Roots plant trees to rehabilitate Mungalla Station wetlands

Festival goers, including young families, help with the tree-planting effort.

Rootbound Festival nature lovers spent the hot weekend mornings of their festival first planting and then watering a carefully selected range of native trees at Indigenous reserve, Mungalla Station, last weekend, July 31 to August 1. With the Rootbound festival ethos to “leave a place better than you found it,” along with its land-care foundations, the tree-planting activity was well attended, with over one hundred of the festivalgoers taking part in an effort to restore and rehabilitate Mungalla’s beautiful and nationally important wetlands.

At least four hundred trees were planted on Saturday in a specially sectioned-off and ecologically important wildlife corridor, with dozens more planted and watered on Sunday, in the regeneration effort. These efforts focussed on revegetating waterways in the riparian area to stabilise banks and water flows, reducing erosion and sediment in waterways and, ultimately, in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. The species planted were either native to the region or very well suited to it, with the hope that they would spread seeds to naturally re-establish treed areas and included species that can support mahogany gliders.

Maintenance from local support is still required while the plants get established, including making sure weeds and grasses do not overtake the plants, and livestock and other animals do not damage them.

The effort was spear-headed by Jay Jackson, a young professional permaculture consultant, who met the organisers while volunteering in other festivals. Jay is especially interested in restoring riparian vegetation and waterways, ecosystem repair and revegetation, and creating food forests and indigenous forest gardens. Based around Far North QLD, he is available for consultation for festivals and corporate events whose organisers want to promote eco-consciousness, help improve an area where an event is held, and add value to any events held.

As a thank you treat, Mungalla Station Elder, Jacob Cassady, led the volunteers on an exclusive tour, telling them a little about Mungalla’s wetlands regeneration efforts, the various challenges of managing the land, and maintaining the ecosystem, managing invasive species, and dealing with seasonal weather cycles. Twenty-one years ago, the area was returned to the Nywaigi people, in a condition resulting from environmentally unfriendly farming practises that had seen the natural ecology become ripped apart. Local vegetation was removed in favour of grasses for cattle pasture, some of which are now “weeds of national significance.” Waterways were blocked up, destroying wetlands whose water quality are critical to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, being at the low end of the region and absorbing the runoff from all the farms, making the local vegetation healthy in the process. The wetland was a tidal wetland, and one year after removing a sea water wall, one wetland restored itself, but others need a solar pump to pump water from salty aquifers as their original natural tidal flow could not be restored. The saltwater stops the weeds from taking over, and as the wetlands have restored, they have become extremely biodiverse, allegedly boasting a greater variety of birdlife than Kakadu National Park! Birdwatching groups have marked Mungalla as a must-visit site and have found the rare wetland bird, the Painted Snipe, amongst other birds of note.

Mungalla has recently been awarded a $60K grant to build a nursery, in an effort to continue the reforesting. It will be in the old cattle yard, right next to the Wildlife Corridor just replanted by the Rootbound Festival volunteers. They have also received a $100K grant to open the wetlands up to the public for four kilometres of walks. Although the wetlands seem lush, calm, and tame, they are home to many large crocodiles and some of the most venomous snakes in the world, so following site directions and avoiding signposted danger areas is important for safety. If you would like to help in the wetland regeneration effort, you can contact Mungalla at mungall@bigpond.com. If you would like to be in Rootbound’s ongoing land-care efforts, you can contact them at https://rootbound.com.au/contact. If you would like to book Jackson as a Permaculture Consultant, you can contact him at https://organicmotion.com.au/make-a-booking/.

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