Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Workshop 2: Biodiversity in the Paddock – 4 May 2014

About The Session:

Our presenters Jim Radford (Bush Heritage Australia), Cassia Read (PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne), Karl Just (ecologist with Rakali consulting), Bonnie Humphreys (Connecting Country) and Chris Timewell (Connecting Country) provided participants with a general understanding of biodiversity and ways to identify and measure it in the field.

Jim Radford set the scene by providing an overview of biodiversity in the regional landscape, including the role (and sheer numbers) of species and genetic diversity, the provision of ‘ecosystem services’ (eg. flora and fauna movement, water and nutrient flows, pollination, shade and shelter and microclimate changes). Jim also emphasised the importance of considering the individual property in the context of connections, links and stepping stones with the broader landscape before planning any actions.

Cassia, Karl, Bonnie and Chris led us through a hands-on explore of the paddock to look for the obvious to the often overlooked – in this case, plants, birds, mosses and lichens, ants. We discussed the role they have in the landscape, what conditions they need to thrive or survive, and ways to ID or monitor them as indicators of a healthy environment. Importantly, we considered landholder management aspirations in this context.

Many thanks to Jacqui and Lachlan Brown for allowing us to use their property as the venue – and focus – for the session, and for their hospitality. It was also good to see how the Browns have worked to incorporate biodiversity as a key part of improving productivity on their farm – benefits include improved stock health (particularly at lambing) and better pasture growth through shelterbelt plantings, as well as reduced gully and soil erosion (thanks to mosses, lichens and other soil stabililsers). In general, a healthier farm, supported by more beneficial insects and birds.

In summing up, Malcolm Fyffe, sheep farmer and member of Connecting Country’s management committee spoke of the constant challenge to maintain profitability, and the obvious long term benefits of improving biodiversity, for local farmers.

Resources and Links from the Session: Broader Biodiversity:


  • Ants in our ecosystems – a description of some ant species and their role in the local landscape
  • We’ll also provide a listing of the species found once the Museum of Victoria have helped ID them…

Mosses and Lichens:

  • Link to Cassia Read’s blog and comments from the day.
  • Booklet “Mosses of dry forests in south eastern Australia” – now available from The Environment Shop in Castlemaine – 325 Barker St, Castlemaine 3450, phone: 03 5472 4160, or from Beth Mellick at the Norman Wettenhall Foundation.



  • BirdLife Australia the national organisation for bird study and conservation
  • Birds in Backyardsa range of existing monitoring programs for birds
  • Connecting Country’s Habitat for Bush Birds project – keep an eye on the Connecting Country website over the coming weeks and months for further information on getting involved with habitat restoration and bird monitoring locally.

General references and links:

Images from the day:

Here’s how Workshop Program Steering group member Jules Walsh saw the day:

Jacquie and Lachlan Brown’s beautiful 500 acre Baringhup property was the setting for Connecting Country’s “Biodiversity in the Paddock” workshop’ on a chilly Sunday 4 May. 

With Mount Tarrengower in the background and beside an impressive creek line of remnant buloke and red and grey box, and plantings by the Browns 20 years ago, participants gathered to learn about, talk about, and consider biodiversity and its role in the farmed landscape.  Using vegetation, bird life, mosses, lichens and insects, participants were encouraged to view the biodiverse landscape from the miniscule upwards, and how land management techniques can affect the differing layers.

Lachlan introduced us to the granite country and the challenges of running fine wool merino sheep on previously degraded land.  The family started planting trees along the fenced creek lines to limit erosion and to offer shelter belts for their stock along the boundaries over 30 years ago.   Opuntia robusta or Wheel Cactus has been a big problem in the area, and while at a manageable level now thanks to Jacquie’s commitment to the lethal injections, the presence of this spiky weed was a reminder of other challenges and responsibilities farmers – and all landholders – have.

Jim Radford of Bush Heritage Australia introduced participants to the broad concepts of biodiversity, including species collection, genetic diversity and ecosystem services.  Referring to the pre 1750 EVC’s, Jim emphasised the importance of connectivity and diversity of native vegetation within regions to support biodiversity in a range of life forms, from mosses and lichens, trees and shrubs, to fauna including the 260 bird species typically found in north central Victoria.

Breaking up into four small groups with presenters Chris Timewell (Birds), Cassia Read (Mosses and Lichens), Bonnie Humphreys (Plants) and Karl Just (Ants), participants then looked at the Brown’s property in terms of its assets and threats.  In the one hectare section of fenced creekline that was monitored on the day, we learnt there is 10-20 ant species, 50-60 bird species, and a mix of native and introduced grasses and natural re-vegetation occurring.  These species have persisted in this area which is occasionally crash-grazed by sheep. The role of mosses in stabilising the soil was most evident in the creek where erosion was a big issue, but mosses were also found among the grasses, underscoring their importance to the paddock ecology. 

Biodiversity and connectivity offer the landholder great scope in making changes to land use, or sustaining remnant vegetation.  Both biodiversity and connectivity provide fauna and flora right habitat (including occasional habitat such as seasonal wetlands), continuous corridors of vegetation or expanses of vegetation, ‘stepping stones’ of habitat which allow movement from one place to another (such as at the Brown property) and habitats as a place which enable feeding needs, mating needs and rearing needs for a diverse range of species.