Here we are at the start of a new semester and, it seems, right on cue, the start of the wet season in Far North Queensland. Students arrived to rainy weather, muddy conditions, and a welcoming party of leeches, but this doesn’t seem to have dampened their spirits any as they got underway with their introductory classes, field excursions and exercises.
One of the exciting things about a “spring” semester at the Centre for Rainforest Studies (CRS) is that it’s the season to plant trees, and at CRS we are preparing for a semester of active participation in community tree-planting efforts across the Atherton Tablelands. Over six Saturdays throughout the semester we will be there, working alongside other community volunteers, helping to plant over 13,000 rainforest trees in significant rainforest restoration projects. The focus is on creating vital wildlife corridors, riparian revegetation, and extending high altitude habitat where endemic species are threatened by climate change. Some of the plantings are at sites where we conduct ecological restoration research, an important topic in our research plan. There will also be a Community Environment Open Day held in association with one of the plantings. This will be an opportunity for CRS to mount a display show-casing some of the research and restoration work we do in the region.
The tree plantings aren’t the only community service CRS students and staff will get involved in this semester. Students will also see a little of the whole rainforest restoration process from procedures in plant nurseries where the seedlings are grown through to preparing and maintaining planting sites and monitoring the outcomes for restoration. Over several Friday mornings, students will divide into groups and work alongside members of Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands (TREAT) in the tropical restoration nursery, Yungaburra Landcare on restoration and walking track development along Peterson Creek near Yungaburra, and here on site at the Centre caring for the rapidly growing trees that we planted with last semester’s student group. These are looking great! They’re growing fast, enjoying the rain and warmth, but so are the weeds and we need to “release” the little rainforest trees from competition with weeds and grass.
Our semester’s rainforest restoration work will culminate in another tree-planting here at CRS in April. We’ll plant another 500 trees, next to last semester’s planting, bringing to a close our Centre’s 25th Anniversary plantings.