Box Ironbark Ecology Course Report 5-9 October 2015
by Mick Webster Friends of Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park
Heathcote-Graytown National Park and Rushworth State Forest, based in Nagambie
This was a wonderful course for the 24 participants from all over Victoria - we learned an amazing amount from our enthusiastic presenters – Neville Rosengren (geology and geomorphology), Paul Foreman (botany), David Meagher (bryophytes and lichens), Lance Williams and Garry Sheers (vertebrates) and Andrea Canzano (invertebrates), all organised by Kate Stothers from Euroa Arboretum.
Activities in our 12-hour days included rock and soil, plant, vertebrate and invertebrate sampling, bat trapping and bird banding, and many deep discussions and speculations amongst our very varied group of participants and our presenters…..
To describe all the interesting things we learned would literally take a book, so in point form…..
Similarities to ‘our’ Box Ironbark forests (ie Chiltern Mt Pilot NP)
• Vegetation – box eucalypts (red, grey, yellow…) cassinia, wattles (golden, hedge, varnish…), mosses and lichens,
• Rocks – sedimentary under the BI forests, metamorphic aureole with sheoaks, granites with stringybarks
• Fauna – many many kangaroos, wallabies, tuans, gliders, possums, snakes brown and black
• Cultural – many gold mining areas – quartz reefs on the hills, alluvial pits in the valleys
Differences from ‘our’ forests
• Vegetation – red ironbarks, not muggas (hard to tell!), many grasstrees in the BI forests ( we have very few..), common wattles – gold dust, spreading, far more cassinia than we see here. Hardly any Grevillea alpina.
• Rocks – sludge! (some creeks have a whole soil profile created by a huge flood in 1859 at the peak of the gold rush)
• Fauna – very quiet for bird calls (drought?) No regents (that we saw!)
• Cultural – no deep-lead mining (like Chiltern Valley 1,2,3) so the only water sources are dams and tiny pools in gullies – most of these will dry up by Xmas.
• RAINFALL – the whole area from Nagambie to Heathcote looks incredibly dry, grasses in forests are grazed down – they’ve had less than 60% of their average January-October rainfall (we’ve had nearly 100% - Chiltern looked tropically green when I got home!) This summer will be very hard for the area.
• EDGES – on one day we toured round the edges of the BI area,
interesting to see how it changed to a real mallee vegetation on the Northern edge (bull, green and blue mallee)
• REVEG A lot of discussion about the value of replanting versus natural revegetation (we saw some excellent examples of the latter in the Parks and along roadsides), the use of fire ( we were within sight of the smoke from the Lancefield fire and had 3 CFA people on the course as well as Parks and DELWP), and also the value of thinning of regrowth.
• MINING – Realising that the whole landscape, especially soils and vegetation, has been remoulded by human intervention since the discovery of gold. The only BI forest in N Victoria without gold is Killawarra.
Overall a really excellent course, I totally recommend it for anyone wishing to learn more about our forests, whether you’re a landowner, a Friend or a professional working in the area – you will come back with your head spinning with new ideas and knowledge!
I acknowledge and am grateful for the financial assistance of NE Catchment Management Authority which enabled me to attend.
Friends of Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park