Walk-walk, map-map, bang-bang (the pickets)
In mid-July 2021, the TLC Science team took the first tentative steps on a monitoring mission at the Prosser River Reserve – not quite as exciting an undertaking as Billionaires’ Blast into the Beyond, but more practical and meaningful.
The first task in monitoring and managing a reserve in the long-term is to select and establish a suite of diverse monitoring sites. These need to represent the range of vegetation types on the reserves – from the partly cleared woodlands in the river flats, to the tall blue gum forests in the ranges.
In woodland and forest vegetation, the monitoring sites are a 50 m long line, marked by a star picket at the start and end. Along this line, we measure the percentage of ground cover and canopy cover, and each year when we return and resurvey, we can look at the changes over time. These survey lines (or transects) will form the focus of other monitoring work – shorter flora transects to look at species diversity, camera trapping for mammals, bird counts and perhaps roof tiles for surveying reptiles (a story for another day).
The wildlife cameras that we set at each site are particularly important. We use these to get an idea of what mammal species are present, and at Prosser River we’re especially interested in eastern barred bandicoots and eastern quolls, both of which have seemingly declined on Tasmanian’s east coast. Eastern quolls are a particular interest for TLC; if there are a low number of animals we will consider planning for future reintroductions, much like our project at Silver Plains.
If eastern barred bandicoots are present they will be a focus of how we manage the reserve. We know there are feral cats about, and keeping a dense ground cover is important for improving bandicoot habitat and giving them shelter and cover to escape from potential predation!
An accurate vegetation map is one of the key management tools for our reserves, as it is the baseline for all our planning – and this is a task for our intrepid and awesome botanists Cath Dickson and Joe Quarmby. Cath and Joe spent three days walking up hills and over dales, clocking up an impressive 30 km + of traverses, including an impressive 17 km on one day! Setting cameras is so much more relaxing…
Once the vegetation map is completed, the next steps will be targeted threatened flora searching. This will let us plan more targeted monitoring and management, which will be integrated in weed control and fire management planning. There will also be a future focus on restoration of the threatened black gum community on the Back River flats. While the area was historically cleared we now have an opportunity to re-establish this highly threatened vegetation community on our reserve in all its former glory – something that probably wouldn’t have occurred if this property remained a working farm.
All of this work will enhance the already significant conservation values of this large and important reserve.
Banner image: Cath Dickson and Grant Houniet undertaking monitoring. Photo: Chris Crerar