Monday, 15 October 2007

Grasslands Forever

Only 1% of the original vegetation on Victoria's volcanic plain remains, on roadsides, cemeteries, stock routes and in areas on private land that have been grazed but not cropped. Thankfully the volcanic nature of the plain meant that some areas have been impossible to plough.
The plains once supported a complex community of tussocks of Kangaroo Grass and other tussock grasses interspersed with a variety of lilies, orchids, daisies and other small herbs – 600 different species probably.
There is not enough effort being made to protect what we have left, and the loss of species and habitat is still happening. Even in reserved areas there are incremental losses of diversity over the years. Only the hardy plants are surviving because of changed fire regimes, weeds, man-made chemicals in soil and air, even climate change have an effect. And now we have machines that are capable of crushing the rocks on the plains, so we lose the fauna that use the rocks as shelter. Remnants need to be fenced and managed – strategic grazing, avoiding the use of fertilisers, weed control, a fire regime.
How can we make grasslands sexy? A lot of great work is being done by farmers, the Landcare organisation, Trust for Nature, Land for Wildlife. But a lot of the work involves planting trees and shrubs. Plains don't have trees and shrubs. And it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to re-establish a grassland. We have to put money and effort into preserving what is left.

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