Approximately 25 per cent of Christmas Island's rainforest was cleared to mine phosphate and associated infrastructure over the last century. In 1989 the Christmas Island Minesite to Forest Rehabilitation Programme (CIMFR) was launched with the main objective to preserve the Abbott's booby, an endangered seabird that nests only in the canopy of the island's rainforest and nowhere else in the world. The main concern was the effect of windshear at the edge of these clearings on Abbott's booby nesting sites in the surrounding rainforest. It was thought that the windshear caused by these clearings created extra turbulence in the surrounding rainforest canopy, resulting in Abbott's booby chicks falling from their nests. To reduce windshear, the CIMFR planted vegetation in these clearings with the expectation that a new rainforest would be created, thus reducing this wind turbulence.
With the realisation that the world's tropical rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate, the aim of forest rehabilitation program has now broadened to include not only the welfare of the Abbott's booby, but to address this need to restore Christmas Island's tropical rainforest on sites where it once occurred. Approximately 3300 hectares of rainforest on Christmas Island has been cleared over the last century and over 200 hectares (approx) has been rehabilitated with varying levels of success. The prioritisation of sites to be rehabilitated by the CIMFR is still based largely on areas where there are high densities of Abbott's booby nests. Some of the old minefields will remain un-rehabilitated for heritage purposes, while others may be available for urban, industrial, recreational, or agricultural developments.
Funding for the CIMFR comes from a conservation levy paid to the Australian Government by the current mining company. Trees for the CIMFR are produced at the Parks Australia nursery, located below the Parks Australia office at Drumsite.
As of September 2000, CIMFR entered a new era of operations with the implementation of recommendations provided by leading experts in mined land rehabilitation of tropical rainforest regions. This advice was sought in order to adopt best-practice mainland rehabilitation techniques. Some of the biggest changes that will take place within the CIMFR due to the new methodologies include: lower density plantings, greater mechanisation of operations, shorter planting season, increased fertiliser application rates, less earthworks per unit area, specific species-site matching, the disuse of exotic species, and greater post-planting maintenance.
As less than 0.25 per cent of Australia and its territories now remain covered by tropical rainforest, it is very important that we protect, conserve, and improve the integrity of this remaining heritage.