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Can we use COVID-19 to improve ecological restoration practice?

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There is always wisdom to be gained by observing and listening to Nature – even a virus epidemic.

COVID-19 restrictions forced volunteer bush care groups everywhere to take a break from regular activities, meaning that our “patches” have been left to Nature for a few months. With the potential for future outbreaks (and uncertain repercussions), it is timely to ask how can we achieve the most beneficial outcomes in our restoration projects when the regularity of visits may become unpredictable?

Returning to a site after several months of “neglect” might feel disheartening. Some weeds may have taken off again, but it’s also an opportunity to analyse and reflect on project results. How have different sites and species responded to the excellent rainfall? Are there changes in priority weeds or zones based on new observation? How effective have past efforts been? What is the wildlife doing? Which native species are regenerating well under these conditions? The good season will have benefited them too.

Our role in ecological restoration is to “assist the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed” (SER 2004) and to do this effectively we work with each site and its specific issues and needs. When you consider the many decades (even centuries) it takes for K’gari’s coastal forests to form, a few months is insignificant.

We’ve all missed spending time on our sites, but rather than feeling discouraged, let’s use the opportunity to reflect, learn and adapt. We can also share what we learn to inform future practice. Nature knows best.

Contributed by Tina Raveneau, Senior Community Environment Officer, Fraser Coast Regional Council

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