NATURE

At Neds Corner Station, a Shingleback lizard dashes across the dry red soil into a small hole, shaded by a rusty windmill. It's mid-day and the sun has that extra sparkle, extra strength. The flower of a bright pink Inland Pigface (Carpobrotus modestus) turns toward the same hot sun. Neds Corner Station, a 30,000ha conservation property on the Murray River in Victoria owned by Trust for Nature, is dominated by saltbush communities on an alluvial plain. The Shingleback and Pigface are a part of the diverse native flora and fauna found at the Station. They survive in a harsh climate. Temperatures soar close to 50C in summer and frosts occur in winter. Rainfall is scarce and drought is a shaping feature of the landscape. But when it does rain, it is often intense. The extreme climate, flora and fauna come together to create a special place on the Murray at Neds Corner Station.

Flora

 

Neds Corner Station is where arid and semi-arid climatic zones meet. The Murray River carves a shallow valley through its floodplain, through what is known as the Murray Scroll Belt floodplain. The soft sand and soil gently rises and falls and in the depressions, wetlands sometimes form. Along the river and in wetland areas the plants are ephemeral. While towering Red Gum trees and the smaller Black Box woodlands drop long roots in search of groundwater to survive the dry times, other plants come and go. Sedges, reeds, water milfoil and small herbaceous plants spring into life when the Murray water levels rise and trickle into the dry beds of anabranches and billabongs. The damp soil supports new life and with the vegetation comes insects, small fish, frogs and birds. When there is water, it is a time of abundance.

If the River, its wetlands and immediate floodplain support a density of life, further back where less water reaches, the vegetation is more fragile but resilient. Saltbush and Blue Bush grow in the depleted soil. There are less trees, more shrubs and open spaces. The suns tendrils reach further and bake the exposed earth.

Grey cheno shrubland community.
Photo: Trust for Nature

Fauna

 

Bearded Dragon.
Photo: P. Moulton. Trust for Nature

With the increase in vegetation growth since Trust for Nature began to manage the property, surveys have revealed the extent of reptiles, frogs, mammals and birds. Three types of kangaroos visit the property - Eastern Grey, Western Grey and Red. Many of the small to medium mammals are totally or locally extinct but Fat-tailed dunnarts, echidnas and three species of bat are still found here. Sometimes the endangered Giles' Planigale, a ferocious small mammal, pops up at night to feed on locusts, beetles and spiders. During extreme weather, the Planigale shelters in the cracks in the dry floodplain soil.

Reptiles and frogs thrive at Neds Corner Station. Surveys have recorded 24 species, including De Vis Banded Snake, Carpet Python, the Tessellated gecko, the Shingleback lizard and the Long-thumbed frog.

Fallen branches from the woodland trees create perfect habitat for many of these species.

Lizards and snakes can easily dash from hollow to hollow, safe from the birds watching overhead. Frogs appear soon after rain or when wetlands fill, and quickly breed to make use of the abundant new life.  At night the 'bonk bonk' call of the Banjo frog ricochets through the trees. The nationally Endangered Growling Grass Frog also calls at Neds Corner Station. In the more open Saltbush and Bluebush areas, the endangered Hooded Scaly-foot (a legless lizard) lives in the soil cracks.

The tall Red Gum and Black Box woodland trees lining the Murray provide ample habitat for birds. Wings of colour flash among the leaves - Orange Chats, Apostle Birds, Budgerigar swarms, Galahs and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. Little Button Quails forage among the leaf litter between the smaller plants on the woodland floor. There have been 112 bird species counted at Neds Corner Station. Rare birds, such as the Swift Parrot and endangered Inland Dotterel and Regent Parrot have also been recorded.

Threatened plants

 

Neds Corner Station is an important place for a number of plant species threatened by extinction in Australia and Victoria. As it is bordered by National Park, Neds Corner Station is part of a refuge for flora and fauna. In the Semi-arid Mallee Woodland, Belah (Casuarina pauper), Sugar Wood (Myoporum platycarpu) and Murray Pine (Callitris glaucophylla) are threatened. The Station provides a place for these species to thrive as there is little or no vegetation clearance, rabbit grazing or stock trampling. Even rarer species, such as the nationally endangered Multi-headed Sneezewood (Centipeda pleiocephala) are found at Neds Corner Station. The future of these species depends on Trust for Nature's management of this property for conservation.

 

 

flora fauna 1

Callitris glaucophylla pod.
Photo: N.Wong and L.Fraser, Trust for Nature

Managing flora and fauna

 

Managing Flora and Fauna

Revegetation works.
Photo:C.Barnes, Trust for Nature

Trust for Nature has undertaken an extensive pest management program. Sheep grazing ceased when the property was bought in 2002 and the destruction of rabbit burrows is ongoing. Weeds continue to be removed. To compliment the pest management, trees have been planted in the Semi-arid Woodland areas of the property. Regular surveys of plants and animals are undertaken to assess change over time. Fencing of sensitive areas has also helped to protect the flora and fauna.

The future for the wildlife of Neds Corner Station is positive. Trust for Nature will soon investigate the re-introduction of some species that haven't been found in the region for decades – possibly the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby or the Brush-tailed Bettong.

This is an exciting next step. Support the efforts to protect nationally threatened species and communities such as the Hoody Scaly-foot as the team battle to restore habitat for endangered species. Donate now or contact us.

 

ECOLOGICAL LAND MANAGEMENT

land1

It was no small feat for Trust for Nature to purchase the 30,000ha Neds Corner Station property in the Mallee region of Victoria in 2002. We had a vision for the land – a conservation vision:

To be an inspirational example of ecological restoration, promoting the significance of biodiversity through informing and educating for public benefit while protecting 3% of native vegetation on private land in Victoria forever.

With support from generous individuals and organisations who have given us their time, money and encouragement, Trust for Nature acquired Neds Corner Station and has worked hard ever since to achieve that vision. And this is only the start of the story.

The bigger picture

 

Neds Corner Station is a part of a broader conservation effort. Some of the property is within The Living Murray icon site: Chowilla Floodplain and Lindsay-Wallpolla Islands. The Australian Government has invested significantly to restore water to Red Gum woodlands, Black Box woodlands and the lignum swamps on the floodplain. This was to create breeding habitat for species such as the threatened Murray Cod and other native fish. Land next to Neds Corner Station is part of the new Murray River National Park. Together with Trust for Nature; Parks Victoria, local Indigenous groups, the Mallee Catchment Management Authority and others will manage the land and waterways in and around Neds Corner Station to enhance its biodiversity.

 

Sunset at Neds Corner Station.
Photo: Trust for Nature

Threats to conservation

 

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Rabbit warrens at Neds Corner Station.
Photo: Trust for Nature

Neds Corner Station was formerly a sheep station. When Trust for Nature bought the property the land was ravaged byerosion, stock trampling, rabbit grazing and affected by weeds. The native vegetation was sparse. Many of the indigenous species found in the area by the early explorers (such as Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, Brush tailed Bettong and Pig-footed Bandicoot) have now disappeared. For 13 years (from 1997 to 2010) a protracted drought affected south-eastern Australia. Red Gum and Black Box woodlands at Neds Corner Station showed signs of extreme drought stress. In fact, the drought often made it hard to see how the decline of the property could be turned around.

Works to date

 

Neds Corner Station has been transformed by the commitment and dedication of Trust for Nature. In the early years, the Trust relied on devoted volunteer rangers who planned and began the conservation tasks needed to restore the Station. The first task was to remove the threats to native flora and fauna. From the outset, Trust for Nature stopped grazing to allow the regeneration and growth of native vegetation.

We needed to know what plants and animals existed on the property. A baseline flora and fauna survey was carried out shortly after grazing ceased to understand the condition of the property and to identify the species at threat.

There is now a full-time land management team at the Station. A Property Manager and Ranger work hard to improve the health and condition of the native vegetation and to look after the facilities. Rabbit control, revegetation and maintenance of assets (for example, the buildings, fences and equipment) are ongoing tasks. An Administration Officer supervises paid and unpaid visitors who use the accommodation facilities that cater for up to 30 people.

A conservation action plan

Trust for Nature has completed a Conservation Action Plan for Neds Corner Station.  The Plan, facilitated by Greening Australia, identifies the conservation priorities of the property and wider local area to guide management activities.  The plan was completed with the financial assistance of The Nature Conservancy and local conservation partners Mallee Catchment Management Authority, Department of Sustainability and Environment and Park Victoria.

Read the Plan here.

 

Changes take hold

 

The long drought eased in 2010 with a La Nina event that brought replenishing rain to large parts of the country and saw high flows along the Murray River. The rain also fell at Neds Corner Station and triggered dramatic growth in the plants and a response in fish, frogs, reptiles and birds. The condition of the native vegetation has revealed that the hard work carried out by Trust for Nature's staff and volunteers has been incredibly worthwhile.

The Trust works with all sorts of different partners at Neds Corner Station. The property is a place of rich Indigenous and European history. Local Indigenous groups help to protect and conserve the cultural objects found onsite and to advise on management works. A number of the historic buildings have gradually been restored and now enable Trust for Nature to invite other partners and volunteers to come and see and participate in the work we do. It gives other people the opportunity to experience a special part of Victoria where wildlife thrives.

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Wetlands environmental watering.
Photo: P.Barnes, Trust for Nature

 

Peter Barnes, Manager, Neds Corner Station

 

peter barnes

The protection of significant landscapes is in Peter's blood. He grew up working on a property that eventually became part of Mungo National Park in New South Wales. Peter knows that others need to be inspired to help him do his job – without everyone's help he will not be successful. Peter can impart stories about the land where he lives that will capture your attention. He will fascinate you with stories of contrast - about what's involved to protect a small, threatened plant to the way the landscape dramatically changes after a heavy rain.

 

PROJECTS

Restoring landscape links and habitat for threatened wildlife at Neds Corner Station

            

The project

 

At Neds Corner Station, Trust for Nature is working to restore the habitat links across the landscape, and create better habitat for threatened wildlife.  The habitats between the riverine woodlands and mallee/semi-arid woodlands are extremely important for the Regent Parrot and other wildlife, some of which are highly threatened species.

Trust for Nature is doing this through a dedicated partnership project.

Project partners include:

         -  Australian Government
         -  Parks Victoria
         -  Department of Sustainability & Environment
         -  Department of Primary Industries
         -  Mallee Catchment Management Authority
         -  Mildura Rural City Council
         -  Northern Mallee Region Landcare
         -  Mildura Aboriginal Cooperative
         -  Millewa Pioneer Village at Meringur

This project is partially funded through Trust for Nature and the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country initiative, together with support by the partners above.

The Objectives

 

This project addresses three Caring for our Country Targets:

         1.  increasing native habitat

         2.  improving management practices, and

         3.  landscape scale conservation using integrated management of threats in the project area.

This project aims to:

         -  Expand and re-establish tree and shrub cover on more than 1,452ha at Neds Corner Station and nearby properties.

         -  Control rabbits by warren ripping, fumigation and 1080 baiting on more than 1,380ha at Neds Corner Station and 3,062ha of nearby

             private land and 10 ha of nearby roadsides.

         -  Engage with the Indigenous community to ensure that cultural heritage sites are identified and protected.

         -  Undertake four community engagement activities.

         -  Retire 500ha of cropping land from cultivation at Neds Corner Station to encourage re-establishment of native vegetation and reduction

             in soil erosion.

         -  Engage 10 farmers that will undertake activities that will contribute to the ongoing conservation and protection of biodiversity.

Issues being addressed

 

This project recognises the critical need to restore landscape links throughout the Mallee woodlands. This will benefit many species, including the nationally endangered Regent Parrot.

              

                                                                                       Photo Mal Thompson 31.05.12

Threats to the area include:
Loss of native vegetation
Chenopod Mallee and semi-arid woodlands are both classified as threatened making them of high conservation significance. To protect these habitats, three key actions are needed:
• an ongoing rabbit control program
• protection of native plants from native herbivores, and
• the re-establishment of native plants.

Soil loss as a result of wind erosion
Neds Corner Station is mapped as a national priority area for actions to reduce impacts of wind erosion. The retirement of land from cultivation and its replacement with native vegetation is recognised as a management action, which will reduce soil loss.

Impacts of rabbits
Rabbits are recognised as a significant threat to the survival of a range of native plants and wildlife, in particular semi-arid woodlands and chenopod shrublands.


Values

 

Community value


Many Council roads are lined by mallee woodlands in varying states of health. Roadsides are important landscape links and contain some of the most important woodland remnant sites within this landscape. Many roadsides are impacted by rabbits and weeds to varying degrees.
Small patches of mallee woodlands on farm land are extremely important as they provide links across the landscape for birds and other animals.

Environment value


Mallee woodlands provide many important functions within the landscape. They provide on-farm benefits; they contribute to the broader landscape by providing habitat for threatened species such as the Regent Parrot, and add an aesthetically pleasing natural dimension in a highly modified landscape.
Remnants of this vegetation community are essential for the maintenance of the genetic diversity of our native plands and wildlife species. These remnants also provide much of the seed that is used to revegetate farmland and other modified areas within the district.
       

                                                                                                                                       Photo C Barnes 11.03.13
Mallee woodlands are essential for the survival of nationally vulnerable species such as the Regent Parrot.

Economic value


Mallee woodlands consist of deep rooted perennials which can help prevent and reduce dry land salinity.. With intact groundcover, they minimise soil loss and subsequent erosion problems by slowing the flow of water, allowing it to infiltrate the soil. In addition, mallee woodlands provide:

         -  Protection for stock, crops and pasture from heat, cold and wind.

         -  Habitat for native wildlife such as birds, bats, spiders, parasitic wasps and other insects, which can act as natural pest control agents

             in pastures, crops and the woodland themselves.


What is the Geographic Project Area?

 

The current 2011-13 funded project covers Neds Corner Station and surrounding farmland.


                  

Further Information

For more information on this project please contact:

 

Deanna Marshall  
Senior Project Manager
Trust for Nature
M: 0477 168 808  
deannam@tfn.org.au

 

Peter Barnes

Neds Corner Station Manager

Trust for Nature

P: (03) 5028 3222 
M: 0437 003 334

peterb@tfn.org.au

 


 

       

New Signs at Neds Corner

With financial assistance from Mallee CMA, we were able to purchase new signs to erect on roads around Neds to control the movement of traffic across the property.

Staff Anthony Pay & Brett Barnes             

Staff Anthony Pay, Peter Barnes & Brett Barnes