Restoring grassy woodlands on Cape Otway

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Will you help us make the most of this year’s heavy rainfall to collect summer seed and restore local grasses back on Gadabanut Mereeng (Gadubanut Country)?

Australia’s abundant native grasslands and grassy woodlands once consisted of hundreds of species of grasses, wildflowers, orchids and groundcovers.

They were extensively cultivated by First Nations communities because they contained important staple food sources, of which the Murnong (Yam Daisy) is well known.  They are also vital to so many animals because they provide habitat as well as food.

However, it is estimated that only 2% of these grasslands remain across the whole of Victoria.  Some of this is due to land clearing for development or pasture improvement for farming.  Changed use of fire throughout the landscape since European settlement has also contributed.

This summer, we urgently need to collect native grass seeds to re-establish a healthy and diverse grassy understory in Cape Otway’s woodlands. 

These woodlands are currently being dominated by bracken and woody shrubs, like tea-tree.  Bringing back the grassy understorey will revitalise this landscape for many species and ensure the survival of Australia’s unique grassland species into the future.

Can you help us get started on this important restoration work this summer? Donate now.

The above-average rainfall over the last six months means native grasses should produce an abundance of seed this summer. 

Your gift this festive season will help us take advantage of this abundant season by sending collection teams into the field to gather native seed from a variety of species that haven’t produced seed for several seasons.

Your gift this festive season would allow us to undertake a vital step in restoring these unique grassy ecosystems.

Cape Otway is just one of Australia’s coastal environments that has seen dramatic changes since the arrival of Europeans.  The lowland forests, woodlands, and dunes of the south-eastern coastline once contained a biodiverse understorey of native grasses and herbs.  Research and First Nations knowledge suggests that use of regular and low-intensity fire may be key to rebalancing these systems

As a part of the Cape Otway Fire program, we’ve been investigating the role that fire plays in the health of the whole ecosystem– assessing the impact on everything from koalas to the abundance of insects who live in the soil.

This work has shown that controlled fire use, of moderate intensity, can increase the coverage of native grasses in the landscape by activating the seedbank in the soil.  Additionally, these controlled burns reduce the woody shrub layer, giving new seedlings better access to the water and light they need to thrive.

We can boost this rejuvenation by supplementing the seed dispersed through the soil with native seed collected from other local grassland species.  This will allow growth of a diverse range of understorey species before invasive species take hold once more.

But timing is everything.  And the grassland seed must be collected this summer to support this restoration work in Spring 2023. 

Can you make a donation to help our conservation team gather seed this summer for the restoration of our grasslands?

A healthy ecosystem relies on all its parts and restoring our native grasslands is vital to restoring healthy woodlands high in biodiversity, where every species plays a part in maintaining this balance. 

Australia’s native grasslands support the lifecycles of beetles, butterflies and many other invertebrates, which in turn form the main diet of birds, reptiles, fish and small mammals. 

In the wonder that is Nature’s food chain, larger birds and mammals prey on these smaller species. 

In addition, iconic Australian species such as Eastern grey kangaroos rely directly on grasses for food, and bandicoots and potoroos eat the underground fungi and tubers of orchids within these ecosystems. 

This complex web of relationships in nature is what allows us humans to survive, providing us with things like food, clean water, and shelter/protection from the weather.

Red-shouldered wallaby, © Doug Gimesy

In nature, everything has a season and everything takes its time. 

The time for collecting native grass seed is this summer because high rainfalls will lead to plants producing an abundance of seed.  This seed can then be sown next Winter/Spring after seasonal planned burns are conducted at Cape Otway. 

Timing is crucial not only for the sowing of seed, it’s also crucial for the collecting of it. 

We must take advantage of this high rainfall year to collect native seed from unique understorey plants this summer. 

Your gift will help us make the most of this opportunity. Donate now.

The coastal woodlands of Cape Otway are an ideal place for restoring grassland species. Our research to date has given us a firm understanding of this landscape and what best-practice land management looks like.

Once fire has moved through the landscape, the number of invasive woody shrubs and bracken are reduced, and seed stored in the soil can be activated and given a chance to flourish.  By supplementing with additional seed from a diverse mix of local understorey species, we can help these landscapes to recover more quickly and restore a healthy balance of species.

Our coastal landscapes are beloved by Australians and visitors to our shores.  Please help us this festive season to restore our unique grasslands and wildflowers on Cape Otway. 

Together we can make the most of the rainfall and give our ecosystems their best chance at survival.

Thank you for your generous support.