Grasslands: every bit counts

Dumbarton St grassland

I visited the Dumbarton St grassland in Reservoir the other day. It was brought to my attention via an online petition asking the government not to sell it off for housing (please go there and sign!). It’s a large vacant block in a residential street, backing onto a linear reserve for a pipeline/aqueduct.

It doesn’t look much from the street, although grasslands often have that problem. The front half is mown and the back half is dominated by rank exotic grasses of the kind that tend to infest wasteland everywhere.

But in the centre is a small Eucalyptus tree (I think it was a River Red Gum), and in a halo around it, a spread of native grassland plants with few weeds among them. The Eucalypt probably takes enough moisture from the soil that the fast-living exotic invaders don’t bother with that area. So here there’s some mat-rush (Lomandra species), Bindweed (Convolvulus angustissimus), Nodding Saltbush (Einadia nutans), native tussock-grass (Poa species) and quite a lot of the once-ubiquitous Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). And even among the weedy grasses, closer inspection reveals patches of Themeda are scattered here and there, and Convolvulus twining around the grass stems. Continue reading


Melbourne’s western grasslands: going, going…

Suburban developments, assuming they are necessary, can occur in many places. Endangered species and ecological communities do not have that luxury. It’s time to protect all the remaining grasslands.

An edited and updated version of this essay has been published at Green Left Weekly

Although about 99% of Victoria’s volcanic plains grasslands have been destroyed by development, some outstanding remnants of this unique ecosystem persist, especially on the plains just west of Melbourne (see for eg Smith 2015). This ecological community was Federally listed in 2008 as critically endangered (DEWPC 2011). Yet at the same time, the the then Labor government of Victoria was initiating an expansion of Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary that would severely impact the exact same areas. (DPCD 2008).

The government nominated two areas totalling 15,000 hectares to the west of the new growth boundary, called the Western Grassland Reserves (WGR). (DPCD, 2010). Developers are to purchase offsets within these areas in exchange for grassland destroyed by new developments (DEPI, 2013). Sadly these bold sounding deals are falling into disarray, with little conservation to show for it as development goes ahead even at the expense of endangered species (Arup 2015).

Continue reading