To celebrate International Day of Biological Diversity we’ve developed a mini-documentary detailing a day-in-the-life of Deanna Marshall, our superstar Lead Ecologist at Wilderlands.
The five-minute piece captures Deanna’s recent visit to our Budgerum project and demonstrates how we work alongside our conservation partner Cassinia Environmental and explores why protecting this grassland is so important.
How we protect precious biodiversity at Budgerum
The purpose of the project visit was to gather baseline data on the overall health of the grassland, identify actions that will assist in improving the condition of the grassland and determine the prevalence of some of the threatened species across the property.
We captured the team conducting a range of conservation monitoring practices including standardised bird surveys, spotlight surveys, line point transects, and the ‘golf ball methodology for grasslands’ which are designed to help assess the grassland cover and structure and are detailed below.
Golf ball survey methodology
The golf ball survey methodology formed part of the recent visit to Budgerum and is a tool used by grassland managers to help assess vegetation structure, determine the biomass level and inform when management interventions are necessary to maintain native plant and animal diversity within the grassland ecosystem.
The process involves 18 golf balls dropped individually within a 1 x 1 meter quadrat which is then photographed from both an aerial ~1.3 meters above the ground as well as a landscape shot.
If the golf ball is over 90% visible it receives a score of 1, whereas for 30%-90% visible it scores 0.5 and under 30% is recorded as a 0.
The number of visible golf balls are counted in each quadrat. Based on this method, if 15-18 golf balls are visible the quadrat is considered to have a low level of biomass. However, if five or less golf balls are visible the quadrat is considered to have high biomass.
To fulfill the diverse requirements of various species, achieving structural diversity is crucial in the management of Budgerum’s grasslands. The goal is to facilitate a variety of structural types throughout the site, with an emphasis on maintaining an intermediate range (approximately equivalent to 14-15 golf balls) of grassland vegetation. This approach ensures a balanced distribution of habitats that can accommodate the specific needs of different species within the grassland ecosystem.
The average scores across the six sites where this test was conducted on the day was 14.5 which was encouraging for the team.
Point Transect methodology
To assess the vegetative cover in the grasslands of Budgerum we use 25m transects. Along these transects, a pinpoint is placed at 50 cm intervals, and observations where the pin point touched were made based on the vegetation class, including litter (which encompasses dead plants), soil crust, or bare ground.
The findings from the line transects conducted revealed that certain areas of the property exhibited a significant presence of annual exotic grass and litter, indicating the need for management intervention to reduce the abundance of this biomass. Effective management strategies may involve a combination of methods such as grazing, burning, and slashing. By implementing these interventions, the excessive cover of annual exotic grass and litter can be addressed in a targeted manner.
Budgerum is one out of four projects we’re helping protect and is a grassland sanctuary located in the heart of the Victorian Riverina. Budgerum protects critically endangered ‘Natural Grasslands of the Murray Valley Plains’ and is home to many threatened flora and fauna species.
Native grassland managers need to be able to assess when grassland biomass reduction is necessary in order to maintain plant and animal diversity across the site. If the grassland becomes too sparse or too overgrown it can severely impact on the plants and animals that reside there.
Grasslands, like Budgerum, represent some of the most highly threatened ecosystems on the planet, with many remnants reduced to small, fragmented patches across the landscape as land has been converted to agriculture.