Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth coal mine has planted 8000 seedlings this year as part of a significant regeneration programme to increase the area of the critically endangered Warkworth Sands Woodlands ecological community in the Hunter Valley, Australia.
Mount Thorley Warkworth has committed to an intensive long-term programme that will run until at least 2030, to protect 157 ha. of Warkworth Sands Woodlands and regenerate 235 ha of Warkworth Sands grasslands.
Toolijooa, leading environmental restoration experts, have recently been awarded a four year contract to continue their work on the project, which started in 2014. This work includes planting trees in the grasslands and controlling weeds across the entire area to promote natural regeneration.
Project Manager Adam Cavallaro said: “The focus of this regeneration program is planting trees, shrubs and ground covers across areas of grasslands, which have previously been cleared and used for farming, to return them to Warkworth Sands Woodlands. We have a wealth of experience in large-scale bush regeneration and are bringing proven techniques to help restore this unique vegetation community where plants commonly found along the coast grow on ancient sand dunes up to 100 km inland.”
“A team of ecological restoration professionals carried out plantings across more than 50 ha. of land this year and we are planning to plant twice as much again in 2017,” he continued.
Rio Tinto Principal Advisor Offsets Nel Byatt commented: “Research shows that Warkworth Sands Woodlands can regenerate by itself if we simply stop impacts such as grazing. Areas that are severely degraded can benefit from a helping hand, so in this early phase of regeneration we are focused on planting seedlings.
“This is a long-term process, where over coming years these seedlings will develop into a canopy that will shelter the surrounding areas to control weeds and allow native understorey plants regenerate, Byatt added. “Even though we’ve had some dryer than usual conditions in recent years, the early planting results are encouraging.
“We’re taking the learnings from each year’s plantings and making adjustments to the techniques to respond to the climate and environment in this location, to make sure we get the best results in years to come. This is done by engaging qualified ecologist to conduct monitoring every two year to measure growth and diversity, as well as annual photo monitoring,” he concluded.
The land being protected and restored is located in two Biodiversity Areas outside the mining area at Mount Thorley Warkworth and will complement around 236 ha. of other Warkworth Sands Woodlands in the region.
Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs