So what do you think has been going on in our woods lately?
Box Woodlands, including Grassy White Box Woodlands, once covered some 10 million hectares of south-eastern Australia.
The dominant tree species is generally White Box (Eucalyptus albens) and grass species dominate the ground layer. Major plant species in these woodlands include White Box and Blakely's Red Gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi), Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) and an associated understorey of native grasses including Kangaroo and Tussock grasses.
Grey Headed Flying Foxes (listed as Vulnerable under the Action Plan for Australian Bats) and Little Red Flying Foxes feed on White Box nectar. Grassy White Box Woodlands provide habitat for the Bush Stone-Curlew and the Squirrel Glider and they are an important source of food and habitat for three nationally threatened bird species (Regent Honeyeater, Superb and Swift Parrots).
Grassy White Box Woodlands were once common and widespread on deep fertile soils of the wheat-sheep belt of south-eastern Australia. Since European settlement more than 80% of that area has been cleared of its former native vegetation for agriculture. In some districts, more than 95% has been cleared and much of what remains is grossly altered. These woodlands now occur in isolated fragments on the western New South Wales slopes of the Great Dividing Range in the north extending into Queensland to the southern Darling Downs and in the south extending into northern Victoria.
Experts believe that the Grassy White Box Woodlands are one of the most highly fragmented and poorly reserved ecosystems in Australia. Due to their occurrence on deep fertile soils they experienced a dramatic reduction in extent as these lands were converted into grazing and cropping lands. Estimates are that now less than 400 hectares of Grassy White Box Woodlands with relatively intact understorey are known to exist in New South Wales.
There are many threats to these grassy woodlands. They include: clearing and modification, fragmentation, firewood cutting, inappropriate burning practices, soil disturbance and soil acidification, increased nutrient levels, salinity, and weed invasion.
Community groups are undertaking a number of projects to address the decline in this ecological community. Work continues to help rehabilitate and restore these woodlands. A recovery plan will be cooperatively developed for these woodlands.
Join a Landcare or Bushcare group that is undertaking work on this vegetation community.