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Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 N

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Key sites

Alberton cemetery - 8 ha

Darriman Bushland Reserve

Small corner on Parkside Aerodrome

Stringybark Lane - 0.5 ha

Greens Road Swamp

Reservation status:

Mostly unreserved


  • Weed invasion, particularly from introduced pasture species (Phalaris, Paspalum, Yorkshire Fog and Sweet Vernal Grass. Inadequate biomass control has also led to invasion by native shrubs such as Swamp Paperbark and Prickly Teatree.

  • Overgrazing

  • Inappropriate fuel management and fire prevention techniques, such as slashing, mowing and ploughing

  • Inappropriate road maintenance (Stringybark Lane)

  • Fertiliser residues in drifting soils

Previous Management Action

Strategic planning

  • A Public Authority Management Agreement (PAMA) was entered into between NRE and the Cemetery Trust in July 1993 to manage Alberton Cemetery.

  • An updated draft PAMA for Alberton Cemetery, and a draft PAMA between Wellington Shire Council and DSE has been produced for Parkside Aerodrome as part of Wellington Shire’s ‘Grassy Ecosystem Grants Project’

Protection and management

  • WWF/NHT grassy ecosystem grants 2000:

  • protection of Plains Grasslands (Greens Road Swamp Dandenong)

  • Grassland Conservers (Trust for Nature)

  • WWF/NHT grassy ecosystem grants 2001 - Grassland Conservers Part 2 – Trust for Nature

Site management and protection

  • Weed control (mostly gorse and periwinkle), rabbit control and ecological burns have been undertaken in Alberton Cemetery

  • Darriman Bushland Reserve near Giffard received ecological burning and weed control by Parks Victoria

Inventory and survey

  • Surveys and identification of significant grassland remnants on rail reserves of active lines from Warragul to Bairnsdale, and the Cranbourne – Leongatha line, were carried out in spring 2001.

Western (Basalt) Plains Grassland

Distribution and Description

Remnants of the Western (Basalt) Plains Grassland Community occur in the Victorian Volcanic Plain Bioregion, within a 23,000 km2 area of flat to undulating basalt plains. This area is bounded by the Plenty River (Melbourne) to the east, Hamilton to the west, Beaufort to the north and Colac to the south. Soils are mostly heavy grey or red cracking clays with occasional exposed layers of ironstone ‘buckshot’ and scattered rocky outcrops. Wetland areas have black cracking clays and may be sub-saline.

The community is predominantly open treeless grassland, usually dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) in the drier areas, with Wallaby Grasses (Austrodanthonia spp.) and Spear Grasses (Austrostipa spp.),. and Tussock Grasses (Poa spp.) in areas of higher moisture regimes.. Woody plants are generally absent, although there are occasional scattered trees and shrubs, in areas of ephemeral swamps, drainage lines, and deep river-cut escarpments. The natural lack of tree cover on the western plains is thought to be caused in part by the heavy basaltic soils that are poorly drained, becoming water-logged in winter or extremely dry and hard in summer (Stuwe 1986, Barlow & Ross 2002) and by frequent fires prior to European settlement (Lunt 1991).

The West RFA Biodiversity Assessment Report (Commonwealth of Australia 2000b) equates the community to EVC 132 Plains Grassland.

The community is structurally composed of tussock grasses, with a variety of perennial herbs, particularly composites, occupying the inter-tussock spaces. Species that occur throughout the whole community include Blue Devil (Eryngium ovinum), Sheep’s Burr (Acaena echinata), Scaly Buttons (Leptorhynchos squamatus), Pink Bindweed (Convolvulus angustissimus) and Common Bog-rush (Schoenus apogon). In areas of higher rainfall to the west of the plains frequently occurring species include Common Onion Orchid (Microtis unifolia) and Pale Sundew (Drosera peltata). Lower rainfall species include Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) and Lemon Beauty-heads (Calocephalus citreus). All these species are perennials. Seedling recruitment is generally a rare event as most native species form small or transient soil seed banks. Vegetative regeneration is the primary means by which all species recover from fire and other disturbances.

Species that are common in the Western (Basalt) Plains Grasslands, but do not occur in the otherwise floristically similar Central Gippsland Plains Grasslands, include Lemon Beauty-heads, Prickly Woodruff (Asperula scoparia), Pink Bindweed and Blue Devil.

Ephemeral swamps, dominated by Swamp Wallaby-grass (Amphibromus nervosus), and Cane Grass (Eragrostis infecunda), sometimes sedges in the wetter areas, once occurred widely as mosaics among the plains grassland to the west of the bioregion. Many of these grassy swamps have been drained, weed invaded or more recently, converted to agriculture.

The community supports a rich diversity of reptile species, particularly skinks and snakes. Birds of prey are prominent, and there are a number of ground-dwelling birds and wetland birds such as Brolgas. There are very few small native mammal species (SAC 1991, Seebeck 1984, Emison et al. 1975). Many of the vertebrate fauna species that rely on this vegetation are now severely depleted. The invertebrate fauna is poorly known, but surveys have indicated a large number of species of beetles, ants and grasshoppers (Yen et al. 1994, 1995, 1996)

Threatened flora species include Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides), Large-fruit Groundsel (Senecio macrocarpus,), Spiny Rice-flower (Pimelea spinescens), Sunshine Diuris (Diuris fragrantissima), Small Golden Moths (Diuris basaltica), Basalt Greenhood (Pterostylis basaltica), Basalt Podolepis (Podolepis sp. 1), Small Milkwort (Comesperma polygaloides), Clover Glycine (Glycine latrobeana), Swollen Swamp Wallaby-grass (Amphibromus pithogastrus), Tough Scurf-pea (Cullen tenax) and Adamson’s Blown-grass (Lachnagrostis adamsonii). Threatened grassland fauna include Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar), Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla), Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii), Fat-tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata) and Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus).

There are very few intact remnants of Western (Basalt) Plains Grassland, as any soil disturbance has favoured the ingress of introduced species (Stuwe 1986). The decline of some native plants is not only caused by the influx of introduced plants, but also to competition from dominant native grasses. Kangaroo Grass can form a dense sward which suppresses the germination and growth of forbs (Stuwe & Parsons 1977). Before European settlement, frequent fires and grazing by native herbivores reduced the biomass of grasses and so maintained species richness (Stuwe 1986).

In the absence of soil disturbance, native grasslands are relatively resistant to weed invasion. Research has suggested (Hocking 2001) that an intact native grassland will bind much of the available soil nutrients within the above and below-ground parts of the plants. Once plants are destroyed and rot, nutrients are released and fast colonising, mostly exotic species quickly move in to take advantage of the open spaces and increase in nutrients. Therefore it has been suggested that, although an intact grassland may contain weed seed and a few young plants of weeds such as Serrated Tussock, these weeds will remain small and sub-dominant. However the practice of broadscale herbicide spraying on these sites, in an effort to control the Serrated Tussock, can destroy the very values that are keeping the Serrated Tussock in check.

Key sites

Craigieburn Grassland Reserve and Merri Creek Grasslands

Derrimut Grassland Reserve, Laverton North Grassland Reserve

West Point Business Park (former Laverton RAAF)

Hamilton Community Parklands

Cressy Flora Reserve, Mt Mercer Nature Conservation Reserve

Mortlake Common Flora Reserve, Skipton Common, Rokewood Common

Blacks Creek

Ridge Paddock (added to Cobra Killuc Wildlife Reserve)

Cairnlea Grasslands and associated grasslands along Kororoit Creek

Roadsides e.g. Chatsworth, Dundonnell, Woorndoo, Mt Mercer, Glenthompson-Wickliffe, Wickliffe-Ararat, Poorneit, McCorkells

Cemeteries e.g. Rokewood, Truganina, Bannockburn, Dowling Forest

Rail reserves e.g. Bannockburn, Middle Creek, Wingeel, Little River, Manor

Private land sites

Links to other Action Statements

Perameles gunnii Eastern Barred Bandicoot (No. 4)

Delma impar (Striped Legless Lizard No. 17)

Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides (Button Wrinklewort No. 28)

Psoralea parva (Small Psoralea No. 31, now Cullen parvum)

Tympanocryptis lineata lineata (Southern Lined Earless Dragon No. 35 now T. pinguicolla, Grassland Earless Dragon)

Diuris fragrantissima (Sunshine Diuris No. 50)

Senecio macrocarpus (Large-fruit Groundsel No. 68)

Carex tasmanica (Curly Sedge No. 88)

Comesperma polygaloides (Small Milkwort No. 96)

Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth No. 106)

Amphibromus pithogastrus (Plump Swamp Wallaby-grass No. 109)

Lepidium aschersonii (Spiny Pepper-cress No. 111).


In 1802 the volcanic plains of Victoria’s west were covered with deep, fertile soil, rolling grassland and open grassy woodland. Europeans brought in exotic plants and animals, notably large mobs of sheep, which began to intensely graze and trample the plains. The first warnings came in the no more than twenty years after European settlement, with losses of vegetation cover, reduction in palatable species and increased compaction of soil. Native grasses were heavily grazed and palatable herbs were targeted by stock.

In 1862, there were reports that .... "Kangaroo Grass, the most succulent of the Australian Herbage will soon be exterminated . . ." (Lloyd 1862, cited in Conley 1984). Further warnings followed, until Sutton (1916) was obliged to record that the plains had "been put so thoroughly to pastoral and agricultural uses that hardly any part remains in the virgin state".

The plains were grazed beyond their carrying capacity, including increasing stocking rates during drought. Some native grasslands persisted for over 100 years under low stocking regimes (Stuwe 1986), but in the 1920s Subterranean Clover and superphosphate application began, and in the 1940s and early 1950s the practice of pasture improvement based on superphosphate and introduced clover and grasses became widespread. This period coincided with the Soldier Settlement program and a considerable increase in stocking rates from 1 to 3-4 sheep per acre. All of these factors combined to dramatically reduce the distribution and numbers of native grassland species. Changes to fire regimes and the cycle of biomass removal also altered vegetation patterns and fauna habitats.

It is estimated that there was once about 800,000 to 1,000,000 ha of open plains grassland on the Victorian Volcanic Plain (NRE 1997). Barlow & Ross (2002) suggest that perhaps 5,000-6,000 ha remains across the whole of the Victorian Volcanic Plain. Of this, they consider that less than 1,000 ha (0.1%) consists of high quality, species rich, relatively weed-free grasslands, and the remainder is degraded or simplified native grassland, or disclimax grassy woodland communities. Remnants occur on large blocks of lightly grazed, unploughed, unfertilised private land, and on small blocks of public land such as roadsides, rail reserves and cemeteries.

The invasion of introduced grasses and other herbs has significantly altered the community, replacing a suite of largely perennial species with a high proportion of exotic annuals (Stuwe 1986). The floristic composition of Western (Basalt) Plains Grassland is now as much a product of management history as variation in topography and soils (Stuwe & Parsons 1977).

Threats currently operating include:

  • Inadequate biomass removal - in less than ten years without appropriate biomass removal a Themeda dominated grassland can be become almost completely degraded

  • Weed invasion by exotic perennial grasses, such as Nassella spp. (e.g. Chilean Needle-grass, Serrated Tussock, Texas Needle-grass, Cane Needle-grass), Phalaris, African Love-grass, Wild Oats and Gorse

  • Poor weed control practices, including inappropriate application and over-use of herbicides, poor identification of target species, removal of rocks and Poa tussocks under the guise of Serrated Tussock control, and broadscale herbicide application without follow-up replacement by weed-resistant native species

  • Broadscale application of herbicides on paddocks that contain remnant native grasslands and scattered weed species such as Serrated Tussock. In such cases the entire paddock is destroyed under the guide of weed control, leaving an open field for greater weed colonisation.

  • Infrastructure installation and management

  • Road works including plant and vehicles driving and parking on roadsides, dumping of spoil

  • Further clearing for agriculture and cropping, and pasture improvements using fertilisers and exotic species

  • Clearing for olive groves and vineyards, leading to off site impacts eg. fertilisers, hydrology changes, invasion of native remnants by wild olives

  • Overgrazing and trampling by stock

  • Illegal grazing (“long paddock”, stock traffic) and cropping of rural roadside remnants

  • Intensive agricultural practices such as raised bed cropping, causing high nutrient water run-off, and winter wheats that can be sown in wetter, southern districts.

  • Conflicting advice given to landholders by conservation and agricultural productivity experts

  • Inability to carry out ecological burns, especially in grassland remnants close to and within urban areas, as these are often adjacent to new developments, which constrain ongoing management.

  • Lack of recruitment in the wild of a wide range of native forb species.

  • Tree planting for shelter belts, landscaping, and amenity planting, especially on roadsides

  • Rock removal, for landscape use or as a precursor to cultivation, (thus removing habitat for flora and fauna.

  • Pine and blue gum plantations, associated with cultivation & drainage of freshwater marshes and meadows (particularly in the recent dry years), shading of grassland vegetation, altered water tables and pine wildlings (via wind-blown seeds) invading grasslands.

Previous Management Action


  • New reserves were created at Mortlake, Cressy, Blacks Creek, Craigieburn Grassland Reserve, Banchory Grove, and the Angliss estates at Laverton and Deer Park

  • Ridge Paddock added to Cobra Killuc Wildlife Reserve

  • West Point Business Park (formerly Laverton RAAF base) and Burns Road (formerly Slough Estate) were sold and parts managed as grassland reserves under agreement with the private landholder

  • Purchase and reservation of 400 ha of grasslands on two properties, at Mt Mercer and Boonderoo

Strategic planning

  • Along the Hamilton Highway between Cressy and Darlington, a strategic management plan has been developed for protection and management, including ecological burning of native grasslands in conjunction with NRE, CFA, VicRoads, Colac and Corangamite Shires

  • Native grasslands on roadsides within the Shires of Golden Plains, Southern Grampians and Moyne have been included in planning schemes

  • Municipal Strategic Statements (MSSs) are being reviewed between 2001 and 2003

  • A draft environmental study was completed for the Shire of Golden Plains

  • The Shire of Moorabool developed a Roadside Management Plan, a Roadside Tour Guide and is in the process of developing a an Environmental Strategy which will incorporate information and actions for grassland management.

Protection and management

  • A Public Authority Management Agreement was signed for Truganina cemetery

  • Burning and weed control has been undertaken at Derrimut and Laverton North Grassland Reserves, Cooper Street, Central Creek and West Point Business Park

  • Exclusion plots at Craigieburn Grassland Reserve were fenced and received trial burns and weed control

  • Phalaris control is being undertaken at Bookaar Lake Reserve, via a Botanic Guardians grant

  • WWF/NHT grassy ecosystem grants were awarded in 2000 for:

  • Grassland Conservers (Trust for Nature)

  • Conservation of Grassy Ecosystem Roadsides in Moorabool Shire

  • Protection of National Estate Listed Grasslands in SW Victoria

  • Bush's Paddock: Implementing & Demonstrating Best Practice Management

  • Protection of remnant native grassland at Truganina Cemetery

  • WWF/NHT grassy ecosystem grants were awarded in 2001 for:

  • Protection of High Conservation Value Native Grassy Ecosystems within Melton Shire

  • Protection of Basalt Plains Grasslands in Western Victoria

  • Protection of native grasslands within Golden Plains Shire

  • Grassland Conservers Part 2 – Trust for Nature

Community education and extension

  • Since the early 1990s, walks, talks and tours were undertaken in spring by NRE Flora and Fauna staff, VNPA, Trust for Nature, Friends groups etc.

  • Posters, brochures and management guidelines were prepared by NRE, Merri Creek Management Committee and Trust for Nature

  • Handbooks were published by Society for Growing Australian plants, VNPA, Trust for Nature

Inventory and survey

  • Surveys and identification of significant grassland remnants on rail reserves within the Victorian Volcanic Plain were undertaken in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

  • More than 30 native grassland remnants in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne were surveyed by the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE)

  • Surveys of Nassella spp. on the Hamilton Hwy between Cressy and Inverleigh began in 2000 and are ongoing. The City of Hume has mapped Nassella neesiana along roadsides as part of a management plan

  • Roadsides assessment work was undertaken by Corangamite, Colac Otway, Moorabool and Surf Coast Shires

  • Shires of Golden Plains, Southern Grampians, Moorabool, Melton and Moyne have begun or completed biodiversity mapping

  • Biodiversity mapping for Glenelg Shire is being updated and revised

  • Several Shires e.g. Melton, Hume, have completed reviews of indigenous vegetation sites on private and public land

Biological research and monitoring

  • During the 1990s NHT funded projects for the re-introduction and re-establishment Cullen parvum, Comesperma polygaloides and Glycine latrobeana at secure sites. Propagation and seed orchard establishment was undertaken for Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides and Discaria pubescens

  • Victoria University has undertaken research on weed management and restoration techniques e.g. Hammond & Hocking 1998a, 1998b; Henderson 1999, Hocking 2001, Phillips 1999, Wijesuriya & Hocking 1999. A PhD is nearing completion on Striped Legless Lizards and a MSc on recruitment of native forbs.

  • LaTrobe Univedrsity has undertaken research into ecological processes within different grassland remnants e.g. Morgan 1996, 1997, 1998a, b, c, d, 1999; Morgan & Lunt 1999.

1 i.e. those that have high species diversity, are in good condition, or that support rare sub-communities or populations of rare or threatened species. Refer to the Native Vegetation Management Framework for assessment of significance of native grasslands and the appropriate outcomes (Table 1, p. 27).).

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