Most of Ourimbah Creek's subtropical rainforest was cleared between 1830 and 1940, leaving the tiny remnants that can be seen on the 1941 air photograph. During World War II clearing slowed down and, when a weir was built in 1977 to provide town water, the value of creek vegetation started to be more appreciated. Also, along field boundaries a few rainforest trees managed to persist, although they were heavily grazed by stock. Our group's efforts to protect the area started in 2000. Volunteers planted pioneer species in open areas, controlled weeds and protected naturally regenerating seedlings. Gradually, the rainforest expanded into this land that had been left over from building the M1 freeway. Some 350 or so species of native biota have so far been listed, while many more are waiting to be identified.
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's 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.And below 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. Together with mycorrhizal fungi, they help to keep nutrients like phosphorus in the floodplain rather than their being washed down to the coastal lakes.
lO Photo : Darren Rickett
Starting in 2000, we've been restoring the original rainforest to a 2-km stretch of the creek. Now, in 2016, the adjacent floodplain is a mosaic of rainforest and wetland. Native plants, animals and fungi, new arrivals or ones we hadn't previously noticed, keep being added. Current Reports document progress. And you can see what we look like here.