Victorian Volcanic Plains Conservation Management Network

Raising awareness about the value and use of native grasslands, seasonal wetlands, grassy woodlands & other ecosystems on the Victorian Volcanic Plains


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More on native grassland burning

There was so much information from the CCMA workshop on ecological burning that I decided to post some more from my notes. Participants at the workshop would have gained a good understanding on the intricacies of burning and that there is a long way to go to get more ecological burning back into the landscape.

Kangaroo grass

One of the benefits of burning roadsides is to make them safer. Some weeds make roadsides unsafe. Police in the south west are pleased to see roadsides burnt as it helps to reduce accidents. Phalaris, an environmental weed on roadsides, grows very tall and may hide kangaroos which jump out and cause accidents. Native grass is not as tall and thick and kangaroos are more visible. Kangaroo grass greens up after rain and grows over summer providing less fuel for fires.

If we involve those who work on roadsides such as grader operators, they  learn about the value of grasslands and gain a better understanding of why they need to work in certain ways to prevent weed spread. Taking those involved on working on roadsides on bus trips provides a positive experience especially if participants are given grassland brochures and asked to find a few species.

Promote the good things that are happening. If CFA brigades that are involved in roadside burns are kept informed about projects on roadsides and participate in workshops they develop more ownership and keep a closer eye on roadsides.

 

When there are fire restrictions in place you will need a permit to burn. Fire breaks are required. Burning is very bureaucratic within the fire restriction period and you can’t burn before 10am if you want to.

CFA brigades choose to burn and there is no legislation that says they have to burn. Here is a link to a video about the Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the CFA working together to get better burning on roadsides.

Private landholders may choose to burn outside the fire restriction  period which is usually from late April depending on the season. They usually choose to burn from a mown break as graded and ploughed breaks are expensive to put in and maintain and may allow weeds to take hold. They also can have more flexibility on the time of day for burning.

 

Getting burns to happen is difficult with fewer workers employed on farms and more contractors employed for specific work. There are less private trucks and fewer volunteers.

Burning on private land is difficult. There are less skilled people and it is expensive to employ contractors. The CFA don’t want to assist as it is seen as an extra activity and it is hard to get extra people to assist. There is a lot of pressure to burn.

Traditional Owner burning is not the same as ecological burning. It may have ecological outcomes but it is done for different outcomes and has a strong cultural element. Here is a link to a burn at Teesdale.

Native grass has more protein that exotic grasses and markets are developing for the seed. The price of kangaroo grass seed has sky rocketed recently as interest grows. The management of grassland is expensive and there is a need to look for economic opportunities. Some Traditional Owners are becoming more involved in land management including burning and investigating new markets for native plant produce.

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Rambling about cemeteries

A few grassland tourists would have visited the Rokewood Cemetery grassland lately, as it is one of the best places to see a range of native grassland flowers. This section of the tourism market seems to be overlooked but there must be lots of people traveling around to look at grasslands given the number of activities scheduled for the spring. Just another reason to keep our grasslands and grassy woodlands well managed.

If you are a regular visitor to the Rokewood Cemetery grassland, did you notice any changes? While the grassland is still fenced, the fence has recently been moved inwards, so this results in about 1000m2 extra being regularly mown, so less native flowers and less seeding, which is only okay if you are managing for weed orchid or watsonia.

There has always has been a need to balance the requirements for parking with grassland management at this cemetery. In 2013 a fence was erected with Government funding and another entrance was put into the cemetery proper to allow for overflow parking. Now it appears more parking space was required, so the fence has been moved and the usual black star stakes have also been replaced with galvanised ones. Perhaps they are less intrusive but they are an interesting choice, as the grassland is burnt every few year and fire damages galvanising.

a wide angle view of part of the changed fencing

Cemeteries on the Victorian Volcanic Plain (VVP) are a microcosms for the multiple issues we come up against every day when managing grasslands/grassy woodland remnants whether it is in a reserve or roadside. This is the third VVP cemetery I have visited this month where the native plants are being impacted by the timing, frequency, height and extent of mowing.

Is it possible to manage the seemingly conflicting requirements of cemeteries and threatened species? Neatness versus the need to go to seed, the requirement for more graves versus the need for enough space to fulfill ecological functions.

If the answer is yes then we need specific policy guidance, advice and funding to assist trustees to manage these last native remnants that in a few cases contain endangered flora, fauna and communities. Trustees (or other land managers) shouldn’t have to balance the conflicting requirements on their own, with limited resources. Perhaps similar to the CFA where vegetation management officers provided a valuable service to brigades, we need a biodiversity officer for cemeteries.


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Grassland motivation

It seems a bit quite on the grassland front so I thought a few photos might get us in the mood for planning some spring walks. I realise there is a focus on plants but if anyone wants to send me some VVP fauna photos that we can use then you are more than welcome vvpcmn@gmail.com


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Volcanoes and Pimeleas

 

A view across the VVP to some volcanoes. Pimeleas are hiding in the grass on the roadside.

Last year Glengower Road in Hepburn Shire, was burnt as part of a CFA training exercise. This roadside is home to Spiny Rice‑flower, Pimelea spinescens subsp. spinescens, listed as critically endangered under the Australian Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). On Sunday it was time to see how the plants were growing after the burn and all the effort by the CFA staff and volunteers. It had been a long un-burnt site.

These are not easy plants to find unless you have a keen eye or they are flowering. The small cream-yellow flowers appear from April to August and last year after the burn only a few were visible and some were just burnt stumps. When you see these small plants it is hard to imagine that they are reportedly so long-lived (30 to 50 years and possibly up to 100 years).

This season they are looking very healthy and are flowering profusely. Their long life is down to their very large tap root which may be up to 1.5m deep and it also gives them the ability to survive fire, if it is not too frequent. Male and female plants are required for reproduction along with the right pollinators.

The spiny rice‑flower occurs in grassland habitats mostly on basalt-derived soils in south-western Victoria and sedimentary soils in north-central Victoria according to the Nationally Threatened Species and Ecological Communities EPBC Act policy statement 3.11 (2009).

 

 


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Brolgas near Mortlake

Here is a  video of some brolgas, a chance sighting by Lisette from the Basalt to Bay Landcare Network. She was coming back from “near Mortlake today and looking for gorse and spotted this trio using a paddock. The three farms to the south of this have participated in Landcare with us over a number of years, and there are more in either direction who do Landcare under their own steam – hence the credits directed at them. By the time I closed my window my hands matched the colour of my blue jacket, but watching this bird jumping and calling reminded me that spring is coming.”


National Eucalypt Day

Here are some photos from trees on the VVP to help celebrate the beauty and habitat value of eucalypts