A tornado that wiped out more than 300 trees cleared the way for the university’s makeover

A tornado sweeping through Armidale in early October left a trail of destruction tearing through houses, buildings as well as flora and fauna habitats.

In an unusual case, it has been a golden edge for the region’s largest university.

The University of New England (UNE) campus has assessed the damage caused by adverse weather event with more than 300 broken trees.

Out of them, 150 have been confirmed as native trees, semi-mature. The majority of them were white gums.

700 tonnes of green waste have also been removed.

The natural classroom

Sir. Crick said the trees on Armidale’s campus were used extensively for botany, ecology and environmental research from students ranging from beginners to PhD students.

The impact on historical and current research has not yet been fully quantified by UNE, but has at present been classified as “high significance”.

trees felled in bird's eye view
More than a month later, researchers from the University of New England continue to assess the damage.(Delivered: University of New England)

The damage has been confirmed to be inside a well-known koala feeding corridor, creating problems for animal and ecological studies.

Fifty trees were also inside a registered endangered ecological area.

“We have studied how animals feed and behave, ecologists have studied and mapped these trees on campus,” he said.

Flip a new leaf

The natural destruction has not come as a complete bad news.

UNE’s landscape plan was supposed to be available in early 2022, but has now been reconsidered.

Tree clearing on the Armidale campus has given managers at the faculties of engineering, ecology and design the opportunity to join a small group to design more research-specific planting.

man smiling with hat on
Professor Jeremy Bruhl is focused on the return of birds, echidnas, koalas and blue-tongued lizards to campus.(Delivered: University of New England)

Professor Jeremy Bruhl is an ecologist at UNE and in the newly created landscaping group.

He said the tornado has already created an opportunity for students to research the effects of severe weather on flora and fauna.

“The tornado certainly crystallized how important it is, what is planted where, and how large these plants are near buildings.”

“All kinds of insects, birds and marsupials, including koalas, called this area home,” Mr Bruhl said.

man looks up at torn wood
White rubber trees were the biggest concern for ecological destruction as they were home to many insects and marsupials.(Delivered: University of New England)

The draft will be completed before Christmas this year.

Students, university staff and volunteers have gathered plants, seeds and cut from all over Armidale to spread the area.

“We press and dry the samples as a reference point in our herbarium, which adds a scientific value to them.”

Volunteers from the Australian Plant Society have also come on board to rejuvenate the place.

Although planting is set to begin in the next six months, the university hopes it will become a landscape developed by students and local First Nations people in the coming years.

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