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Byron Shire
August 2, 2021

Capturing carbon, nature’s way

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Shearwater School students with bush regenerator Nadia de Souza Pietramale, pictured left. The four week project will finish up next week and aims to create a wildlife corridor across the school property. Photo supplied.

One of the best ways to mitigate climate change is to capture carbon – by tree planting, of course!

Fifty-six year seven students from Shearwater School, near Mullum, recently started the project of planting 1,830 shrubs and trees around the school’s grounds as part of their ongoing school bush regeneration project they’ve been doing for the past 20 years. The planting will start on Monday, 17 March and every afternoon students will spend just over and hour planting trees with the assistance of teachers and the school bush regeneration team over the next four weeks.

‘It makes us feel like we can make a change and by being proactive regarding climate change, we can give ourselves and others hope for our future environment,’ said year seven students Thea and Amy.

‘Right now, at 12 years of age, we already don’t want to envision our future. We are afraid that it’s already too late. So we are begging you to listen and more importantly take heed of what we say.’

This year they will be focussing on extending the Shearwater flood plain ecological plant community of swamp sclerophyll forest, an important habitat for koalas and many other local wildlife species. This project is part of the development of a wild life corridor across the school property from the east to the north-west where it will join established plantings on the western boundary of the property. When completed in the next few years, it will be almost 2km long.

Bush regenerator Nadia de Souza Pietramale says it’s been made possible by a donation of 1,000 trees from not-for-profit organisation Reforest Now, 230 plants from Burringbar Rainforest Nursery, the donation of six truck-loads of mulch from another not-for-profit organisation, Forest4, a grant from the NSW government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust and Mullumbimby Rural Cooperative for giving the school discounts.

Shearwater primary school children also propagate bush food plants in the school nursery and have added another 250 trees to the pile.

‘All planting and maintenance of the trees are done following sustainable, organic and biodynamic land management principles. We will cover all the gaps between the trees with biomass, such as pruned branches and palm fronds – resources abundant in the school grounds. This organic material will suppress grass growth. It will also feed soil micro-organisms such as the mycorrhizal fungi which make minerals and other nutrients available to the plants in exchange for the sugars produced by the trees through photosynthesis.

‘We hope that this becomes a model for managing young forests, where waste biomass covers the forest floor, feeding the soil, reducing waste burning, and controlling weeds. As we cover the grounds with biomass, we increase the capacity of the soil to hold water, which also increases carbon storage. For some species such as bandicoots this ground cover will create habitat.’

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