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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 20(1) June - August 2011, p 20-21

Cross Property Biodiversity Planning

Toni McLeish
Conservation Management Network, Queanbeyan. Email: toni.mcleish@environment.nsw.gov.au

Regeneration within a Grassy Box Woodland remnant.

Regeneration within a Grassy Box Woodland remnant. Photo: Graham Fifield

The Grassy Box Woodland Conservation Management Network (GBWCMN) was established in 1998 to support managers of Box Gum grassy woodlands across the western slopes and tablelands of NSW. These woodlands are listed as Endangered Ecological Community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and are a component of the Critically Endangered White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland is listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

With limited resources the GBWCMN has focused its efforts on broad communication and extension. The opportunity provided by the Caring for Our Country program 2009 formalised existing relationships and lead to greater on-ground outcomes and increased support for network members in the project area.

With funding from Caring for our Country, the Department of Primary Industry and the Office of Environment and Heritage NSW, with the support of other project partners including the GBWCMN, have developed and implemented a landscape planning exercise that has neighbours working together to create landscape linkages for biodiversity across property boundaries. Six groups of 10 properties are currently engaged in the process, linking thousands of hectares.

The Cross Property Biodiversity Conservation Planning, which is a part of the landscape project, has the key goal to improve habitat and connectivity between habitat patches. Providing a range of habitat types is also important, as different plants and animals have different needs and may have different tolerances to disturbance. Some species thrive in open grazed paddocks, while others cannot survive, or move readily, through these areas. The overall success of a plant or animal in the landscape will depend on:

  • what comprises habitat for that species
  • how much of that habitat remains in the landscape
  • how far the species is able to move or disperse through non-habitat
  • how the remaining habitat is distributed across the landscape.

Typical farms have small patches of remnant woodland, or indeed different elements of habitat provided in nearby areas. Finding a way to mesh these different areas together so the component patches can function like one larger patch is critical to connect organisms (both plants and animals) across the landscape, thereby allowing:

  • breeding between different populations, retaining genetic diversity and health
  • dispersal of young
  • seasonal movements to meet needs for food and shelter
  • enabling recolonisation into a patch affected by adverse events such as a fire. If this is prevented, that patch will become simplified, with fewer species.

Creating a mesh of habitats across the landscape, including highly fertile areas near creeks (which provide food, water and shelter in dry times when they are scarce in the hills) will best allow organisms to cope with reduced amounts of habitat.

Look for simple solutions

A range of basic approaches have been combined on properties to incorporate biodiversity conservation enhancement measures into property plans with minimal impacts on the farming enterprise. For example:

  • areas that are impractical to graze (too rocky, isolated by a creek) or rarely grazed (laneways, mostly cropped) may be good places to consider for habitat improvement by planting scattered trees and shrubs and spreading native grass seed
  • improving existing habitat patches, – (ideally minimum 10 ha) and expand and improve shape by infill planting to nearby trees and patches
  • adding other habitat elements (fallen logs, different grasses, wattles etc)
  • grazing stock in a way that does not impact negatively on biodiversity. For example keeping ground cover at least 10 cm tall and allowing native plant species to set seed
  • concentrating on linking remnants that are no more than 1 km apart and link patches using the most basic connection
  • concentrating on protecting and restoring scattered paddock trees over whole of paddocks
  • planting so that trees are scattered less than 70m apart
  • adding groves of trees, fallen timber and shrubs to corridors or paddocks
  • protecting rocky areas for reptiles and plants.

A minimum 100 m wide corridor with these qualities qualifies as a patch if it is at least 10 ha in size. Intermediate patches should be created if the distance between patches is greater than 1 km.

Building corridors from good habitat out to small, isolated remnants should be avoided. Fauna may try to breed in the isolated remnants and find there are insufficient resources to successfully rear young, or there is no nearby habitat for their young to disperse. When creating links to such remnants, try to build multiple links or continuous habitat (scattered trees) to reduce this risk.

Structural complexity at both a paddock and farm scale should be increased and some fertile areas, not necessarily locked up from farm use, but carefully managed to protect wildlife. Utilise patchiness in grazing systems – whatever the normal grazing regime, (set-stocked, rotational, high density short duration), consider changing it in some areas, or for some periods. Some animals and plants like more bare areas, while others like dense tall tussocks.

Acknowledgements

This article is based on an article written by Susan Jackson NPWS for “Woodland Wanderings’ the GBWCMN newsletter Spring 2010).

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