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Dunkeld-Penshurst Road

Grading grasslands might seem like the complete opposite of what should happen when you want native grasses to thrive, but an exciting new project beginning on sections of the Dunkeld-Penshurst Road next week is using the technique.

From Monday, 3 May, travelers and locals will notice machinery ‘scalping’ the roadside grasslands on section of the Dunkeld – Penshurst Rd, south of Back Creek.
“The thing we want people to know is – we are deliberately grading these particular areas of grasslands – they shouldn’t panic thinking anyone is destroying these very important grassland areas,” Glenelg Hopkins CMA Senior NRM Planner, Aggie Stevenson, said.

Contrary to how it appears, heavy machinery clearing the area is actually a proven technique to ensure the weed infested grasslands can be restored to native grasses, Aggie said.

The pilot project, supported by Glenelg Hopkins CMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare program, is being completed in partnership with Regional Roads Victoria, South West Maintenance Alliance, and La Trobe University, and will reconnect high quality native grasslands using a scalping technique pioneered in the region over a decade ago.

“These high quality areas are currently isolated by smaller Phalaris dominated sections of roadside,” Aggie said.

“These weedy areas not only pose a potential weed risk to the native grassland, but also stop species movement between each native grassland remnant.”

Aggie explained the process of ‘scalping’ will begin on Monday with Regional Roads Victoria using graders and front-end loaders to remove the top portion of soil.
“Scalping involves the removal of the top 150mm of soil, thereby removing almost all weed seed and soil nutrients, which aren’t conducive to native grassland species - using graders and front-end loaders.

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“Following this process, when site conditions are suitable, it will be sown with a mix of native grassland species creating a habitat corridor, creating a link with adjoining high diversity grassland remnants along the roadside,” she said.

Aggie said it was important to promote the native grassland development along the roadsides, which are one of the last remaining areas of remnant native grasslands in the Victoria Volcanic Plains region.

“These grasslands are so special and so few remain, they are protected under both national and state environmental law,” she said.

“Good quality linear patches are separated by degraded sections that are unmanaged and support a wide variety of pasture grasses and other invasive species, putting good quality patches at risk.

“There is a significant opportunity to restore these degraded areas, creating corridors to link the good patches and reducing invasion risk at the same time.”

Aggie said this project builds on similar works completed by the Woorndoo Chatsworth Landcare Group, which has been restoring and reconstructing native grasslands in the area for the last 10 years, and the works of Greening Australia and VicRoads, who first undertook this concept with early reconstruction works on the Glenelg Hwy at Wickliffe in the mid 2000’s.

Along with flora and fauna monitoring, annual biomass monitoring will determine any change in fire behaviour on sites where sections dominated with high fuel loads - exotic grasses - are replaced with native species, which have far lower fuel loads.

This information will be used to determine the cost benefits of transitioning from exotic dominated systems to native dominated systems; linear reserves are often (incorrectly) cited as being ‘wicks’ for wildfires, so it is important to gather scientific evidence to refute claims such as these.

For further information about this pilot project, please contact Aggie Stevenson on 0435 537 443 or at the Glenelg Hopkins CMA.

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