If you live, walk or ride along Ginninderra Creek, spare a thought for what the Creek and adjacent land looked like before European settlement. It didn’t have willows and other introduced trees and shrubs or weeds; indeed for much of its length there was only the occasional tree. It was a natural grassland. Frequent heavy frosts prevented trees spreading from the hills by killing their seedlings.
Grasslands and grassy woodlands once covered vast areas of south eastern Australia. It was these natural grasslands that attracted early pastoral settlement and development along low lying areas such as Ginninderra Creek. The city of Canberra; our “bush capital’ and other townships in the region have been largely built upon these natural grasslands. Unfortunately, only remnants of these natural grasslands remain in the ACT. Scientists tell us they are amongst the most threatened natural ecosystems in Australia and hence have been listed as an endangered plant community.
Outside of the Nature Reserves in the ACT, such as the Dunlop Grasslands Reserve and Crace Reserve in Gungahlin, only patches of remnant native grassland exist along Ginninderra Creek. The Ginninderra Catchment Group and North Belconnen Landcare Group are “going back to the future” to help protect and extend these few remaining native grassland patches. With the assistance of the Commonwealth and ACT Governments, we are investigating how to turn weedy grasslands into native grasslands by sowing seed of native species and how to encourage spread of native grassland patches.
At Croke Place in Evatt (just below Lake Ginninderra dam wall) and at Spain Place (near Copeland Drive) a range of management techniques are being evaluated. Those that show promise will then be applied in other areas along the creek. Signs at both places indicate where the sites are and provide information on the management techniques. The satellite images below also identify the trial sites.
The Ginninderra Catchment Group and the North Belconnen Landcare Group are going “back to the future” with these management techniques not only because native grasslands are endangered communities. Healthy native grasslands provide a wide range of practical and ecosystem services. For example, they provide habitat for a large number of plants and animals, above and below the ground. They also are the least fire-prone of any vegetation and will therefore minimise the damage from wildfire. When managed properly, native grasslands pose far less of a fire hazard than many people imagine.
Above the ground, you should see a wide variety of insects, spiders, frogs, reptiles and mammals if you look carefully. Many birds feed in grasslands. Lichens and fungi live amongst the plants, both on the surface and in the soil. Below ground there is an abundance of life including worms, beetles, ants and micro-organisms.
Healthy native grasslands also thrive much better than most introduced plants because they tolerate the very cold weather prevailing along the creek during winter and the droughts and heat of summer.
So if you live, walk or cycle along Ginninderra Creek, spare a thought for our remaining and endangered native grasslands and take the time to look at the sites.
You might even consider joining a local Landcare Group to help us ”go back to the future” along Ginninderra Creek.
Contact the Ginninderra Catchment Group to find out more about the project or how you can get involved.
You can also find out more about the North Belconnen Landcare Group here.
A full trial plan can be downloaded here (PDF 1100KB).
This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Envirofund.