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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Next week’s SWIFFT topic – Indigenous Knowledge of Ecology

Here is a reminder about the last SWIFFT video-conference for the year. It is on Thursday next week, 26th October. The theme is Indigenous Knowledge of Ecology or what is becoming known in some circles as Aboriginal Science.  Here is the link to the list of venues and the start time is 9:45am

This session will be hosted from the Ballarat Office but there are venues across the state.

Some things to note

  1.  Please remember to sign in at the Offices as you arrive.  This is important for our staff that everyone observes this security protocol.
  2. We are very keen to know who attends the video-conferences and where you are from – there will be attendance sheets at each centre – if you could be sure to sign it and nominate what organisation or group you belong to that’d be appreciated.  If you are there unaffiliated – then please simply write “none” – we’ll know what that means.

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The art of the firebreak

Many of our roadsides where there are significant grasslands also happen to be the roads that are strategic fire breaks. The regular burning, every 2-3 years, is one of the reasons why the grasslands still exist. To enable a roadside to be burnt safely there needs to be a fire break.

firebreak with a row of spoil between the break and the fence

It is possible to work off a slashed break but it is more common to have a graded or mineral earth break. It takes a certain amount of skill to prepare a mineral earth break and in some cases the operator is required to go back after the burn, to spread the  spoil back, so that a row of soil is not left against the fence.

a firebreak with a row of spoil adjacent to the windbreak

If it is not spread back the raised spoil becomes a great place for weeds to grow, which will then either blow into the paddock or across the native grassland. There also may be an impact on drainage. Putting in a fire break is just one of the expenses involved in managing a roadside,  but it is a big one. Fire breaks was one of the many issues discussed at last week’s VVP Linear Reserves Project bus trips for weed contractors.

The photo below is an example of where a far too wide area was cultivated for a break and now there is an extensive weedy strip. In general native grasslands will produce less biomass than a grassland that has been damaged in some way and introduced grasses such as phalaris, have become established.

a 3m fire break and previous firebreak that was too wide

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Hidden native grassland species

One of the plants I noticed in a grassland last week was dwarf aphelia. It is found in seasonally wet places and is a very small annual sedge-like herb.

Aphelia pumilo Dwarf Aphelia

I haven’t noticed it before probably because it is such a small plant, but I did remember seeing it in one of the grassland books, Plains Wandering, which is still a great resource to do to use for grassland plant identification.

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VVP native grassland infiltrators

Here is some photos of plants that you will find in a grassland and could mistake for being native. Unfortunately they are weeds and shouldn’t be growing there at all.

Some of these introduced plants are small and probably insignificant in the scheme of things. When there is only a small bucket of funding for weed control contractors need to know which ones to control for the greatest impact. This is one of the reasons the VVP Linear Reserves Project organised to take contractors out on site recently.

The Cape Tulip however, is listed as one of the weeds that you are required to control under the Catchment and Land Protection Act. If you were going to prioritise which weeds to spray then the Cape Tulip would be on the top of the list in this situation. In this case it would be funded by the land manager.

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Looking after VVP linear reserves

Many people drive past native grasslands and wonder what the fuss is all about but if you have the responsibility of managing grasslands you need to employ contractor who can see more than grass. The CCMA and GHCMA ran 2 bus trips last week especially for weed contractors to help them learn how to prioritise which weeds to control and to help them with some plant identification.

Currently there is funding for some of our VVP linear reserves so there is a lot of weed control to be carried out through the spring. DELWP has funding to control some environmental weeds that will add to the work already done by Councils and VicRoads. The hard part for contractors is to work out which weeds are the important ones to control to give the best value for money.

There was a good turn out for the bus trips and we saw a range of grasslands on roadsides. DELWP, VicRoads and the CFA were present to provide extra guidance and explain the many intricacies of working on roadsides.

We spotted one interesting plant which I am guessing is trialing hop bush, a threatened species.


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It is the silly season already!

I always think of Christmas as the silly season and that has started already with Christmas trees and other decorations  in the larger stores and we haven’t even had the Grand Final.

The other ‘silly season’ is when contractors think it is OK to drive on wet #VVP grassland roadsides and that it won’t cause any damage. I took these photos yesterday on a roadside in Moorabool Shire. Lucky for them it is not a high conservation value roadside, but still no excuse to drive off road or through a small wetland area.

                                                 small seasonal roadside wetland