Tarra-Bulga National Park: A Work in Progress.

Renowned for its stunning cool-temperate rainforest, luxuriant tree-ferns and towering Mountain Ash trees, Tarra-Bulga National Park is cherished by Gippslanders and enjoyed by visitors from all over the world.  The original separate small, but significant, Bulga and Tarra Valley Parks were reserved just over a century ago while the giant forests surrounding them were being laboriously hand cleared by selectors to turn into farms. Clearing this land turned out to be folly, the terrain, cold winters, bushfires, weeds and rabbits all contributed to the farmers giving up and walking away, leaving scrub and noxious weeds in their wake. Forestry and sawmilling in the area for timber and pulpwood also led to the loss of more of the original giant trees.

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Bulga Park Entrance Circa 1930

In recent years Tarra-Bulga National Park has expanded. New areas including abandoned farmland have been added with the goal of physically linking Tarra Valley and Bulga Parks as well as to reduce visitor pressure on significant sites, provide greater recreational opportunities and protect additional vegetation communities representative of the Strzelecki Ranges. It is recognised that Tarra-Bulga National Park has the potential to become even more spectacular and significant as cleared land is successfully regenerated.

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Monitoring past  work by the Friends of Tarra-Bulga National Park

To this end the Friends of Tarra-Bulga National Park are seeking volunteers interested in helping with the regeneration process. The group holds occasional work days on weekends, undertaking activities such as planting over-storey trees and controlling noxious weeds. The next activity is scheduled for Saturday July the 23rd  30th and will focus on removing tree guards from successful new plantings. The meeting point will be at 9.30am at the Visitors Centre Car Park. For further details or to register your interest in helping out Friends of Tarra-Bulga with any of their activities email friendsoftarrabulga@gmail.com  or phone 0488 035 314.

Hand Direct Seeding Trial to Combat Hungry Wallabies.

Grazing Swamp Wallabies are a huge hurdle to successfully growing new trees in sections of Tarra-Bulga National Park. Hard lessons have been learnt, 1000’s of trees have been planted, but experience has shown that even if they are hidden or planted among unpalatable species the Wallabies will eventually find them and eat them.  Regular tree-guards have proven to be of little use, they may protect the plant for a short while but Wallabies will chew any growth at the top of the guards that they can reach, the plant will remain stunted and eventually die. A commercially available Wallaby repellent mixture  can be sprayed on new growth to protect it, but that is labor intensive and requires regular follow up to have any chance of success, not a viable task in our situation with limited time and rough terrain to encounter . The only strategy that does seem to work for us is to use large wire mesh tree-guards which are expensive and very labor intensive to install and eventually remove once the trees have grown big enough..

Why do we think direct seeding might be a solution? Nursery grown tube-stock are generally grown in ideal conditions, with fertiliser, controlled sunlight and regular watering, as a result the leaves are highly palatable. Plants that germinate from seed on sites should be tougher, slower growing and as a result have less tasty foliage. Mountain Ash along with other species of Eucalyptus seeds are very small, one gram of Mountain Ash seed contains nearly 200 viable seeds. For our trial we have 390 grams of Mt Ash seed, if all of them germinate we would have almost 80,000 seedlings scattered over the site. That is clearly an optimistic outcome but hopefully we can get a good germination strike rate and some of those tiny little seedlings can overcome the Wallabies and other forces of nature to successfully grow into mature trees. We will keep you posted.

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