Lately I’ve been giving back.
You see, although Australia was once rather isolated from the rest of the world, it no longer is. And as part of an ever shrinking global humanity, it has experienced some of the pitfalls that occur when old footsteps reach new shores.
In this case, those footsteps brought with them mud from explorers’ boots, and the mud brought with it seeds from foreign lands.
These foreign seeds were able to sprout upon Australian land and establish a stranglehold on certain tracts of land, including some of the National Parks I wrote about in my last post.
That’s where the Conservation Volunteers of Australia (CVA) comes in.
The Conservation Volunteers works closely with the National Parks Service to, among other things, eradicate these “invasive species,” and replace them with native ones.
At the suggestion of a friend, I raised my hand and offered to volunteer for this worthy cause. So far, I have helped to eradicate such icky species as the Privut, the African Olive and the Bitou Bush.
The picture below shows an exanse of land that was completely blanketed by the Bitou Bush before we came in and cleared it away; as you can see, it took almost complete control over a large tract of land.
The next step is that the National Parks Service will come in and plant native species, such as the iconic gum tree (eucalyptus).
I guess the next question is “What is wrong with a new species being introduced to a new place? If it is not a problem in its native country, why is it a problem here? Can it not provide adequate shelter and nutrition to native wildlife?”
Well, according to Michael, our fearless CVA leader on the Bitou Bush project, native flora and native fauna have adapted to each other over thousands and tens of thousands of years. This cohabitation has led to a complex ritual in which the various species are caught up in a pattern of give and take; this mutually benefits each species and perpetuates the survival of all involved. (OK, I know that last sentence was cheesy – I’m no to biologist. But check back, I may try to get a quote from Michael himself!)
Michael’s example was this: The gum tree is prone to losing large branches – they just fall right off the tree. This leaves a cavity which provides good protection for native possums. The invasive trees, though beneficial to the ecosystems from which they came, do not lose their branches in the same manner as the gum trees. Therefore, possums located in infested areas have an inadequate supply of shelter.
For the benefit of these possums and other native species, The CVA operates all over Australia. This offers volunteers the chance to explore new regions and lend a helping hand. Though I have only volunteered in Sydney so far, I am currently eying a trip to Tasmania.
I feel excited about this worthy cause. It gives me the opportunity to give back to nature, meet like-minded people, keep active and generally feel like a working part of this wonderful planet.