Restoring health to the bush through Bush Heritage Australia
Bush Heritage Australia was established in 1991 to return the bush to good health. It’s vision for healthy country is achieved by carefully selecting, purchasing, and managing land of ecological significance in partnership with Traditional Owners and other landholders to support their conservation efforts. Since 1998, Lotterywest has supported Bush Heritage Australia with eight grants totalling approximately $1.4 million. With the help of one of the grants, Bush Heritage Australia was able to design and construct the Michael Tichbon Field Station on Red Moort Reserve, located on the south coast of Western Australia.
To design and construct the Michael Tichbon Field Station on Red Moort Reserve, to provide accommodation, storage, and workspace for field staff, visiting ecologists, researchers and volunteers who monitor the highly diverse and threatened biological species located on the Fitz-Stirling reserves.
Bush Heritage Australia
- Extensive use of the Michael Tichbon Field Station by staff, volunteers, external groups and researchers.
- Savings in time, fuel and vehicle wear and tear by limiting travel requirements.
- Use of the field station to support operations and monitoring for other environmental programs in the region.
- With a permanent base in the area, Bush Heritage Australia has been able to expand its restoration efforts.
- It has also allowed expanded monitoring of local native species.
- By providing a base for researchers interested in the unique biodiversity of the local area, the Michael Tichbon Field Station has acted as a catalyst for new research partnerships.
- The volume of demand was higher than anticipated, the project could potentially have been expanded to meet this demand.
Land clearing associated with economic development has resulted in a substantial decline in biodiversity . Seeking to mitigate this trend, large-scale habitat revegetation is seen as a way to provide a buffer to native habitat and create links across agricultural matrices, facilitating the movement of plants and animals .
Red Moort Reserve is one of eight reserves and partnership properties that contribute to the vision of the Gondwana Link, which connects habitat from the karri forests in the southwest across to the woodland and mallee bordering the Nullarbor. The area of the Red Moort Reserve is located in one of the biggest break areas in the corridor, which has been predominantly land cleared over the last 50 to 60 years . Bush Heritage Australia has focused on connectivity conservation between the Fitzgerald River National Park and the Stirling Range National Park since 2002 to protect the high level of biodiversity found in the region and to enable the movement of native species across the heavily fragmented landscape.
Effective landscape-scale restoration requires active management, monitoring and evaluation. Before establishing the field station, Bush Heritage Australia field staff were required to undertake day trips to and from Albany or set up tents for longer stays. The lack of facilities also limited volunteer and community engagement on these reserves.
The Michael Tichbon Field Station at Red Moort Reserve was named after the conservation advocate who contributed significant funds to the station's construction, along with a grant from Lotterywest and private funding.
The architecturally designed field station is entirely off-grid with its own solar power generation, rainwater harvesting and composting toilets, making it sustainable with minimal impact on the surrounding natural environment.
The station provides accommodation, storage, and workspace for field staff, visiting ecologists, researchers and volunteers who monitor the highly diverse and threatened biological species located on the Fitz-Stirling reserves.
Impacts and outcomes
Since opening in December 2018, the Michael Tichbon Field Station has been used extensively, with nearly 700 people visiting or staying overnight, despite COVID-19 restricting visitation for most of 2020.
The station has been used by:
- Staff and volunteers on more than 160 nights.
- External groups on 20 separate nights, including Wildflower Society of WA, National Mallee Fowl Recovery Team, Noongar groups, Friends of Kings Park, Conservation Council WA, visiting university researchers, Department of Biodiversity Conservations and Attractions staff, and South Coast NRM staff.
- Staff and supporters to hold 10 events, including the launch of the Fitz-Stirling Fauna Recovery Program and several training and Aboriginal cultural workshops.
Access to each of the Bush Heritage Australia reserves from the field station has resulted in saving time, fuel, and wear and tear on vehicles by limiting travel requirements from the office based in Albany over 140km away. That represents more than 150 trips – the equivalent of more than 21,000km and over 225 hours for Bush Heritage Australia field staff.
“When we just had a couple of days work to do, it really wasn't worth putting a tent up for one night, so we used to do a lot of day trips. But then three hours of the day was spent traveling and you got less done.” Angela Sanders, Bush Heritage Ecologist.
The current Fitz-Stirling Fauna Recovery Program, which Lotterywest also supports, has benefited from having the field station as a home base for operational and monitoring activities delivered in the region. During the past 18 months, the field station has been used for over 24 separate events related to the delivery of this program and been invaluable in attracting ongoing donor and volunteer support.
Having a permanent base has increased local impact
With a permanent base in the area, Bush Heritage Australia has been able to expand its restoration efforts. This has included revegetation to provide the endangered Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo with its favourite foods such as Banksia (including Dryandra species), Hakea and Grevillea. It has also allowed expanded monitoring of local native species such as the discovery that Red-tailed Phascogales might be present in the area, and the identification of a previously unknown native daisy.
Promoting collaboration with other researchers and organisations in the sector
By providing a base for researchers interested in the unique biodiversity of the local area, the Michael Tichbon Field Station has acted as a catalyst for new research partnerships. Visitation to the facility by researchers has been pivotal in establishing three research investigations, with several others in development. This includes a doctoral thesis from a researcher at Flinders University, examining the soil microbiome's role in restoration ecology.
More demand than anticipated
The project has been so much more successful than anticipated that Bush Heritage Australia could have made the station larger to meet the demand.
- Kong, X., Z. Zhou, and L. Jiao, Hotspots of land-use change in global biodiversity hotspots. Resources, conservation and recycling, 2021. 174.
- Jellinek, S., et al., Replanting agricultural landscapes: how well do plants survive after habitat restoration? Restoration ecology, 2020. 28(6): p. 1454-1463.
- Gondwana Link. Why Gondwana Link? 2020; Available from: https://gondwanalink.org/about-us/why-gondwana-link/.
Acknowledgement of Country
The Western Australian Community Impact Hub acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are based, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation and extends that respect to all the Traditional Owners and Elders of this country. We recognise the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.