Land Management Innovation Fund
Spending on our natural future - an update on the Land Management Innovation Fund
In 2011, with the support of donations, Trust for Nature launched the Land Management Innovation Fund to explore practical conservation initiatives that would help us and others to deliver better conservation in the bush.
The Fund has now supported eight very different projects to address real issues being faced by private landowners and is being used to help deliver priority actions identified in the Statewide Conservation Plan.
Protecting threatened species – the Matted Flax-lily and White Sunray
In 2012 we reported in the Conservation Bulletin about the first Land Management Innovation Fund project.
The seed from two threatened plant species, identified as priorities for conservation on private land in the Statewide Conservation Plan, the Matted Flax-lily (Dianella amoena) and White Sunray (Leucochrysum albicans subsp. albicans var. tricolor) were collected and given to two nurseries that specialise in indigenous plants, to try and germinate seedlings.
The next step of the project was to take the seedlings and plant them onto covenanted properties in partnership with landowners.
The outcome of this project has been a huge success with more than 900 seedlings of both the Matted Flax-lily and Hoary Sunray planted onto 27 properties on the Victorian Volcanic Plains and in the north-central region of the state.
The plants have been protected from grazing and the landowners involved have been very enthusiastic about participating and learning from the project.
One of the best results is that this project has created populations of these threatened species from which more seed can be collected, increasing the chances of success for these threatened species.
Looking out for the Southern Brown Bandicoot
Southern Brown Bandicoots once ranged across south-eastern Victoria and were common in Victoria.
Today the threatened species is limited to fragmented areas. To learn more about what was happening to the species, Trust for Nature funded a Land Management Innovation Fund project to install motion-activated cameras on 10 covenanted properties in the east of the southern and eastern parts of the catchment. These cameras were installed and captured footage of foxes, cats and other pest species impacting on and competing with the Bandicoots.
The Trust has since purchased 20 cat traps and has worked with covenantors to teach them how to install and use the traps. These traps have meant that the Trust has been able to remove a number of pests in areas where there are known to be Southern Brown Bandicoots.
Box Ironbark Nest Project near Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve
Due to historic mining and timber harvesting practices, large old hollow-bearing trees are a limited resource throughout much of Victoria’s Box Ironbark region.
This poses a great risk to native hollow-dependant fauna in the area. In 2012, supported by the Land Management Innovation Fund, the Trust installed 95 nest boxes in Box Ironbark trees on private land adjacent to Pilcher’s Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve.
These nest boxes were installed to assist threatened species such as the Powerful Owl, the Barking Owl and the Brush-Tailed Phascogale. This innovative project provided practical knowledge of nest box installation for landowners, and monitoring and assistance on what to look out for in regards to these species.
In December 2012, well known flora and fauna consultant, Garry Cheers, carried out spotlight monitoring of the properties to see what wildlife was present. This was repeated in December 2013 and results so far suggest a general increase in native fauna sightings since the first round of monitoring.
Ecological thinning on the Gippsland Plains
In 2013, Trust for Nature launched a unique ecological thinning trial on a dense stand of Gippsland Red Gums within the Gippsland Plains Grassy Woodland Community on the Trust’s property, the Bush Family Reserve in Meerlieu.
Through this trial, made possible by the Land Management Innovation Fund, the Trust hopes to enhance the health of the Red Gums, improve habitat complexity and return areas to a woodland structure. Reducing the density of stems within the woodland will remove competition for light and water allowing large trees to grow.
This in turn will lead to the development of hollows as the trees mature and provide better habitat for woodland birds and arboreal wildlife such as Sugar Gliders, White-throated Tree Creepers and Scarlet Robins.
This is a long-term monitoring-based project, with monitoring being planned to occur every five years for the next 40 years. As part of this project, Trust for Nature is developing guidelines that will help landowners with thinning on other areas across the Gippsland Plains.
Protecting the Corangamite Water Skink
As an extension to the threatened plant project above, the Land Management Innovation Fund provided funding to collect additional plant species to grow on a number of grassland covenants.
These have included Tough Scurf-pea (Cullen tenax) and Tree Violets (Melicytus dentatus). Tree violets are an important food source for the Corangamite Water Skink, a threatened species identified in the Statewide Conservation Plan as a species of focus on private land. Seeds from the Tree Violets were collected in 2011 and a nursery successfully grew 200 plants.
Those plants were provided to a covenantor on the Victorian Volcanic Plains who has recorded the Skink on their property. Two other properties protected by a conservation covenant have observed the Water Skink and they will be targeted for future plantings of the Tree Violet.
Nest boxes and cameras for threatened Brush-tailed Phascogales
This project aimed to improve the habitat for the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale in Port Phillip and Westernport region.
To date 38 nest boxes have been installed on covenanted properties across outer Melbourne to provide habitat for the species. The next step will be to monitor these nest boxes to determine if they are being used by the Phascogales.
The project has also purchased a nest box monitoring camera. This is a specialised piece of equipment that is basically a camera on a long rod. The camera at the top of the rod is unobtrusively inserted into the nest box in a tree.
The display monitor at the bottom of the rod (ground level) shows images from the camera so that the user is able to see what is inside the nest box.
The nest box camera serves as an important safety measure when monitoring nest boxes and hollows, as a ladder is not needed. The Trust is currently using the tool as part of its stewardship program and will be reporting any finds as the data becomes available over the coming year.
Improving habitat quality and landscape connectivity in the Pyrenees Ranges region
The Pyrenees Ranges region is home to some to some of the highest quality Box-ironbark forests and woodlands in Victoria, providing habitat for significant species including: the Swift Parrot, Hooded Robin, Brush-tailed Phascogale, and many threatened orchids.
The region is renowned for its abundance of wildlife. The Pyrenees Ranges falls within Trust for Nature’s Victorian Midlands focal landscape, one of 12 landscapes identified as a priority for conservation on private land across Victoria.
This project is assessing habitat condition and connectivity at a fine-scale across the region to prioritise the actions that will achieve the greatest improvements in quality and connectivity on existing covenants and across the broader landscape.
Woodland bird monitoring
Since European settlement more than 30% of Australia’s woodlands, and 80% of temperate woodlands, have been cleared.
More than 30% of Australia’s land birds are dependent on woodlands and now at least one in five of these species are threatened. Since January this year, Trust for Nature has been carrying out surveys of 40 covenanted properties for woodland birds, from western Victoria to the north-eastern limit of Box Ironbark forests in the state, to establish baseline data from which to monitor trends in woodland bird diversity on Trust for Nature covenants over time.
Notable species recorded to date have included Diamond Firetail and Hooded Robin. It is intended to repeat surveys of these sites in autumn this year and then repeat surveys every five years.
The project builds on the highly successful Woodlands Birds for Biodiversity project undertaken by Trust for Nature, Birdlife Australia, and other conservation land trusts between 2010 and 2013.
Such long-term, pioneering research conservation programs to improve threatened ecosystems and at-risk wildlife species would not be possible without the Land Management Innovation Fund.
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