Species revival for SW corner

Daniel MercerThe West Australian

More than 10 years after it first made headlines, a landmark conservation project to reconnect the rainforests of Margaret River with the woodlands of the Goldfields is poised to take a significant step forward.

From this morning, scientists and volunteers will begin planting up to 15,000 seedlings from 120 native plant species at a former farm near the north-east corner of the Stirling Range National Park.

The move at the renamed Monjebup Reserve is the latest development in a long-running and ambitious project known as the Gondwana Link.

Under the multimillion-dollar project, conservationists want to establish an uninterrupted corridor of native vegetation stretching more than 1000km from WA's far south-west coast to the Great Western Woodlands.

Bush Heritage Australia, which bought Monjebup Reserve and has been spearheading efforts at other properties related to the project, said it was ultimately about restoring what was once there.

Simon Smale, the organisation's landscape manager for Gondwana Link, said several threatened and vulnerable native species used to thrive in the area and it was his intention to try to bring them back.

They included malleefowl, Carnaby's cockatoo, western whipbird and black-gloved and tammar wallabies.

All of these species had struggled since widespread land clearing last century.

Researchers also hope to see a return in honey and western pygmy possums and grey-bellied dunnarts.

"Our plan is to repair years of environmental damage and protect threatened flora and fauna by replicating natural systems to be of maximum value to wildlife," Mr Smale said.

"Our work on Monjebup is also boosting rare endemic plants, such as the recently discovered small mallee eucalypt, the Corackerup moort."

Although immediate efforts will focus on replanting 140ha at Monjebup, in the long-term scientists aim to restore 400ha of cleared paddocks by 2015, after "several years of ecological analysis and planning".

Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders said the methods employed as part of the project were reaping results.

She said there had been a 300 per cent increase in bird activity at a property replanted in 2004. "More than 40 different bird species have been recorded at Chererinup Creek, including the western whipbird and southern scrub robin," she said.

"The revegetated areas are now supporting as many birds as the undisturbed mature mallee heath on Chererinup," she said.

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