Boxed In: Working on Grassy Box-Gum Woodland Remnants

Grassy Box-Gum Woodlands once occurred over much of south eastern Australia including the ACT and surrounding areas. But clearing and degradation through practices such as intense grazing has greatly reduced their range to the point where they are now considered critically endangered ecological communities. The remaining patches are fragmented and in great need of assistance as I have recently learnt.

The Locations
Over the last few weeks I have performed volunteer work on two areas of Grassy Box-Gum Woodland. The first area was at the Mount Majura Nature Reserve which is managed by the Friends of Mount Majura (FoMM). Much of this area was once used for grazing livestock, but now the livestock has been removed and the vegetation is being rehabilitated by the volunteers of FoMM.

The second area was at the Poplars Grasslands just outside Jerrabomberra as organised by the Friends of Grasslands (FOG) and Queanbeyan Landcare. This area contained a patch of Grassy Box-Gum Woodland next to a patch of Native Temperate Grassland (another endangered community). This area however was not part of a reserve and was instead in private hands.

Mount Majura

Mount Majura

The Poplars

The Poplars

The Work
The first job which needed work was adding larger tree guards to the growing saplings of native plant species at Mount Majura; this provided protection against grazing rabbits and kangaroos. But the main work which would be undertaken at all working sessions afterwards was removing woody weeds.

Woody weeds are a serious problem in Box-Gum Woodlands as they compete with native species and change the vegetation structure. The three most common species encountered were Hawthorn, Briar Rose and Cootamundra Wattle (an Australian species but not from the ACT region). Other species encountered included African Olive, the highly invasive Blackberry and even an escaped pine from a nearby plantation.

The main offenders: Briar Rose (top left), Hawthorn (top right) and Cootamundra Wattle (bottom)

The main offenders: Briar Rose (top left), Hawthorn (top right) and Cootamundra Wattle (bottom)

The typical method for removing a woody weed sapling was to cut it off close to the ground and then quickly add herbicide so hopefully as the plant retreats its sap back into the roots it will take the herbicide with it. This was a bit harder to apply to the larger trees, in these cases a process called frilling was undertaken. This involved making cuts along the tree’s trunk and adding herbicide into the cuts. Another option was to just cut the bugger down with a small chainsaw before adding the herbicide to the stump; as was performed at the Poplars.

A Frilling Experience: An example of frilling on a Cootamundra Wattle

A Frilling Experience: An example of frilling on a Cootamundra Wattle

Thoughts
Working in these remnants made it obvious to me how impacted this community is and in particular what a serious problem woody weeds are. This was particularly evident at the Poplars where over 3 hours were spent working on a single patch of weeds without managing to finish it. Even at Mount Majura many weeds could still be found spread throughout the reserve despite all the effort to remove them.  This showed just how difficult it is to control woody weeds.
Based on these experiences I would greatly recommend volunteering for these organisations as there is still much work to be done.

Joseph Stapleton (u5184965)

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to Boxed In: Working on Grassy Box-Gum Woodland Remnants

  1. Thanks Joseph. I like the way you explained the context for the work experience, i.e. that Box Gum Grassy Woodland is now a threatened ecological community because of clearing, grazing, etc. Phil

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