Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Saving the paddock trees

Posted on 7 April, 2015 by Connecting Country

Successful revegetation at its best.

Arie and Erica Eyles’s stunning property near Kooroocheang contains rich grazing country on a plateau, giving way to a steep escarpment that drops into Joyces Creek. The property has a long history of environmental works including erosion control across the escarpment, remnant vegetation protection, riparian restoration and an impressive amount of revegetation. Some of this revegetation was planted as part of Connecting Country’s Woodland Bird program in 2013 and is yielding impressive results with a nearly 100% success rate which Arie attributes to good site preparation and rainfall at the right time.

Just as impressive are the 400 year old River Red-gums that dot the property. Paddock trees are incredibly valuable – both ecologically and on the farm. In addition to providing shade and shelter for stock, they are important refuges and breeding sites for some local fauna species and provide a crucial ‘stepping stone’ between isolated bush patches for other bush-dependant fauna.

400 year old red gum's dot the property.

400 year old red gum’s dot the property.

Unfortunately these giants are having trouble establishing the next generation of trees on the Eyles property.  With support from Connecting Country, Arie has come up with an ingenious solution – moveable, cattle-proof guards. Made out of stockyard panels, the ‘temporary’ fences involve higher initial costs than some other solutions, but they are certainly effective in protecting vulnerable regenerating saplings from the cattle and they are reuseable. Once the saplings reach a height where they can withstand grazing and rubbing by cattle, the guards can be moved to protect a new set of regenerating saplings. Over the longer term, this recycling of the guards reduces the cost of this solution.

There are other ways to protect large old paddock trees and encourage the next generation of them. Some people place a 44 gal drum around the sapling, secured with a star picket – although you need to remember to remove the drum before the sapling gets too big! Other people build stock-proof fences around remnant paddock trees with a bit of extra room to allow additional trees and shrubs to establish. All of these options will contribute to a healthier environment for the trees, the local fauna and the farm.

Connecting Country congratulates Arie and Erica on their efforts. When asked why he is undertaking all this restoration work, Arie responded that “It’s good for the pasture.  It’s good for the animals. It encourages birds, and birds eat pests.” If you would like to find out more about our on-ground works program, click here or contact us on 5472 1594.

Cattle proof fences protecting regenerating saplings.

Arie’s cattle proof fences protecting regenerating saplings.

For further interesting information on the biodiversity value of large old paddocks trees:

– A useful fact sheet on the importance of paddock trees from Project Platypus is available (click here).

– One of Ian Lunt’s Blog posts – The Candles of Dunkeld (click here) – provides a fascinating insight to the persistence (and slow decline) of these giant trees in a somewhat similar landscape to Arie and Erica’s property.

– By searching in Google for ‘Linda Broadhurst’ and ‘paddock trees’, you will get a plethora of websites to read about research from Linda’s CSIRO team which suggests that the seeds from large old paddock eucalypts are more genetically diverse – and therefore potentially more valuable for revegetation – than seeds from the same tree species in forests and ‘seed’ plantations.

2 responses to “Saving the paddock trees”

  1. Geoff Sutter says:

    I have a question about the 400 year old River Red Gums. Is the figure of 400 years old an estimate, or has tree age been established by taking cores?

    • chris says:

      Hi Geoff. Unfortunately, I don’t know for sure as the author of this post has just departed on a 3-month cycling adventure! However, I strongly suspect that the ‘400-year’ tree age is a best guess from her or the landholder, and is not based on a core sample. It is my understanding that large old eucalypts are very difficult to age using tree rings and core samples for many reasons, including (a) the unpredictable weather patterns don’t necessarily result in clear annual growth rings, (b) the early years of the tree’s growth are lost when the trunks form hollows, and (c) the propensity of trees to resprout from fully or partially blackened stumps and ‘start again’ after a bushfire. Across the country, it is not uncommon to be told that a particular large tree is ‘about 400 years’ old, which I suspect can often be shorthand for ‘it’s very old, and was here for a long time before European arrived’. Cheers, Chris

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