Below are some frequently asked questions about restoring natural areas

We have listed the answers to some commonly asked questions about bush regeneration and natural area restoration and management.  Feel free to pop us a question at hillsbush@bigpond.com .  If we don't know the answer we might be able to point you in the right direction for one.

  • Lake Parramatta in the morning sun

    What is Bush Regeneration?

    Human impacts on the natural environment often lead to problems in bushland such as soil erosion, weed invasion, and the loss of native flora and fauna.  The bush regeneration industry (sometimes referred to as Natural Area Restoration), restores the quality of degraded environments, and helps to prevent good quality environments from becoming degraded. The Sydney bush regeneration industry is a world leader in regenerating degraded natural environments.


    back to top

  • aquatic weeds in the hawkesbury

    Why Does our Bush Become Degraded?

    Common urban bushland issues in the Sydney region include:


    • Loss of native plants and animals
    • Soil disturbance
    • Drainage and runoff into bushland
    • Increased soil and water nutrients
    • Competition from introduce species - both weeds and feral animals
    • Changes to natural fire patterns
    • Land clearing


    And many more.


    Each of these changes can have an impact on the quality of natural areas.  When they combine, the impacts can be dramatic.  The starting point for bush regeneration is to recognise the causes of environmental change and to try to minimise and manage these changes to produce a diverse native ecosystem.


    back to top

  • Shadi hand weeding

    Is Bush Regeneration Just Planting Native Trees, Shrubs and Grasses?

    Planting is a great tool for restoring degraded landscapes when used at the right time, and in the right place.

    In bush regeneration, the general rule is:


    • Retain the most valuable features of the site as a priority i.e. keep them from becoming degraded
    • Regenerate where there is resilience and potential for natural regeneration
    • Restore by managing the impacts – such as drainage, tracks, dumping
    • Reconstruct to create special areas that might link other natural areas, provide important habitat, create amenity for our landscape and/or educational opportunities.


    The other R, which is a commonly used tool for the more disturbed sites is Replanting.  Planting is used in restoring and reconstructing sites generally where there is a low ability for the site to recover naturally, to quickly establish native plants in an area within a short timeframe or to add density or diversity to bushland. 


    back to top

  • DSC_1966.JPG

    What Should I Plant?

    The first question is: Do I need to plant?

    Always ask this question before launching in to a planting program.  Sites with the ability to regenerate naturally may get better results without planting.  If the answer to this question is yes, think about the following:


    Planting is a generally fantastic way of getting more native plants in the ground.  But the wrong plants in the wrong place, can actually do quite a bit of damage. 


    Some tips:


    Aim to plant a mix of species that occur in the reserve

    If there are a limited type and number of plants at your site now, look to a “reference” site for some tips.  Find a site nearby with similar site conditions (e.g. soils, moisture, topography etc.), look at plants that are growing there, and where those plants are growing, and use that as a guide to what plants you use, and where you can use them at your site.


    Aim to create a diverse plant structure

    Think about the “structure” of your planting.  Try not to just plant a large number of one type of plant that you like.  Put in plants in all of the “layers” of vegetation: ground layer, mid storey, as well as the canopy.  Your reference site might give you some tips on spacing and getting the mix of plants right.


    Think about the sequence of your planting 

    Sometimes one group of plants will grow and make the site conditions more suitable for other plants to come in and thrive.  Pioneer plants are those plants that like getting things started and can tolerate high levels of light and exposure.  Plants that come in later in the “succession” might require a little bit of cover.  Sometimes, it is better have separate stages in your planting program to take account of this.


    Use common sense

    Before planting, take a look around you.  Are there any reasons that you might not plant something in a particular area? For example: putting tall trees under electricity wires, spiky plants next to play grounds, fragile plants next to footpaths etc.  There is nothing sadder than to see a tree that you have lovingly planted, cut off at the top when it grows into overhead wires.  A quick look around can help to avoid this sort of outcome.


    Ask your local land managers like Councils and National Parks staff for advice. They are usually more than happy to point you in the right direction.


    back to top

  • Lantana

    Why are Weeds Present?

    Many weeds are exotic, meaning that they come from other parts of the world.  


    Weeds often thrive here due to the similar conditions to their home ranges such as climate, soils and or geology. Natural contraints that usually monitor weedy growth in their natural ecosystem such as a type of insect that feeds soley on that plant, is often absent in our unique ecosystem. This causes weeds to grow unhindered and often to the detriment of native species.  

    However, native Australian plants can also become weeds when introduced into areas of Australia where they did not previously grow.   For example, the Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana) was originally found only in the broad region it is named after, but has become a popular garden plant across Australia. It is now spreading from some of these gardens into natural areas. Because of this, some Councils in the Sydney region consider this plant a weed (although it is an Australian native).


    There are many ways that weeds become introduced into new areas.  This can include deliberate and accidental introductions such as:


    • Horticulture - ornamental flowering plants, eg. Morning Glory
    • Agriculture - introduced pasture grasses, eg. Whisky grass
    • Landscaping – eg. Lantana
    • Erosion control – eg. Bitou Bush
    • Cultural – eg. Alligator Weed
    • Medicinal uses – eg. horsetail
    • Incidental introductions – eg. contaminated seed
    • Acclimatisation societies - early colonists
    • Animal feed – eg. Karoo Thorn was brought out to feed the Rhinos at Western Plains Zoo
    • Internet seed purchases – too many to name …


    back to top

  • Prickly Pear - A weed now controlled, was once our of control

    Why are Weeds Harmful?

    There are many ways that weeds can harm the environment, the economy and society.  For example:


    • Agricultural weeds can cause large productivity losses (e.g. Serrated Tussock)
    • Aquatic weeds can cause problems with water quality or transport (eg. Salvinia, Water Hyacinth)
    • Some weeds can cause severe human health reactions (e.g. Asthma Weed),
    • Weeds can compete with local native vegetation (e.g. Privet, Camphor Laurel)
    • Weeds can change environmental conditions  (e.g. introduced grasses in the Northern Territory are changing the burning characteristics of local vegetation, causing major wildfires).


    The impacts of weeds on biodiversity can be enormous.  With a bit of help from human land management practices, weeds can sometimes displace whole native ecosystems, having a dramatic effect on species diversity - both plant and animal diversity.   We now have a range of techniques at our disposal to control and sometimes eradicate weeds.  A good weed control strategy is needed or weeds can sometimes be extremely persistent.


    back to top

Back Print