The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Guardians of the canopy: The remarkable individuals planting tomorrow’s rainforests

A prosperous volunteer organization dominates the Atherton Tablelands in reforestation projects. Since 1982, Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands (TREAT) has been aiding in the restoration of rainforest areas in Northern Queensland, Australia. Along with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), TREAT led a tree planting on Saturday February 24th in Yungaburra.

Our team was fortunate enough to speak with one of the coordinators of this event, Anthony Staniland, who has been working with the QPWS for just over ten years. He has seen a lot over the course of his career and focuses his energy into revegetation strategies, especially after wildfire events. Constantly moving between Queensland and the Northern Territory, he finds it inspiring to be able to reach such a broad range of bioregions and their communities. He thoroughly enjoys his time working with TREAT as, “a certain path [and people] are needed for good infrastructure because organization is necessary for lasting effects.” He acknowledged that this would not be obtainable without such a strong
community to back their continuous efforts.

He wishes to raise his two young children, whom he brought to the tree planting, in a lifestyle that retains a lifelong connection to the environment that surrounds them. Being raised a ‘bush kid’ is the best thing he can do for his children, Anthony stated, as it provides them with a growing, enlightened sense of responsibility and awareness. He was equally grateful for his ability to provide his children entrance into a community that stands for values essential for the health of the place they call home.

Youth involvement in TREAT is growing trend, as many school groups and children of community members are showing increased participation in events. We spoke with a rather enthusiastic volunteer, Sophia, 15, after watching her move rapidly around the plot, increasing the number of trees she planted with an untouchable look of determination on her face. Sophie lives just outside of Yungaburra and volunteers with her dad. She said that they were initially supposed to go swimming at a local spring, but when they heard about the tree planting, they quickly changed their plans. She seems to enjoy the work she does within the organization and will likely continue her efforts as often as possible.

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Our team also had the opportunity to speak with a local contractor who had been working on Rainforest restorations for approximately 20 years. Mark McCaffery used to live in Sydney and worked as an IT consultant for banks. One day in 2002 Mark had had enough of the city and decided it was time for a change of scenery. Mark himself told us “I just wanted to get away, so we came up here and bought a
house”.

Mark moved up to Yungaburra and then decided to join TREAT one year later. He works as both a volunteer for TREAT and a paid contractor for the QPWS. His first project involved reforestations on his own property. This job was not a small operation and he didn’t do it alone, Mark had the unwavering help of the organizations he is a member of. He started in 2004 and has managed to reforest 12 hectares for a total of 35,000 trees across the property. Mark is routinely involved in the preliminary reforestation steps, these include; digging holes with an auger, filling them with fertilizer and water crystals, and planting the new saplings.

Behind the scenes, Mark takes on another task. A crucial aspect of a successful reforestation effort is grass growth management. Mark carries out the majority of the chemical spraying of the invading grasses after the initial planting is complete. Plant-killing chemicals, usually agrochemical company Monsanto’s RoundUp, is applied carefully to the invading grasses at any given site. This eliminates competition from the grasses with the newly planted trees. This allows the trees to have a better chance of survival and ensures that the community’s hard work doesn’t go to waste. This important aspect is rarely looked upon with the same enthusiasm as the initial planting but is just as essential to successful reforestation. Mark says “it’s easy to get 100 people to come plant a tree, but it’s harder to get them back to help with maintenance”.

For 2-3 years after the initial planting, Mark, or other trained individuals, will have to return to the site every few months. They carefully apply RoundUp to the base of the grasses, making sure to avoid hitting the trees. After this initial 2-3 year period of maintenance the forest has ideally grown enough to sustain itself. At this point Mark said “the aim is after you’ve been doing this work for years, you walk away from it [the site], you kind of have to”. The goal of these reforestation efforts is to restore these locations to their historical forest type; these sites must become self-sustaining if that goal is to be achieved.

We have noticed a wide range of age groups come together to offer their service in any way possible. Doug, born in Ireland, moved to Yungaburra and has been involved with TREAT for quite some time. Doug stated that “there are about 300 members involved at TREAT and a lot of us are a part of the retired community.”

As we can see, even though many of these members have come from different walks of life, they are able to congregate for an amazing cause with other like minded individuals. Another retired man we were able to speak with, Ellen, was born and raised in Australia. He stated, “we have all experienced the effects of climate change some way or another, and the need for sustainability in the workplace is crucial.”

Even though Doug and Ellen have come from completely different areas of life, they are able to work together in order to combat deforestation and habitat fragmentation. Ellen also mentioned that, “endangered animals need tree corridors to get from place to place and they help prevent erosion as well.” By combining community engagement, collaborative partnerships, education, and practical conservation activities, TREAT effectively brings together like minded individuals to contribute to reforestation and ecosystem restoration.

This planting took place in a Mabi Forest, which refers to a specific type of regional ecosystem found in the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia. Mabi, which is the Aboriginal word for tree kangaroo, forests are characterized by their unique combination of upland rainforest species and drier vegetation types, resulting in a distinctive and biodiverse forest ecosystem. By reforesting areas within the Mabi forest, TREAT helps conserve and restore the biodiversity of this important and critically endangered ecosystem, providing habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. Local species of tree kangaroos and possums are threatened due to habitat loss, so the recovery of these forests can contribute to their protection.

The collaborative efforts of organizations like TREAT and the QPWS in reforestation projects have had a profound impact on the ecological health and resilience of the Atherton Tablelands and surrounding regions. The recent tree planting event led by TREAT in Yungaburra on February 24th 2024, serves as a testament to the ongoing commitment and dedication of volunteers, community members, and conservation organizations to protect and restore their natural heritage. Through collaboration, dedication, and shared stewardship, this community works towards a more sustainable and thriving environment for all.

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