Real world learning informs students’ bushland conservation project

November 24, 2016

Greg Simpson (left) with Nick Cook at one of the revegetation sites

Greg Simpson (left) with Nick Cook at one of the revegetation sites

Murdoch ecology students have gained invaluable experience and boosted conservation by contributing to a bushland restoration project at Lake Claremont.

The students investigated the impact of recreational trampling on Banksia woodlands at the conservation wetland and identified two areas that could benefit from management intervention.

Based on the information the students gathered, Friends of Lake Claremont (FOLC) used a 25th Anniversary Landcare Grant from the Australian Department of the Environment to fund revegetation of the trampled areas with native species.

Murdoch students and staff recently returned to these sites to assess how the recovery is going and provide baseline data for future monitoring.

“Trampling is a major issue in our urbanised bushland areas like Lake Claremont, and remnant Banksia woodlands, recently listed as threatened by the Commonwealth, are particularly impacted.” said Greg Simpson, a graduate researcher and ecology tutor at Murdoch.

“Trampling happens when people leave designated pathways to get closer to nature and wildlife, or because it provides a shortcut. Unfortunately the impacts can be devastating.

“Vegetation subjected to repeated trampling tends to be less diverse and structured, stressed habitats are more susceptible to weed invasion and disease, and the destruction can impact native animal and bird species.”

Mr Simpson said initially students identified an unfenced area where the understorey plants and regenerated Banksias had been almost entirely lost to trampling. They also found a site around 20 metres from conservation fencing where there was a lack of understorey vegetation.

“On our return to the sites, the students found an improvement in the structure of the vegetation, thanks to the restoration work of FOLC volunteers. FOLC will continue to monitor these areas while they recover.”

Ecology student Erin Gibbens said the project had given her insight into the impact of trampling and urbanisation on the environment.

“It is important that we help to spread awareness of the issue with the public and local authorities,” she said.

“This project has provided me and fellow students with a great experience, applicable industry skills and the chance to be named as co-authors on a potential research article for an ecology journal.

“I would love to help contribute more to the community with similar projects, which may further increase my employment opportunities in the future.”

Nick Cook, Board Member of FOLC, welcomed the collaboration between Murdoch University, local government and the community.

“The research provided has helped inform Town of Claremont management decisions on the ground,” he said.

“The study clearly reinforced the positive benefits of environmental fencing and also identified areas, subjected to trampling, that would benefit from future revegetation works carried out by FOLC.”

The ecology students undertook the fieldwork at Lake Claremont as part of a number of activities offered through Murdoch’s annual Ecology Camps.

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