Fire for Healthy Country: an update

Having postponed the workshops in September 2021 – with the challenges posed by COVID and the season – we’ve taken the time to set up vegetation and bird survey transects – details below.

The proposed djandak wi – the Djaara traditional burning approach – has been approved by DELWP for the Newstead-Spring Hill Track area in Autumn 2022. No dates have yet been set for the initial workshop, nor for the burn. We’ll post an update once these are known.

Establishing a vegetation baseline

Karl Just, project ecologist, has established 20 vegetation transects, each 50 metres long and grouped in pairs at 10 separate sites. All run north-south. Along each transect, Karl has established 10 one metre square quadrats. In each quadrat Karl has recorded all vascular plant species and ground cover estimates including bryophytes/lichen, bare ground, rock, litter and course woody debris. Listen to Karl explaining the approach in this short video.

Karl Just setting up the transects and recording the plants within a 1 square metre quadrat.

His aim is to create baseline vegetation sampling prior to the proposed cultural burn – djandak wi – that will be undertaken by Dja Dja Wurrung across an area of approx. 21 hectares to the east of the Newstead-Maldon Road.

As well as the 16 transects in the djandak wi area, two additional monitoring sites (4 transects) have been established within the adjoining area burnt by DELWP in autumn 2021.

Karl describes the area as open forest dominated by relatively young growing trees: Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos), Silver Bundy (Eucalyptus nortonii) and Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), with understorey shrubs varying from sparse to locally dense patches, with the most prominent species including Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Sifton Bush (Cassinia sifton) and Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis). Overall the higher slopes and ridges support a
higher diversity and cover of ground-layer species, with large areas of the lower flats supporting few ground-layer plants and extensive bare ground, bryophytes and litter. Overall he has recorded 95 vascular plant species were recorded across the djandak wi area, including 77 species in the transects and 18 species recorded incidentally outside the transects. Of these 79 are indigenous and 16 are introduced (but overall weed cover is low).

The most diverse areas on the higher ground contain a rich suite a of small shrubs, grasses, lilies, orchids and forbs including Gorse Bitter-pea (Daviesia ulicifolia), Slender Rice-flower (Pimelea linifolia) Red-anther Wallaby-grass (Rytidosperma pallidum), Twining Fringe-lily (Thysanotus patersonii), Chocolate Lily (Arthropodium strictum), Autumn Greenhood (Pterostylis ampliata), Hood Orchid (Caladenia fuscata) Blue Fairy (Cyanicula caerulea), Rayless Daisy (Brachyscome perpusilla) and Murnong (Microseris walteri).

Thirty-five of the plant species recorded across the burn area have been identified as cultural plants, having documented uses for food, fibre or tool making. Others may be important medicinally or for other cultural reasons.

Bird survey transects

The Muckleford Forest Friends Group (MFFG) has a number of bird survey transects across the Muckleford Forest., each designed to build a more complete record of the bird species found here. Surveys are done quarterly and the results are added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas – the primary information source used by DELWP when it considers management actions, including planned burns.

Two new transects were set up by Geoff Nevill and Deb Shaw in September 2021 and are now being surveyed quarterly. The method used is the Birdlife 20 minute, 2 hectare survey.

As well, MMFG, with the support of DELWP and assistance of Geoff Park, reviewed a decade or so of bird records from Geoff’s Natural Newstead blog and have added these to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.

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