A note on leaf blowing and biodiversity conservation.

Autumn has rolled in once again, coating the streets with golden, deciduous leaves. With this beautiful phenomenon comes the mildly confusing sounds of suburbia’s most loved invention; the leaf blower (perhaps second to the 10-in-1 Garden Tool).

The Leaf Blower Culture is recognised by many as a seemingly pointless exercise in domestic vegetation control. Application of this unreasonably expensive tool seems to do a poor job of keeping paths/driveways clean in perpetuity, creating useful piles of leaves or satisfying the indiscriminate goal of the blower wielding battler.

However, we can all appreciate the peace of mind that can come from a clean living environment. Its just, if you have to pick a dull activity to pass your weekend, why not make it useful?

Scottsdale Reserve is a property owned by Bush Heritage Australia, a non-profit organisation that aims to protect pockets of biodiversity around the country. The reserve was acquired from private ownership in 2006, covering 1,328 hectares along side the Murrumbidgee River just south of the ACT. Significant Box-Gum Grassy Woodland vegetation communities persist on the over grazed hills, with not a deciduous leaf in sight.

The monitoring of efforts to conserve biodiversity are recognised as lacking in most cases. Basically this means that many programs with good intentions, do not deliver outcomes because no one bothers to go check the result against the original goals. This is where I come in, along with my colleagues Riva and Lucas:


The restoration project at Scottsdale, run by Peter Saunders and Sandy Gilmour, is an attempt to recover a degraded farm and return it to a biodiverse community. One of the main challenges is removing African Lovegrass. Don’t be fooled by the name, there is little love for this weed among the locals. Like many weeds, originally introduced with good intentions; to control erosion, it now chokes out all native grass species:


The plan at the reserve is to try and grow a selection of native eucalypt and acacia species in order to shade the grass and eventually outcompete it. The plantings, on lower to mid slopes, have been progressing over the last two years thanks to Bush Heritage staff, volunteers and ANU students.

Good monitoring always establishes a base rate or control sample in order see if management changes are changing the community of interest, in the way that was intended. Lucas, Riva and myself, as good monitors, spent a day identifying species and growth habits of the plantings. The importance of this job was obvious as indicated by the staff of ANU and Bush Heritage.

We spent a considerable amount of time peering down tubes such as this:


Some research suggests that the presence of biodiversity is not necessarily attractive to most people (exclude the obvious Red Panda and Slow Loris). This became apparent throughout the day.

So next time you feel inclined to dust off the old leaf blower, just consider, perhaps there is some biodiversity I could be monitoring.


Ivan Kotzur


Special thanks to Dr. David Freudenberger, and my colleagues in the field.


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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A note on leaf blowing and biodiversity conservation.

  1. Really enjoyed your blog Ivan. But I can see a deciduous poplar in one of your photos! Phil

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s