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Conserving grassy woodland in Tasmania.

posted on 2023-05-28, 00:47 authored by James KirkpatrickJames Kirkpatrick
Tasmanian woodlands range from the coast to the climatic treeline, from some of the poorest soils in the world to some of the richest, from waterlogged ground to sharply drained dry ridges. They are unusual in temperate Australia in that they support a full complement of native marsupial herbivores, which can occur in high densities. This chapter covers the subset of these woodlands with understoreys potentially dominated by native grasses and herbs, henceforth called grassy woodlands. These grassy woodlands have been dramatically reduced and degraded in Tasmania (Kirkpatrick et al. 1988), but still cover large areas of private land, largely utilised for wool production (Kirkpatrick et al. 2007) (see map below). They also occur on some smaller areas of public land, largely utilised for recreation and nature conservation. The remaining areas of grassy woodland on both types of tenure are under severe threat as the State Government embarks upon a misguided program to turn the dry Midlands of Tasmania into an irrigated food bowl. One key to the conservation of those grassy woodlands that are fortunate enough to survive lies in a middle path, avoiding both the thinning and thickening of trees. The other key lies in preventing a native grass and herb-dominated understorey from losing significant species or transforming into heath, scrub or vegetation dominated by exotic plants. The prevention of the last of these transitions relates to land-use decisions, and therefore to the economic, social and political context. The other transitions involve ecological interactions between climate, soils, fire regimes and grazing regimes. While climate change cannot be altered in the short term, fire and grazing regimes, two of the most effective vegetation management tools, are fortunately more malleable. The task given for this chapter was to report the conservation implications of ecological and social studies of Tasmanian grassy woodland in which I have been involved. Particular reference is made to the role of vegetation remnants in conservation and the impacts of recent climate change. 1. To help prevent trees from dying out, exclude or kill Common Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) (Tasmania only). 2. To help prevent trees from dying out, destock or stock lightly until a new generation establishes. 3. Burning can help prevent trees from dying out in the short term. 4. Both burning and grazing are necessary to prevent native tree and shrub thickening. 5. Vertebrate grazers can be used to control some species of woody weeds. 6. Mowing or slashing can be used to prevent tree and shrub thickening. 7. To maintain significant species, keep on doing what has been done until you prove that it is better to do otherwise. 8. Old, small, isolated remnants with high perimeter: area ratios can be very important for nature conservation. Corridors may not be particularly important. 9. Latitude and high relative relief make most of the Tasmanian grassy woodland biota resilient to climate change. 10. Regulation combined with stewardship payments seems to be the only way to stop more clearance and fertilisation of grassy woodlands. 11. People with local ecological expertise and experience can usually provide good management advice, whereas tool kits and models cannot cope with contingencies.


Publication title

Temperate Woodland Conservation and Management







Publication status

  • Published

Place of publication

Collingwood, Victoria

Rights statement

Copyright Copyright 2010 CSIRO.

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  • Restricted

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