PLANTING 60K TREES TO RESTORE AUSTRALIA'S HABITATS
Kaylee Brzezinski & Diana Chaplin | July 21, 2020 | 4 min read
Restoring Forests After Bushfires to Give Koalas a Healthy Habitat
We have some exciting updates from one of our Australia reforestation projects and it has to do with KOALAS! This project is taking place in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales where One Tree Planted has funded 31,728 trees planted so far in 2020, with another 27,790 more currently growing in local nurseries. These trees will be planted by the end of the year, and many more beyond that since this is just the beginning of a larger reforestation initiative aiming to plant 250,000 trees by 2025.
The goal is to create a koala wildlife corridor by forming a linkage of habitat from Byron Bay westward towards Tenterfield, north to the Queensland border and south towards Grafton.
Here's What and How We're Planting
The project involves several aspects which will restore and protect the Northern Rivers population of the iconic Australian Koala as well as other threatened wildlife species whose habitats were severely impacted by the 2019-2020 wildfire season in Australia.
The project will achieve these outcomes by engaging the community in tree planting events, educational workshops, and continued habitat monitoring and maintenance. As you can imagine, Covid-19 created limits for volunteer opportunities this year, so until that is safe again the project is carrying on with trained personnel. Our local project partners at Bangalow Koalas and staff will facilitate understanding of the need for koala conservation and will provide opportunities to participate directly in conservation efforts in the future. Tree planters will buffer, fill in, connect, and increase the area of suitable foraging and home range habitat for koalas by planting preferred food tree species and suitable rest trees in strategic locations.
Tree species that will be planted include Tallowwood, Swamp Mahogany, Forest Red Gum, Paperbark, Small-fruited Grey Gum, Flooded Gum - which are a mix of eucalyptus for koalas' favorite foods.
The most recent wildfire season made an enormous impact in Australia. To give you an idea of the severity, here are a few numbers that capture the impact of the Australian wildfires :
- More than 12.6 MILLION hectares burned
- 434 MILLION tonnes of carbon emitted
- 1.3 MILLION Australians affected by smoke
- Over 1 BILLION estimated animal casualties
- 5,000 koalas perished in New South Wales
The numbers are daunting, but they reinforce the fact that forest restoration is extremely important. If actions are not taken now, more drought and intense fires will continue. Planting trees will help regenerate soil, increase water supply and nutrients, restore habitats by providing homes and food for wildlife, and help improve air quality. All of these tree planting benefits also help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The areas planted so far include: Booyong, Clunes, Binna Burra, Federal, Bangalow, Newrybar, Coorabell, Nashua, Broken Hill, Coopers Shoot, Talofa, Ewingsdale, Possum Creek, Repentance Creek, Coraki, Swan Bay, and Woodburn.
Forests in which koalas are found are extremely important to local biodiversity. And like every animal, insect, and fungi, koalas are essential to the complex web of life in Australia. By protecting the bushland in which koalas live, many of Australia’s most important wildlife would also benefit.
Koalas and eucalyptus trees have an incredible evolutionary history
Eucalyptus trees have been native to Australia for about 60 million years, having adapted over time to an environment in which drought, nutrient-poor soil, and fire are increasingly common. Interestingly, the oils in eucalyptus trees can heat up, causing forest fires to spread, so nature developed a clever way to prevent eucalyptus from dominating the landscape: koalas, one of the few animals that can digest this fibrous plant. By munching on eucalyptus, koalas effectively maintain healthy and balanced forests. They gain food, hydration, and energy, and the forest is not overburdened with excess fire fuel. Their trimming of the canopy also creates gaps for sunlight to shine through to the ground so that low growing plants can also thrive. This ecosystem relationship is just another example of nature's extraordinary wisdom.
Unfortunately, this delicate balance can only last so long before the additional pressures of deforestation, a changing climate, and a severe fire season come along to disrupt millions of hectares of habitats, leading to a biodiversity crisis. There is much more that needs to be done to address the broader challenges facing a fast-changing landscapes, but we hope that sensible reforestation coupled with wildlife-friendly conservation will help to revitalize the ecosystem for koalas and countless other creatures for many years to come.
We are honored to take part in restoring Australia and getting the koalas back to their homes safe and sound. Australia has a long road to restoration ahead but we are taking the journey together, thanks to your support. If you would like to help Australia, consider planting a tree with us today.