Coastal wetlands are often described as the kidneys of the Great Barrier Reef as they provide a vital function to its ecosystem by filtering contaminants from runoff.
Many wetland areas across the Wet Tropics have been altered since pre-European settlement, mostly to make way for agriculture. However, environmental community groups are working hard to restore them, including Mulgrave Landcare who have partnered with Greening Australia to restore a site at Fig Tree Lagoon, south of Cairns.
Since 2016, over 7,000 trees and shrubs have been planted on the 7ha site near Fishery Falls to create wildlife corridors from river to reef. Hundreds of volunteers including cane farmers, local townsfolk and McDonnell Creek State school students have been involved in the work.
These efforts were scaled up in 2017 thanks to the new partnership with Greening Australia and work is about to begin on connecting the biodiversity corridors of McDonnell, Davidson, Fishery and Figtree Creeks from the foothills of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area to the Figtree Lagoon site.
Plans are also being developed to restore the remainder of the previously cleared site back into a healthy wetland to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef as part of Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program.
As well as improving biodiversity, providing wildlife habitat and improving water quality, it is hoped that the site will serve as a showcase of best management practice in revegetation and sustainable farm practices to encourage other farmers in the region to restore marginal cane land, creating impacts at the whole-of-landscape scale.
Previous and new works have been supported by Queensland Government, the Australian Government’s Reef Trust program, and the Accor Hotel Group, Greening Australia’s long-term corporate partner.