“The level of survey effort on private land conducted in this study has never previously been attempted across the extent of the Box Gum Grassy Woodland ecological community.”
By far the largest spatial-scale project the research team investigates, the Environmental Stewardship Programme (ESP) monitors biodiversity outcomes of implemented land management actions on private land. The ESP is an Australian Government agri-environmental scheme whereby private landholders are paid an incentive to undertake certain management actions on-farm which conserve and maintain areas of critically endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodland (BGGW). The underlying principle behind this biodiversity investment initiative is that much of the remaining 5% of BGGW occurs on private land with very little option to conserve via National Park reserves. Recognising this distribution of the vegetation community, and the importance that private landholders (mainly primary producers) play in land management, the Australian Government implemented this large scale biodiversity conservation scheme acknowledging these landholders as the stewards of their land.
The ESP is a recent example of an incentive program/agri-environmental scheme that has incorporated monitoring of the biodiversity outcomes as a critical component of the program. Typically, biodiversity investment programs do not account for detailed monitoring of the ecological outcomes. Rather, success is measured by the amount of money spent, or on ground works completed, such as number of trees planted. In addition to the monitoring of sites for biodiversity outcomes, the length of the investment program sets it apart from other conservation investment programs. Landholders have entered into up to 15 year management agreements under the ESP. This reflects a more realistic time frame to elicit change in these typically slow response ecosystems.
The research team is contracted by the Australian Government to monitor and assess the effectiveness of this large scale investment program so that results can be used to modify and adapt this and future programs for the best and most practical outcomes. Currently overseen by Daniel Florance, 325 monitoring sites were initially established over 153 properties extending through the BGGW vegetation community from Narranderra in southern NSW through to Warwick in southern QLD. Spanning six Local Land Services regions in NSW and two NRM regions in southern Queensland the study targets specifically the White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and the Derived Native Grassland ecological communities.
Since 2010, monitoring has been undertaken investigating changes in vegetation under implemented land management actions. This also includes bird, reptile and amphibian surveys. This research aims to determine the changes in vegetation condition following the implemented land management actions and the associated bird, reptile and amphibian responses.
The Australian Government Department Of The Environment under a Caring for Our Country (CFOC) grant currently funds the ESP project, with the former Lachlan Catchment Management Authority (CMA) heavily involved in earlier stages of the project.
The field team would like to acknowledge the vital role of Geoffrey Kay in this project. Geoff worked as team leader from 2010 – 2013. Geoff remains heavily involved in the ESP, and is currently undertaking his PhD research into reptile responses under the ESP. The former Lachlan CMA was integral to the early stages of the project, especially with field logistics and landholder networks.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to the cooperative, interested and passionate landowners who allow us continued access to their properties. We appreciate your support and your extensive knowledge and insights into land management practices. We could not do this without you.