Bon Bon is within the traditional lands of the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara community and this year marks 10 years since Bush Heritage Australia acquired the Bon Bon Station pastoral lease. Together with the National Reserve System and South Australian Department for Environment & Water, Bush Heritage partnered with these agencies to ensure Bon Bon would be managed for its unique arid-zone biological and cultural, or ‘bio-cultural’ assets - a first for Australia.
As many would remember, in 2008 much of Australia was still in the grip of the millennium drought. This was certainly the case at Bon Bon, and I’ll never forget the impressions that first trip to Bon Bon in June 2008 left with me. However, late in 2008 it rained. And again in 2009, 2010, and 2011, we received more above-average rainfall. The millennium drought had broken. And whilst we’ve experienced dry periods since then, the rainfall we received in those formative first four years significantly contributed to the resilience we are witnessing today.
So what has happened?
We have established survey sites to monitor the long-term health of soil and vegetation. We have also established bird and terrestrial fauna survey sites to monitor long-term trends in species diversity and abundance to compliment data gathered from the vegetation sites.
Bon Bon has witnessed fantastic regeneration of vegetation, particularly desirable long-lived perennial grasses and shrubs; but also ‘recruitment’ of key tree species such as Mulga, Bullock Bush, and the majestic Western Myall. Trees like these are incredibly important for our extraordinary arid woodland birds (granivores, insectivores, nectarivores, and carnivores!) and the food webs they depend on.
Over time we have seen upward trends in the detection of key bird species like Chestnut-breasted Whiteface (South Australian endemic), Australian Bustard, Black-breasted Buzzard, Grey Falcon, Slender-billed Thornbill, Bourkes Parrot, and White-browed Treecreeper; and key mammal species like Kultarr, Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Sandy Inland Mouse, and Ooldea Dunnart. All this survey effort has contributed significant data to the biological databases of South Australia.
From an operational perspective, Bush Heritage has invested more than $2.5m in the direct resourcing of Bon Bon, supporting both local contractors & businesses and those further afield. We are now an established part of the community, with staff and volunteers taking part in regional social events such as the Glendambo gymkhana and the Kingoonya camp oven cook-off. We have strong working relationships with the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara community, neighbouring pastoralists, research partners and South Australian governement. staff. We have also had an extraordinary contribution from our hard-working volunteers, with a combined contribution of approximately 7,000 hours from 72 people over this same period.
So where to from here?
In July this year we reviewed our management plan for Bon Bon based on the learnings over this past decade using our adaptive management approach. In summary, we will maintain our focus on key threatening processes such as Buffel grass eradication, and we will also continue to develop our ecological knowledge of Bon Bon through collaborative research partnerships to address ‘knowledge gaps’ on species like Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats and natural landscape processes such as fire. Over the past two years we have had a considerable focus on pest animals such as rabbits, cats and foxes.
This landscape-scale program is not just about removal of these feral predators, it’s also about obtaining valuable data on detection and control methods, and most importantly population densities and dynamics. This will provide much-needed insight into this ‘knowledge gap’ both at Bon Bon and across arid-zone Australia more broadly. This critical data and analysis is integral for the management of threatened species, and we are working with our partners towards creating suitable conditions to reintroduce key ‘ecosystem engineer’ species to assist with the restoration of landscape functionality.
In the coming months we will analyse our 10 year dataset and produce an ecological performance report and we look forward to sharing that with you, as we could not do the work we do without your generous support.
On behalf of Bush Heritage and all the wonderful diversity of plants and animals at Bon Bon, I want to sincerely thank you for your support.