Greening Western Sydney Parklands
30 April 2018
Western Sydney isn’t really known for its greenery. Yet it has on its land patches of a unique ecological community – the threatened Cumberland Plain Woodland, the name given to a distinct group of plants that occur on the clay soils derived from shale on the Cumberland Plain in central New South Wales. It is known for its variety of native plant species including grasses, herbs, shrubs, lesser-known eucalypts, as well as its dominant and distinctive Forest Red Gum and Grey Box eucalypts.
In 1877, the Cumberland Plain Woodlands covered an area of around 107,000 hectares, occupying 30 per cent of the Sydney Basin. However, due to colonial expansion, farming, housing and industry, patches of woodlands have fallen to an area of only 6400 hectares within the western suburbs of Sydney. These remaining pockets are under constant threat and pressure from urban sprawl and development.
In the area managed by Western Sydney Parklands, the Cumberland Plain Woodlands today occupy around 1350 hectares – up from 1056 hectares in 2010. This is due to the targeted regeneration efforts of Environmental Managers, who aim to increase the size of the Woodlands by 330 hectares every 10 years.
The Cumberland Plain Woodlands has been identified as an endangered ecological community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Western Sydney Parklands has undertaken a variety of approaches to protect, manage and regenerate the Cumberland Plain Woodlands in its care to ensure the future of this remaining endangered community.
One approach is the removal of the introduced African Olive (which has no food value) from the Cumberland Plain Woodlands. The African Olive is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and quick to spread with each tree able to produce 20,000 seeds each year. A number of approaches have been trialled to remove the African Olive and, through trial and error, a system of best practice has been employed. This has led to many threatened species, both plants and animals, beginning to pop up in the Woodlands once more.
Over time, the Cumberland Plains Woodlands under the care of Western Sydney Parklands will ultimately span 2000 hectares – a great achievement towards giving western Sydney a greener identity and bringing back the many threatened species that once called this great expanse home.