Urgent work is being done to save two of Port Arthur’s most significant heritage trees. The English oaks (Quercus robur) are suffering from the effects of soil compaction, caused by the foot traffic of many thousands of visitors and being next to an access road.
Port Arthur Historic Site Director of Conservation and Infrastructure Jane Harrington, said that the oaks were a defining feature of the Site’s landscape and heritage.
“Along with the ruins, the English park-like landscape of Port Arthur is one of its most recognisable and important features”, she said. “This pair of trees is in the centre of the Site and is pivotal to any experience of it. Their loss, before their time, would be a tragedy.”
The oaks, which are believed to be around 150 years old and thought by some to be among the oldest surviving European trees in Australia, also provide shade to picnickers and users of electric barbecues near their base. Dr Harrington said that it will be necessary to remove the barbecues in order to ensure the survival of the oaks.
“Both trees are also experiencing some die back on the upper outer tips of the canopy as a result of being under stress. Nevertheless they are still structurally sound and are expected to live at least another 50 years. This could be longer, if they are cared for and managed over the long term.”
Further conservation measures will include the removal of a large amount of road base material from the root zones of the trees to reduce compaction. A cell structure is to be placed under the road to disperse the weight of vehicles using the road and a fence will be built to reduce pedestrian traffic around the trees.