Springbrook Rescue
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Restoring the rainforests

Goals and objectivesChallengesDecision frameworkRecovery areasPriority tasksReports


“Restoring the Rainforests” is the second of the seven programs that make up “Springbrook Rescue”. Consistent with our organisation’s mission to “protect, repair and restore” the rainforest heritage of Australia, the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society accepted responsibility for managing a collaborative restoration program to assist the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service restore and enhance critical wildlife habitat and functional connectivity between fragmented and potentially unviable sections of the former Springbrook National Park. The program was forged under a formal licence agreement to give the necessary long-term security to the project. The restoration program is a community initiative in the public interest that involves no cost to the government.

The overall challenge is to restore rainforest on 104 hectares of cleared lands (“old fields”) in complex environments (some in difficult terrain) that are embedded within some 705 hectares of mostly mature or regenerating forests purchased by the Queensland government for addition to National Park and the World Heritage Area. An additional 43 hectares of cleared or lantana-infested regrowth requiring restoration occur on Ankida, a 205-hectare property donated to ARCS by generous local visionaries.

The restoration properties (in red) excluding Ankida.
Image produced by Keith Scott using ArcGIS based on data provided by the Queensland Herbarium.

The fundamental objectives of restoration centre on recovery of critical habitats and landscape integrity. However, there are many other ecological, economic and social benefits of restoration.



  • An expanded, more viable National Park and World Heritage Area will allow ancient lineages that underpin the outstanding universal value of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia to thrive and survive the impacts of future climate change.
  • An expanded area with high ecological integrity will protect biodiversity generally. This is a nationally and internationally recognised hotspot for species richness, rarity and endemism.


  • Expansion of the park and World Heritage area will benefit the local economy that depends on ecotourism based on high quality natural areas. Long-term sustainability of ecotourism will depend on the availability of increasingly rare experiences of “overwhelming” naturalness, outstanding natural beauty, grandeur and never-ending discovery. Springbrook can provide the exceptional experience of a “living museum” — windows into an ancient past, the present and the future — reflecting the course of evolution of life on our earth.
  • Restoration of forest cover is likely to improve the quality of water and evenness of water flows to the Hinze Dam, a vital water supply for the Gold Coast City and other parts of South-east Queensland.
  • Improved cost-effectiveness of restoration techniques may enable more areas in dire need of recovery to be protected. Costs of restoring 150 hectares using standard methods of site preparation, planting and follow-up management could amount to AU$7.5–15 million (based on research of Catterall and Harrison, 2006). The costs become prohibitive when scaled up to large-scale landscapes. Methods maximising assisted natural regeneration are most likely to make large-scale restoration economically feasible. Our project is a Case Study aimed at testing the validity of this expectation.


  • World Heritage obligations include ensuring World Heritage plays a meaningful role in the community. The natural environment is a defining and formative part of the Australian Character, lifestyle and sense of place (Australian Psychologists Society Position Statement on Psychology and the Natural Environment, April 2007). A considerable literature attests to the importance of natural environments to social and economic wellbeing.
  • Restoring landscape integrity to the World Heritage Area will enhance the ability to present the outstanding universal value of this area, one of the key obligations of the World Heritage Convention. Restoring cleared former grazing lands and removing visually pervasive weeds to provide a largely forested natural landscape will greatly improve the presentation and transmission of the World Heritage area to all.
  • Learning through “doing” or practice is a founding principle of restoration ecology. Restoration is often termed an “acid test for ecology”. Springbrook Rescue provides exceptional opportunities for restoration informing and improving ecological theory, facilitated by the readily accessible and compressed ecological gradients available for study.
  • More than 200 volunteers from far and wide have participated in the Springbrook Rescue project. For many, the hands on work helping the Parks and Wildlife Service build new national park and World Heritage areas, accompanied by the most ancient of songbirds and often immersed in the clouds, can be a transformative and inspiring experience.

The Restoration Process

Critical habitat restoration will give priority consideration to the needs of a wide range of functional groups of ancient plant and animal lineages (to their resource, shelter, and reproductive needs as well as their sensitivity to habitat loss, modification and fragmentation).

To be effective restoring connectivity must consider processes related to ecosystem resistance and resilience to disturbance at habitat, landscape, ecological and evolutionary scales. The success of management interventions in the short- and long-term will be measured against tangible goals (desired ecosystem parameters) published by the International Society for Ecological Restoration.

Our approach is given in more detail in the next associated pages that focus on the following key aspects of the restoration program:

  1. Restoration goals and objectives need to be clear and measurable both in the short and long term. Guiding principles for best practice should be explicitly documented.
  2. Challenges facing us need to be objectively assessed to avoid unnecessary setbacks from avoidable surprises, fatal blockages or missed opportunities. If assessed in the context of a conceptual model for how we think ecological systems work, challenges become manageable
  3. A Decision Framework is essential to help us deal systematically with the complex social and ecological systems involved, clearly identifying all factors (structural and process-based) likely to affect the success of the restoration program, including resource requirements. The framework encompasses development of management plans, monitoring methods and review processes as part of ongoing adaptive management.
  4. Recovery Areas based on catchments are clearly defined and prioritised in terms of needs, risks and urgency. The approach adopted is to build first on those areas that will establish initial habitat integrity and landscape connectivity with the least effort and most effect — the primary corridors that would otherwise be the most serious bottlenecks to recovery. Subsequently we can build further connections between these primary corridors (interlinked landscape matrices) with continuing infilling until all gaps are closed.
  5. Priority tasks: Whilst unaddressed abiotic impediments may, in the end, undermine attainment of our aspirational goals, biotic barriers such as runaway competition from seriously spreading and damaging weeds can not only result in early failure of the project but also lead to loss of the surrounding World Heritage Area and National Park, potentially spreading further to the entire caldera area.
  6. Reports: An important aspect of the project to ensure transparency, accountability, and peer review involves formal reporting of plans, scientific monitoring results, and the regular reporting and review of progress against goals and outcomes set for the project. These are available in standard downloadable or viewable pdf formats.