Bulguru Wetlands a ‘Labour of Love’

Elaine Seager
March 17, 2016

Bulguru Wetlands a 'Labour of Love'

Rehabilitating the Bulguru swamp is a big task but it’s one that has become a ‘labour of love’ for the Johnstone Ecological Society

Since 1999 the Johnstone Ecological Society has been slowly regenerating a site at Bulguru Wetlands that was previously used as a waste dump.

Now, thanks to a Community NRM Grant provided by Terrain and funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, they are continuing their great work and extending the managed area. 

The environmental significance of swamps may have been undervalued in the past but wetland areas in the Wet Tropics form a vital part of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem. Between 1951-1992, 60 per cent of Johnstonshire’s freshwater wetlands were lost to agriculture and waste dumps. Melaleuca forests comprised 78 per cent of that loss.

But thanks to the dedication of Johnstone Ecological Society’s volunteer members, some of these important areas in the South Johnstone area are being rehabilitated. In 1999 the group planted 9,600 trees with help from other groups including a Green Army. However, after cyclones Larry and Yasi swept through the region a lot of damage was caused and a significant amount of canopy was lost. This resulted in an invasion of weeds, particularly guinea grass.

The current project is using brushcutters to cut single-file tracks into areas overgrown with guinea grass, providing access to facilitate spraying with Exert (Verdict). This kills guinea grass while allowing natural generation seedlings to establish and grow. As the grass dies, the group will assess the rate of seedling growth and plant more trees on the newly cleared areas.

Previously recovered areas will continue to be monitored and further tree plantings made where needed. Some trees will be purchased and members will also collect seeds for germination to add to the supply of seedling trees.

The group’s members plan to continue weed control over the project area where navua sedge has taken over much of the main track into the site.

Elaine Ridd, one of their founding members said they were hoping to kill the sedge without killing the grass by the selective use of herbicide Sempra.

“Previous projects have addressed thunbergia vine and syngonium, which have been almost eradicated from the site and monitoring and poisoning will continue for these,” she said.

“This project has become a labour of love for us since the cyclone damage, and it’s very encouraging to see native plants and animals returning. A cassowary has even been sighted coming down to the area for food.”

If you would like more information on the Johnstone Ecological Society phone 4061 1154.