Fight to save rare gum

A GROUP of Derwent Valley locals is battling to ensure the survival of a tree species that is unique to an area near the tiny Central Highlands township of Miena.

Drought, bushfires, climate change and browsing native wildlife are threatening the survival of the ancient stand of Miena Cider Gums.

The Miena Cider Gum is of true cultural significance and gets its name from the sweet cider-tasting sap that runs through the tree, acting as an anti-freeze to protect it from the cold conditions in its habitat, which is limited to only a 20km radius of Miena.

The Cider Gums have also been used culturally by the Big River Aboriginals for thousands of years, the sap from the trees being used to make a sweet, fermented drink called Wayalinah.

When the sap runs, there is life that surrounds the trees, from bees buzzing to tiny leaf-hopper insects crawling around the bark, however it does come with drawbacks.

That sweet sap also draws in larger wildlife, with the new shoots and leaves especially tasty to possums, wallabies, introduced deer and other creatures who inhabit the highlands.

This increase in pressure from browsing, coupled with the warming climate means the Miena Cider Gums are facing extinction.

Changes to fire regimes and increased drought also leave them vulnerable to wildfires that were previously not a threat in the cold, wet highlands.

The 2019 Tasmanian bushfires were especially damaging for the Miena Cider Gum.

The township of Miena suffered greatly from the fires, and many Cider Gum stands were burnt, including many ancient trees that showed scars from surviving previous fires.

Members of the not-for-profit Derwent Catchment Program have been working on increasing the survivability of new shoots, in an effort to re-establish the number of Cider Gums in the region.

The best surviving trees have been banded and caged to stop animals reaching the canopy and destroying the new shoots.

However, DCP vice president Rachel Power said the work needed maintenance and the trees needed ongoing monitoring to ensure their efforts were working in the long-term.

“Through education comes protection,” Ms Power said.
“The more people who know about our trees and their plight, who know about the people working to support their survival, the more people calling for help to protect them, the more chance those holding the funding purse strings will act.”

More information on what the Derwent Catchment Project do in the Derwent Valley, as well as information on sessions and their upcoming AGM can be found at their website; derwentcatchment.org.

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