The Byron Bay Reforestation Project is about-
COLLECTING - GROWING - PLANTING
Therefore, we don't grow trees from seed. We collect them from places they will sprout, but will not survive. What sort of places are like that? One example - Rocky Creek Dam. A place where changing flood levels throughout the year drowns millions of diverse seedlings that could be going into the Earth to grow! We call tiny seedlings that we harvest 'WILDLINGS'.
What are wildlings?
Wildlings are the smallest stage of a newly sprouted rainforest tree seedling. They are so small, you will usually not see them from a standing position. These are the source of our nursery collections.
Is it ok to collect wildlings?
There are many nurseries across Australia and the world that work on a wildling collection model. The reason it appears ‘new’ in Byron Bay, is that our existing nurseries might be frowned upon for using this method, as they are private businesses, and it might look questionable if they were harvesting from the rainforest. We are Not-for-Profit, thus for us, there is no such issue.
Why use wildlings?
· Collecting seed is time consuming/seasonally limited and may produce cohorts of low genetic diversity.
· With wildlings there is no wait time to germination, nor specialized techniques to set off germination, as with collected seed.
· The number that can be collected and potted per hour is very high.
· They are immediately potted in their final pot and only handled once which is time and cost efficient, and less stress for the plant.
· Collecting for species diversity is easier, as flower and fruiting times are not a consideration for individual offspring collection from an individual tree.
· From collection to planting can be as little as five months, meaning that we can mobilise to action faster in response to changing conditions for us, such as grant heavy times when we need to collect fast or slow down in times when income won't support planting.
· Poor genetic specimens are less likely to have survived in the wild, thus wildlings may contain fewer ‘runts’ than a nursery cohort where seedlings are carefully nursed from day one.
· Because they are so cheap to produce they can be planted closer together, so site maintenance can be perhaps two years shorter.
· A large proportion of the wildlings that sprout in the forest will die immediately, or in their first month or two, by utilizing wildlings, we are making more efficient use of the offspring of the rainforest, by looking after them, then putting them back where they will have a chance to grow large and expand the ecosystem. This is particularly true when wildlings are collected from river bed pebble, where they will certainly die.
· We have an existing rainforest resource that we want to expand, teeming with sprouting life in areas that are already secure, the most efficient use of human effort to help is to simply ‘transplant’ those wildlings to denuded areas, to expand their home range.
· It is much easier to collect wildings that have come from a great variety of parent trees than with seed collection, as it is unlikely that seed has come from a large number of fruiting trees of the same species on the same collection day, it is very easy to miss the fruiting period of individual trees.
· As the cost per tree is lower, we can also harvest shrub layer wildlings, and dig extra holes within our plantings for those, so that multiple layers are being planted from day one, otherwise, the shrub layer could take over a decade to form.
· Many of the largest rainforest tree planting projects in the world use wildlings, this is a strong indicator that if we want to make a significant impact, that wildlings are the right choice.