Sycamore Maple Pull Site 2013 and Tutsan Rust

Last Saturday we held a working bee, weeding at a site (which we do annually) where an invasion of Sycamore Maple seedlings entered the Park from a surrounding property. Initially we were pulling out hundreds of new seedling and now the ongoing effort to remove newly detected seedlings is working well. Like last year there was not a lot of Maple to remove and a lot of the time was spent moving through the site to ensure that the area was clean of weeds, (although we did not get cross to the other side of the gully where there are some more Maples growing). The main area where Maple was found was an open disturbed area that also has a very bad Tutsan infestation.

It was interesting to discover that much of the Tustsan in the area was covered by rust with some foliage looking quite heavily impacted. We didn’t notice the rust last year but when I looked back at some photos I took then, I did see that some Tutsan leaves had tell tale rust spots present. Tutsan Rust (Melampsora hypericorum) is a fungus that was found to be very successful in the Otway Ranges in the 1990’s where it had a significant impact on reducing the cover of this shade tolerant invasive weed.

Our site (or somewhere in a close vicinity) had Tutsan Rust artificially introduced a couple of years back and after some follow up inspections It was thought that it had not taken. After a bit of research I found a document that suggested that Tutsan Rust was already present at Tarra Bulga, A report from 1999 describes rust taken from Tarra Bulga (as well as some from the Morwell River area) being used as part of research project. The Tarra Bulga rust was found to impact the plants in the trial to an intermediate level (i.e. OK but not great). Whether or not the rust is from the attempted introduction a couple of years ago (of which I assume was a more virulent strain) or whether it is the same rust that has been around for longer, can probably not be known without complex Laboratory analysis. But we will continue to monitor the site with interest given the threat that Tutsan presents to the park.

As well as the Maple and Tutsan there were new Blackberry seedlings that we carefully hand pulled as well as a few new outbreaks of English Ivy which we need to remain vigilant for. There were some larger clumps of Blackberry that will need to be sprayed.

Reference: Casonato, S, Lawrie, A. and McLaren, D. Biological control of Hypercium androsaemum with Melampsora hypercorum  In ’12th Australian Weeds Conference’. Hobart, Tasmania. (Eds AC Bishop, M Boersma, CD Barnes) pp. 339-342. (CAWSS).

2012 Sycamore Maple Planting Project Site Update

Biggest Seedling
We have a winner this is the biggest planted tree I found on the site.

Recently trekked in to monitor progress I had been putting it off until the heat wave had passed. It was four and half months since I had last seen the site so I was anxious to see how things were progressing. First impressions where that there has been a lot of regrowth of under-storey the Snowy daisy-bush (Olearia lirata) had really taken off, and it was even harder to move around the site and to spot the Mountain Ash we had planted. With careful searching the good news was that the planted trees were still there and looking healthy and mostly untouched by Wallabies although I was expecting a bit more growth over summer.

Lots of re-sprouting on this Maple stump
Sycamore Maple stump with lots of re-sprouting that will need to be treated.

The other concern I had was how much regeneration there had been of the Sycamore Maple trees that had dominated this site until they were cut down cleared several years ago. When I had visited in October there were hundreds of new seedlings that had popped up since our planting day in August. I was happy to see that in the more open areas there were few if any Maples (I think the hot summer may have killed them off) it was noticeable however that some of the large stumps had varying amounts of re-shooting from the base that needs to be dealt with.

Wild Cherry and Macks Creek Warm Temperate Rainforest Walk

Last Saturday the Friends of Tarra Bulga National Park held another walking activity aimed a giving interested people the opportunity to explore some of the more out of the way areas. This walk aimed to take in the Wild Cherry Track and then head down along a new section of the Grand Strzelecki Track and down through the Warm Temperate Rainforest along Macks Creek is the focus of an impressive restoration project. we were fortunate to be joined on the walk by Richard Appleton, who was a driving force behind the creation of the Grand Strzelecki Track as well as the rainforest restoration.

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The weather conditions were kind and although the walk was mainly down hill it was still a challenge at times to negotiate some of the steep sections of track. We started off down the forest track so we could go through a section of Cool Temperate Rainforest as a contrast to what we would encounter further on. There were many highlights during the walk, they included taking in some of the array of flowering plants happening at this time of year at Tarra Bulga especially the mint bushes, Prostanthera melissifolia and Prostanthera lasianthos. The topography along the wild cherry track is impressive, as you walk down you can look down into the deep valley that contains the headwaters of Macks Creek and spot the rainforest down below. The vegetation is unusual in terms of the park, the ridge which you walk down has thinner soil and instead of wet scleropyhll forest it changes to damp forest. The dominant canopy species are Stringybarks and the weeping Cherry Ballart trees make for an attractive change of scenery.

Wild Cherry Track and Macks Creek Warm Temperate Rainforest Walk

The Friends of Tarra Bulga are holding another activity on Saturday November the 17th which is designed to give people the opportunity to explore some of the less visited and remote sections of the Park. People should meet at the Visitors Centre at 9.30 am where a car shuffle will be organised.

Exocarpos cupressiformis - Cherry Ballart
Wild Cherry Track – Tarra Bulga National Park, Showing a patch of the species it was named after: (Exocarpos cupressiformis – Cherry Ballart)

The walk will include the Wild Cherry Track which is named for the native Cherry Ballart trees, (Exocarpos cupressiformis) which occur along one section of it and then leave the park boundary and proceed along a section of the new Grand Strzelecki Walking Track where it follows Macks Creek including Warm Temperate Rainforest that has been the target of restoration activities over the last few year. HVP’s Richard Appleton will be coming along to share his knowledge about this intriguing area.

Although the walk has been designed (with the help of the car shuffle) to be mainly down hill it is very steep in sections and will also be slippery in spots. A bit of rock hopping will also be required to get over Macks Creek so all participants need to be reasonably mobile. You will also need to BYO lunch and drink. Please contact Peter Bryant on 0447474573 to to register for this walk by Thursday 15th of November so we can organise the car pool arrangements.

Myrsine howittiana - Muttonwood
Myrsine howittiana – Muttonwood is one of the canopy species found in the Warm Temperate Rainforest community along Macks Creek.

What are we monitoring for?

Tonight’s the Friends of Tarra Bulga National Park committee had one of their regular meetings. It is always interesting to make the evening trip up to Balook, as you are almost guaranteed to see an interesting array of wildlife along the way. Tonight was no exception on the way up in the last hour of daylight there were plenty of wallabies darting out in front of the car and a couple of lyrebirds  doing their last rounds of the day.

Long- nosed Bandicoot - Perameles nasuta
Long- nosed Bandicoot – Perameles nasuta

After the meeting it was now a couple of hours since dusk, back in the car and around the first few bends we catch some eye shine and a shape at the side of the road, slowing down it becomes clear that it is a fox with something in its mouth. With light from the headlights and the full moon, I can see a short tail and on the other side of the foxes snout a long pointy nose, unmistakably a bandicoot, bit sad that my first live sighting of a bandicoot at Tarra Bulga had to be this way. The full moon seems to get the fauna out and about and a little further on we stop the car when we spot a brush-tailed possum on the roadside. With the car stationary it strides across, with a tiny offspring hanging tenaciously on to its mother’s back. Next sighting is a couple of rabbits, which surely would have been our preferred option for the fox to be dining on.

Before the friends started monitoring with remote cameras, there had been no official records of bandicoots in the park for at least a decade (wildlife surveys can be an expensive business). What impacts do fox numbers have on bandicoot or lyrebird populations or even rabbits? How common are other feral animals in the park and what impact could they be having e.g. cats? What else is out there that we don’t know about (Could there be any Tiger Quoll?  We could guess but without some means of surveying we wouldn’t really know. The Friends of Tarra Bulga now have a network of remote cameras across the park, we aim to use them to the best of our ability to get a much greater understanding of what is happening out there with all them critters.

Sycamore Maple Revegetation Site

Made the trek out to the re-vegetation site for the first time since the planting was done which was a bit over two months ago.

Fresh New Growth on Mountain Ash Seedling
Fresh New Growth on Mountain Ash Seedling

From looking around the site there was both good and bad news. First the good, there was virtually no sign of any Wallabies managing to get to chew any of the new seedlings, despite the fact I heard one hopping away when I reached the site. There was good fresh new growth on all the seedlings that I found, hopefully when they become more conspicuous as they get taller the wallabies will still find them too difficult to reach. The bad news is that after seeing very, few new seedlings of Sycamore Maple 

Awesome Effort at Planting Day

The Friends of Tarra Bulga  planting day last Saturday was a great event, which will hopefully result in the return of some towering wet forest in years to come. It will also greatly assist efforts to prevent the re-infestation of Sycamore Maple trees into this area of the National Park.

Getting Ready to Plant
Getting Ready to Plant – The first of the volunteers arrive at the site and prepare to get down to business.

Volunteers managed to plant 600 Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) species across the site, which was no mean feat given that each plant needed to be carefully placed in a position where they will be guarded from browsing by hungry Swamp Wallabies. This involved scrambling over steep areas thick with fallen branches, while trying to avoid human hazards such as stinging nettles and leeches. While this may sound arduous there were no complaints from the willing and enthusiastic volunteers happy to be out making a difference to the park and enjoying the scenic (but muddy in spots) walk into this secluded planting site.

Richard in Action
Friends Group member Richard, putting in a big effort.
One of the 600 plants
One of the 600 Mountain Ash Seedlings that were planted on the day.

The group will now carefully monitor this site over the coming years to check that the newly planted trees are growing successfully and retreat any Sycamore Maple regrowth that sprouts from the treated stumps and pull out any new seedlings that pop up. Funding for this project has been supplied by the Victorian Government’s “Communities for Nature” Program.

Mother Maple
Friends Group President Peter Bryant, Standing next to the largest stump left behind from the forest of Sycamore Maples that had taken over the area.
A Job Well Done
Some of the Volunteers posing with their Hamilton Tree Planters after a great days effort to enhance Tarra Bulga.

 

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