Establishing a restoration program for Phillip Island, in the Norfolk Island Group

Project: Research

Project Details

Project Description

Phillip Island is part of the Norfolk Island Group, one of the 20 priority places identified under the Australian government’s new Threatened Species Action Plan. The island is part of Norfolk Island National Park (with the other part of the park on the main Norfolk Island 5.5 km to the north). Following European settlement, Phillip Island was heavily degraded by rabbits, pigs and goats over a
period of 150 years; at least 12 species of native plants appear to have been lost, along with a suite of birds. With the removal of livestock and rabbits, along with some revegetation, the biodiversity of the island, particularly its seabird assemblage, is slowly recovering. No rodents or cats exist on the
island and several endemic species have survived.

Restoration of the island is urgent and vital, for several reasons:
- The island’s fragile ecosystems and the species they support are vulnerable to further degradation from erosion of soil and exposure to extreme weather conditions, pressures that are likely to become more intense in a changing climate. Restoration of native vegetation will help to stabilise and build soil, create more habitat for native species on the island (including, for example, the range-restricted endemic skink), and create refuge areas in the valleys of the island that will improve environmental resilience to climatic change.
- Restoration of native vegetation across even part of Phillip Island would greatly increase the area covered by native plant communities in the Norfolk Island Group as a whole. This would make a major contribution to recovery of the islands’ overall biodiversity and suite of threatened species, providing a foundation for reintroductions of species from Norfolk Island to Phillip Island and the realisation of Phillip island’s potential as an ‘ark’ for wildlife
- The island provides the opportunity for a step-by-step experimental restoration program to restore the biophysical components and processes of the ecosystem, investigate interactions between species and between the terrestrial and marine environments, develop and apply relevant systems for monitoring change, and study the system as it develops. It will enable exploration of some important questions in restoration ecology and provide lessons with direct application to restoration of islands in the Norfolk Island group and other more distant islands.
An excellent foundation is in place to achieve this, based on Parks Australia’s existing conservation management of Norfolk Island National Park and drawing on experiences from that management and from recent research by Monash University on both Norfolk Island and Phillip Island (e.g. Halpin 2021). However, efforts need to be expanded and accelerated. We have a good understanding of the activities required to restore Phillip Island, and thorough and detailed estimates of the resources needed, through recent work to develop a new recovery plan for the Norfolk Island Group (developed by Parks Australia with significant input from Monash University and others).
Effective start/end date5/01/2430/06/27