This project, funded by the Ross Trust will identify, evaluate and actively manage threats to the ecological recovery and condition of ten known Rainforest Sites of Significance in East Gippsland, covering a total RFSOS area of 5000ha and containing a core of more than 300 ha of magnificent rainforest.
The project will complement and add to the scope of existing recovery works being undertaken by the Victorian government. It will deliver targeted protection for fire-affected native species from the threats posed by invasive weeds and browsing by introduced deer. This investment will in turn position the sites well for long-term inclusion in future government fire-recovery programmes, assisting the natural recovery of these rainforests to the greatest extent possible.
Rainforests are naturally fire-sensitive ecosystems. They make a disproportionate contribution to biodiversity conservation relative to their size in the landscape, containing 14% of all threatened species in Victoria yet only covering 1.4% of its land area. This makes rainforest a strategic target for conservation investment and works.
East Gippsland contains two thirds of Victoria’s Rainforest Sites Of Significance (RFSOS), a land management classification developed to identify and delineate the highest quality rainforest areas.
The recent bushfires have, unfortunately, impacted a majority of East Gippsland’s RFSOS, with over 70% of mapped warm temperate rainforest known to have been damaged.
As part of the Victorian government’s fire response works, 31 RFSOS have been prioritised for immediate post-fire assessment and recovery works. However, these 31 sites represent merely part of the RFSOS affected by this summer’s fires. All damaged Sites of Significance require remedial management intervention, principally in the form of threat mitigation, especially weed control.
Whilst the limited number of RFSOS being prioritised for government-funded help represents the reality of allocating limited resources, it also represents an opportunity for immediate supplementary investment to see additional sites assessed and the threats to them managed. Such investment complement s the existing government programme and maximises the likelihood of such sites being included in the next round of government fire recovery works.
- In consultation with government land managers, undertake desktop spatial analysis of existing RFSOS and threatened species data, including use of new hi-resolution aerial imagery to identify, prioritise and map ten of the existing regional RFSOS sites, preparing them for on-ground works.
- Engage and manage qualified rainforest experts to deliver on-ground assessments, and where possible treat each site to control high-threat weeds and reduce browsing pressure from exotic herbivores.
- Compile site-based information on ecological condition and remedial actions taken (i.e. written report and spatial data) for inclusion in DELWP’s existing ‘Intensified and Sustained Management of Threats’ schedule, part of the Bushfire Biodiversity Relief and Early Recovery programme.
- Protection of fire-affected rainforest areas from the immediate threats to their natural recovery posed by exotic invasive plants (weeds) and herbivores (deer).
- Provision of detailed site-based management information (reports) on the key biodiversity assets affected by fire, enabling existing government programmes to direct invest into on-going management interventions.
- Stronger working partnerships between government agency land managers and local community environment groups.
- Increased capacity to deliver partnership-based conservation management actions that maximise the natural fire recovery potential of high biodiversity-value sites in East Gippsland.