Photo : Darren Rickett
We're returning the original rainforest to a 2-km stretch of the creek. At this stage, the floodplain along the creek is now a mosaic of rainforest and wetland. As the work progresses, the diversity of plants, animals and fungi keeps being added to. Current Reports show how we're going. And you can see what we look like here.
Much of Ourimbah Creek's subtropical rainforest was cleared between 1880 and 1940, leaving only isolated patches. Some of these can be seen on the 1941 air photograph. After 1941, clearing slowed down, especially when a weir was built in 1977 to provide town water and the creek vegetation was protected. Seedlings from these remnant stands survived on field boundaries but were heavily grazed by stock. Our group's efforts to protect the area started in 2000 with plantings of pioneer species in open areas and controlling weeds. This allowed the rainforest to expand out from the groves of the original ancient trees. What was then neglected pasture supporting casual grazing has now developed into a thriving young rainforest. Many kinds of animals and fungi find a congenial home in this regenerating forest, making it a "hot spot" of biodiversity. Although some 350 or so species of native biota have so far been listed many more are waiting to be identified. Give us a call if you would like to help with that task!
Below are two tree species of our site, both in the family Myrtaceae and both considered vulnerable in the endangered species list.
This upper one is the magenta lilly pilly, Syzigium paniculatum. It is a small tree of subtropical rainforest and characteristic of Ourimbah Creek, although rare elsewhere. It's one of the least inflammable of trees, so it's a good species to plant near your house if you are in a bushfire-prone area. Possums like to sit in its crown to browse its foliage. Powerful owls eat the possums, so this could be a case of an endangered tree making an endangered owl less so.This lower one is the Wyong paperbark, Melaleuca biconvexa. It's a tree of the backswamps on the floodplain, where its characteristic canopy stands out in air photographs. It burns readily and, in the past, fire probably aided its spread by getting rid of rainforest competition. If cut to the ground by fire it sprouts again from suckers that form on the roots.
Left, a coral fungus growing on a pile of damp sticks. Fungi of many different kinds help recycle the nutrients of dead plants and animals so that they can be reabsorbed by plants. This keeps elements like phosphorus in the floodplain rather than their being washed down to the coastal lakes.