SAVE KUARK – GECO Citizen Science Forest Camp

The Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) have been running citizen science camps in Goongerah and Kuark Forest for multiple years. These camps captivate and connect environmentalist from all over Australia to highlight the pristine beauty of the rainforest in the East Gippsland and also reveal and publicise the conservation issues these areas face. The camp is run free of charge in an area of bush approximately 2 hours from Orbost and is family friendly and also provides $ 5 vegan friendly meals which go towards conservation of Kuark Forest

 

The group in the bush

Preparing for forest surveys

 

 

The citizen science forest camps usually consist of 4 days over a long weekend and is run multiple times a year. Volunteers assist in camera survey techniques, vegetation surveys, rainforest plant ID, spotlighting surveys and creek surveys, all for endangered species found in this area. Volunteers also get to engage in seminars on different threatened species found in the area, rainforest plant evolution in Australia and environmental policies, which is held in an outdoor style lecture theater. This event is especially relevant for environmental science students who wish to gain in field experience in these skills, and is also very eye opening to witness environmental conservation issues first hand.

 

Forest lecture theater

Forest lecture theater

 

The habitat found in Kuark Forests are so unique and awe inspiring. This location boasts a collection of rare fauna and flora species, as well as being one of the only places in Australia where cool temperate rainforest intermixes with warm temperate rainforest. The symphony of a multi-species quire of birds can be heard echoing through the rain forest in the misty mornings and as dusk descends, the avian songs are overtaken by frog choruses and owl calls. Its hard to grapple and wrap you’re head around the sheer diversity of plants and animals in this region. Every ten steps you take, you become surrounded by a new set of plant species.

 

The unique Victoriana Smooth Toadlet (Geocrinia victoriana) which is common through the Kuark Forest | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

The unique Victoriana Smooth Toadlet (Geocrinia victoriana) which is common through the Kuark Forest | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

 

Unfortunately VicForests does not do comprehensive environmental impact surveys which often leaves threatened species and protected old growth rainforest in the wake of a forest demolition crew, which leaves GECO and other keen environmentalist scrambling to survey the scheduled logging coupes properly before logging takes place. Almost in every area to be logged, volunteer ecological surveys reveal threatened species and threatened plant communities.

 

Logging destruction

Kuark Forest logging destruction

 

In the most recent field trip, multiple threatened species were found in an area scheduled to be logged by VicForests, some of which were critically endangered. Threatened species found included: Slender Tree Fern (Cyathea cunninghamii) ENDANGERED, an unsubscribed crayfish in the Orbost Spiny Crayfish Complex (Euastacus sp.) ENDANGERED, and a healthy population of the East Gippsland Galaxias (Galaxias aequipinnis) CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. It just goes to show that if this particular citizen science camp did not take place, the East Gippsland Galaxias could’ve been a step closer to extinction, with a reduction of the already narrow distribution of this rare fish species. These finds of threatened species will result in a report which will conserve 20+ hectares of forests.

 

Slender Tree Fern (Cyathea cunnghamii), main ID feature is having a trunk < 10 cm | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Slender Tree Fern (Cyathea cunnghamii), main ID feature is having a trunk < 10 cm | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Undescribed Orbost Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus sp.) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Undescribed Orbost Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus sp.) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

East Gippsland Galaxias (Galaxias aequipinnis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

East Gippsland Galaxias (Galaxias aequipinnis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

 

It’s tough to deal with such senseless destruction first hand, especially when you are hit with the facts:

  • VicForests is a government enterprise which means that they have a certain amount of government protection and have only been brought to court over the multitude of threatened species habitat destruction breaches ONCE.
  • The government has enforced laws to try to stop environmentalists surveying their logging coupes so that their breaches aren’t identified, with on the stop fines for anyone who enters areas to be logged.
  • VicForests logging turn high quality rainforest habitat into low quality products such as wood chips and paper.
  • Companies from Japan, China and Korea buy these wood chips off us because it is cheaper for them.
  • Despite all the destruction and removal of threatened species habitat, VicForests still have been loosing money with losses of 22.1 million dollars (of tax payers money!) in the last few years.
  • VicForests never run comprehensive surveys of the areas proposed to be logged and rely on outdated and inaccurate vegetation maps on GIS programs. Do to this kind of devastating and invasive work in pristine forest habitat, their needs to be comprehensive surveys of these areas for threatened species and for rainforest habitat with independent ecologist. 
  • The old growth forests (which are meant to be protected by law) still get logged unnecessarily which will never recover to that state again. Old growth forests take hundreds of years to develop and have extant trees which can be up to 700 years old.
  • The unique beauty of this area has the potential to make far more money via ecotourism and is a conservation tourism franchise waiting to happen.
  • The bottom line is the wood harvesting industry is a dying business. Email replaced paper years ago…

 

I encourage all Sydney siders to get down to Victoria and experience the amazing old growth rainforest for yourselves! To help in conservation of the unique rainforests of East Gippsland donate or volunteer with the Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO).

Other simple steps you can take to help conserve the forests in East Gippsland is to ensure you purchase sustainable and ethically produced paper, or primarily use email, as a lot of the forests which are logged in the Gippsland are ultimately turned into paper for the company Reflex Paper. Click here for more information.

Comment below if you have explored the forests in East Gippsland!

SAVE KUARK