Conservationists have been making the most of tourist-free environments since lockdown started in Australia.
While we’ve been stuck to the confines of our homes, and many of the natural places we love to visit have been closed to the public, there’s been some important conservation work going on across Australia. Take a look!
Replanting Coral on the Great Barrier Reef
It’s been dire straits for the Great Barrier Reef in recent times. During Australia’s lockdown, the Great Barrier Reef suffered its third mass-bleaching event in five years.
But without daily tourists on the reef, local diving companies who’ve seen a drop in business are instead focussing on helping scientists plant coral in the areas that need the most recovery.
The Coral Nurture Program is a partnership between science and tourism, to create ‘long term stewardship and adaptation’ at popular diving spots along the Great Barrier Reef.
Five tourism companies have been helping out this reef recovery program by donating equipment, such as catamarans and fuel, as well as having staff volunteer to establish a coral nursery.
The program is the first on the reef to see tour operators and researchers working side-by-side. It’s also the first to use a coral clip.
Coral clips are used to help coral fragments that have broken off from the reef to be reattached. The coral nursery that’s been constructed sees coral fragments attached using a coral clip and allows these fragments to grow new corals, which can be harvested and reattached to the reef.
Collecting Tasmania’s Pencil Pine Seeds
Way down the other end of the country, Tassie’s Overland Track, one of Australia’s most iconic multi-day hikes, has been Explorer free for weeks. With the exception of a botanist and a hike guide.
James Wood works in the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens seed bank. He’s been granted permission, along with his guide Justin Dyer, to hike the Overland Track, in order to collect the cones of Tasmania’s pencil pine as it prepares to seed.
This unique tree can live for hundreds of years, but only seeds occasionally – and no one knows when. The last time it happened was in 2015, and it’s happened again, mid-global pandemic. Wood is collecting a genetically diverse range of pencil pine seeds, to store in the seed bank, however that means he’s got to cover a lot of ground.
Due to its sporadic seeding schedule, the species is particularly vulnerable to being lost to bushfires.
In the end, Wood and Dyer covered 300 hectares of land, picked cones from 46 stands of trees and collected 8000 feasible seeds.
Feature photo by Jules Ingall