The ACT has nationally important natural temperate grasslands (NTG). The Grassland Nature Reserves of Jerrabomberra East, Jerrabomberra West, Mulanggari, Kama, Gungaderra, Crace, and Dunlop, play an important role in the conservation of the ACT’s natural grassy ecosystems and species threatened with extinction, including the Grassland Earless Dragon, Striped Legless Lizard, Button Wrinklewort and Small Purple Pea. Important ecological remnants also exist outside the reserve system in urban open space and other areas around Canberra.
- managing biomass to increase heterogeneity in grasslands to support biodiversity
- reinstating surface rock as habitat for grassland lizards and invertebrates
- managing invasive weeds in particular grasses such as Chilean needle grass, African lovegrass and Serrated tussock
- securing populations of threatened species
- investigating techniques, such as translocation, to replace exotic plants with native species.
ACT Grassland Enhancement Program
Natural Temperate Grasslands in the ACT have experienced a gradual decline over the past two decades. The Millennium drought (2003-2010), followed by a number of very wet years, has resulted in too much biomass (grass) and invasion of weeds, and has impacted upon the habitat quality of threatened species that exist in these areas. In response, ACT NRM is supporting a program to improve biodiversity outcomes in grasslands through:
- Undertaking research into restoring natural disturbance regimes, primarily using fire - Burning for Biodiversity Trials
- Managing invasive weeds, in particular invasive grasses such as Chilean Needle Grass, African Lovegrass and Serrated Tussock
- Researching the habitat requirements of threatened grassland species
- Investigating techniques to replace exotic species with native species
- Improving community engagement and knowledge of the ACT’s natural temperate grasslands.
This program is being implemented across grassland reserves and in urban open space as a partnership between ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Greening Australia, ACT Catchment Groups, and ACT NRM, and is partly funded by the Australian Government National Landcare Programme.
Grassland Earless Dragon Captive Breeding Program
Grassland Earless Dragons (GED) came close to local extinction in the ACT during the Millennium Drought (2002-2010). While their numbers are recovering slowly in the wild, they remain highly vulnerable to future drought. Captive breeding is seen as a critical option to safeguard the GEDs against the risk of future serious droughts.
The ACT’s only captive population of GED is currently held in the University of Canberra (UC). UC, in partnership with ACT Government’s Conservation Research (CR) Unit, and ACT NRM, has been undertaking research on breeding and release of GED in the ACT. A strong component of this research focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on GED, including environmental triggers for breeding and foraging.
The aims of this project are to:
- Further our understanding of GED captive breeding techniques
- Determine the breeding success of individuals released back to the wild using genetic techniques
- Provide guidance on how captive breeding might complement management of GED populations in the wild under climate change (see Map).
This project is a component of broader efforts at native grassland restoration and enhancement in the ACT
Protecting Grasslands in Ginninderra Catchment
The urbanised Ginninderra Catchment contains numerous disconnected patches of remnant native grasslands. For over ten years, the Ginninderra Catchment Group (GCG) and North Belconnen Landcare Group have been working on a series of fire trials as part of the Ginninderra Grassland Restoration Program. This community-driven citizen science project is focussed on examining and implementing management regimes for protecting and enhancing remnant patches of native grasslands.
Evidence from the last ten years of research shows that autumn burning has increased the size of existing native grassland patches, as well as improved native plant diversity, particularly when compared to spring burning, mowing and no management (control) plots.
In 2016, the project expanded to thirteen sites with varying grassland quality throughout the Ginninderra Catchment. It will provide information regarding the most cost-effective methods for restoring native grasslands while providing on-ground restoration at a number of sites. Revegetation with native forb species is part of the project.
This community-driven project demonstrates what can be achieved with community-government partnerships. The effort of Ginninderra Catchment Group and associated Landcare groups and members is backed by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme’s Regional Delivery funding.
For more information on how grasslands are enhanced see the Ginninderra website.