In its 40 years of operation, TREAT has put more than 1 million trees in the ground.
REASONS FOR REPLANTING
Rebuild vegetated wildlife corridors to enable wildlife to move freely-
Restore and link forest remnants
Rehabilitate degraded lands
Improve water quality
Prevent soil erosion
Provide animal habitat
Enhance farm productivity
Control pests on farms
Give shelter for farm animals
All are valid reasons, and will determine the mix of trees you choose. Local trees are what local wildlife lives with and feeds on, so whether you're providing fruit for possums and cassowaries, flowers for birds and butterflies or leaves for tree kangaroos and caterpillars, trees that are local to your area should bring in the fauna that's around. Native rainforest trees in the main outlast introduced ones in tropical cyclones, as seen with Tropical Cyclone Larry.
HISTORY OF TREAT
In 1982, the Australian ‘Year of the Tree’, two botanists discussed the need to grow rainforest trees on the Atherton Tablelands.
Geoff Tracey, a botanist with CSIRO in Atherton, contacted another local botanist Joan Wright and her husband James, to discuss his concern that there were no native rainforest trees available for planting on the Tablelands. Landowners could only source exotic conifers and gum trees intended for plantation work.
Geoff, Joan and James consulted with locals including Tony Irvine of CSIRO, Les Barnes (formerly with the Department of Primary Industries) and farmer Bud Driver. Together they called a public meeting, held in Yungaburra in February 1982. Thirty people attended the meeting and agreed unanimously to start a tree planting society and make rainforest tree seedlings available for landholders.
The new society was named Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands. ‘TREAT’ organised monthly field days, and in its first year planted 2755 trees. All the seedlings were grown by members on their own properties. It became clear a nursery was needed to grow a consistent supply of trees.
Geoff approached his friend Peter Stanton, who was then Cairns Regional Director of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), to discuss options. Peter authorised the building of a nursery at the Lake Eacham headquarters of QPWS. After a few years at a temporary site, a new building was opened in 1986.
TREAT volunteers attended the nursery every Friday morning to help with potting up seedlings for planting in National Parks and the general landscape.
Over time, TREAT applied successfully for project funding, allowing it to increase its plantings and carry out maintenance to allow young trees to thrive. Later, members were able to obtain extra trees for their own significant projects.
TREAT projects include:
revegetation of ‘Donaghy's Corridor’ where more than 18,000 trees were planted along Toohey Creek, between the isolated forest fragments in the Lake Barrine Section of Crater Lakes National Park and Gadgarra National Park; and
revegetation of a 5 km wildlife corridor along Peterson Creek, between the isolated forest fragments of Curtain Fig National Park and the Lake Eacham Section of the Crater Lakes National Park.
TREAT’s close working relationship with QPWS continues and is unique in Australia. In 2020-21, TREAT potted up 48,000 seedlings at the nursery.
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT
TREAT’s motto ‘the right tree in the right place for the right reason’ underlines our operations. Collective experience over 40 years helps us understand what species will do well in restoration projects. TREAT members share knowledge and experience at the nursery on Friday mornings, at planting and field day events. TREAT runs workshops in November each year. More detailed explanations are given in the Information Notes.
Planning is important for successful restoration. Before the holes are dug, we need to think about what we hope to achieve, how long it will take and how much it will cost. Then we can determine which species will do well on the site and achieve our goals. For bigger projects we may need to propagate and grow trees ourselves, or pay someone else, such as TRC, to do this. Before the holes are dug, we need to remove weed competition and undertake the other tasks that go with site preparation. We also need to plan for site maintenance. TREAT runs workshops each November on planting and maintenance which all members embarking on projects are encouraged to attend.
More details can also be found in the Information Note Planting and Maintenance.
QPWS staff collect seed from a diversity of native species growing on the Tablelands. The regional ecosystem they are collected from is documented so that the trees selected for planting come from the same environment — rainfall, altitude and soil type.
This avoids 'genetic pollution’ and introducing species — even native species — that will become weeds. In any case, plants will grow best if they are suited to the climate and soil type.
A diverse range of species is chosen for planting — species that will grow well on the site, provide a good environment for the restoration planting to become established (for example through shading out weeds) and develop (for example through attracting seed-dispersing birds and other animals.
More details can also be found in the Information Note Species selection.
Propagation and growing
TREAT members can apply for up to 300 trees per year. Additionally, and for those with bigger projects, growing your own trees is satisfying and cost effective. Volunteers on Friday mornings can gain hands-on experience in all aspects of propagation and share knowledge with other members. TREAT runs a workshop in November each year when members can learn more about identifying plants and growing trees from seed.
More details can also be found in the Information Note Propagation and Growing.
TREAT is currently working to widen and improve biodiversity in the Lakes Corridor established along both sides of Maroobi Creek between Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham—and enhance the last stages of Peterson Creek near Lake Barrine Road. These projects were begun 40 years ago. TREAT takes a long-term view. As properties change hands, attitudes shift and knowledge increases there are new opportunities. TREAT supports landholders, including the South Endeavour Trust, with trees and volunteer planting days. TREAT is contributing to a joint scientific study with Biotropica, South Endeavour Trust and others investigating the use of "3 Corridors'' (the Peterson’s Creek, Donaghy's and Lakes Corridors) by wildlife and the botanical progression of each corridor. TREAT is always looking for new projects to consolidate existing corridors and to create new ones on the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TREAT'S PROJECTS
The rainforest restoration efforts of TREAT and TREAT members over the past 40 years have provided an opportunity for students and researchers (especially from Biotropica, JCU and the School for Field Studies) to investigate revegetation techniques, the effectiveness of establishing corridors and the use of restored areas by wildlife. Results have been published by Nigel Tucker and Amanda Freeman, in particular.
The Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands were originally covered in rainforest. After the area was colonised by Europeans in the late 1800s, most of the rainforest was cleared for agriculture and timber harvesting.
The area of the Tablelands north and west of Malanda was once covered in Mabi Forest, also known as Complex Notophyll Vine Forest Type 5b. Mabi Forest draws its name from the local Indigenous name for Lumholtz’s Tree-Kangaroo (mabi or mapi).
Less than 2% of the original Mabi forest remains, and it is listed as Critically Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth).
Other types of rainforest on the Tablelands have also been widely cleared and fragmented, with serious consequences for biodiversity. The isolation of remnant forest areas restricts the ability of birds and mammals to undertake seed dispersal and pollination, with long-term implications for genetic variability.
Introduced invasive species and diseases are a significant threat to many plants and animals. Some invasive species, such as feral pigs, also cause soil loss and erosion.
Ongoing human impacts include clearing and fragmentation of habitat for development, roadkill, roaming dogs, pressures of tourism and altered water flows and quality.
Climate change is a major threat to the biodiversity of the World Heritage Area, bringing higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and fire patterns and increased competition for habitat, as lowland species are forced to move to higher altitudes.
It can make the impacts of other threats much worse.
Global warming will decrease the habitat of many endemic vertebrate species which live in the cooler upland and montane rainforests, leaving only isolated pockets of rainforest for them to live in.
As well as habitat changes, increased temperatures will physiologically affect some animals. Raised cloud levels are likely to change water cycles, and seasonal changes may change plant reproduction and fire regimes. Increased sea levels, cyclones and flooding may drastically affect coastal ecosystems.