By Laura Chung
Hidden away on the southern side of an ancient volcano in northern NSW is a unique rainforest that will house 20 rare seedlings of a tree, but whether they will survive as climate change takes hold is in the hands of scientists.
The endangered Nightcap Oak tree is part of the unique rainforest ecosystem north-east of Lismore, which also houses a range of other species that migrated when Australia was still connected to Asia, Antarctica and South America via land bridges about 40 million years ago.
Back then, rainforests were much more common across Australia and Nightcap Oak trees were found in many of them. As Australia moved north over millennia and the climate warmed, the Nightcap Oak can now only survive in a tiny pocket of the state’s north.
The area, the location of which is a carefully guarded secret, has been hard hit over the years by drought, bushfire and floods, reducing the trees’ already slim chances of survival. Scientists and conservationists like National Parks and Wildlife Service threatened species officer Justin Mallee are racing against the clock to conserve and protect the trees.