GER and its partners are planning and delivering a number of projects to support native species in the GER corridor. Despite the variety of habitat needs and different management strategies required to conserve the corridor’s multitude of fauna and flora, each species has something important in common: they require a ‘whole of landscape’ approach to management to ensure they continue to move, survive and persist in the Great Eastern Ranges.
Species include those which:
• Provide important indicators of the health of landscapes and the variety of species they support,
• Demonstrate the extent to which the landscape can be crossed between ‘islands’ of similar habitat,
• Make use of ‘altitudinal’ connections to move between the forests of the ranges, and inland woodlands or coastal lowlands,
• Provide examples of the tangible connections between native plants and animals and Aboriginal people, or
• Already form part of the Australian national identity and inspire local communities to act to restore nature.
The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly is one of the largest butterflies found in South-east Queensland and North-east New South Wales. Once found in large numbers across its range, the species is now restricted to only two populations in the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, and in far North-east New South Wales.
This serious decline has occurred as a result of land clearance to make way for tropical fruit production, urban expansion and farmland, combined with the widespread suppression of native vine species on which the species depends. The introduction of Dutchman’s Pipe Vine (Aristolochia elegans) which is toxic to the butterfly’s larvae, has served to exacerbate conditions. Community groups, including the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network and Sunshine Coast Hinterland Bushlinks partnership, are actively working to restore and replant native species to increase the butterfly’s core habitat area. By removing exotic vines and preferentially reintroducing Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa), and Mountain Birdwing Vine (Pararistolochia laheyana), this luminescent butterfly is being given a second chance.
The Spotted-tailed or ‘Tiger’ quoll, is found in parts of the GER corridor with an average rainfall of 600 millimetres or more per year. Historically more widespread, the species was decimated after European settlement.
Quolls utilise a variety of habitats in the GER corridor, but have a preference for wet forests, such as rainforest and closed eucalypt forest. The species is a good indicator of abundant prey, and the absence of introduced predators, such as fox and wild dog. This makes the quoll an important focus species for a number of GER’s regional partnerships where it is used to monitor the success of community efforts to restore habitats and ecosystem health. Increasingly, collaborative pest management programs which involve the trapping and shooting of introduced predators, as opposed to the use of 1080 baiting which is more indecriminate, provides an important complement to restoration efforts.
Inhabiting the waters and banks of rivers, creeks and lakes across eastern Australia, the Platypus is one of only five species worldwide which lays eggs and suckles its young. The Platypus has a voracious appetite, consuming up to its own weight in insect larvae, worms or other freshwater invertebrates every day. Because of the quantity of invertebrates consumed, the Platypus is an excellent indicator of water quality and good management of riparian habitat and of the wider catchment area. Ongoing riparian corridor restoration projects by landholders and community groups along the length of the GER are seeking to restore conditions that maintain well-connected riparian habitats through; the re-planting of native riparian species on cleared riverbanks; fencing off and exclusion of domestic stock from degraded areas, and the maintainance of sustainable agricultural practices.
Found along the length of the GER corridor, Squirrel Gliders are named after their dense, bushy tails. Less well known than their smaller relative, the Sugar Glider, both species sometimes occur in the same areas however when they do, Squirrel Gliders are usually the more abundant. Squirrel Gliders inhabit open forest and woodland, comprising a mix of tree and shrub species, where they depend on the presence of tree hollows for nesting and shelter, and winter-flowering species that provide food during the leaner months. Gliders are able to cross relatively open areas, provided trees or posts are available at 50 metre intervals, which allow sufficient height to glide between feeding areas. Community projects along the GER corridor focus on restoring and maintaining good quality, mature habitat, replacing lost tree hollows with nest boxes and managing fox and cat populations. Connectivity between habitat areas is maintained by erecting ‘glider poles’ which enable the species to cross the major roads that often transverse their habitat.
The Koala remains one of the most-loved and recognisable of the iconic native species that occupy the GER corridor. While formerly far more widespread and abundant, Koalas are still found in each of the four states that the GER corridor covers. The species typically inhabits open eucalypt woodlands, where they feast on the leaves of particular species to which they are most partial. Because this eucalypt diet has limited nutritional and caloric content, Koalas are largely sedentary and sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Sadly Koalas were heavily persecuted for their skins in the early 20th century, particularly in Queensland where large-scale culling occurred. The biggest threat to the species continued survival includes habitat loss due to agriculture and urbanisation, predation by foxes and wild dogs, disease, and vehicle strike. In the future, climate change will serve to exacerbate many of these threats with Koalas at risk of becoming one of Australia’s first climate refugee species. A number of GER Partners are engaged in habitat restoration and connectivity projects, such as the Nature Conservation Trust which is working on a project to restore 500 ha of prime Koala habitat on private land in the NSW section of the GER corridor. The Koala is also the focus of the annual Great Koala Count, a wide-scale citizen science survey run by the National Parks Association in partnership with GER.
The Marbled Gecko is widespread in the southern half of the Australian continent, occupying a variety of habitats including urban areas. The species is typical of many reptiles in woodland and forest environments in the GER: requiring trees and core habitat areas for shelter and forage, it is able to move limited distances between areas provided trees and coarse debris are present to provide refuge. The species is currently one of a number of reptile species being studied to better understand the connectivity needs of small vertebrate species in the GER. Early results suggest that the Marbled Gecko, requires scattered trees at regular intervals to move across open country, and seemingly is unable to spot trees that are over 50 metres apart.
Once common across the Murray-Darling Basin, the Macquarie perch, like many other native fish has come under pressure by the loss of connections between streams due to the construction of dams and weirs, disease, overfishing and introduced diseases. Ongoing projects by GER partners are addressing major threats to bass populations which include, the fouling of creeks and billabongs by pigs, management of carp populations, and restoration of in-stream fish habitat by through the removal of large debris and overgrown vegetation.
The striking and distinctive black and yellow Regent honey-eater is a critically endangered bird endemic to South Eastern Australia. Once common across Eastern Australia in wooded areas, ongoing and rapid habitat fragmentation has resulted in diminished and scattered populations of the species. One of the GER corridor’s flagship species, it is the focus of a major project run by Conservation Volunteers Australia which is building on the success of the well-established Regent Honeyeater Recovery program in the Capertee Valley. This project is providing a vital boost to planting an weeding in the valley using tried and tested techniques. The support of local funding will ensure the continuation of this valuable project into the future.
Displaying a massive bulbous bill and short crest, the resplendent Glossy Black-Cockatoo is found in open forest and woodland areas of South-east Queensland, Eastern and Northern New South Wales and slightly into Victoria. Males have a distinctive red tail panel whilst females have a characteristic yellow to orange panel. This vulnerable species feeds almost exclusively on the seeds of several species of she-oak, many species of which have diminished dramatically in distribution. The Glossy Black-Cockatoo is also dependant on large hollow-bearing eucalypts for nest sites. Due to its highly restricted diet and habitat requirements, extensive habitat loss, increasing bushfires and competition and predation from introduced feral species, have resulted in this a patchy distribution of this once widespread species. In the Kosciusko to Coast partnership area, six partners have formed a highly successful collaboration to increase the foraging habitat for the vulnerable glossy black-cockatoo, through the planting of 10,000 she-oaks. This project is serving as an excellent model which can be replicated across other parts of the GER corridor to increase the population size and resilience of this beautiful bird.
The Hip-pocket or ‘Marsupial’ frog, is restricted to rainforests in mountainous areas of southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales, where it lays eggs under decomposing logs, rocks or leaf litter. The species gets its name from the characteristic fold of skin adjoining the hip that the male frogs exhibit, which are used to carry the tadpoles whilst they develop. As with other species restricted to specific, localised habitats, climate change and pressures from adjoining land use threaten the Hip-pocket frog’s core habitat. The increasing occurrence and spread of bushfires due to climate change, coupled with habitat fragmentation, is resulting in the rapid decline of the frog’s remaining rainforest habitat. Ongoing connectivity projects to regenerate and replant rainforest areas, buffer core frog habitat and monitor the emergence of chytrid fungus in isolated populations, are currently underway to increase the area and population size of this unique frog.