The Swamped by Threats Project, a partnership between BMCC, CTLLS, NPWS and Forest NSW, has reached the halfway mark. The project aims to conserve the ecological integrity and habitat quality of priority swamps for the endangered and swamp dependant Blue Mountains Water Skink and the Giant Dragonfly of the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau. The innovative ten year project is funded through a $750,000 Save Our Species (SOS) Partnership Environmental Trust grant.
A key focus of the project in the Blue Mountains has been the restoration of the natural hydrology of swamp systems which have been disrupted by stormwater flows from urbanised catchments, resulting in erosion, channelisation, de-watering, sedimentation, and weed invasion. Works have included stormwater outlet stabilisation, gross pollutant traps, raingardens, stormwater infiltration and integration structures and soft engineering swamp rehydration structures, as well as weed control. The sixteen priority swamp systems being targeted include Connaught, Yosemite, Marmion Road, North Street, the Gully, McCrae’s Paddock, Leura Falls, East Leura, Jamison Creek, Central Park, Wentworth Falls Lake, Franks Creek, Kittyhawke, Duperry/Clarendon Swamp, Red Gum Park, Lawson Pool and North Lawson Swamps.
A big thank you goes out to all the Bushcare and Swampcare volunteers whose ongoing on-ground efforts are making such a valuable contribution of in-kind hours in support of the grant funded work.
This project has been supported by the Hominy Bakery in Katoomba who provide the catering for these events “You know the food is good when everyone’s silent” said Katy O’Neill at the Valley View Swampcare Event.
RSPCA Landcare Group has been working for over 11 years to restore Woodland and EPBC Listed Swamp on the 4.4 ha RSPCA site in Mort Street North Katoomba. This bushland site contributes to a continuous bushland corridor along Katoomba Creek into the Grose Valley.
The buildings, pounds and exercise yards are at the top of the slope near Mort Street, below which is a fence separating the woodland where the Landcare group primarily works. Below the woodland a Blue Mountains Swamps runs down to Katoomba Creek.
RSPCA Landcare has removed a large weed plume of blackberry, cotoneaster, cherry laurel, broom and holly). We are now working on scattered weeds as well as pushing back an edge of holly.
We welcome more members to join us and enjoy this lovely bushland. Swamp wallabies regularly graze in the Swamp. The Landcare site contains diverse bushland showcasing the spectacular colour of native wildflowers in Spring 2020.
Wildlife Recovery Centre
We support a proposal for a wildlife recovery centre here in the Blue Mountains.
Our work has successfully restored the swamp and woodland on the RSPCA site for local native wildlife, which is now an excellent location for the rehabilitation of injured animals.
The RSPCA has announced that it has received provisional approval from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for a wildlife rehabilitation license for a dual occupancy site that will allow us to care for companion animals as well as wildlife. (RSPCA Media Unit 9/10/2020)
This proposal has raised 3 issues:
Is it needed?
Will the domestic Animal Shelter continue?
Can wildlife and domestic animals be cared for on this same site without further stress?
The 2019/2020 bushfires saw many injured wildlife sent to Taronga Zoo for care by specialist staff. For months, dedicated volunteers collected huge amounts of leaves locally and delivered them to the zoo for koalas.
This highlighted the need for a permanent wildlife care and rehabilitation facility closer to where our native animals live, and without the transport problems of a central Sydney location. This centre will not replace the need for WIRES carers to continue their invaluable work, but work alongside and complement that important service.
Continuation of Katoomba Shelter for Companion Animals
There is considerable concern in the community that this is an attempt by the RSPCA to close the shelter, as it attempted to do in 2014. As some of our members were involved in the successful community action to stop this closure, we believe this is a justifiable concern. We recognise that having a local shelter for cats and dogs reduces the likelihood of their being dumped in the bush and preying on native species.
RSPCA NSW appears to have given contradictory information to the Blue Mountains Branch, the Landcare group and Gazette about the continuation of the shelter for dogs.
In a report to the branch on August 1 2020, Rita Perkins (Senior Operations manager, RSPCA NSW) stated that if successful in obtaining the licence, then the site will not be able to look after dogs. Maybe there has been a change of plan? If so, it just needs to be acknowledged.
RSPCA NSW’s Wildlife Manager Nick de Vos stated (29/9/2020) that the RSPCA intends to continue to provide essential services to stray, lost, injured, neglected and at-risk animals and pet owners in the Blue Mountains community.
The RSPCA Media Unit issued the following statement on 9/10/2020 We announced earlier this year that, as part of our commitment to the people and animals of New South Wales, we are exploring establishing a facility that can manage both companion animals and wildlife at our Blue Mountains site.
We are pleased to announce that we have received provisional approval from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for a wildlife rehabilitation license, which means we are one step closer to making the project happen! The proposal submitted is for a dual occupancy site that will allow us to care for companion animals as well as wildlife. We still have a long way to go with this journey, but this approval means that the government has granted us permission to proceed with the design and development of the facility.
We are in the process of submitting a proposal to Blue Mountains City Council to continue to provide impound animal management services for the region on behalf of Council. Next, we will be submitting a Development Application to Blue Mountains City Council for the development of the dual occupancy site. The site has the size, space and potential to successfully manage both companion animals and wildlife. The design of the proposed infrastructure and enclosures are being carefully considered with this objective in mind. Has there been a change of plan?
3. Stress free care for both domestic and native animals?
How can the traditional role of the shelter continue alongside this proposed wildlife rehabilitation area? How can each companion animal and native animal be cared for in a safe, stress-free environment?
The size and shape of the site could allow for separation of functions. The cats that come into RSPCA are now housed in a custom-built indoor cattery and dogs are housed in concrete kennels. We understand that the use of indoor facilities for dogs is being researched and considered. Indoor shelters for dogs are common in many cold European countries for climatic reasons.
The current Taronga Zoo situation has very limited space and a wide range of animals in close proximity. Whilst more details are required, the Landcare group supports the Wildlife Recovery Centre in principle as a way to enable more wildlife to be rehabilitated closer to their natural habitats.
Native wildlife populations have been and continue to be greatly impacted by natural disasters and habitat loss, we therefore believe it is important to explore opportunities like this to invest in their care and recovery.
How are you and your Bushcare groups going over the COVID-19 period? Send any interesting articles or photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Popes Glen Bushcare volunteer, Alan Lane acknowledges how all Bushcare Officers and Bushcare groups are working hard to stay safe and complying with the COVID-19 restrictions. However, Alan noted their Popes Glen Bushcare group “are finding the most difficult time to comply is morning tea, as I’m sure all groups are finding – it’s normally such a social and sociable time!”
Here’s a photo of the Popes Glen Bushcare Group complying with social distancing at morning tea at our July work day. (Liz and Gary in the background are allowed to stand that close together – they are married!).
AABR is progressively providing online material to assist landholders undertake ecological weed management after the extensive wildfires of spring-summer 2019-20. If you are a land manager or willing volunteer, please check out our resources below and learn what you can do to help recovering natives that are experiencing competition from regenerating weed!
First Aid for Burned Bushland (FABB) is the place the see the resources AABR is developing to provide guidance for assisting in the recovery of our bushland after the fires last spring and summer. Click the link below to see more…
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Greater Blue Mountains region being granted World Heritage status by the United Nations.
Blue Mountains City Council will mark this important milestone by celebrating the unique privilege of managing a City within a World Heritage Area.
From July to December 2020, Council will showcase how we help preserve an area of such special significance, including recognition of Traditional Ownership, protection of the environment and threatened species, water resource management and strategic planning.
Blue Mountains waterways are some of the most beautiful, iconic and highly valued in Australia. They sustain a unique diversity of animals and plants, hold great cultural significance to Traditional Owners, and provide huge opportunities for recreation and eco-tourism.
Our waterways also supply drinking water to over five million people, including residents of the Blue Mountains local government area.
PRIORITY WEEDS in the City of Blue Mountains, are plants that have the potential to pose a biosecurity risk to human health, the economy, the livability of our city and the environment. In NSW, the administration of priority weed control is a State Government responsibility under the Biosecurity Act 2015. The Act is implemented and enforced by the Local Control Authority (LCA) – Blue Mountains City Council
The revised version provides some great improvements including images of all species targeted by Council on private lands for identification. This includes an easy to use colour-coded guide showing the various control measure/s for each State, Regional and Local Priority weed, which coincides with the herbicide guide at the back of the booklet. There is also an easy to read flowchart of Council’s inspection process for you to better understand how it works. A truly valuable resource for the backyard gardener treating an odd weed here or there, volunteers working on their Bushcare sites or to the professional bush regenerator contractor alike.
Many weed species in the Blue Mountains are ‘fire-responsive’. Post-fire conditions make it easy for weeds to establish due to favourable conditions, they germinate prolifically and can spread vigorously within the first few seasons.
Weed species gradually establish long-term soil seed banks that are triggered to germinate en masse by fire. In the absence of targeted weed control, weed species rapidly spread and can form a dense ‘carpet’, outcompeting native species.
However, this can be to your advantage. It’s a great time to treat weed infestations as they are more accessible than ever before. Usually they are the first to emerge, easy to spot but also easy to access. If you control emergent weeds before they set seed, you’ll be able to get on top of these weedy patches much more quickly. Timely post-fire management action (usually within 18 months) is necessary for control.
Improved access post-fire provides an excellent opportunity to control weeds that are not usually easily accessible. This certainly applies to dense riparian vegetation and our Blue Mountains Swamp communities, where the dense vegetation impedes access to established weeds, or wherever the foliage of established weeds is beyond the reach of physical or chemical methods. Unless burnt, weeds in these locations usually escape control efforts. Post-fire, the sparse vegetation allows the foliage of resprouting taller weed species to be easily located and within range of control.
Weed Species proliferation post fire
There are several ways weed species can proliferate after fire:
Weed seed bank explosion in usually unaffected areas
Kill or reduce the number of established mature plants but post-fire conditions are ideal for the seed bank to explode
Resprout from base of mature plants
Burn or char the weed species, then plant sends up numerous suckers
Each of these reproductive pathways requires a different weed management strategy
Weed seed bank explosion in usually unaffected areas
Weed seeds can remain dormant in the soil for many years.The fruits of weeds are attractive to a wide range of animals that can spread seeds such as foxes, rabbits and bird species. Seeds can also be spread by dispersal from the parent plant or by wind or water. This may increase the number of weeds present at a site in the short term. But over time and with weed treatment it can deplete the weed soil seed bank, and be replaced by native species and a healthier natural state in the long term.
Likely pathways of weed seedlings germinating in areas previously clear of weed species are post-fire flooding, wind and bird distributed seeds from neighbouring unburnt areas. Post-fire these seedlings once mature, set seed and are likely to spread dramatically.
An opportunity exists where, a weed seed bank explosion can lead to a weed seed bank depletion. Fire can result in one-off increases in weed densities, which after subsequent fires rapidly decline if weed treatment is quick and consistent. If weed seedlings are not controlled, they will outcompete native seedlings, exhausting the native soil seedbank.
Consistent follow-up seedling control is necessary in areas of low fire intensity, near water sources, and where seeds have dispersed into the burnt area from unburnt sections of the population. This can happen particularly in the Blue Mountains where seed from unburnt areas can carry down a slope and be deposited on burnt ground. The removal of these seedlings before they mature and set seed is a high priority.
Weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Depending on fire intensity and thickness of the weed species trunk or stem, fire can kill adult plants with little or no re sprouting post-fire. However, weed seeds are long lived, remain in the soil and can be triggered to germinate by fire. Many of the Blue Mountains most invasive and pervasive woody weeds fall into this group.
Trees and shrubs – some trees and shrubs are killed by fire and do not sucker or resprout post-fire, these plants rely solely on seed to regenerate. Many germinate straight after fires. The removal of seedlings and juveniles before they mature and set seed is a high priority.
Trees commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Woody Weeds – A hot fire will kill mature wood weeds but encourage mass germination of seeds, occurring in denser, more vigorous patches. Once these become established, they quickly produce large amounts of seed. Mass germination can reduce the weed soil seed bank over time, but only through sufficient follow-up weed treatments over many years, otherwise a denser infestation is likely to result.
Climber, scrambler or creeper – Usually fire kills adult climbers, scramblers and creepers, but triggers germination in the soil weed seed bank. These seeds dependent on the species can return in denser infestations, particularly with climbers that produce many seeds in their fleshy fruits. These seeds are usually favoured by birds so may be found close to the parent plant or in a new location.
Some weeds resprout from the base of burnt mature plants from regenerative buds protected underground or beneath layers of bark. There is a short-term decrease and reduction in biomass and/or densities as mature plants are temporarily ‘weakened’ post fire. There is an opportunity to achieve better results if prompt weed treatment is undertaken on fire weakened weeds.
Trees and shrubs – Weed trees may resprout post-fire, but not for all species. • African Olive Olea europaea ssp. Cuspidate • Lantana Lantana spp.
Woody Weeds – Gorse evolved as a fire-climax plant, readily catching fire and burning to ground level but regenerating from the base after the fire. In the Blue Mountains look for: • Gorse Ulex europaeus
Climber, scrambler or creeper – When burnt these species may receive a boost post-fire with vigorous resprouting and/or seedling regeneration into fertile, sunny sites. Response is strongly dependent on fire severity.
Fire generally kills Blackberry’s seasonal canes but the root crown usually survives and regrowth can be quite vigorous after fire. Post-fire environments provide a unique opportunity for control as all foliage is accessible.
Climbing, scrambling and creeper weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes – Weeds species with a bulb, corm, rhizome or tuber are unlikely to be burnt by fire as the corms or tubers are protected from the heat by being located underground. Many species resprout vigorously post-fire and can invade bare ground.
The removal of corms or tubers is a high priority. Those with long strappy leaves can be treated by wiping (wiping herbicide along the strappy leaves with a herbicide wiper).
Weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Weed species can sucker post-fire, meaning its principal means of propagation is suckering from the roots vegetatively. Trees under stress post-fire can send up numerous suckers as a defensive mechanism. This can lead to dense stands forming and a monoculture of the same species, excluding all native species from that site.
Weeds commonly displaying this fire response include suckering trees, suckering woody weeds and brambles.
Trees and shrubs – Mature Camphor Laurel trees have been documented suckering profusely after being burnt.
Weed management should be undertaken by killing the parent tree and suckering plants by treating each with herbicide. Weed trees commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains are:
• Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima • Weeping Willow Salix babylonica • Small and large leaf Privet Ligustrum spp. • Sycamore Platanus orientalis • Camphor laurel Cinnamomum camphora • Black Locust/Robinia Robinia pseudoacacia
Wood Weeds – There are a limited number of wood weeds that sucker or resprout post-fire in the Blue Mountains. These should be treated with herbicide as a high priority. Look for:
Weeds can act as a buffer to reduce erosion and as a cover crop for native seedlings and animals post fire while natural native regeneration occurs.
Erosion risk increases after a fire due to the lack of groundcover to stabilise the soil which slows down the speed of runoff. Weeds are usually the first plants to emerge after fire. If left for 3 to 6 months they can act as a ground layer, the plant roots stabilise the soil, and stems and leaves slow the water to give it time to percolate into the soil profile.
At the early stages any vegetation cover, including weeds can protect native seedlings. Weed seedlings grow quickly and can perform several jobs; protecting native seedlings from erosion, drying out, returning nutrients to the soil and to provide food and shelter for insects and animals.
Weeds can be helpful up until a point, then they can be the bushlands worst enemy if left too long.
Assess burnt areas for weeds and the best control methods for the species. Control and target weeds before seed set, but limiting trampling as much as possible while bushland is still fragile.
When to treat weeds?
The months following a bushfire are among the best times to control weed species. However, it is very important to remember to leave burnt areas alone for the first 3-6 months to allow the soil to recover and native seedlings to establish, as over enthusiastic weed control can cause damage.
Post fire, soil forms a crust (soil sealing) that protects and reduces the loss of soil, organic matter and seedbank from rain events and erosion. The crust is formed through a combination of elements; when rain hits the soil, it dislocates the silt and clay making way for moss, lichen, algae or fungi, and cyanobacteria to enter which then forms a surface crust.
The combined protective cover elements such as the soil crust and seedlings can protect the soil throughout the first-year post fire. Natural regeneration is the priority. Monitoring the site for weed growth indicators such as fresh new growth and flowering should be used as the cue for treatment. Take care to prevent any off-target damage to native plants.