Friends of Oxley Common:
Comments on Lord Mayor’s 2006 ideas & Greening Australia’s proposed re-vegetation plan for Oxley Creek Common.
Oxley Creek Common is situated in Rocklea on the 131ha old Department of Primary Industries research station. The Common is currently used for agistment and recreation and is under caretaker status with the Qld Department of Public Works. The Common provides a visual amenity of rural tranquillity with little urban disturbance evident in the context of a rapidly urbanising megatropolis landscape. The Common currently attracts a diverse range of interest groups that pursue recreational activities such as cycling, model aeroplane flying, petanque tournaments, birdwatching, cultural and other natural history interests. There are few other properties in the SE Queensland regional context that offer the rural visual amenity and landscape use opportunities of The Common. In this respect, The Common should be regarded as holding exceptional value for the future integrity of social and ecological harmony in the region, and vested with appropriate status such as that offered by Land for Wildlife programs.
The Lord May of Brisbane has recently established a task force to develop strategies for absorbing excess emissions and CO2. This task force has commissioned Greening Australia to put together a plan for re-planting The Common. This submission is in response to this proposal.
Values & opportunities of The Common
Some important values and opportunities offered through appropriate use of The Common that integrate triple bottom line concepts include:
· The Common has the best birdwatching in the Brisbane area (163 species in the past three years) because it has diverse habitat, a mix of open space and grasslands with trees (refer to Friend’s website in the flora and fauna index for more info: http://www.friendsofoxleycommon.org.au/. The Common gives the appearance of little urban disturbance and acts as a refuge for biodiversity. Other fauna are regularly seen on the common in quieter moments of early morning and evening (including Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Northern Brown Bandicoot). The Common thus provides outstanding potential in maintaining ecological value within the urbanising landscape of SE Qld.
o The Common is regularly visited by at least three bird species with threatened or listed status (Jabiru, Japanese Snipe and Grey Goshawk) plus many regionally unusual species (Plum-headed Finch, Glossy Ibis, Red-backed Buttonquail, Swamp Harrier etc.) This has identified The Common as a potential site for a world class Bird Observatory that would attract birdwatchers and other eco-tourists visiting Queensland through the Brisbane Airport gateway.
o The Common has been identified as a location to pioneer re-introduction biology in the urban environment focussing on local medium and small fauna such as the Swamp Wallaby and Rufous Bettong. The Secret Forest has the capacity to be securely fenced to exclude cats, foxes, dogs and other subsidised urban predators. The unique site allows this to be a cost effective exercise unlike most other similar attempts. This use of The Secret Forest has the capacity to provide both wildlife refuge and environmental education capability.
· The flora that has remained in this agricultural environment provides an effective starting point for successful ecological restoration that demonstrates ecological stewardship in an agricultural landscape. The Common thus provides outstanding potential in building social and biological diversity.
o The Common has been identified as a suitable place to locate the volunteers visiting Australia as part of Conservation Volunteers activities and other international environmental volunteer organisations such as Earthwatch and Willing Workers on Organic Farms.
· The Common is an ‘ideal’ place for people to get together to build community cohesion through business investment in the environment, innovation in enterprise, development of the arts and sustainable living.
o The Common has been identified as a place where business is prepared to invest in carbon futures. Investment in restoration of vegetation provides opportunities for demonstrating business commitment to ameliorating effect on global climate systems, sustaining local landscapes and integrating with local communities through collaboration and joint activities.
o The Common has been identified by local residents as a place to develop social cohesion and social capital through a community garden providing a focus for elderly, marginalised and community minded people living in the surrounding suburbs.
o The Common provides the opportunity to develop small scale agro-forestry that profiles the values of local indigenous timber trees and fine furniture crafting from local species.
o The Common has been identified as a suitable property to operate a small biodynamic dairy (about 20 cows) and conduct associated small agricultural enterprises such as cheese making.
o The Arts and Crafts community has identified The Common as a suitable location to develop workshops, studios and markets that generate local employment opportunities and provide training in a small enterprise environment.
o The Common has been identified as a place to demonstrate sustainability in housing through a low impact and low cost housing development. This enterprise ties to local economic initiatives in small enterprise development, water and energy conservation, and sustainable food production that maintains ecological integrity in the environment.
Revegetation and restoration potential
Friends of Oxley Common feels that the proposal put forward by Greening Australia to meet the objectives of the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s O2 Task force is too limited in scope. It also does not go far enough in recognising the current and potential values of Oxley Creek Common. Some comments on Greening Australia’s proposal:
· There is no evidence in the current proposal of the consideration of comparative options in SE Qld that are either more or less degraded than The Common. This indicates an inadequate consideration of other options particularly in relation to current land use practice and land use potential of The Common within a regional context.
· In response to the general assumptions in the Greening Australia proposal exemplified in the following statement:
“A background search revealed that the entire Oxley Creek Common was once vegetated with Regional Ecosystem 12.3.11 which is described as “Eucalyptus siderophloia, E. tereticornis, Corymbia intermedia open forest on alluvial plains usually near coast” (pg 1 from Greening Australia proposal to O2 Task Force).
o This might be correct at a regional scale, but not applicable as a revegetation strategy in the local context of The Common because it ignores the details of local topography Kanowski et al. (2005) should be consulted to review the advantages and disadvantages of broad-scale plantings in the context of The Common.
o Vegetation monitoring on The Common has revealed species from a range of other ecosystems units, including mangroves, riparian rainforest, wetlands and many more.
o While it will be necessary to plant screening vegetation to protect landscapes and wildlife from urban impacts such as pollutants and noise disturbance, it is important to consider ecological potential rather than the proposed minimalist approach of re-vegetation.
o The impacts of several styles of rainforest revegetation have been examined in relation to biodiversity conservation (Catterall et al. 2004, 2005, Kanowski et al. 2003, 2005a,b, Tucker et al. 2003, Wardell-Johnson et al. 2005). These should be consulted when considering revegetation proposals. The emphasis in this approach is:
1. connectivity of remnants with intact habitat
2. ensuring the vegetation structure from herbs through to overstorey should be re-established at the same time
3. clear planting objectives
4. linking new plantings to existing remnants
5. careful choice of plants to minimise re-emergence of weeds and subsequent management costs
o It will be possible to restore at least six broad ecological categories on The Common serving a broader range of ecological interests than available through the Regional context lens offered by Greening Australia. These ecological communities have been identified within specific landform units on The Common and would include:
1. Riparian rainforest (both wet and dry) in the Secret Forest area
2. E. tereticornis, Allocasuarina, Melaleuca bracteata and associated vegetation in the low lying areas that do not include wetlands.
3. Grassland with scattered shrubs suitable for low impact agriculture managed through pulse and cell grazing to ensure viable habitat for grassland birds and fauna. Some grassland that excludes cattle managed in association with gullies and creeks flowing through the property.
4. Wetland restoration that attends to both aquatic and wetland flora that maximises habitat for water and wetland birds and excludes cattle.
5. Flat floodplain above wetland level to be restored with Regional Ecosystem 12.3.11.
6. Mangrove habitat adjacent to Oxley Creek.
· It would be appropriate to take the opportunity to generate a range of ecosystems in this valuable remnant of ‘open space’ in order to build biodiversity in urban ecosystems and act as a secure ‘hub’ for regeneration of surrounding remnants and degraded ecosystems in this urban environment. It may also be appropriate to consider the methods used by Catterall et al. (2004) to monitor for the effectiveness of this revegetation effort to achieve biodiversity objectives.
o Wildlife such as the Swamp Wallaby found at 17 Mile Rocks face increasing pressure, and would be best managed by linking habitat to Oxley Creek Common through appropriate fencing, community cooperation and habitat restoration.
o Connectivity between large remnants such as Toohey Forest and the Brisbane River corridor should be a long term aim for ecological management in Brisbane. In the interim, The Common may serve as a refuge from which to maintain and build the ecological integrity of a diverse range of species in SE Qld.
The size, relative absence of ‘edge effects’ and the limited impacts of surrounding urbanisation (pets, pollutants, noise, and other forms of disturbance) on The Common allow the ecosystem to survive intact with relative integrity and long term security. These qualities need to be considered in planning for future land-use on The Common in the relative context of SE Qld. As The Common is the only remaining property of this size in the regional SEQ context it should serve as a stable hub to build ecological connectivity to other large remnants. Re-vegetation strategies must consider the site within the regional context of land use and land capability as well as the potential for other re-generative roles. The Common should be treated as an asset forming the site of future vision rather than as a short term means of amelioration. In the context of community, The Common serves as a focus for a diverse range of interest groups with the potential to demonstrate sustainability across the triple bottom line matched by few other properties in SE Qld.
Friends of Oxley Common would like to acknowledge input and insight from Professor Hugh Possingham and Dr Grant Wardell-Johnson, both of the University of Queensland, in generating this response.
Some useful references
Catterall, C. P., Kanowski, J., Wardell-Johnson, G., Proctor, H. and Reis, T. (2004). Quantifying the biodiversity values of reforestation: design issues and outcomes in Australian forest landscapes. In Conservation of Australia’s Forest Fauna, Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, pp 359- 393.
Catterall, C. P., Kanowski, J., Lamb, D. and Wardell-Johnson, G.W. (2005). Trade-offs between timber production and biodiversity in rainforest plantations: emerging issues from an ecological perspective. In: What have we learnt from planting rainforest trees in Australia (Eds Erskin, P. and Lamb, D.) In: What have we learnt from planting rainforest trees in Australia (Eds Erskin, P. and Lamb, D.) pp 206-222. Rainforest CRC
Kanowski, J., Catterall, C. P., Wardell-Johnson, G.W Proctor, H. & Reis, T. (2003). Development of forest structure on cleared rainforest land in north-eastern Australia under different styles of reforestation. Forest Ecology and Management 183: 265-280.
Kanowski, J., Catterall, C. P., & Wardell-Johnson, G. W. (2005a). Consequences of broadscale timber plantations for biodiversity in cleared rainforest landscapes of eastern Australia Forest Ecology & Management. 208: 359-372.
Kanowski, J., Catterall, C. P., Proctor, H., Reis, T., Tucker, N. I. J. and Wardell-Johnson, G. W. (2005b). Rainforest timber plantations and animal biodiversity in tropical and subtropical Australia. In: What have we learnt from planting rainforest trees in Australia (Eds Erskin, P. and Lamb, D.), pp 183-205. Rainforest CRC
Tucker, N. I. J., Wardell-Johnson, G., Catterall, C. P. and Kanowski, J. (2004). Agroforestry and biodiversity: improving the outcomes for conservation in tropical north-eastern Australia. In Schroth, G., Fonseca, G., Harvey, C.A., Gascon, C., Vasconcelos, H. and Izac, A.M.N. (eds). Agroforestry and Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Landscapes. Island Press, Washington, Pp 431-452.
Wardell-Johnson, G.W., Kanowski, J., Catterall, Piper, S. and Lamb, D. (2005). Rainforest CRC. Rainforest timber plantations and plant biodiversity in tropical and subtropical Australia: the Community Rainforest Reforestation Program in context. In: What have we learnt from planting rainforest trees in Australia (Eds Erskin, P. and Lamb, D.), pp 162-182. Rainforest CRC