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Prepared by 1 Dr Steven Lucas and 2 Gabriel Anderson
The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment
The Great Eastern Ranges Initiative (Hunter Valley)
Land managers and researchers are using ‘connectivity conservation’ to help birds, insects and maybe
even larger mammals migrate through environments disrupted by humans. Stepping stones are smaller,
unconnected areas of preserved or restored habitat, originally intended to promote bird and insect
movement (Figure 1). Connectivity and maintaining these pathways for flora and fauna are paramount
for enhancing biodiversity and strengthening the resilience of ecosystems and habitats in the face of
impending climate change impacts.
Figure 1
The significance of the Hunter Valley
From social, economic, biodiversity and connectivity conservation perspectives the Hunter Valley is one of
the most complex areas of the GER. The area contains a diverse range of unique and rich ecosystems.
However, this very special landscape is under significant risk. Since non-Indigenous settlement the area
has become increasingly degraded and fragmented, and is at increasing risk due to rapidly expanding
agricultural, industrial and urban development. The landscape may be placed under additional strain as a
substantial proportion of the valley floor is earmarked for coal exploration and possible mining over the next
30–50 years.
The Hunter Valley represents a significant east-west linkage of natural vegetation in the Great Eastern
Ranges, with the potential for north-south 'stepping stones’ of vegetation to allow species movement. The
Stepping Stones project will support landholders in the Hunter Valley to establish plantings and paddock
trees to connect isolated patches of bushland on their properties to the Great Eastern Ranges. The Hunter
Valley region within the GER Initiative is shown in Figure 2 and anyone living in these areas who wants to
participate only has to call GER or get on the website to find out more.
Watagans to Stockton Bight
The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment is working with the Great Eastern Ranges (GER) Initiative to
promote ‘Stepping-Stones’ projects in the Watagan to Stockton corridor (Figure 3). There are a many
different land-uses (both public and private) including residential areas, mining leases, industrial zones and
rural activities. In view of the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy and forecast regional growth it is imperative
to establish stepping stones that link natural habitat.
FACT: Did you know that many smaller birds will not fly over 100 m of open space?
A ‘stepping-stone’ can be a single tree in a paddock that connects uncleared areas.
Figure 3
Connectivity conservation is a strategy which:
 Aims to save many species from extinction by protecting the habitat of our diverse range of plants and
 Interconnects natural lands between surrounding protected areas;
 Provides pathways so flora and fauna have greater opportunities to move and adapt due to climate
 Includes natural lands that extend over many different tenures – both public and private land.
Enhancing biodiversity on the East Coast of Australia
The Great Eastern Ranges (GER) Initiative to promote ‘Stepping-Stones’ projects in the Lower Hunter
Valley. The GER Initiative is bringing together people and organisations to focus efforts to establish a
conservation corridor along the mountainous regions of eastern Australia. It is a strategic response to
mitigate the potential impacts of climate change, invasive species, land clearing and other environmental
stresses on an area that contains our richest biodiversity.
The Great Eastern Ranges corridor:
 Stretches over 3,600 kilometres from the Grampians in Victoria to far north Queensland, including the
Great Dividing Range and the Great Escarpment of Eastern Australia;
 In some places it includes adjacent areas that extend to the west and the coast;
 Encompasses the longest adjoining mountain forests and woodland systems in Australia;
 Comprises nearly two thirds of our threatened species and three quarters of our vegetation
communities are found in the Great Eastern Ranges corridor, and;
 Contains catchments for the most reliable rainfall in eastern Australia, providing clean water to over
90% of eastern Australia.
The Stepping Stones project is a joint initiative of members of the Great Eastern Ranges Hunter Valley
Partnership; OzGREEN, Muswellbrook Shire Council, The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment at the
University of Newcastle and Conservation Volunteers Australia. Stepping Stones is supported through funding
from the Australia Government’s Clean Energy Future Biodiversity Fund.
Figure 2
The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment can assist Communities,
Industry, Councils and Planners in many ways including:
 Research projects
 Consulting services, and
 Community engagement
The Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment and the GER are also seeking
enthusiastic community groups and landholders to participate in the
Hunter Valley Stepping – Stones project. For more information please
contact Dr Steven Lucas or Gabriel Anderson (contact details below)
Contact: Dr Steven Lucas [email protected]
Gabriel Anderson (GER Initiative) [email protected]