50 Years of Conservation
2021 is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Round the Bend Conservation Co-operative in 1971.
The Co-operative was created to marry conservation with residential use – to enable Members to live in the bush whilst making every effort to minimise our impact and to protect and enhance the natural environment.
So, how have we done and what have we achieved?
The early years involved a lot of hard labour - we removed over two thousand pine trees, large groves of Boneseed and paved over 2km of tracks for erosion management. At the same time Members built houses, mainly using (and making) mudbricks, and always with the intent of minimising any impact on the surrounding bush, including visually.
Much environmental progress was achieved in the first 40 years, however, the principles of ecological management had developed significantly in this time, so in 2012 the Co-op engaged expert ecologist and local, Dylan Osler of Ecological Perspective, to assess the state of the flora on our property and make recommendations for a strategy to best protect and enhance the biodiversity.
From this first study we developed a Flora Management Strategy to guide our conservation work. The Strategy takes into account our available resources (budget, labour etc) so we can achieve the most effective outcomes for our efforts. The three areas covered by the Strategy are: environmental weed control, Burgan spread control and the protection and recruitment of threatened species.
Environmental weed control
This covers three areas: woody weeds, thistles and blackberries and perennial grasses. The first two have successfully been controlled to minimal levels on the whole property, while perennial grasses have been controlled to minimal levels in targeted areas of high biodiversity.
A major threat identified in Dylan’s report was the presence of the perennial Ehrharta erecta around house sites. Ehrharta (or Panic Veldt-grass) can displace a whole range of different species, like orchids, and overtake the ground cover. We undertook a five-year project to eradicate the weed and successfully completed this in 2020.
This has been controlled to minimal levels, where Burgan was encroaching into targeted areas of high biodiversity.
Protection and recruitment of threatened species
We have erected exclusion plots to protect targeted species, guarded naturally occurring species and planted and guarded over 500 plants including Christmas Guinea-flower (Hibbertia porcata); Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) and Large-leaf Bush-pea (Pultenaea daphnoides) among others.
We have recorded 58 different orchids on the property, including rare species, and as a result we were selected to participate in Nillumbik Shire Council’s Orchid Reintroduction Project where 80 plants of the Wine-lipped Spider Orchid, Caladenia oenochila, were planted in 2018. We manage this plot under the guidance of the Council experts and progress has been good: in 2020 we had 12 plants flower and 11 of these successfully pollinated to seed dispersal stage.
The protection and conservation of our bush increases biodiversity and this in turn supports an equally diverse range of fauna. Overall a total of 166 native and twelve introduced species have been recorded on or immediately adjacent to the Co-op. The native species include 126 species of birds (one Endangered, six Vulnerable and two Near Threatened), 20 species of mammals (three Vulnerable), 13 species of reptiles (one Vulnerable) and seven species of amphibians (one Vulnerable). Several native fish species are also likely to occur in the permanent waters of Stevenson Creek and we’ve seen the Lyrebird return after an absence of 38 years due to the bushfires in 1962.
Over 50 years of co-operative land management we have achieved the preservation of an area that is now considered of exceptional local and regional biodiversity. This has benefitted both the animals that inhabit the forest and our residents that enjoy living close to nature and belonging to a community with strong conservation and environmental values.
Of course, the work is not finished – and never will be! But with 19 Australian eco-systems collapsing (1), and a million animal and plant species now threatened with extinction (2), it is more important than ever that we protect our bush and advocate for conservation.
In the words of one of our Members:
For the sake of the flora and fauna that abound here, and for people with a love of nature and a desire to contribute, I hope that the ideals of this bold experiment will continue for another 50 years!
(1) See The Conversation
(2) The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
This article was first published in the Winter 2021 BICA Newsletter