. The Bradley Method proved to be an effective weed management strategy on many of these Sydney bushland restoration sites.

However, regional attempts to modify the Bradley Method and adapt it for use on a remnant rainforest restoration project located at Wingham, on the north coast of New South Wales, encountered strong opposition from the Method’s more strict adherents in Sydney. Nevertheless and unsurprisingly, the regional approach proved to be successful (Buchanan 2007 p.5). See the entry “Wingham Brush 1980” on this page.

The early history of settler environmental repair in Australia and the successful projects undertaken at Port Phillip Bay from 1896 (see “Rehabilitation”), Lumley Park (Crawford 1935) and Broken Hill (Morris 1936) suggest that adaptive approaches to the management of degraded natural environments have figured prominently in Australian restoration history. In view of this historical context, ideologically fixated approaches that insist on strict adherence to an inflexible restoration regime represent a retrograde, aberrant approach to degraded site management in Australia, rather than a progressive outlook. A range of degraded area management techniques have evolved since the 1980s (Buchanan 2007).

Today, an extensive network of local government supported volunteer bushcare groups operate in New South Wales and around Australia, their members engaged in the restoration of a range of degraded indigenous vegetation communities and ecosystems. When appropriate to the management of the degradation and ecosystems involved, the principles of the Bradley Method or a modified version may be used. Along with more recently developed environmental repair practices devised to meet specific forms of degradation, and the science restoration ecology, the Bradley Method of weed management also informs professional bush regenerators and ecological restorationists engaged with rehabilitation and ecological restoration projects.

 

References:

Bradley J (1971) Bush Regeneration (Sydney : Mosman Parklands and Ashton Park Association)

Buchanan (2007) “How it all began – Robin Buchanan’s story of bush regeneration’s early days” AABR News 96 (February) Australian Association of Bush Regenerators  https://www.aabr.org.au/learn/publications-presentations/aabr-newsletters/ 

Franklin N (2015) ‘The other green army: a history of bush regeneration’ Parts One and Two Earshot Australian Broadcasting Commission https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/earshot/the-other-green-army-a-history-of-bush-regeneration/6364500

Gye J McDonald T (2019) ‘Order of Australia Award for Dr Tein McDonald’ AABR News 141 (July) Australian Association of Bush Regenerators 

May T (1996) ‘Bringing Back The Bush’ Australian Plants Online Australian Society For Growing Native Plants http://anpsa.org.au/APOL4/dec96-5.html

Radi H ‘Bradley, Joan Burton (1916–1982)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bradley-joan-burton-10001/text16853

 

Wingham Brush 1980

Dispossession of the Biripi (or Birpai) People, Traditional Owners of the lands of the Manning River, mid-north coast New South Wales, commenced ca.1830. The Biripi resisted; punitive expeditions were undertaken by settlers, and massacres of the original Manning River communities were perpetrated (Ramsland 2001: 26). Farmers seized the rich alluvial plains of the river and introduced European modes of agriculture. The biodiverse Lowland Subtropical Rainforest of the region was rapidly reduced to scattered remnants by the early decades of the twentieth century.

One remnant was located at Wingham, on the Manning River. Known as the Wingham Brush, weeds had established a firm foothold in the nine hectares of rainforest by the 1920s, or possibly earlier. In 1980 local resident John Stockard, dedicated environmental repair colleagues, and the New South Wales National Trust commenced a lengthy, arduous and highly successful project to restore the Brush and ‘to keep the ecological processes going’ (Stockard, Pallin undated).

 

Wingham Brush 1937 Exotic species enveloping rainforest Source: Govt Printing Office State Library NSW
‘Wingham Brush’ 1937 exotic species enveloping rainforest Source: Govt Printing Office State Library NSW

It soon became obvious to Stockard that the Bradley Method alone would not prove to be an adequate site management response, as the level of degradation within the Brush was so high. Innovative repair techniques appropriate to the site would have to be devised in order to successfully manage the variety of exotic plant species, particularly the vines and climbing plants, that had overwhelmed the Brush (Stockard 1996: 432-436). Despite intensive opposition from some quarters of the bush regeneration movement and strict Bradley Method adherents that led to the “Battle of the Brush” in 1984, Stockard courageously adapted the Bradley Method to the realities of the highly degraded site (Buchanan 2007 p.5). The introduction of herbicide use, and the development of efficient and effective means of applying them, was one such innovation. Stockard’s approach to the management of the Wingham Brush site proved to be highly successfully, vindicating his adaptation of the Bradley Method to regional ecological circumstances. 

Today Stockard and his colleagues continue to maintain and advocate for the rainforest, known as the Wingham Brush Nature Reserve (Brodie 2018). The biologically diverse reserve is listed as a critically endangered ecological community by the Australian government, and as with many restored conservation sites, faces ongoing degrading impacts from a range of direct, on-site human behaviours, as well as from climate change and ongoing weed infestation. See https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/-/media/visitor/files/pdf/brochures/wingham-brush-pdf.pdf .

 

Wingham Brush 2018   Source: P Ardill
Wingham Brush 2018   Source: P Ardill

Bibliography:

Buchanan (2007) “How it all began – Robin Buchanan’s story of bush regeneration’s early days” AABR Newsletter 96 (February) Australian Association of Bush Regenerators  https://www.aabr.org.au/learn/publications-presentations/aabr-newsletters/ 

Brodie L (2018) ‘AABR Visit to Wingham Brush’ Australian Association of Bush Regenerators Newsletter 138 October Australian Association of Bush Regenerators https://www.aabr.org.au/images/stories/resources/newsletters/AABR_News_138.pdf

Franklin N (2015) ‘The other green army: a history of bush regeneration’ Parts One and Two Earshot Australian Broadcasting Commission https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/earshot/the-other-green-army-a-history-of-bush-regeneration/6364500

Harden G J Fox MD Fox B J (2004) ‘Monitoring and assessment of restoration of a rainforest remnant at Wingham Brush, NSW’ Austral Ecology 29, 489–507

Ramsland J (2001) Custodians of the Soil (Greater Taree Council: Taree)

Stockard J Pallin N (undated) ‘The regeneration Of Wingham Brush NSW’ Australian Association of Bush Regenerators https://www.aabr.org.au/the-regeneration-of-wingham-brush-nsw/

Stockard J D (1996) ‘Restoration of Wingham Brush 1980-1996’ Eleventh Australian Weeds Conference Proceedings Council of Australasian Weeds Societies Inc. Weed Science Society of Victoria Inc. (30 September – 3 October)

Wingham Brush 1937 image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

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