July 22–Calperum Station

Today students spent the day and night at Calperum Environmental Station outside of Renmark, South Australia. Calperum Environmental Station is a 243,000 hectare (ha) reserve established by the Australian Land Trust as a biosphere reserve. Calperum Station mainly focuses on management, restoration, and conservation of endangered and rare Australian ecosystems, as well as a variety of rare bird species, including the black-eared miner.

Native scrubland environment under restoration

Calperum Station

While at the station, students met with Senior Ecologist Peter Cale, who gave a very interesting talk on the restoration methods used by the station. These methods included controlled burns, re-vegetation, feral pest management, and removal of invasive species. Peter discussed the state of the South Australian wetlands, and how the local environment was negatively impacted from years of overgrazing by sheep. One of the main points Peter got across was that no matter how much restoration is completed, the environment will never fully recover to its original state, and the best we can do preserve what we can.

After our talk, Peter and his associates took us out to various different ecosystems around the station, including dunes, wetlands, and scrubland. During our journey students saw wild kangaroos and emus and a wide variety of flora including Red Gums and Box Gums along the lakeside. As we traveled from site to site Peter pointed out another key problem facing their restoration efforts: the climate. Last year, Australia had a very intense and unexpected series of rain events, which resulted in the flooding of many native species that staff had planted over the last ten years. Many trees ended up dying because of water overflowing onto the floodplains, a constant reminder that even the best laid plans can be changed by the weather.

After their discussions with Peter students set out for their service project which entailed both the removed of invasive species and the planting and caging of tree native to area of scrub land. The work was not easy, but it was very rewarding as students were able to experience the restoration efforts first hand, while making a positive impact on an Australian ecosystem. Even though the efforts of the station are always a work in progress, it is safe to say that Calperum Environment Station is sustainably managed. By focusing on environmentally friendly economic activities when possible and always staying inside the bounds of what is reasonable restoration for the environment they are working with, the station seems to always be taking steps to be more sustainable.

After years of drought and struggling to maintain the wetland ecosystem, Calperum now is dealing with too much water that could drown some trees.

Overall, I believe the idea of responsible restoration put forward by Peter is one that is reflective of an attitude that most individuals would benefit by looking into. It often seems that the reason many people don’t want to work towards restoration is because they know that nature will never be as good as it once was, but what we learned from Peter was that just because it may never be a good it doesn’t mean that you can’t make the best of what you have got to turn it into something great.

Native trees in graze-proof cages

Students removing invasive species from key shaded environments.

Cited information:

By Ross Clyma


6 responses to “July 22–Calperum Station

  1. Volunteering with some of the staff at Calperum Station was a really different experience that illustrated the important work that goes on in the area every day. I have spent plenty of time gardening and weeding at home and on the job, but it was pretty wild to be doing that sort of work in a vast, isolated location. We worked hard for several hours that afternoon, but still only worked a small portion of the land. So much work has already been completed to remove invasive plant species and revive the landscape, and more is to come in the future.

    This does make me wonder, is it practical to try and replant so many hectares of land ‘by hand,’ especially when so much of what is replanted is eaten by kangaroo or other animals? Should more efficient, alternative methods be developed?

  2. Paige Sienkiewicz

    The service project that we did was a lot of fun plus it was rewardijng. We did something to help the world. Even though we only planted trees and pulled weeds it is one small step to make the world better. Hopefullt the trees will grow! I know after doing that I felt like I really helped.

  3. Calperum has remained one of my favorite parts of this trip. Conservation is key to preserving biodiversity and natural carbon sinks. Increasing population pressures make conservation of natural areas a vital component to keeping a healthy planet.

    Government funded and non-profit conservancies are often unsung heros in the realm of sustainability. It was a great opportunity to work along side some of the people that work to protect wilderness areas.

  4. calderonenick

    Also, A couple other members of the group and I installed an irrigation system for newly planted vegitation. This system waters without using any energy. A large water barrel is placed on a pile of soil and the weight of the water slowly pushes water through drip lines in the poly pipes. Finding conservation practices that use natural processes like this are both great for the environment and money savers.

  5. I think this was my favorite day so far. I loved planting the trees and feeling like we made a difference.

    However, when Peter (the ecologist) was talking to our group about the animal population control of rabbits and kangaroos, I got a little unsettled. I realize population control needs to happen so that the land doesn’t suffer from overgrazing and so other animals don’t die of starvation, but isn’t there a better way to do it? Is poisoning bunnies really the only answer? Our human world is highly overpopulated, but somehow I doubt we’re going to start human population control. Humans and animals are both sentient beings…shouldn’t we at least try and extend some rights to animals?

  6. Andy, thanks for bringing that up, I had a similar feeling, but couldn’t quite describe where my uncertainty stemmed from. As we have learned from hearing about some of Australia’s ‘fire plants’ that thrive and regrow in the ashes after a forest fire, sometimes natural processes take unexpected, even devastating, turns, but the ecosystem in place will support whatever species, and whatever numbers, are meant to be there. When humans interact with that natural progress, we might do more harm than good (as is the case with several of this country’s invasive species, including the rabbits).

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