Reef Aid

Restoring Ross Road for the Reef

This is an exciting Reef Aid project working on Wanyurr-Madjandji country to restore riverside habitat on marginal cane land just 10 kilometres from the Frankland Island section of the Great Barrier Reef.

Thanks to Franco Arri, Campbell Clarke, Simone Vinton and Pete Richards for these images. 

3.8 ha

Habitat restored


Seedlings planted


Volunteers involved

Franco and Frances Arri’s riverside cane farm at the end of Ross Road near Deeral, Far North Queensland, is in a sweet spot on Wanyurr-Madjandji country – just upstream of where the Russell and Mulgrave rivers unite and flow out to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

The boundary of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is just 3 kms to the east, while the Russell River National Park and wetland complex (on the Directory of Important Wetlands Australia) is on the southern side.

Adjacent to the property are areas of remnant rainforest vegetation and beautiful mangroves supporting a diverse range of species – including being essential habitat for the protected Saltwater Crocodile and the endangered Southern Cassowary.

A fan of ultralight flying, Franco had been watching the progress of our constructed wetland at Fig Tree Lagoon from a bird’s eye view, so when Mulgrave Landcare approached him and Frances about some restoration work on their property, they agreed.

The Challenge

There are a few different challenges we are working together with Franco and Frances to address – Greening Australia and Mulgrave Landcare saw the potential given the property’s location to support biodiversity and improve water quality for the Great Barrier Reef by reducing sediment and nutrient run-off.

The landholders showed us a large, 5.15 ha area covered by low-lying impenetrable weeds that could be revegetated by assisted natural regeneration, and they have a further 58 ha available for restoration.

A unique challenge is presented by working in low lying wetland areas, which are inaccessible at certain times over the wet season, and controlling weeds that thrive in the Wet Tropics conditions. Of particular concern are Guinea Grass, Wild Raspberry and a Weed of National Significance, Pond Apple, which are currently dominating the cane drains.

The Solution

Greening Australia, Mulgrave Landcare and landholders Franco and Frances, are working together to plant a 3.8 ha strip of 10,000 trees alongside the river.

The restoration here will help achieve a few different goals:

  • helping stabilise the riverside area with plantings, reducing sediment and nutrient run-off from the property to the Great Barrier Reef
  • reducing weed cover and helping the native forest to naturally regenerate, supporting biodiversity, creating habitat, capturing carbon, and helping improve water quality
  • reconnecting the river corridor, supporting the movement of threatened species, and improving habitat for native fish.

We are also assisting natural regeneration in an additional 5.15 ha just north west of the revegetation plantings. A few scattered native plants are persisting in this area, and it is surrounded by native riparian area and mangrove complex, so we are hopeful that – given breathing space – the remnant forest will regenerate itself.

We are trialling effective methods to both preserve the embattled native plants and control the weeds. For example, by using drones to map and analyse the weeds, we can ensure our weed clearing and treatment is as precise as possible. Regeneration methods will include supplementary native seeding, key-line plantings and various control methods.

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Progress to date

10,000 trees have been planted over 3.8 hectares from July to December 2020, in partnership with Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Group, by engaging 300 volunteers in eight community tree planting events since July. The planted corridor follows the riverbank and will act as a natural buffer as well as providing habitat. It can be hard to imagine 10,000 trees and 3.8 hectares, so please enjoy this video Franco took of the newly planted corridor from his Drifter.

For the area where we are trialling Assisted Natural Regeneration techniques, three tracks and the perimeter have been mulched to create access for weed drone mapping, which is being analysed by machine learning and data analytics. A tractor with a dicer and roller was sent in for precise clearing of the weed species.

Greening Australia and Mulgrave Landcare are applying for funding to restore the whole 58 ha area that Franco and Frances have offered, and seeking to undertake further works in partnership with Madjandji Aboriginal Corporation (formerly Wanyurr-Majay Aboriginal Corporation).

There is potential to engage neighbouring landholders as the project proceeds.
This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and Sukin, and delivered as part of Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program in partnership with Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Group, landholders Franco and Frances Arri and Madjandji Aboriginal Corporation.

If you would like more information, please feel free to send us an online query.