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Sep 13, 2018

Height, light & competition- a winning combination

Rainforest Rescue extends an enthusiastic ‘thank you’ for your continuing interest in the restoration of Lot 46. We think it’s an exciting ongoing story, and enjoy the fact that you do, as well. We last reported on our methodology for collecting monitoring data on this 68+ acre restored property. Once back in front of the computer, an analysis of this data confirmed what is easily reinforced by simply walking through the property – this restoration is a huge success, and it’s beautiful!

But what is successful restoration, and what does this depend upon? The goal of rainforest restoration is to set in place, or establish, the potential for a return to a rainforest with the structure and diversity of the original.

When trees grow, they increase in height. The reason is that they are chasing the light. When trees are planted close together they compete for light and continue to gain in height. The basis of our planting designs is to use this ‘height light’ strategy of plants and the natural variation between species to achieve a forest with complex structure and canopy closure.

This same planting strategy achieves another outcome - eliminating weed growth. Many weeds love the light so can easily become competition for young seedlings that are attempting to establish.

The high-density high diversity planting design relies on the fact that not all trees are the same. Some require full light and others are shade tolerant. Some grow tall, eventually reaching the canopy. Others stay smaller and live in deep shade in the mid-story. And some are short in stature and include shrubs. Each of these has a different strategy to survive. When mixed together they create a diverse planting of species with different characteristics that allow coexistence without extreme competition.

Another great attribute of this planting design is that it develops structure and food resources for animals very quickly. The result is an increase in habitat and resources for terrestrial and arboreal mammals, birds, and insects. The increase in biodiversity is rapid and continues as the forest develops towards maturity.

Aldo Leopold captured the ethic of restoration in his wonderful quote:

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Jul 10, 2018

Escape Claws

Cassowary track
Cassowary track

We’re really glad that you’re interested in Cassowaries because we are extremely fond of them and understand how very important their contribution is to a healthy and biodiverse rainforest. With your generous help, we are continuing to support conservation initiatives that help the survival of this amazing bird.

 Sometimes Cassowaries attract ‘bad press’ because people are afraid of those powerful legs and feet, especially of the inside toe which has a ‘dagger-like’ claw that can be up to 5 inches in length. Their main defence is escape. However, when they need to defend themselves, the birds will use their legs and this claw to fend off predators. In defending territory from other Cassowaries, they use a deep rumbling vocalisation and a running posture to chase potential competitors entering their territories.

 Cassowaries are able to propel themselves through the sometimes tangled growth of the rainforest at up to 30 mph using those impressive feet and legs.

 The destruction or fragmentation of the Cassowary’s natural rainforest habitat has increased the dangers for the bird. These large, predominately fruit eating birds require a substantial area as their home range; this can be anything from10 acres to more than 100 acres. During times of fruit scarcity, they will range even further, and expand their diets to include protein rich insects and even small mammals. This search can also take them into contact with the road, and this is where the trouble begins, and even those powerful legs and feet do not help them escape the threats.

 Food scarcity and opportunism results in them taking advantage of ‘road kills’ of other animal species. During the extended time period that the Cassowary father is charged with providing for his young (fourteen months to two years), this road foraging behavior puts both he and the chicks at even greater risk. 

 Rainforest Rescue focuses on protecting intact primary rainforest. This forest is rich in tree species that fruit throughout the year, providing a continuous resource for the cassowary and his family. Helping us to protect these intact rainforest areas and to re-establish and restore larger areas of continuous forest will provide the Cassowary with a future.

 Together we are helping the remarkable seed dispersing Cassowary to continue its fruitful relationship with a healthy rainforest. 

Cassowary feet and legs (photo courtesy of WTMA)
Cassowary feet and legs (photo courtesy of WTMA)
Cassowary family on road (photo MFaught)
Cassowary family on road (photo MFaught)
Jul 10, 2018

An Evolutionary Story

Monitoring diagram (courtesy of Dr Robert Kooyman)
Monitoring diagram (courtesy of Dr Robert Kooyman)

Rainforest Rescue extends our sincere thanks for your interest and support for the evolving story of Lot 46. Long ago we nicknamed this block our ‘Jewel in the Crown’ as we had put so much work into its restoration. Sometimes you get what you ask for because our recent monitoring results support just how much of a ‘jewel’ this 68 acre lot is becoming!

A consistent methodology for monitoring the progress of this rainforest restoration project was established four years ago. This equated to pegging out 7 permanent plots at various sites around the property, and then further pegging another 10 subplots within each of these. This guaranteed that all data that was recorded through time would produce a true picture of the status of the overall restoration efforts. A diagram that explains the monitoring layout is included with this report.

It was a true joy to scramble through this developing rainforest as it is so dense with life forms. Not just with all the young trees, but with a remarkable array of fungi, and a myriad of vines as well. There were many incidents of getting totally caught up in vines, and needing assistance to be freed. The sound of our laughter associated with these incidents joined with the beautiful call of the Wompoo fruit dove who accompanied us on each of the three days that it took to cover all seven plots.

The 70 leaf litter samples offered both interest and beauty on a small scale…with the forest floor of each subplot covered with fallen leaves, twigs and dying matter, all adding to the well being of a growing rainforest. There were plenty of ‘wildings’ growing within the leaf litter, too. This young developing rainforest is attracting wildlife that are leaving ‘calling cards’ of seeds for a whole range of tree species.

Taking the three ‘canopy closure’ images in each of the 7 plots was not always easy. Working along a middle line of the plot, the protocol was to stand in each of the three spots within the plot, then hold the camera facing the sky and attempt to capture clear images of canopy closure. An absolute riot of different foliage and leaf shapes all but obscured any view of the sky. Since a true indicator of a healthy rainforest is a closed canopy, we were very excited.

We’ll do another monitoring in a couple of years, and by that time we may have achieved another goal – paying off the loan to purchase Lot 46 and turning this jewel in the crown into a fully protected Nature Refuge. We’re getting there with your help. All of us should feel both excited and proud of the evolution of this once seriously degraded property. Together we’ve breathed new life and promise into this landscape. Thank you so very much for your contribution to this good news story!

monitoring at Lot 46 (photo MFaught)
monitoring at Lot 46 (photo MFaught)
Leaf Litter sample (photo MFaught)
Leaf Litter sample (photo MFaught)
A rapidly closing canopy (MFaught)
A rapidly closing canopy (MFaught)
The disappearing sky (MFaught)
The disappearing sky (MFaught)
Beautiful closed canopy (MFaught)
Beautiful closed canopy (MFaught)
 
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