Celebration of conservation at USC

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Celebration of conservation at USC

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Published on 23 May 2013

One of the world’s largest and most successful habitat translocation projects will be finalised and celebrated at the University of the Sunshine Coast tomorrow (Friday 24 May).

Almost 15 hectares of wet and dry heathland – home to several rare and threatened plants, frogs, lizards and birds – has been carefully moved from what is now the Brightwater estate at Bundilla to the USC campus at Sippy Downs.

Most of the heavy lifting for the collaborative project involving property developer Stockland, the Sunshine Coast Council and the University occurred in 2007-2008, but the plants have been under close scrutiny since to determine how well they survived the move.

Tomorrow’s celebration from 11am to noon will mark the official handover of the compensatory habitat from Stockland to the University.

Speeches will be delivered by Stockland’s Planning and Design Manager Marc Wilkinson, Mayor Mark Jamieson, USC’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill, USC plant ecologist Dr Alison Shapcott and Queensland’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie.

Professor Hill said the high survival rate of plants and the thriving populations of animals in the compensatory habitat made this a wonderful showcase of what could be achieved by such an ambitious venture.

“This joint project represents one of the largest and most successful habitat translocation projects undertaken anywhere in the world,” he said.

“It was a major experiment in state-of-the-art translocation methods and has led to the creation of a site on campus that will be a valuable resource for research and teaching.”

Mr Wilkinson said Stockland was proud to have been associated with such an innovative and successful partnership with the University.

“This outcome demonstrates the balance we can achieve in our planning,” he said. “Through collaboration and commitment we can protect biodiversity when undertaking appropriate residential development.”

Mayor Jamieson said a sustainable Sunshine Coast required strong environmental values as well as a strong economy.

“Amazing projects like this show the extent and ingenuity of people here on the Coast to overcome the challenges that these sometimes opposing imperatives can create,” he said.

Dr Shapcott said the heathland at Bundilla had been carefully mapped so the original landscape could be replicated when 30,000 4m x 4m intact turfs (soil plus vegetation) were trucked to USC using specially constructed trays.

“It has been extremely successful … much better than anyone thought,” she said. “The three-way partnership worked really well.

“Translocation is a growing activity in Australia and overseas and we’ve set the benchmarks for how to go about this and what the expectations are to do it properly.”

Dr Shapcott said the project’s success followed close supervision by ecologists, digging deep enough to retain root structures, keeping the soil moist and moving sections of heath directly to the new location without storing them elsewhere.

She said one PhD student and two Honours students from USC had already undertaken research into the rare and vulnerable plant species – Acacia attenuata, Acacia bauera, Boronia rivularis, Blandfordia grandiflora and Schoenus scabripes – at the new habitat.

Terry Walsh

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