As part of Shenhua Watermark's commitment to re-establishing biodiversity and commitment in the EIS, a biodiversity tree screen has been established along nearly 6km of the western side of Kamilaroi Highway. The aim of the biodiversity tree plantings is to reduce the visual impact of the mining operations and infrastructure from users of the highway, in addition to enhancing the biodiversity of buffer land surrounding the proposed mine site and develop linkage corridors for fauna.
Experienced environmental contractors and consultants were engaged, supported by local research outcomes in biodiversity habitat in the Gunnedah area. Approximately 7,000 seedlings were planted from September through to November 2014. They were structured in five rows, 4 metres apart along rows, and each row was separated by 4 metres. Fertilizer tablets, weedmats, coreflute tree guards and hardwood stakes were installed with each seedling at the time of planting, and each seedling was well watered immediately after planting to assist survival rates.
Row 1 and Row 2 contained a lower height species mix, with understorey species with a height range of 2–5 metres. Additional understorey species may be planted at a later date as stock becomes available.
Row 3 is a mixture of the lower and mid height species with a height range of 3-10 metres or less.
Row 4 and Row 5 is a combination of the taller species. These have been interspersed with slightly lower height species as desirable. This lessens competition between the taller species but still allow for a suitable screen cover over time.
To achieve a suitable biodiversity tree screen the selected species have been planted in a structured random pattern. This provides a functional habitat area that will add value in biodiversity benefits and improved soil health. Over time, as shown by research at the habitat reconstruction sites at Gunnedah Research Centre, additional understorey species will be imported into the tree screen by birds and other fauna. This will add both biodiversity values as well as additional tree screen cover to the plantings.
The benefits of the biodiversity tree plantings will be experienced well beyond the life of the Project, as it will increase the ecological value of the area over many years to come.