1 Aug 2023
KOALA CORRIDORS: A PATHWAY TO RECONNECTION
With the impact of climate change on our environment predicted to worsen, habitat restoration has never been more important.
When the devastating bushfires of 2019-20 burnt through 19 million hectares, including 12.6 million hectares of forest and bushland, much needed to be done to give the nearly 3 billion native animals affected a chance to survive and thrive into the future.
While some areas of bushland escaped this particularly devastating bushfire season, these areas were separated by vast segments of destroyed habitat and pockets of land which had been previously cleared for farming. The animals within were cut off from the spaces they would normally inhabit, a harmful outcome for both the wildlife and the environment they rely on.
Collaborating for Cores, Corridors and Koalas
The ‘Cores, Corridors and Koalas’ partnership with the Great Eastern Ranges aims to reconnect these surviving areas and contribute towards the regeneration of thousands of hectares of fire-damaged landscapes.
“One thing we're trying to promote through this partnership is connectivity,” says Tim Cronin, the Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes at WWF-Australia. “We want to connect those really valuable intact areas back together again, to enable greater wildlife movement across the landscape and greater landscape resilience across the board."
The project spans the NSW South Coast, the Border Rangers, the Greater Blue Mountains and southern Nymboida and aims to restore the health and resilience of habitat for all the forest-dependent native animals that live there.
To do this, the ‘Cores, Corridors and Koalas’ team starts with an anchor property.
Gary Howling, CEO of the Great Eastern Range initiative explains, “An anchor property is a place that already has a number of habitat values still present on the property that we're using as an anchor around which we start to rebuild connectivity into the wider landscape. They are a focus around which you can restore and rebuild connectivity across adjoining properties so that you're actually linking up habitats at a district scale. We're doing this kind of work on multiple properties."
Planting Koala Corridors in Coila
One such property belongs to Vanessa Findlay in Coila, on the south coast of NSW.
"This property used to be a dairy farm.” She says, “But that was a long time ago. At one time all of the land here would've been forest. But we're lucky. Of the 220 acres we own, only 70 acres had been cleared. I think that by planting these additional trees, we’ll help connect the various animals that live closer to the coast, back into the hinterlands and the state forest."
According to Gary Howling, “This particular property is significant in that it supports a number of forest-dependent species; greater gliders, squirrel gliders, and a whole range of other tree-reliant species."
"But it’s not just the koalas, gang-gang cockatoos, wallabies and possums,” says Tim Cronin. “There's a lot of wildlife that could use these corridors once they’re set up. We focus a lot on these flagship iconic species, but for every koala, there are thousands of other lesser-known species that are just as important. What we’re doing here is part of the solution to turn around Australia's ecological decline."
Because, as Sally Kennedy, an EcoCrew team member, explains, “More trees often equals more wildlife. Basically, we're joining up the trees to create gene flow between subpopulations so that species can have maximum capacity to breed."
So far, over 400 trees have already been planted in Coila, with the ultimate goal to plant more than 3000. All the trees planted in the area are native, including gum trees, lily trees, sheoak trees, and smaller shrubs and grasses like lomandras.
Turning the tide on animal extinction
By connecting these fragmented pockets of habitat, ‘Cores, Corridors and Koalas’ hopes to stem the tide of mass extinction in Australia, bring communities together and create better economic resilience in Australia. Not to mention making it possible for our native wildlife to return and recover in the same landscapes that were affected by the 2019-20 fires.
"Over the next three years, we're going to be working on a total of 50 properties,” says Gary Howling. “With the support of WWF and working in collaboration with our network of regional across eastern Australia, we’re establishing a long-term, multiyear multi-location program for restoring landscapes, restoring habitat connectivity and helping native wildlife."
The Cores, Corridors and Koalas project is part of WWF-Australia’s ambitious plan to through the program. Through this program, we aim to grow and save two billion trees by 2030 by working together with supporters, landholders, farmers, Traditional Owners, communities, business and government.
Cores, Corridors and Koalas is a partnership between the Great Eastern Ranges (GER) and WWF-Australia to restore and connect critical habitat for forest-dependent native animals across eastern Australia. We acknowledge local groups Coastwatchers, NSW Government Local Land Services South East, Eurobodalla Shire Council who deliver this project on the South Coast of NSW. We also acknowledge EcoCrews who supported planting on this project. EcoCrews is a social enterprise of Campbell Page providing eco-friendly jobs to locals living in the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley thanks to funding from the NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery (BLER) fund.