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Restoring critical flora at Ngulambarra

Guest bloggers
Published 01 Apr 2022 
by Monique Miller & Megan Good 
about  Ngulambarra  

A Sweet Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) at Ngulambarra surrounded by remnant Green Mallee (Eucalyptus virdis). Photo by Monique Miller)<br/> A Sweet Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) at Ngulambarra surrounded by remnant Green Mallee (Eucalyptus virdis). Photo by Monique Miller)
The Ngulambarra landscape. Evidence of the success of Cassinia Environmental’s carbon-contract revegetation can be seen in the left of the photo in the lines of young trees now thriving. Photo by Monique Miller<br/> The Ngulambarra landscape. Evidence of the success of Cassinia Environmental’s carbon-contract revegetation can be seen in the left of the photo in the lines of young trees now thriving. Photo by Monique Miller
Monique Miller checks for seed on a well-established, but rare, Myoporum platycarpum tree along the creek line. Photo by Megan Good<br/> Monique Miller checks for seed on a well-established, but rare, Myoporum platycarpum tree along the creek line. Photo by Megan Good

Ngulambarra, which means meeting place, in Dja Dja Wurrung, lies in the northern region of the Kara Kara Wedderburn priority landscape in central Victoria. It provides connectivity between Bush Heritage's Lawan Reserve and Ngarri (Mt Egbert), which is part of the Wychitella Nature Conservation Reserve managed by Parks Victoria and Djandak.

Ngulambarra is the focal point in 2022 to begin implementing the Declining Flora of the Kara Kara Wedderburn Landscape Strategic Plan.

This strategic plan details 17 floral species that are declining throughout the Kara Kara Wedderburn landscape. Seven of these species are large fruiting shrubs suited to the soils and terrain of our current Victorian reserves

Part of implementing this strategy is understanding why these species are in decline. We speculate that the decline might be related to the altered fire regimes, sensitivity to browsing by kangaroos, wallabies and introduced herbivores, habitat fragmentation, and the loss of fauna which might have had a role in the dispersal and germination of seeds.

For example, Emus are thought to have aided in the dispersal and germination of Sweet Quandong (Santalum acuminatum). We hope that we can overcome some of these barriers by planting seedlings and direct seeding some species, along with establishing grazing exclosures for species where browsing might be an establishment bottleneck.  

Many of the focal species in our strategic plan are of significance to Djaara people as food and medicine plants, including Sweet Quandong, Native Apricot (Pittosporum angustifolium), and Berrigan (Eremophila longifolia).

Flowering and fruiting shrubs also provide food and habitat for declining woodland birds, many nectar-feeding butterflies and pollinating insects.

Monique Miller has spent many days walking the Country at Ngulambarra as part of her job as Bush Heritage's Restoration and Engagement Project Officer for Victoria. This has allowed her to become familiar with the different species already present on the reserve, along with visiting thriving populations of her target species across the region on roadsides and private properties.

A key to the success of this project will be choosing the right species to put in the right places, and Monique has developed this knowledge through months of observations.

A pilot project planting of 600 seedlings will begin in the spring of 2022, with species selection and locations carefully chosen to align with Ngulambarra’s Ecological Vegetation Classes - Metamorphic Slopes Shrubby Woodland, Sandstone Ridges Shrubland and Low Rises Grassy Woodland. The plantings will increase the biodiversity and habitat values of both Metamorphic Slopes Shrubby Woodland and Sandstone Ridges Shrubland, which are classified as depleted as well as the vulnerable Low Rises Grassy Woodlands.

The location of the planting plots has been guided by the ecology of the species and the need to enhance and diversify existing remnant vegetation. With these plots, we will create ecological ’islands’, which will improve connectivity and available refugia for fauna moving through the landscape.

The new Victorian reserve team have a renewed focus on restoring function to the landscape. Much of this restoration work will be undertaken along unvegetated areas of a creek in the south of the property, which will help to stabilise soils and reduce ongoing erosion. Vegetation along waterways is a vital refugia for many fauna species, especially during times of drought. The strategic placement of declining plants in these ecologically and culturally significant areas of the reserve will have myriad benefits.

The declining species restoration work at Ngulambarra is an addition to the carbon-contract revegetation work of the last three years that saw 20,000 seedlings planted and 450km of direct seeding by Cassinia Environmental in partnership with Greenfleet and Land Life Company. This revegetation is now thriving and has returned many Eucalyptus, Allocasuarina and Acacia species back to land that had been almost entirely cleared and kept as a grazing land for decades.

This project has been generously funded by the Ross Family (in memory of Keith and Patricia Ross), the Niggl family and Volkswagen Group Australia. In subsequent years, the restoration work for the Declining Flora of the Kara Kara Wedderburn Landscape Strategic Plan will be expanded across all Victorian reserves and will expand the focal species to include those with different niches in the landscape, and importance to Djaara.

Stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted with further updates as we progress this important project.

The Ngulambarra landscape. Evidence of the success of Cassinia Environmental’s carbon-contract revegetation can be seen in the left of the photo in the lines of young trees now thriving. Photo by Monique Miller<br/> The Ngulambarra landscape. Evidence of the success of Cassinia Environmental’s carbon-contract revegetation can be seen in the left of the photo in the lines of young trees now thriving. Photo by Monique Miller
Monique Miller checks for seed on a well-established, but rare, Myoporum platycarpum tree along the creek line. Photo by Megan Good<br/> Monique Miller checks for seed on a well-established, but rare, Myoporum platycarpum tree along the creek line. Photo by Megan Good