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Boolcoomatta Reserve during drought, overgrazed by kangaroos
Boolcoomatta Reserve during drought, overgrazed by kangaroos

Reducing grazing pressure

Cattle, sheep and other grazing animals such as camels, goats and rabbits compete with natives and damage habitats.

Heavy grazing can completely eliminate certain plant species, which impacts natives that depend on these plants for food or shelter.
Feral goats photographed on Eurardy Reserve (WA) by Paul and Leanne Hales back in 2005.

Heavy grazing also prevents grasses from setting seed, denying many small rodents, birds and insects this key food source. Annual grasses can fail to regenerate.

The hard hooves of cattle, sheep and goats also damage the surface of the soil. This leads to soil compaction, destroys the complex ecology of the soil surface and often initiates soil erosion.

Weeds frequently arrive with grazing stock. If the weeds establish, they can spread to new areas when their seeds attach to animals, are passed in their manure, carried by the wind or transported by running water. In addition to removing stock, we also focus on weed control.

An exclusion plot on Scottsdale Reserve demonstrates the benefit for native grasses of less grazing pressure.

Managing abundance

Returning the bush to good health sometimes means making very difficult decisions about managing one species to protect hundreds of others.

When the circumstances arise, managing one species of overabundant native wildlife is a difficult but necessary decision when we consider the bigger picture. Sometimes that means reducing numbers to more appropriate levels.

The science we use, and the guidelines implemented, were carefully developed in consultation with a group of independent experts. Our approach is endorsed by leaders in this field from University of Melbourne and Australian National University, and we use humane methods developed in consultation with the RSPCA.

It’s about getting the balance right so we deliver on our promise – healthy country, protected forever.

How the land responds

On many properties removing grazing stock is probably the most important action we've taken to restore the health of the landscape.

Maintaining boundary fences with neighbouring pastoral properties is also crucial to maintaining low grazing pressure.

For example, at the time it was purchased, Carnarvon Station Reserve in Queensland had degraded native bluegrass downs on which few native animals survived.

Bluegrass grasslands on Carnarvon Reserve (Qld). Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.

Following the removal of stock, the native grasslands have flourished, supported by weed control and use of fire. Now these threatened habitats are supporting insects, reptiles, increasing numbers of native mammals, seed-eating birds such as the Plum-headed Finch, the Turquoise Parrot, and birds of prey.

They're also harvested to provide seed stock to sell to other landowners looking to re-establish native bluegrass grasslands.

Stories on reducing grazing pressure

BLOG 18/06/2018

Hemlines & what they tell us

By hemlines I'm referring to the foliage crowns of bushes and trees that feral herbivores like to munch on. A quick assessment of the height of a browse line and its severity provides real-time information about the impact of feral herbivores and the need for appropriate management.

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BLOG 30/06/2017

Fencing in the food

Do we really need a fence on our Night Parrot reserve? Fences are a requirement in pastoral rangelands and are vital infrastructure to keep large feral herbivores off reserve, eliminating their impacts on vegetation and critical habitats.

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BLOG 14/02/2017

The fine art of fencing Night Parrots

Fences are vital infrastructure that keep feral herbivores out, and help manage their impacts on vegetation and critical habitats. At Pullen Pullen Reserve this poses a conundrum. We want to keep any stray herbivores out to protect the floodplains, which are significant feeding locations for the Night Parrot, without creating an unexpected obstacle for the birds.

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BUSHTRACKS 21/12/2015

Landmark project looks to continue growth

The Tasmanian Midlands is a biodiversity hotspot, and refuge for dozens of nationally threatened species and nearly 200 plants and animals threatened in Tasmania.

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