Over the last month I have had the pleasure of working with a small and dedicated team known as the “Friends of Mount Majura” (FOMM). This team meets every Friday at 9:30am (also known to most university students as the crack of dawn) and undertakes conservation activities in the nature reserve located on Mount Majura.
Conservation efforts on Mount Majura are focused on enhancing the severely altered and critically endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodland landscape through increasing diversity, reducing erosion, controlling weeks and monitoring ecosystem health. This is achieved through a wide range of activities carried out by volunteers, including:
– Seed Collection
– Monitoring and care of young plants
– Grass seeding
– Threat monitoring
– Weed control
Volunteer organiser, Waltraud Pix, highlighted two major threats to conservation activities on Mount Majura; the presence of “forbidden weeds” in the surrounding landscape, and plant predation by the eastern grey kangaroo.
Forbidden weeds are found in the neighbouring horse paddock which lies under different legislation and governance than the Mount Majura nature reserve and therefore cannot be managed by the FOMM. This creates a situation where the conservation efforts on Mount Majura are being undone by the constant threat of the impeding weeds from neighbouring properties.
I found this situation particularly interesting as it highlights the need for a “systems approach” to conservation. A systems approach suggests that landscape conservation cannot be carried out in isolation; contributing factors that are often out of the control of management actions, can contribute negatively to conservation efforts.
Conservation efforts were also threatened by the predation of young plants by the eastern grey kangaroo. Plants protected to a height of around 50cm were observed to be predated in their upper leaves. Volunteer leader Waltraud Pix instructed that this was unlikely to be the work of flying rabbits, but rather the little documented dietary habits of the eastern grey kangaroo.
To date, the diet of the eastern grey kangaroo has been assumed to consist largely of open grassland grazing, however these observations by the FOMM suggest differently. Many young trees planted by volunteers have been grazed up to a height exceeding a metre, with evidence of the eastern grey kangaroo’s characteristic method of stripping branches seen.
I participated in conservation activities to prevent this predation, which included the construction of taller plant guards that completely covered the young plants, preventing predators from grazing them, and the use of dead woody debris to create a physical buffer zone around the plants.
Although the predation had a negative effect on the environment in terms of conservation work, the occurrence provided interesting insight into the dietary habits of the eastern grey kangaroo. Assuming the continued non-existence of aerodynamically gifted rabbits in the area, the likelihood of eastern greys having a much more diverse diet than first thought is highly likely.
This experience opened my eyes to the diverse range of conservation actions that can be taken to enhance a degraded landscape, as well as the unexpected threats to both landscapes and conservation efforts.