News of Friends of Grasslands
Supporting native grassy ecosystems
In this issue
SAT 11 MAR 9:30am to 3:30pm Old Cooma Common Working Bee Tasks include hanging new gate and ‘locking it good’, follow up control of weeds such as hawthorn, briars, vipers bugloss and Aarons rod, and African lovegrass. For those who don’t want to use herbicides, there are plenty of tasks available. Enquiries and car pooling: Margaret Ning (contact details back page).
SUN 26 MAR Scabby Nature Reserve with Geoff Hope We shall visit the area between Mt Scabby and the upper Sams Creek swamp near Yaouk. There are some magnificent mature stands of snow gum with tiny patches of Sphagnum Bog and the extensive Carex mire. The latter has provided a 12,000 year history of vegetation followed by significant European disruption. The site is reached via Shannons Flat and Yaouk, a two hour trip with a possible stop at the Mt Clear camp ground and the ancient stone terraces on the Murrumbidgee. Once there, the active can follow Sams Creek or climb the lower slopes of Mt Scabby while the sane stroll amongst the woodlands. Bring lunch. Meeting place Monaro Highway just south of Johnson Drive, Calwell, at 8am to travel in convoy. Talk to Margaret if you plan to come and to arrange car pooling.
SUN 30 APRIL 9AM to 2:00PM Greening Australia free bus tour and lunch Susie Wilson will show FOG members a variety of revegetation projects within the ACT, including sites which have been established through the new ACT Land Keepers project. The tour will also revisit some of the restoration work undertaken in former pine forest areas following the January 2003 fire. Details of each site will be provided. Meeting point Kubura Place, Aranda at 9am, or along the way. To book, contact Janet Russell (contact details back page).
Photos from FOG’s propagating grasses and forbs workshop. News report page 2.
Some diary dates –Margaret Ning
The following are FOG’s program dates for 2006 after April – please record them in your diary. For more details, please contact me (see back page).
Sat and Sun. 20 and 21 May. Visit heathland near Mollymook with Jackie Miles.
Sat 17 June. 2-4:40pm. Presentations on Goulburn grasslands (Greg Baines) and Southern Tablelands palaeoecology (Geoff Hope), Mugga.
Sat. 15 July 10am to noon. FOG’s winter grassland tour to Blundells Flat with Mark Butz.
Sat 26 Aug. 2 to 4:30pm FOG’s winter slide afternoon: you decide. Opportunity for members to present 10 to 20 min slide show.
Sat and Sun, 16 and 17 Sept. Visit coastal heathland near Eden with Jackie Miles.
Fri. to Mon., 20 to 23 October. Visit to Terrick Terrick and Hamilton grasslands, Victoria.
Sat. 11 Nov. 9:30 am to 3:30pm. Working bee at Old Cooma Common, Cooma.
Wed 15 Nov. Lunchtime St Mark’s grassland with Benj Whitworth.
Sat. 18 Nov. 1:15 to 5pm. Discovering insects workshop with Kim Pullen and Roger Farrow. Mugga. Small cost.
Wed. 22 Nov.5 to 6pm. Visit to Hall Cemetery.
Sat 25 Nov. 10 to 11am. Mulanggari grassland with Benj Whitworth.
Sat and Sun, 16 and 17 Dec. Southern grasslands and swamps with Roger Farrow.
Special interest to members
Wed-Thurs, 29-30 Nov. Australian Network for Plant Conservation ACT Grassy Ecosystem Workshop.
Non-FOG activities of special interest
2-9 March at Twofold Bay. Contact Sandra Hand on 4846 1096 or Sandra.email@example.com (see page 3 of last newsletter).
Sun to Thurs 19-23 March Veg Futures 2006 Conference, organised by Greening Australia and Land & Water Australia, at Albury-Wodonga. FOG will be involved with a presentation and poster display. See last newsletter page 6.
Wed 15 March 1:30 to 5:30pm pm Forum on conserving the ACT’s lowland native vegetation: which way forward? (See article on page 5.)
Catching up with matters
Dear readers, this newsletter often receives many compliments for its diversity and comprehensiveness. Please continue the positive comments as it swells the head.
However, some say that in fact it contains too much and some readers don’t read it all. Personally, I would like to have a bigger type and keep it to twelve pages, but invariably, I find myself with material of interest to FOG’s wide variety of members which should go in.
Also, I get deluged with requests to include information on upcoming events and other important happenings – but hey, it is good that so much is happening around grassy ecosystem and related conservation matters. Even so, I often have to cut material, ignore some, and hold over articles.
To manage matters, the newsletter is often cut off a week or two before the end of the month. Therefore, there is no report (apart from the vice president’s report) of the FOG AGM held on 26 February. A report on the AGM will appear next time.
Please continue to send me material and we will manage somehow, and you don’t have to read it all.
Propagating grasses and forbs
28 JANUARY Twenty seven people arrived at the appointed carpark in the Australian National University on a pleasant sunny summer morning to take part in the FOG workshop on propagating native grasses and forbs.
When I arrived at the designated start time of 9am, Warren Saunders already had the group enthralled talking about the life cycle of native grasses and pointing out the importance of understanding the difference between monocots to which grasses belong and dicots, and the distinction between winter growing (C3) and summer growing (C4) grasses. Warren has a wonderful, down-to-earth way of describing plants, combining both a strong knowledge of botany with horticultural practice. Then it was time for everyone to introduce themselves before examining the site.
Around the carpark is a grassland garden dominated by local native grasses and wildflowers under a canopy of old huge apple box trees (Eucalyptus bridgesiana). The vegetation is very lush with a variety of native grasses and wildflowers. It is designed as a low maintenance garden and little weeding is undertaken. Nevertheless what weeds there were are easily removed. A delightful feature was the presence of a water course. Even though no water was present, wet plant specialists were present.
Warren talked about the different plants, how to identify ripe seed, and how to gather it. Then he handed out bags, and FOG members showed their moving and shaking skills. Before we left the site, Warren illustrated how to prune native grasses and forbs.
Then everyone headed to the cars and it was off to Seeds and Plants Australia in Pialligo to learn about propagating plants.
On arrival, Warren talked more about propagating plants. Then we took a break for morning tea and vittles supplied by Sandra, and Janet and Andy. After the break Warren talked about soil mixes and how best to prepare soil for striking plants. He mixed up a large batch of soil mix for later use.
A walk through the nursery followed. Warren illustrated how to raise tube stock and mentioned some dos and don’ts of propagation. Warren has a wonderful selection of indigenous grasses and forbs.
Then it was time for people to fill their boxes with soil and to plant the seed that had been gathered. Warren also took some seed from stock for those who wanted something that had not been gathered.
An amazing phenomenon for those who had not seen it before, including me, was to observe awned kangaroo grass seed bury itself in the soil – “it’s alive” said Jenny.
Then the sweet shop was opened – Warren said that he was overstocked and he invited people to choose well established seedlings to take home. We were not reluctant to do so.
Thanking Warren, Geoff Robertson said that Warren had been both a long-term and generous FOG member, with an absolutely amazing knowledge of the botany and horticulture of indigenous plants. Because of his collection activities, Warren had an intimate knowledge of local plants and where to locate them.
Geoff referred to Warren’s Aboriginal heritage which played a large part in his passion for Australian plants – it was good to see a first Australian teaching us newcomers about Australian plants, Geoff said.
Canberra environmentalist wins OA award
Ian Falconer was awarded the Order of Australia in the recent Australia Day honours list for his research into algal toxins, drinking water quality and water catchment management, and for his international education, and environmental conservation.
His algal toxin work led to drinking water guidelines adopted by the World Health Organisation, and subsequently Australia and New Zealand, the European Union, and Brazil. In Brazil he worked with their Ministry of Health, and then two years later with the water supply companies, drafting the regulations and then advising on their implementation. Last year he published a book on the subject by CRC Press Florida, USA.
His education work involved assisting in the development of science at a new university in Malaysia for ten years on a honorary part-time basis and similarly for fifteen years in South Thailand, through the International Development Program, a Australian aid-financed university program. The work ranged from building design to curriculum development to research and higher degree development. Ian is currently advising on environmental education in three Thai universities.
The conservation work was for Friends of the Aranda Bushland (FAB), which won the Landcare award for a community group in the ACT some years back, and for which Ian was convenor, and for his work for the Conservation Council where he is vice president and takes a very active role in water issues and overall governance.
While Ian is technically retired he is more than fully occupied in combining continued professional work, voluntary conservation work and family involvement. Before retirement he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Adelaide University, and before that combined administrative and teaching work at the University of New England , Armidale, where he was Professor of Biochemistry from 1972 onwards.
Ian and his wife Mary, who also shares his passion for environmental work and is currently convenor of FAB, also have a close involvement with their eight grandchildren in Canberra.
Those who know Ian appreciate that he always brings a disinterested approach to how things should be done so that a conservation organisation can send clear and meaningful messages to government and public. They also appreciate his dry wit and his willingness to show leadership by tackling difficult tasks. Congratulations Ian and well deserved.
Ian Falconer (middle) with Caroline Curnow (FAB) and Wayne Berry, Speaker of ACT Legislative Assembly, at the launch of the 'Snow Gums to Forest' interpretive walk through Aranda bushlands.
Monaro upland wetlands listed
17 NOVEMBER Upland wetlands of the New England Tablelands and the Monaro Plateau were listed as an endangered ecological community under the EPBC Act. They consist of wetlands that occur in depressions in the landscape, rather than being connected to rivers and streams, and can occur as near permanent, intermittent or ephemeral wetlands. This depends on a number of factors, including rainfall patterns and the depth of the depression they occur in. The wetlands occur between 700 and 1400 m above sea level, mostly on basalt soils.
These wetlands support a range of species of animals and plants, such as turtles, frogs, sedges and water plants. They are restricted in their distribution and are vulnerable to ongoing threats, such as draining, damming and trampling.
The map (sorry for the quality) shows the location of the Monaro wetlands. As most FOG members will appreciate, these wetlands often occur with grasslands.
The priority recovery and threat abatement actions to assist in the recovery of this ecological community include:
- preventing further draining or damming
- providing alternative water sources for stock
- fencing off all or part of the wetlands to control stock access
- avoiding grazing at times of the year when the ecological community, and the species it supports, are particularly vulnerable to disturbance
- create and re-vegetate buffer zones around the wetlands
- remove and manage weeds.
Further information on this listing can be found at the DEH web site at www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications.
The summer 2005 issue of Grass Notes, published by the Native Grasses Resources Group Inc. states that the “Grass Notes is about to be reinvented.” This follows the standing down of long-time chairman Bob Myers and a new committee taking over.
An article in the Notes by Wayne Brown sums up the many achievements of Bob who was a founding member of the Native Grasses Resources Group established in SA in 1994 to promote native grasses. The Group under Bob’s leadership has made an enormous contribution to native grasses with many books, papers and issues of the Notes coming out over the years.
To find out more about the Notes, contact its editor Neil Hodge on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ecological communities newsletter
Communities for Communities is a quarterly newsletter published by the Department of the Environment and Heritage. To date, two issues of this on-line newsletter have been published. It is a freebie and well worth a look at.
The newsletter aims to keep groups and persons informed about threatened ecological communities nominated for listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, listings made under the Act and information and resources available on the Department’s web site.
The address is http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/communities-newsletters.
Putting back the ground cover
One of the most exciting projects taking place in Australia is the grassy groundcover research project which is researching into returning the complex of indigenous grassland communities to agricultural land.
The project involves collecting seed for a wide variety of grassland grasses and forbs on a small scale, raising the plants to scale up seed production, and then trialling planting in experimental plots of degraded agricultural land. If successful, re-establishing grasslands may be an achievable task.
An update on this project is published in the Sept-Nov issue of Australasian Plant Conservation (Bulletin of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation). The project is headed by Paul Gibson Roy (Uni of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, Richmond).
Greening Australia has now released its Planting Companion - a guide to native re-vegetation in the ACT region.
This publication, compiled by Lori Gould, Greening Australia ACT and SE NSW for ACT Forests, draws together the experience and expertise of many re-vegetation practitioners around the country. It gives a wide range of useful information on topics such as site preparation, species selection, monitoring and evaluation and a guide to re-vegetation costs.
The Planting Companion is available for $10 (an additional $5 applies if postage is required). For further information , contact Rebecca (Environment ACT on 6207 2145).
Corroboree frogs on display
16 JANUARY Canberra residents and visitors were treated to a wonderful display of reptiles and frogs at the ACT Herpetological Association’s Snakes Alive display at the Australian National Botanic Gardens from 16 to 22 January.
Twenty-one northern corroboree frogs, an ACT endangered species, were on public display for the first time in the ACT. These small frogs were a delight and many people came to the display just to see these animals.
There were many other animals to see and hold. One of the many positives of the display is an opportunity for people, especially the young, who do not come into contact with reptiles to hold a snake or lizard and to have their fears melt away. The aim of this public education is to promote messages about protection of habitat, taking care on the roads not to run over reptiles, and to keep dogs and cats away from reptile habitat. As ownership of live reptiles is becoming more popular, the display also promotes good herpetofauna-keeping practices.
Many who attended the exhibition were amazed by the large numbers and varieties of live animals in the display, the many posters, specimens in bottles, and much other paraphernalia. For grassland enthusiasts, it was also an opportunity to see the grassland earless dragon and the striped legless lizard and the occasional altercation between them over territory.
There were three slide shows showing the reptiles and frogs of the region aimed at deepening interest in local conservation. Over 5,000 people attended the display, and $2,700 was raised specifically for corroboree frog research.
If you missed it this time, plan to catch-up with the next display planned for January 2007.
Photos: Northern corroboree frog above, and part of Environment ACT’s grassland earless dragon and striped legless lizard display below. ACT Herpetological Association’s Snakes Alive exhibition.
Forum on ACT native vegetation
The Conservation Council (SE Region and ACT) is organising a free public forum on ACT lowland native vegetation on March 15 (1:30 to 5pm). Members of FOG are welcome.
Against a background of increasing land degradation and declining biodiversity, most states are implementing legislation to control further clearing of native vegetation. For example, in NSW and Victoria, systems are based on the "no net loss" principle.
In 2004, the ACT Legislative Assembly rejected a private member’s bill for native vegetation protection modelled on the Victorian system. While there was support in-principle for the bill's aspirations, the practical implications of this kind of system in the ACT were were identified as needing more consideration.
The ALP has an election commitment to review the Nature Conservation Act and consider the practicalities of implementing a "no net loss" system. The Council considers that a community debate is now timely.
Over seventy-five percent of native vegetation in the Canberra area and Murrumbidgee Valley has been cleared, and continues to be cleared for urban and infrastructure development. The main focus has been on conserving threatened species and communities and 'significant' large trees. There is a need to consider native habitat and biodiversity conservation more broadly, to turn around a continual loss of native vegetation to a net gain and restoration - in both non-urban and urban contexts.
The forum aims to have a broad ranging discussion on how we can best conserve lowland vegetation in the ACT for future generations. Speakers will discuss approaches to native vegetation protection in different jurisdictions, what lessons can be learned, and what systems could be appropriate for the ACT.
The forum will be facilitated by Stuart McMahon, (NPWS) and speakers will include Dr Phil Gibbons, chief architect of NSW ‘no net loss’ system, and Dr Rosemary Purdie, ACT Commissioner for the Environment.
For more information, contact the Conservation Council on 02 6247 7808. Venue: Optus Theatre, CSIRO Discovery, Clunies Ross Street, Black Mountain, ACT. Afternoon tea will be provided and parking is available at the venue.
Forests Forever Ecology Camp
Alison Salmons, Environment East Gippsland
Dear FOG, I found your group on the web. I am writing to let you know about a Forest Ecology Camp that is being held in Easter this year, in East Gippsland, in case your members would be interested. This camp is organised by Environment East Gippsland in conjunction with the Wilderness Society, with all proceeds to go towards saving these forests.
The camp will take place at Easter (14-17 April) in the heart of East Gippsland's forests. It will be guided by expert ecologists through magnificent forests - be awed by their beauty and complexity.
You will need to bring camping gear, friends, food and transport (maybe fuel as well, as the nearest shop is 25 km away) but please, no four legged friends. We provide: tour guides, firewood, solar power, toilets, info tent and marquee, fruit. For bookings and further information e-mail: email@example.com, or visit www.eastgippsland.net.au, or phone Alison on (03) 9417 1351 or Liz on (03) 9315 3333. Cost is 4 days $60 ($35 concession), or $20 per day ($15 conc). Accompanied Teenagers 1/2 price, under 12 yrs free. Please book early - numbers limited.
From Enviroweeds’ mailing list
Query: I've come across flaxleaf fleabane (Conyza bonariensis) for the first time this year. The only literature I've been able to find concerns control in agricultural situations (usually in fallow). Does anyone have experience with its control amongst Austrostipa, Austrodanthonia or native grasses in general?
Response Often find myself weeding one of the several fleabane species amongst road edges, track edges and after fire where I have heaps of natives regenerating or established native grasses. It really responds to the disturbance and spraying them (glyphosate 1:100) kills them but will often open up more area for a new generation of fleabane and other weeds, and knocks around the good stuff you want to protect.
These days (and more so at this time of year) I just cut the top off the fleabane, just below the flower head (around hip/waist height), and paint the stem with a drop of neat glyphosate. No bending so better on the back, it's reasonably quick, and doesn't disturb the area too much so you don't get so much of the next generation coming up. The native grasses thrive in the reduced competition and I find if you do that through an area for a couple of years you can turn a weedy disturbed area to good native veg cover.
I've found this works on any species of fleabane I've come across yet and also other things to a point such as spear thistles (Cirsium vulgare), Aster spp., and sometimes purple top (Verbena spp.).
Further response: I have been considering putting in a comment on this technique for a while now. For the last three years I have been cutting and painting scotch thistles and have observed the same effect, i.e. much reduced off-target damage and reduced reinfestation. I use a machete to cut them off low, and a pressure bottle of cut and paint strength Roundup, rather than neat. The last lot I even did at normal spray strength and expect good results.
The technique also has the following benefits:
1. Much reduced chemical usage.
2. Immediate death of the thistle - no further seed development.
3. Faster, at least in situations where you would have to be careful with spray.
4. No lugging hoses or knapsacks into difficult situations.
More on weed management
A very interesting article on weed management is published in the Sept-Nov issue of Australasian Plant Conservation (Bullet of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation). The article written by Kate Smith, is titled bushcare beyond Bradley: a case study for weed control in urban habitats. It provides some well-considered rules of thumb for developing a weed strategy as well as some interesting case studies.
While in the short space available here it is not possible to summarise the criteria for prioritising weeds, a few are very worthy of mention, such as: weed mapping, eradicating any weeds that are small in number, taking account of how easy it is to access weeds, the likelihood of success, understanding weed biology and especially targeting weeds with colonising potential, understanding the competitive characteristics of some weed species, the regional implications of certain weeds, weeds that directly threatened native species, and the position of weeds in the landscape.
East O’Malley Ponds
The latest issue of Shape published by the ACT Planning and Land Authority has several pieces of interest, including an article on East O’Malley Ponds and ACT tree surveys.
A $1.9 million pond system has been established at East O’Malley to protect water quality from runoff from the new East O’Malley subdivision.
This is sad for three reasons. First, because this is the final demise of a once high quality box woodland which was tremendous bird habitat. Second, there is no mention of putting back biodiversity. Third, the ACT can readily find almost two million dollars for unimaginative land management practices when the biodiversity budget continues to be cut.
Narrandera native grass id course
A one-day workshop identification of native grass pastures for agriculture and conservation will be held at Murrumbidgee Rural Studies Centre. Cost $230. Call 1800 628 422.
Parrots in remand
17 JANUARY There was a number of superb parrot sightings in Belconnen (ACT) particularly near the remand centre. Thirty-five were reported in all. One prominent Canberra ornithologist was warned off by police because he was observed taking pictures in the vicinity of a sensitive area.
FOG members, Trish and Jim Williamson, were delighted to see the parrots in Canberra because they are somewhat rare in the ACT. Trish and Jim often see this bird on their property at Cowra where they have a large area of white box/white callitris woodland under a conservation agreement. This photo of the superb parrot was taken by Jim at their Cowra property in November. The birds’ visit no doubt resulted from moving south after fires around Yass area where the birds are more common.
The superb parrot is a threatened species which relies on grassy box woodland both for food and shelter. Bird numbers have seriously declined with the demise of box woodland. However, as towns north of Canberra have promoted this beautiful parrot and more is being done to protect and recover box woodland, the future of this bird is now more secure.
Some years ago I saw fifty birds flying over Boorowa and on a recent trip from Canberra to Forbes, I counted sixty birds in various sized groups.
Kuma Nature Reserve
FOG made a submission dated 20 February on the Kuma Nature Reserve draft plan of management which was released for comment last October. FOG members June and Bob Wilkinson represent FOG on the advisory board for the reserve. A copy of the submission can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
New Canberra region seedbank
Seeds for survivalis a new NHT project, involving Greening Australia, Environment ACT, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, CSIRO Plant Industry, and Canberra Urban Parks and Places, to improve the availability of long-term native seed supply in the ACT region. Provenance and complying with Florabank guidelines are key standards. Training in seed collection and storage will be important elements of this project. For more information, contact Ben Cavuoto on 0427 270 326.
The fourth native grasses conference, 10 to 13 October 2005, was set amongst the rolling and largely treeless hills around Burra in South Australia. The town of Burra has the most numerous, lovely and interesting stone and rendered buildings anywhere in Australia. It was attended by over 150 people who fully enjoyed the conference with its many new ideas, lively discussion, and opportunities to learn about conservation of native grasslands and the production and use of native grasses. Sprinkled among attendees were many members of Friends of Grasslands who took the opportunity to catch up, make new friends, and extend networks.
The conference started with a cocktail party on the Monday evening in the Burra regional art gallery where there was a special display of art, using various media, on grasslands. Two days of the conference (Tuesday and Thursday) where devoted to presentations, while the Wednesday was devoted to a field trip to visit two conservation parks, and two properties. There were also many stalls and poster displays at the conference providing a range of information and insights into aspects of conservation and local history. The FOG posters were prominently displayed and provided an opportunity to publicise the work of FOG. By the way, we gave away many newsletters to persons interested in grassland conservation.
The conference was primarily sponsored by the Stipa Native Grasses Association (NSW), the Mid North Grasslands Working Group (SA), and the Native Grass Resource Group Inc (SA). It also had a heap of other sponsors.
The conference had six themes. The first two asked where we have come from and where we are now, while the other themes covered healthy landscapes and profits, on-farm management of native grasses, native seed production and establishment, and fire as a potential management tool. Up to usual form, the proceedings were available at the beginning at the conference, and if readers can lay a hand on a copy, they will enjoy an informative read.
It is difficult to summarise a conference like this and in any case most papers are available in the proceedings. The following are a few comments on the presentations and field trip.
Photo of Stipa conference. Right: field visit to Anama property. Next page: field trip to Motoka Conservation Park. Page 9: Bill Semple and Charles Huxtable, Millie Nicholls, and the Flinders Ranges worm lizard.
Where have we come from?
Attendees sat spellbound as Professor Rod Wells (SA Museum) talked about the coevolution of Australian plants and their marsupial browsers followed by the marsupial grazers. Unfortunately, his paper is not in the proceedings.
Dr. Philip Clarke (SA Museum), an ethnobotanist, described the many ways in which Aboriginal people manipulated the grasslands and used grasses in a variety of ways for food, medicine and artefacts, especially in the more remote areas.
Local historian, Dr Roger Cross, in a light-hearted approach, examined various evidence on whether the hills around Burra were originally treeless, starting an on-going debate among attendees.
One of the posters (by Bill Semple) showed many artists’ paintings of the area but Bill’s paper, to be found in the proceedings, can artists be trusted for an accurate portrayal of past landscapes did not come to any definitive conclusion on whether or not the original hills were bald (grassland).
Where are we now?
Keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Price (Kiri-ganai Research, Canberra) castigated the triple-bottom-line line as a framework for making decisions about farm planning, although he did not offer an alternative framework. His actual talk was peppered with examples of his farm consultancy work where he offered some interesting insights about how farmers might bring together personal and financial aspirations.
The talk by Ian Falkenberg (co-authored by Meg Robertson) talked about applying adaptive grassland management to the Mokota (Grassland) Conservation Park in South Australia. This provided very useful background information for the Wednesday field trip. Ian works for the SA Department of Environment and Heritage.
Lewis Kahn’s paper (and co-authored by Judi Earl and Millie Nicholls) described a project aimed both to increase perennial grass cover and productivity. The presentation included both some interesting case studies and evidence. The field trip visited a number of the case study properties. While, this is an exciting piece of work, I felt a bit uncomfortable about the conclusions which seem a little too good to be true. Unfortunately there did not seem to be anyone present to debate the methods or conclusions.
Healthy landscapes/healthy profits
Colin Langford’s paper summarised the principles in his book managing native pastures for agriculture and conservation which also has a number of other authors. He provided a very useful outline of how grassland and woodland devolve into native pasture and how native grassland, modified native pasture and highly productive native pasture can be best managed to retain their value and maximise production.
Mark Gardner’s paper putting it together outlined his work in assisting farmers to identify their long-term and varied goals and how to plan and monitor their achievements.
Darren Wilson’s paper on sustainable management of grazing pressure in the rangelands considered that sustainable grazing required managers to take account of and control native and feral animals. His paper provided useful insights into control of native and feral animals and exciting work he had undertaken to increase populations of yellow-footed rock-wallabies.
Healthy landscapes/healthy biodiversity
Steve Hamilton’s paper looked at the management of native grassland remnants in Victoria. Unfortunately, findings were very preliminary and I felt insufficient to draw any worthwhile conclusions. Jamie Kirkpatrick’s paper talked about experiments in grazing in Tasmanian grasslands. Again the experiment has been conducted for too short a time period to provide definitive results, but the conclusion so far is that Tassie grasslands are fairly robust.
Tim Milne’s presentation talked about a favourite subject of mine, grassland reptiles. Who cannot be charmed by the pygmy bluetongue? A new animal for me was the Flinders Ranges worm lizard (Aprasia pseudopulcella). We saw one on the field trip – an amazing small, thin animal, as the photo suggests.
Establishing native grasses
There were four presentations on different aspects of establishing native grasses, ranging from scientific experiments to more practical growing. Knowledge on this subject is quickly accumulating.
This session contained a very interesting presentation by Nick Reid on how pasture management affects pasture composition on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. Unfortunately this is not included in the proceedings. His talk led to a lively discussion which included Wal Whalley on the take up and management of nitrogen in soils.
There were several papers on pasture cropping which devoted much time to what was happening below ground. Sarah Bruce’s paper examined some of the scientific work that is taking place to understand the impacts of pasture cropping, including its impact on productivity. While there are many pluses to pasture cropping, there may be the odd negative outcome as well.
Fire as a management tool
While Mike Wouters’ paper was provocative, he did not seem to draw any definitive conclusions as to whether fire was a good management tool and how best it might be used. Unfortunately his paper is not included in the proceedings.
The field trip
The Wednesday tour visited the Mokota and Spring Gully conservation parks, and two properties, one near Spalding and the other near Clare. As readers of the November-December 2005 issue of the FOG newsletter know, the FOG grassland tour visited Mokota and Spring Gully after the conference and so a description of those two wonderful sites is included there.
The property visits illustrated that native grasses and some forbs were coming back to these sites, indicating that that the project described by Lewis Kahn, was achieving its twin results of great perennial grass cover and higher production. However, without some comparative images of what these sites were like previously, it was difficult to understand what the composition, herbage mass and structure of these sites were before the project commenced.
Like previous Stipa conferences, it was fantastic with ideas coming from all directions. It was reassuring that many developments that have been taking place in establishing native pastures as a basis for both pasture and agriculture are now being studied scientifically, but a frustration is that more needs to be done before results are conclusive.
The proceedings provide a wealth of information, despite unfortunately some of papers not making it into the proceedings. While I commented on many of the papers, there were many more papers and presentations that I did not comment on.
Grassland: A Global Resource, edited by D.A. McGilloway. Wageningen Academic Publishers, the Netherlands, 2005. ISBN 907699871X. 429 pages.
This book contains a compilation of four plenary papers and 29 invited papers presented at the main congress of the XX International Grassland Congress held in Ireland in June-July 2005. The foreword says the book "draws together contributions from leading researchers, educators, policy makers and farmers from around the world, to espouse current knowledge and understanding of this complex ecosystem, the ways in which it can be enhanced and utilised and where the research challenges are for the future". The contributors are indeed from around the world – Australia and New Zealand, North and South America, Europe, China, south-east Asia, Kenya and Syria, as well as the host countries of Ireland and the UK.
The papers are divided into three sections: efficient production from grasslands, grassland and the environment, and delivering the benefits from grassland. A keyword index and author index are provided at the end. Readers of the FOG Newsletter are likely to be most interested in the second section, grassland and the environment. The papers in this section carry the following titles:
- Grasslands for production and the environment,
- Soil microbial community: understanding the belowground network for sustainable grassland management,
- Soil quality assessment and management,
- Water resources, agriculture and pasture: implications of growing demand and increasing scarcity,
- Grassland productivity and water quality: a 21st century issue,
- Global atmospheric change and its effect on managed grassland systems,
- Grazing land contributions to carbon sequestration,
- Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from grazed grasslands,
- Relationships between biodiversity and production in grasslands at local and regional scales, and
- Enhancing grassland biodiversity and its consequences for grassland management and utilisation.
A useful feature of the book is a listing at the beginning of each paper of 'key points' and 'keywords'.
Six other books have come out of the XX International Grassland Congress, one containing offered papers, and five with the proceedings of satellite workshops: optimisation of nutrient cycling and soil quality for sustainable grasslands, molecular breeding for the genetic improvement of forage crops and turf, pastoral systems in marginal environments, silage production and utilisation, and utilisation of grazed grass in temperate animal systems.
The series is available through CSIRO Publishing, ph. (03) 9662-7500 or Internet http://www.publish.csiro.au/home.htm .
The year 2005 saw Friends of Grasslands Inc. continue with its work in support of native grasslands and grassy ecosystems in the ACT and surrounding region. FOG's roles have, as before, included advocacy, public education and on-site protection and restoration of remnant areas of grassland. FOG continued to run a busy program of outings and workshops, and produced six issues of its newsletter. Membership stood at 193 at the end of 2005.
Our popular newsletter News of Friends of Grasslands is produced, and in large part written, by committee members Geoff Robertson and Margaret Ning, to whom we are indebted. Aside from its regular outings program, News Roundup and Michael Bedingfield's delightfully illustrated plant profiles, in 2005 News of FOG carried articles on local conservation issues such as the proposal for another dam in the ACT, funding cuts to conservation advocacy groups, and the state of recovery of vegetation west of Canberra after the bushfires. Conferences and publications were announced and books reviewed.
Destinations of outings during the year were: Long Plain and Blue Waterholes in Kosciuszko National Park (overnight camp) in January; bus tour of revegetation of burnt areas near Cotter (Greening Australia) in April; Majura Field Firing Range in July; Narooma for marine/coastal grasses in August; South Australian grasslands (after Stipa conference in Burra), St Marks church (lunchtime walk), Boorowa Travelling Stock Reserve and Jerrabomberra grasslands (jointly with COG) in October; Elizabeth Davey's native garden in Kaleen, "Garuwanga" near Nimmitabel (jointly with COG) and Mulanggari grasslands in November; and Boorowa TSR (return visit) in December. Thanks to Roger Farrow and Margaret Ning for organising the outings program, and to Roger, Margaret, Alan Scrymgeour, Lori Gould, Susie Wilson, David Eddy, Michael Treanor, Benj Whitworth, Geoff Robertson and Elizabeth Davey for leading such interesting walks. Geoff gave the now traditional winter slide show at Mugga Mugga in July.
Photos: Above: Michael Treanor on FOG’s SA grassland tour. Below: FOG/GA revegetation tour. Next page: seagrass meadow workshop, subalpine grassland tour, and basics of grassy ecosystem workshop.
FOG held three highly successful workshops in 2005: Grassland Fungi with Heino Lepp in May; Coastal/Marine Grasslands with Alan Scrymgeour in August; and Basics of Grassy Ecosystem Conservation with Geoff Robertson, Sarah Sharp, David Eddy and Rainer Rehwinkel in November. We thank these presenters for the quality of their talks and their generosity of time.
Old Cooma Common
This reserve, covering Radio Hill on the outskirts of Cooma, is dear to FOG's heart. Members devoted time to weed control, fence and gate maintenance (or replacement after theft!), and just plain nature study in working bees there in April and September. Special thanks to David Eddy as the force behind this reserve, which is looking better every year.
In October, members met with three Cooma conservation groups to discuss common goals. This was followed up by an interesting and constructive field day in December which promises excellent opportunities to collaborate in the future.
FOG put on displays at the native plant sale at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra in March, and at the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority open day in Forbes in November.
Working with other groups
Many FOG members also belong to, and in some cases are very active in other conservation clubs and societies, leading to much valuable cross-fertilization. Examples are the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG), Canberra Field Naturalists, ACT Herpetological Society and Australian Native Plants Society. FOG continued to support the Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park (STEP) in its bid to establish a regional botanic garden and education and ecosystem recovery centre, and the recently formed High Country Conservation Alliance (HCCA) campaigning to reserve "Brandy Mary's" near Tumbarumba.
FOG has an excellent working relationship with the ACT Government, which regularly seeks input from members on conservation management issues in the Territory. FOG commented on the draft Natural Temperate Grasslands Conservation Strategy which was launched in July. We also submitted comment on the draft management plan for Namadgi National Park.
FOG helped sponsor the 2005 Science Fair in Canberra. In particular Geoff Robertson became involved with a biodiversity project at Hughes Primary School.
Di Chambers resigned as secretary/public officer mid-year to work in Darwin; we thank her for her contribution to FOG and hope to see her back in the committee on her return. Janet Russell, already on the committee and responsible for the minutes, ably took over as secretary. The 2005 committee was 11 strong and I would like to thank all members for their hard work, dedication and support.
Fairy Aprons Charming but unusual - they trap insects!
Fairy aprons look quite attractive and harmless, and if you touch them they won’t hurt you. However, they have the ability to capture tiny insects and other invertebrates that live in the shallow water or mud that they grow in. These plants prefer an open location with very damp conditions, such as swamps or springs. For example, a colony I know grows in an open woodland, next to an intermittent creek, where after good rain the area can be quite boggy. However, in dry weather the soil can be dry and hard and the plants disappear.
The colony produces several hundred flowers, in an area of ten to fifteen square metres. Because the foliage is quite small, and must grow among other plants, they are difficult to find unless they are in flower.
These plants are also known as bladderworts. On submerged stems there are small bladders which trap the tiny invertebrates. These animals break down and are absorbed as a way of obtaining extra nutrition. Nitrogen is of particular importance as their preferred water-logged soil is deficient in it.
The flowers of fairy aprons are purple in colour with a single, spade-shaped petal with a creamy yellow patch at the top near the throat. The back of the flower is tubular. At the base of the plant there is a number of small, low growing, spoon shaped leaves. These are only up to fifteen millimetres long and grow from stems that are invisible in the wet soil. The flowers rise up on slender stems to about twenty cm above the mud, and usually occur in pairs. After flowering, small spherical fruits are produced, each about four millimetres in diameter.
The drawing shows the visible parts of the plant, the basal leaves, flowers and fruits. The plant is shown at seventy percent of normal size. A single flower is shown at a normal size, though they can be larger, with the petal being up to twenty millimetres long.
Fairy aprons occur at most altitudes in the ACT. They are also found in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. The botanical name is Utricularia dichotoma. Utricularia means “a little bladder”. Dichotoma means “two branches”, and refers to the habit of the flowers occurring in pairs. A similar species is the Tasmanian bladderwort (U. monanthos). This is much smaller, up to four centimetres tall, and has a single flower on each stem.
Fairy aprons - Utricularia dichotoma - an interesting and charming item in the wetter places of our grassy ecosystems.
FRIENDS OF GRASSLANDS INC
Web address: http://www.geocities.com/friendsofgrasslands
Supporting native grassy ecosystems
Address: PO Box 987, Civic Square ACT 2608
Geoff Hope Vice President
Kim Pullen Vice President
Janet Russell Secretary
Sandra Hand Treasurer
David Eddy Committee
Roger Farrow Committee (Program)
Christine Kendrick Committee
Margaret Ning Committee (Membership/Program)
Geoff Robertson Committee (Newsletter)
Benjamin Whitworth Committee
Dierk von Behrens Committee
Details of new committee elected on 26 February will appear in next issue.
Friends of Grasslands Inc
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608