Kalbar Conversations Column

Restoring native grassy woodlands

   Wednesday 7th October, 2020

Native grassy woodlands are very rare across south eastern Australia – including in the Gippsland region. For many years, through policy and legislation, governments have tried to conserve what remains.

Restoration is an important tool that can complement conservation by returning native vegetation to locations where it is absent or degraded. Historically, many restoration projects focused on trees and shrub plantings for practical and environmental outcomes such as stock shelters, windbreaks, habitat belts, and soil stabilisation. The work done over many years by communities and Landcare groups across the state have provided numerous successful results of woody revegetation.

Plant installation typically requires relatively small amounts of wild seed to propagate and grow plants. However, a challenge to restoring high diversity grassy woodlands is that most species come from the ground layer - grasses and wildflowers. These are very difficult to source as they are rare. And - because they occur at high plant densities, restoration by planting at any scale is seldom feasible. In recent years, direct seeding has been shown as effective in native restoration – even for ground layer species.

So - where does the grass and wildflower seed come from?

Seed production, which entails growing natives as seed crops (like farmers and horticulturalists do for exotics), is the most promising method. Seed production uses only small amounts of wild seed to grow crops which are tended using agricultural and horticultural techniques for high output and quality. Seed production is being increasingly used in Australia (and other countries) to supply native seed for restoration, even for rare and threatened plant communities such as our open grassy woodlands.

Seed production is an important component of Kalbar’s commitment to restore ~200 hectares of species rich native grassy woodland following mining operations. To-date, with wonderful assistance from skilled and knowledgeable local contractors and staff, Kalbar has established early seed production capacity. This process can take several years to establish and reach yield potentials. In coming years, seed production efforts will be further scaled up in order to supply the seed needs (quantity, quality and diversity) for our grassy woodland restoration project.

Dr Paul Gibson-Roy – Manager Ecological Restoration