Gliders in urban space and Camphor Laurel – a useful weed?


Dr Ross Goldingay  on Gliders and habitat fragmentation

By: Michael Fox

At the March Habitat Brisbane Citywide Meeting Dr Ross Goldingay shared valuable insights into fragmentation of Glider habitat in urban areas and Professor Carla Catterall showed us how the unloved Camphor Laurel can be a valuable friend in forest restoration.

Glider cat attack - Feb 2013

Glider victim of domestic cat attack – February 2013

Ross has used Squirrel Gliders to model the impact of habitat fragmentation caused by the urban matrix of houses and roads in Brisbane. Genetic evidence collected at sites isolated by the Gateway Freeway showed no interbreeding, while sites even a narrow link between two sites allowed interbreeding, that is, Gliders were successfully moving between habitat remnants.

Ringtail on rope bridge

Ringtail Possum on rope bridge – Goldingay

I was particularly interested in these results both Squirrel and Sugars Gliders are found in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.  Lindenmayer and Fischer(1) describe Isolated bushland remnants as island habitats while Tallamy(2) states that “Tiny habitat islands have high rates of species extinction.” Increased species loss in isolated patches of bushland comes through predation (foxes, domestic cats) or bushfire. One Sugar Glider has already been killed this year by a domestic cat in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

Wildlife corridors

Fox & Firefly Gully wildlife corridors

Ross’s research showing regular use of glider polls and rope crossings by gilders and possums gives me hope that building links through the urban matrix is feasible. Linking wildlife corridors down Fox and Firefly Gullies with Mimosa Creek across Klumpp Road may be simpler and lower cost than I expected.

Ross has generously provided a copy of his presentation – BCC_HabitatBrisbane_Goldingay

Novel ecosystems case study – camphor laurel regrowth

Carla at Citywide - 18 Mar 2013

Carla Catterall is passionate about our bushland

Professor Carla Catterall’s presentation showed us novel approaches to forest restoration that can inform our Bushcare activities.

Reforestation consists of:

Spontaneous (passive) regrowth
• establishes without assistance;
• low-cost
• can be slow

Active planting
• seedlings actively planted;
• done for various reasons;
• higher cost;
• faster initial establishment.

Our love-hate relationship with Camphor Laurels in Fox Gully means I was particularly interested to hear that there may be another way of looking at these environmental weeds. Carla’s presentation challenged us to consider novel ways to make use past human environmental impacts to facilitate reforestation, with the key message “keep an open mind.”

The Camphor case study of the “Big Scrub” in northern NSW, originally a 750sq km rainforest (c. 1800),  shows that in 1958 less than 0.1% remained uncleared. In 2004, 25% of the area was forest regrowth dominated by Camphor Laurel, introduced from China.

I, like most people, thought of Camphor Laurel as major environmental weed, a high priority for removal. However, this is a good example of the importance of Carla’s “keep an open mind”.

Research of the value of Camphor Laurel (summary of presentation slides):

Is Camphor regrowth desirable reforestation or undesirable weed invasion?

(Survey of plants and fruit eating birds in 24 camphor patches >3 ha)

Camphor regrowth used by:

          34 species frugivorous birds:

          10 high quality seed-dispersers; and

          regionally threatened Rose-crowned Fruit-dove found at 92% of sites.

Camphor regrowth canopy actually supports rather than suppresses native plant regeneration.

Camphor regrowth promotes recovery of soil properties in former pasture areas.


Carla C slides - March 2013

Reforestation using Camphor regrowth vs clear-felling Camphor regrowth

Certainly a different way of looking at a despised environmental weed … Keep our minds open.

Thanks to Carla for sharing a copy of her presentation Catterall BCC Habitat Brisb talk_web publish Mar13

About Mt Gravatt Environment Group

Mt Gravatt Environment Group is restoring a unique piece of Australain native bushland only ten minutes from Brisbane CBD.
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2 Responses to Gliders in urban space and Camphor Laurel – a useful weed?

  1. The most active and innovative Natural Area Group in Brisbane. – Wayne Cameron

  2. So wonderful to hear that Camphor is a friend not a foe. Apparently they are also useful for koalas too.

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