"Research gathered over the past decade has highlighted the countless benefits to farmers, wildlife and the environment that come from planting trees"

Damian Michael, 2015

Planting sites on farms are fenced off from stock.

“More trees in the ground” is commonly encouraged as a way to increase and improve fauna habitat, improve the other negative effects of land clearing, and also to aid in farm productivity.  Over the past few decades, landholders have readily undertaken revegetation projects on farms across Australia. These projects may be in the form of new plantings in isolated blocks, linear corridors adjacent to fence lines, or be restoration plantings, enhancing existing remnants. 

Sites range from Temora in the north to Howlong in the south, and Gundagai in the east to Burrumbuttock in the west.

The South West Slopes Restoration Study, was initiated in 2000 and was set up to examine the influence of farm plantings on faunal biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Managed in the field by Mason Crane, the study monitors 213 sites, mostly in Box Gum Woodland in southern NSW. These sites range from Temora in the north to Howlong in the south, and Gundagai in the east to Burrumbuttock in the west. To examine the impact of farm plantings we looked at: 1) plantings individually, 2) farms as a whole with plantings and 3) landscapes with plantings. We compared these to areas without plantings, and used remnant vegetation as a control. We do this so we can measure the effect of the changes we have implemented at the site, farm and landscape level. Each site is regularly surveyed for birds, reptiles, mammals, vegetation and habitat structure characteristics. The shape, size, structure, and use by fauna can be compared to determine any changes over time and the possible reasons for these changes.

Monitoring sites for the South West Slopes range from roadside locations, Traveling Stock Reserves, and farms, with 43 landowners participating since the beginning of the project 15 years ago. The long and continued involvement of these landholders shows the high level of commitment these farmers have to improving biodiversity and conditions on their properties. As such, the study has become one of the few long-term data sets continually monitored, giving us the ability to quantify fauna shifts and to attempt to identify some of the drivers behind such changes.

Mason releases a Squirrel Glider which had been part of a genetics and tracking study.

This research project relies on a partnership with each the Murray Local Land Services and Riverina Local Land Services. These partnerships have been developed to build the existing knowledge of these landscapes and to explore new opportunities and will ensure we can deliver practical outcomes, guided by real on ground data

Other current studies undertaken in the South West Slopes study area include investigations by The Australian National University PhD candidates such as: habitat requirements of the Squirrel Glider, native regeneration in plantings, bird nesting behavior in plantings, effect of Noisy Miner removal on bird composition.

Acknowledgments:

We would like to extend a huge thankyou to the cooperative, interested and passionate landowners who allow us continued access to their properties. We appreciate your support, extensive knowledge and insights into land management practices. We could not do this without you.

Links:

·         As part of the Conservation and Landscape Ecology Group research at The Australian National University

 

Left to right: Grey-crowned Babblers, Bulbine and Twining Fringe Lillies, two Squirrel Gliders recorded on a remote camera.