Land Sector Package

Biolinks connect a fragmented landscape

Biodiversity Fund Case Study

Location: Dartmoor, Victoria
Funding: $2,522,000 (excluding GST)
Partners: Greening Australia, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Parks Victoria, Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment

By creating five targeted biolinks, this project aims to create viable habitats for more than 100 threatened species in the area with the added bonus of developing biodiverse carbon sinks.

This region of South West Victoria is a nationally recognised biodiversity hotspot. While large areas of significant vegetation and habitat are secured in parks and reserves, agricultural land use and plantations have made the area highly fragmented. Combined with the pressures of a changing climate and the resulting changes in land use, many species are under threat.

"We have over 100 threatened species in this area, including many ground dwelling mammals such as the southern brown bandicoot and yellow belly glider," explains Adam Bester, Waterway and Catchment Health Program Manager at Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment Management Authority.

The Biodiversity Fund is providing an opportunity to link many of these fragmented patches and create a more resilient landscape with the resources and habitats needed to promote viable populations of these species.

Existing remnant vegetation corridor in the Mt Richmond agricultural region Remnant Lowland Forest to be targeted through year 1 of the South West Victorian Biolinks Program. Remnant Lowland Forest typical of the Cobboboonee National Park.
Before a corridor is planted, rigorous assessment will identify specific species

Targeting key biolinks

The project will identify five biolinks in South West Victoria, reconnecting 680 hectares of key habitat, improving the resilience of 1,108 hectares of existing habitat, and controlling pest plants and animals on 2,126 hectares of private and public land.

"To manage a program on this scale and achieve good outcomes, we need to involve a number of partners," says Adam. Conservation Volunteers Australia and Greening Australia are already on board. The team will work closely with Parks Victoria, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, and the local traditional owners of this land, the Gunditj Mirring community.

"We'll also be working with a number of landholders and plantation companies. Plantations own quite a large section of South West Victoria, so it's vital we have their support."

Fortunately the response is very positive. "They're keen to look at opportunities for revegetating areas on their properties for biodiversity purposes. Some remnant vegetation areas are not viable for plantations and they're keen to protect those existing habitats."

A long term commitment to the project from all parties will also provide opportunities to create biodiverse carbon sinks, which Adam sees as an added bonus in the protection and enhancement of the landscape.

From surveys to action plans

The project is currently in the planning phase, which involves identifying fire risks, carbon sequestration issues and the impact on service and groundwater. "We're carrying out some modeling with Greening Australia to get a better idea of the sites and types of plantings that will give us the best bang for our buck," says Adam.

The team will bring in experts to survey the local fauna and talk to landholders to understand the assets and threats on a smaller scale. This information will be used to prioritise works. "We'll then develop a targeted incentive package for the landholder and a management plan to highlight ideas and actions they can undertake themselves," says Adam.

Adam emphasises the landholders are under no obligation to take up the incentives, but the support and funding is there if they want help.

"Part of this program is about educating the community on what it means, and provide the resources and contacts for them to easily take up the options and eventually initiate projects themselves. So far the landholder response has been extremely positive. They want to carry out the works themselves. For significant revegetation projects, we can help them with volunteers."

As well as monitoring the on ground impact of the program, they will also measure the social and economic benefits to the local community, including regional employment and nurseries supplying trees and seeds.

Wetland fencing and revegetation works undertaken on private land through the Glenelg Hopkins CMA's Partnership Project Scheme, Cashmore. Diversification of farming practises in the Mt Richmond region Glenelg Hopkins CMA staff (L to R, Jarred Obst and Adam Bester) inspecting remnant Lowland Forest of the Cobboboonee National Park
This project aims to create viable habitats for more than 100 threatened species in the area

Measuring the environmental benefits

Before a corridor is planted, rigorous assessment will identify specific species. "We need to make sure the works have an impact on species and fauna, and identify the best way to revegetate the landscape."

"It's an adaptive program from year to year, so we can learn as we go through each area. Some biolinks will be bigger than others, so we aim to complete one or two each year".

Adam hopes that by establishing corridors between key habitats, a number of species will be able to support their population. "Climate change and land use changes have altered food availability for these animals. We need to balance food and timber production with viable habitats so species can survive."

The landscape will also be protected for the future with the removal of pest plants and animals including pine wildings and blackberry.

"This is one of the largest projects we've undertaken, so it's incredibly exciting, especially as the key focus is on diverse biolinks rather than specific landscapes such as waterways. In a more resilient landscape, areas with carbon sequestration will be an added bonus."