The rapid pace of flora and fauna extinction over the past century is a poignant reminder of the inappropriate land use practices adopted over much of the Australian continent. In the Wet Tropics region of north Queensland, widespread clearing of the coastal plain and much of the plateau areas of the Atherton Tablelands has resulted in the fragmentation and isolation of once continuous forest into many smaller blocks of habitat of different shapes and size, of many plant species and communities, making up what is commonly termed the ‘habitat mosaic’.
Aerial Photography : Bartle Frere 1997 WTMA GIS Reference No: J359
This fragmentation has serious consequences for many native plants and animals, the most serious of all is localised species extinction brought on by factors as diverse as habitat loss, inbreeding and predation by feral and domestic animals and plants. ‘Wildlife Corridors’ have been suggested as a means of alleviating some of these problems - but they do not exist and have to be rebuilt from scratch. The problem is twofold; firstly, rebuilding is a complex task as it has to attract sensitive plants and animals with appropriate food, and living facilities. Secondly, land needed for building a corridor is almost always cleared of native vegetation and is usually in private ownership.
The building of "Donaghy's Corridor" began in 1995 and four years later, after more than 18,000 trees had been planted along 1.5 kms of Toohey Creek, it was complete. A bridge had been built between two isolated fragments of the same forest type - Lake Barrine Section Crater Lakes National Park to the east and Gadgara State Forest to the west. The project was jointly carried out by the landowners, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), TREAT and the Department of Natural Resources and Forestry. Planning and direction came from QPWS ecologists, the site was prepared by skilled QPWS staff and plants were raised and planted by TREAT volunteers.
TREAT volunteers tree planting at Donaghy's Corridor 1996
Many strategies were employed, four were most important. First, the complete exclusion of cattle - controlled by fencing and by the provision of alternative watering facilities; second, an emphasis on establishing plants which attract seed dispersing animals so as to ensure diversity of life, form and species; third, the planting of an inner and outer windbreak to counter the ‘edge effect’ which is large in a relatively narrow strip of forest; and fourth, the establishment of a rigorous maintenance programme and a thorough and long term monitoring system.
The project is seen to be enormously beneficial. Obviously there are ecological advantages, but more important it is seen to demonstrate the practical integration of agriculture, forestry and conservation for the mutual benefit of the community. It has also been a demonstration of what can be described as an ‘act of faith’ in showing what can be done to secure the long term future of north Queensland's diverse flora and fauna.