Abstract from the Under the Microscope Research Day 2019. Latrobe University.
Ecosystem restoration is essential in returning degraded habitat and biodiversity to its former state. Current methods focus on limited components of ecosystems, often overlooking invertebrates, which are critical to ecosystem functioning. Macrodetritivores play a key role in decomposition, a vital ecosystem process affecting soil nutrient cycling and plant community structure.
We investigated whether leaf litter and soil transplants from remnant vegetation improve macrodetritivore biodiversity and litter decomposition in revegetated agricultural land. We compared macroinvertebrate communities and litter decomposition among replicate sites (n=6) of untreated ‘control’ revegetation, revegetation with transplants, and remnant vegetation. Using litter sampling and litter bags over a period of three months, we tested the response of macrodetritivores and litter decomposition to transplants. Macrodetritivore abundance, species richness and community composition showed no effect of treatment.
However, extreme heat and drought during summer may have reduced abundances, making it difficult to detect change over the limited sampling period. Further, soil moisture in remnant sites was much higher than in revegetation, suggesting that abiotic conditions might limit colonisation success. Decomposition rates were greater in transplant sites than in controls, indicating that transplants enhanced decomposition, possibly through unmeasured components of the biota, e.g. microdetritivores and microbes. Although increased decomposition rates suggest positive effects of transplants, it is likely too early to tell whether transplants are an effective method of restoration.
Longer term monitoring, in addition to closer investigation of microdetritivores and microbes will provide a more conclusive answer as to whether and how litter and soil transplants can improve restoration success.
The Strathbogie Forest is an island habitat for forest-dependent fauna. Though it faces a number of challenges (feral species, fragmentation, climate change) it represents critical habitat for numerous species in the Strathbogie Ranges. Our 2017 pilot project (Strathbogie Forest Citizen Science project 2016CVA064) confirmed the presence of several threatened and iconic species in the forest using contemporary survey techniques (eg transect spotlighting, camera trapping), but identified substantial knowledge gaps, as well as survey technique limitations. This project will utilize our ‘skilled-up’ citizen scientists to expand the survey coverage and learn ever more about this important forest area.
Looking at climate change in the Strathbogie Ranges with groundwater monitoring and tree health surveys
The Bogies and Beyond Project was created by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority to answer a single question: How can we measure the effects of climate change withing the Strathbogie Ranges?
Over the course of 3 workshops, experts and prominent members of the community debated the best answer to this question.
The result? The creation of two projects, each looking at what the group determined to be the most reliable indicators climate change’s effects.
One project focused on ground water, concluding that measuring a significant sample of bores across the ranges would yield enough data to spot a trend caused by climate change.
The other project focused on native trees, with the reasoning that if century old trees were struggling, that could be an indicator that the conditions they require to remain healthy are changing too.
Several members of the SRCMN were involved in the initial workshops and those members are carrying out a vast amount of the works to get these projects into the community.
Common Myna Control Project for the Strathbogie Ranges
In 2017, Bogies and Beyond was created by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority as a means of monitoring the effects of climate change within the Strathbogie Ranges. The Stop Mynas Strathbogie project was launched in 2019 as a part of the Bogies and Beyond Tree Storey project. These projects were funded by the Victoria State Government.
After witnessing a rapid increase in Common Myna spread and populations throughout the Strathbogie Shire, the Strathbogie Ranges Conservation Management Network decided to host a Myna information day in Euroa. This was to gauge local interest in reversing the spread of Mynas as well as learning about other successful control programs.
In late 2018, Peter Wiltshire, a senior ranger at the Darebin Parklands came and gave an inspirational workshop at the Euroa Arboretum to interested members of the public. He explained how Common Mynas had effectively been eradicated from the Darebin Park with a targeted, well planned and, most importantly, ongoing control effort. Also discussed were Common Myna behaviours, effects on natives, trapping methods and euthanasia methods.
It was this workshop that inspired the Stop Mynas Strathbogie project, aimed at providing information and resources to Myna control groups within the Strathbogie Ranges.
One of the most important natural resources in the Strathbogie Ranges is accessible, good quality and plentiful groundwater. Many of us rely on groundwater to fill dams and tanks and it’s critical for maintaining the health of our creeks and wetlands. The importance of groundwater in the Strathbogies was highlighted by the Millenium Drought, when many bores, dams and wetlands dried up.
It may come as a surprise, but the groundwater resources in the Strathbogie Ranges are currently poorly understood. To improve our understanding we are embarking on a long-term groundwater monitoring program. Many landholders in the Stratbogie Ranges have a groundwater bore, either for stock and domestic use, or for irrigation. These bores provide a window for observing changes in groundwater.
In 2010, University of Melbourne researchers completed an investigation into the hydrology of groundwater-dependent wetlands on the Tableland and the Arthur Rylah Institute examined the floristic values of wetlands in the Strathbogie Ranges. Now, a multi-year investigation examining the nature of the groundwater system on the Strathbogie Tableland is being conducted by University of Melbourne. This research will build on previous projects, run parallel to the community surveys and improve our understanding of how the broader groundwater system in the Strathbogies operates.
The community project will use a combination of fully automated monitoring and manual ‘bore-dipping’ equipment to measure seasonal changes in the depth of groundwater.
The project will collect general groundwater information from bores in different parts of the Strathbogie Ranges, as well as detailed information from bores in the Seven Creeks catchment above Polly McQuinn’s reservoir.
This a partnership project with the Gecko CLaN Landcare Network and is supported by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and the Vctorian Government.
B. Lobert March 2019
Check back soon for new events by the SRCMN
On a stunning Euroa Winter’s day, 90 curious minds converged on the Euroa Football Club to learn about scientific research being conducted within the Strathbogie Ranges/Shire.
An amazing lineup of speakers and fairly rapid timeline ensured that the audience was kept entertained while hearing the most important parts of what the speakers had to convey.
A big thanks to the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA) and Victorian State Government for funding the event. Also to the GBCMA’s Jenny Wilson for acting as MC and Chair, to the Strathbogie Ranges CMN members for organising and assisting on the day, and to Jessica and Lauren Anders and Nickala Best for making sure the attendees didn’t go hungry.
With forecasts rapidly changing in the leadup to the walk, we weren’t sure what to expect from this unexpectedly fine Sunday morning. But as luck had it, the rain held off and made way for perfect walking conditions on the final walk in this series.
An experienced gang of 7 rallied at the picnic ground on Hughes Creek Rd (near the start of Jeffreys Rd) before setting off downstream of the Hughes Creek. Right off the bat, a creek crossing was needed to get to the more interesting side of the creek, with most walkers opting to go barefoot through the creek instead of risking waterlogged shoes. Since the walk was scouted, the creek level had risen significantly, making these crossings much more difficult than just a few weeks earlier.
The shire’s resident geologist Neil Phillps, had provided us with a geological map of the walking area, with the walk starting just south of granite country and descending further down into hornfels. For those interested, hornfels is a fine grained, super tough contact metamorphic rock quite distinct from the usual larger grained granite of the bogies.
The old road that ran along side the Hughes Creek was constantly dipping down to meet walkers, with the old earthworks still quite visible to those who were looking for them. The established trees in the middle of the road were a good indicator of it’s age.
Blackberrys were not as prevalent as further down toward the gorge, but the odd outcrop of gorse still reared it’s ugly head, as well as a solitary, partially eaten paddy melon. A few wombats in no particular hurry were spied, but that was it for fauna sightings.
After reaching “the end”, another, more dramatic creek crossing put walkers back on the Hughes Creek Rd for an easy amble back to the cars. This was not the end however, as a short drive up Wicket Hill Rd took walkers to a very special and little known culturally significant indigenous site. Nestled among the branching streams of the Hughes Creek were the stone tool sharpening grooves, a recently re-discovered sight right under everyone’s nose.
The walk started at 9am and concluded around 1:45pm (including the drive to the rock carvings), with the road walking making the walk back much faster than normal. Total length was around 7km, but there were some major discrepancies between walker’s phone GPS tracking apps.
A series of geo-tagged photos has been uploaded to the SRCMN Flickr for public viewing.
Thanks to all of the walkers who came and helped each other out.