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Author: Andrew Solomon (EPA)

Historic land clearing, agricultural land use as a rural grazing property, and illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste left a 54-hectare (133 acre) property at Carrickalinga, on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia, in a degraded condition.

Biodiversity loss is a major issue globally and Australia is recognised as 1 of 7 countries responsible for more than half of this biodiversity loss. Rewilding can be used to address biodiversity loss, via revegetation with native plants which in turn will provide seed sources for natural regeneration and habitat for the return of native animals and other native species.

Climate change is causing environmental, economic and social impacts globally, and carbon capture is one of the recognised strategies to address this issue. Revegetation and subsequent rewilding, at the property scale, can sequester tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon.

Rewilding can therefore be used to address both biodiversity loss and climate change. The Forktree Project is a registered charity whose goals are to:

  • Provide habitat for native species and help combat climate change through rewilding the land. Since Forktree began in April 2019, we have planted over 20,000 trees and shrubs, restored degraded landscape by removal of 8ha of invasive weed species, and invested heavily in infrastructure to keep out introduced animals including feral proof fencing around the perimeter of the property
  • To trial improved methods of restoring landscapes and sharing this knowledge. This includes but is not restricted to improved ways to calculate both above ground and soil-based carbon for small/medium sized rural landowners; trialling innovative native grassland re-establishment and weed eradication techniques; and utilising innovative, cost-effective irrigation technology to grow rare plants to rebuild native habitat
  • Establish a large-scale native seed nursery and rare seed orchard (RSO) to grow native plants for use at Forktree and other Hills and Fleurieu properties to help combat biodiversity loss and provide desperately needed native habitat for native flora and fauna. The RSO involves growing threatened species in a dedicated vermin-proof 1.5ha area for ease of seed harvesting and propagation and as a security population in the wild. The focus is on species that are rare, or of significance to Aboriginal people
  • Be an educational resource to encourage both sustainable practices and small-scale land regeneration, both through provision of formal educational content as well as the modelling of proactive sustainable practices. Principal target audiences include schools, the local community and rural landowners. One of the buildings at Forktree is being converted into a sustainability centre to enable school children and other stakeholders to visit (with activities on offer including propagating native seedlings in the nursery, tree planting, recycling, ecological surveys, etc). Forktree education programs link directly to the specific curriculum objectives such as ethical decision making (Year 6), water management (Year 7) and economics (Year 11). All Forktree visits link to the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum through teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking and offer significant wellbeing benefits resulting from time spent in nature and engagement in meaningful service.
Rare seed orchard and use of recycled materials (Andrew Solomon)

The project has:

  • established a nursery to raise native plant seedlings (grasses, shrubs and trees) and a rare seed orchard
  • carried out substantial revegetation of the property and supplied seedlings to other land managers
  • carried out bird, lepidoptera, carbon and flora & fauna baseline surveys
  • demonstrated the use of recycled materials in farm tracks, nursery benches, walls and other structures
  • provided education, volunteering opportunities and promoted rewilding to a range of different groups (eg Operation Flinders) and 80 school groups so far
  • trialed carbon assessment methodologies
  • engaged actively with Aboriginal people in many aspects of the work being carried out.
Seedling nursery and use of recycled materials (Photo: A Solomon)
Seedling nursery and use of recycled materials (Andrew Solomon)

In the 2023–24 year, the aim is to raise 30,000 seedlings, spanning 105 plant species. Challenges being faced include liverwort (Bryophyta), which is a problematic actively spreading nursery weed.

In practical terms our rewilding workover the next 10 years involves linking up our 2 remnant stands of Pink Gums Eucalyptus fasciculosa and their vegetation associations to rebuild much-needed contiguous Pink Gum/Drooping Sheoak Allocasuarina verticillata woodland over dense understorey on the upper slopes, grading to Blue Gum E leucoxylon ssp leucoxylon Woodlands on the lower slopes and some Red Gum (E camaldulensis ssp camaldulensis) woodlands in the lowest, wettest areas. The opportunity also exists for Rough-bark Manna Gums E viminales ssp viminales on the south facing cooler micro-climates slopes of the site (Koala habitat) and establishing Mallee Box woodland on the hilltops as part of reestablishment of more of this historical woodland that existed along the western part of the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Tim Jarvis AM and volunteers weeding (Photo: A Solomon)
Tim Jarvis AM and volunteers weeding (Andrew Solomon)

Biodiversity and carbon sequestration benefits are already being achieved on the property and at other locations supplied with seedlings and seeds. Educational and wellbeing results are being generated and the value of a demonstration site, to show what can be done, is adding to the positive influence the project is creating.

When fully restored, it is anticipated Forktree will provide habitat for many native species, including the following rare and threatened species (EPBC[1] or NPW[2] rare or threatened species/communities) endemic to the region:

Species name

Common name

EPBC rating

NPW rating

Pteropus poliocephalus

Grey-headed Flying Fox



Zanda funerea whiteae

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo



Actitis hypoleucos

Common Sandpiper



Eucalyptus fasciculosa

Pink Gum



Falco peregrinus Macropus

Peregrine Falcon



Falcunculus frontatus

Crested Shrike-tit



Myiagra inquieta

Restless Flycatcher



Neophema elegans

Elegant Parrot



Xanthorrhoea semiplana ssp tateana

Tate's Grasstree



[1] Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

[2] National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972

The team is led by Tim Jarvis AM, Global Ambassador to international sustainability NGO WWF. Elizabeth Blumer provides education and wellbeing expertise. The nursery manager is Ida Moore. An advisory panel assists the team and a range of corporate, government and educational organisations provide generous sponsorship.

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