You are currently viewing Prudent pruning to save more trees, conservation by recycling and a Rail raises chicks

Prudent pruning to save more trees, conservation by recycling and a Rail raises chicks

The older the tree, the more ecologically valuable she is. Photo: ANU

Prudent pruning can save trees and property
Just when trees reach an age when they are of most value, we cut them down for fear of them dropping branches and doing us harm. But it doesn’t have to be this way as Professor Philip Gibbons from the ANU explains. There is a message for us here, as we witness the disappearance of high value trees for fear of falling – an issue that may well be misplaced – but with thoughtful management, overcome. (NOTE: Think Lake Macquarie when Philip refers to Canberra).

Smart city planning can preserve old trees and the wildlife that needs them
AUSTRALIA’S LANDSCAPES are dotted with mature eucalypts that were standing well before Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay. These old trees were once revered as an icon of the unique Australian landscape, but they’re rapidly becoming collateral damage from population growth. Mature eucalypts are routinely removed to make way for new suburbs.

This has a considerable impact on our native fauna. Unless society is prepared to recognise the value of our pre-European eucalypts, urban growth will continue to irrevocably change our unique Australian landscape and the wildlife it supports.

Why are old eucalypts worth saving?
In urban landscapes, many consider large and old eucalypts a dangerous nuisance that drop limbs, crack footpaths and occupy space that could be used for housing. But when we remove these trees they are effectively lost forever. It takes at least 100-200 years before a eucalypt reaches ecological maturity.

How can we keep old trees?
Decaying heartwood in older eucalypts leads to some large branches falling. This is when most eucalypts are removed from urban areas. So we remove trees at the exact point in time when they become more attractive to wildlife.

A well-trained arborist knows that old — or even dead — eucalypts don’t need to be removed to make them safe. A tree is only dangerous if it has what arborists call a ‘target’. Unless there is a path, road or structure under a tree, then the probability of something or someone being struck by a falling branch is often below the threshold of acceptable risk.

How to design around trees
The removal of mature eucalypts is, in part, due to urban developers not considering these trees early in the planning process. I have worked with one developer on the outskirts of Canberra to identify important trees. The developer then planned around, rather than in spite of, these trees.

The outcome has been around 80% of mature trees have been retained. This is much greater than the proportion of mature trees retained in other new urban developments in Canberra.

Australia’s population is projected to double in 50 years, so our suburbs will continue to infill and expand. This will result in the continued loss of our mature eucalypts unless our approach to planning changes.

Philip Gibbons, Associate professor, Australian National University, July 2018


Share this story far and wide
For all those items that can’t be assigned to the Yellow or Green bins, what do we do?

Following on from the story There’s more to conservation and protection Issue 40 MMM – here is an overview of what we can do when faced with stuff we’ve accumulated and now need to move on. For we good conservationists, landfill is way down the list.

Well now, rather than getting our nickers in a knot and tearing our hair out, we highly recommend this story by Koren Helbig: How to skip the too-hard basket and recycle Australia’s most challenging household items (The Guardian, Sat 27 Jan 2024).

We acknowledge The Guardian as a wonderful reliable news source.


This Buff-banded Rail (Hypotaenidia philippensis) was spotted at the back of the Biddabah Creek Landcare site, next to the Wetland, in Warners Bay earlier this month. Photo: Vina Chubb.

Wetland site a safety-zone to raise her chicks
It was an unexpected siting for the group working at the Biddabah Creek Landcare site last month.

OUT OF THE BUSHES a Buff-banded Rail appeared on the scene with two chicks. Secretive for the most part, they are apparently not shy of people. This family was in a safe place at the Biddabah Creek Wetland, and unbeknown to her, she was enough to brighten any bushland lovers day.

From Birdlife Australia we learn that: The Buff-banded Rail is seen singly or in pairs in dense reeds and vegetation bordering many types of wetlands, including constructed sites such as the one at Windross Drive.

The Buff-banded Rail feeds on crustaceans, molluscs, insects, seeds, fruit, frogs, feeding mostly in the early morning and the evening.

Breeding is poorly known, but the Buff-breasted Rail nests in long grass, tussocks, rushes or crops. It makes an unlined cup-shaped nest of grasses or reeds.

Clutch size is 5 to 8 eggs. Both parents incubate (19 days), young leave the nest within 24 hours. Both parents remain with the young, which usually feed themselves, though the female may feed them as well. Breeding season is from September to February.

MMM Issue 43, April-May 2024