Open Day and plants returning

Friday 21 December, 2007
Volunteers put a temporary water trough in a goat trap. Photo Kurt and Andrea Tschirner.Volunteers put a temporary water trough in a goat trap. Photo Kurt and Andrea Tschirner.

Reserve managers Andrea and Kurt Tschirner and Ecologist Hugh Pringle report on the return of plant species to Charles Darwin Reserve.

The impacts of feral goats in the arid rangeland areas of Western Australia are devastating. Feral goats are extremely hardy animals. They eat a large variety of native plants, often standing in the branches of shrubs and trees, and their hooves damage the delicate arid soil crusts.

Young sandalwood trees are heavily grazed.Young sandalwood trees are heavily grazed.

On Charles Darwin Reserve the past impacts of sheep and goats have caused localised erosion, especially around sensitive areas like the breakaways. Grazing has also caused the loss of many plant species that provide food for native birds and small mammals and play important roles in many habitats.

For example, in the clay-pan country there is an absence of healthy populations of ruby saltbush Enchylaena tomentosa, sandalwood Santalum spicatum and pixie bush Eremophila oldfieldii.

The Lockyer boys and family in front of the old White Wells homestead, their first home. Photo Kurt and Andrea Tschirner.The Lockyer boys and family in front of the old White Wells homestead, their first home. Photo Kurt and Andrea Tschirner.

Since the de-stocking of Charles Darwin Reserve, and with Bush Heritage’s ongoing commitment to controlling feral goats, the reserve is experiencing a well-earned rest from persistent grazing. Already we're seeing seedlings of many ‘palatable’ species like saltbush emerging around the clay pans, despite the recent run of very dry years. At many of our ecological outcomes monitoring sites we are seeing a really positive change.

Open Day and history

The Charles Darwin Reserve Open Day in September provided an opportunity for about 60 visitors to learn about the work that goes on at this Bush Heritage reserve. The guests, among them the great- and great-great-grandsons of Charles Darwin himself, were guided to malleefowl mounds, expanses of wildflowers and some of the historic buildings on the reserve.

A community history of the reserve was also launched. Researched and written by Charlie Nicholson, with contributions from many local people, this web-based history tells fascinating tales of the land on which the reserve is now situated. You can get a copy on CD from the Bush Heritage Conservation Support Centre or view it online.

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