Skip to content

Dirt poor but rich in diversity

Published 20 Mar 2015 

Ecologist Angela Sanders has been working on our Gondwana Link properties in the Fitz-Stirling region of Western Australia for 10 years. Monjebup Reserve is exceptionally rich in plant species and, in a twist of logic, poor soil (that is, low in nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorous) is one of the reasons.

Ecologist Angela Sanders (left) with botanist Libby Sandiford. Photo Jessica Wyld PhotographyOur ecologist Angela Sanders (left) with botanist Libby Sandiford. Photo by Jessica Wyld Photography

Over the past two springs flora surveys have been done on Monjebup, and a neighbouring property in the Gondwana Link project – Yarraweyah Falls.

Over 12 field days botanist Libby Sandiford and several volunteers covered around 1,200 hectares and identified 570 native plant species.

When we compared the species richness to the adjacent and well-surveyed Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Parks it was obvious we had a gem.

Included in the amazing results were 15 plant species of conservation significance, including a large and healthy population of the rare poison pea Gastrolobium humile and an unnamed she-oak species found across the reserves.

The most common plant family found was the myrtle with 87 species, including 25 melaleuca and 22 eucalypts. The area is also famous for proteaceae and we found an exceptional 47 species including 14 hakea and 13 banksias.

Poison pea (Gastrolobium humile)A large and healthy population of the rare poison pea (Gastrolobium humile) was found on Monjebup in Spring 2014. Photo by Libby Sandiford.

Libby also found that almost 25% of the species identified were at, or beyond, their known range limits.

These properties sit at the junction of two major geological formations (the Yilgarn Block and the Marine Sedimentary Plain) and three biogeographic regions, which means there is a mosaic of soil types that have not been disturbed for millions of years.

Starting from scratch

Our biggest challenge, given this species diversity, has been achieving a similar mix while revegetating cleared areas.

We’ve just completed revegetation work on the first 150 hectares of Monjebup North with encouraging results.

Four seed mixes were used, which included seed from 113 species as well as 18,850 seedlings that will eventually result in four different vegetation systems across the 150 hectare area.

Monitoring the success of direct seeding involves crawling on hands and knees counting tiny, newly germinated plants – you need a good eye and a lot of persistence!

Simon Smale (Healthy Landscape Manager) and Jack Mercer (contractor) recently counted plants along transects in the 2014 planting, and we were pleased with a germination rate of 40,000 stems per hectare and most species represented.

Ongoing monitoring of the 2012 restoration is also showing promising results with bird and mammal species slowly returning to take advantage of the productive and vigorous new native vegetation.

Our next steps include mapping the vegetation types on Monjebup and Yarraweyah – not an easy task to say the least! We’ll continue to monitor restored areas of Monjebup North and plan to survey the flora of our recent acquisition, Monjebup Creek, this spring. Can’t wait to see what that will uncover!

Low nutrient soils

The super species diversity of arid shrublands that occur in Western Australia and southern Africa is only equalled by tropical rainforests.

Neither system is particularly easy to live in. In fact, they owe their diversity to critically low levels of soil nutrients. In fertile soils the fastest growing and spreading plants often take over and limit competition.

Generous support for the acquisition of this property was provided by the Australian Government under the Natural Heritage Trust’s National Reserve System Program (Monjebup Reserve) and The Nature Conservancy’s David Thomas Challenge (Monjebup North Reserve).

More from BushTracks Autumn 2015

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

New feral monitoring data

A new long-term monitoring program using remote infra-red cameras on both Boolcoomatta and our Bon Bon Reserve will help protect vulnerable natives such as the plains wanderer from feral foxes and cats.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

Growing pains

Victoria Clark, a Masters student at the Australian National University, has been researching tree density and habitat quality at Tarcutta Hills Reserve in New South Wales. The forestry industry has long used thinning techniques to manipulate tree growth and height but thinning as a conservation practice is a relatively new idea that could help restore some disturbed areas.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

Living lightly

Simone Bowskill and her husband David are nature lovers living on a one acre bush block in Wentworth Falls, among the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Having supported Bush Heritage for several years, they are now confirmed bequest supporters, planning to leave a gift in their wills.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

The volunteers next door

Twenty years ago, when Bush Heritage supporters helped to purchase and protect beautiful Brogo Reserve, little did we know that two very firm friends of the organisation – and future volunteers – lived just next door.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

Quest for the northern quoll

High up on the rocky sandstone range of Carnarvon Station Reserve, a dozen cameras wait like silent sentinels. Activated by movement, they snap away at the furred, scaled and feathered creatures that happen by: busy little pebble mound mice, an inquisitive rock rat, slow-moving freckled monitors, dingoes and flighty bronze‑wing pigeons.

Read More
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}