Maintenance of Biodiversity
The list of plant species indicates the presence of diverse vegetation communities. These communities are for the most part in excellent condition with rehabilitation of degraded areas underway. The vegetation communities have significant conservation status and provide invaluable habitat for a diverse range of animal species.
The steep ,rocky, quartzite ridges and the high elevation mixed with the more gentle slopes provide a variety of aspects and sites which support a great biodiversity. To date more than 100 species of native birds have been recorded in the area . Species of conservation significance include the white winged Chough which is considered vulnerable in the mid-north and the Mt lofty ranges. Several groups of Choughs occupy territories on the land.
Large mammals present include the Western Grey Kangaroo and the Euro, with the populations of the former sometimes requiring reduction. Signs of Echidna are often seen and Brush-tailed Possums also occur. It is possible other small mammals may occur.
Skinks, geckos, dragons, snakes and frogs have been sighted and recorded over many years. A list of reptiles and amphibians found in the 2008 Nature Conservation Society of SA (NCSSA) survey was made. The invertebrate fauna is not well documented but casual observation would suggest that it is extensive and diverse. A study of jewel beetles on the Tothill property was carried out by P J Lang and a report published in September 2010.
The conservation significance of the Tothill Ranges is further increased by its geographical position. Because the ranges are an outlier of the Mt Lofty Ranges , many plant and animal species reach their northern limit in the area. The presence of other species represents part of relatively disjunct distributions being separated from other occurrences in the Mt Lofty Ranges by significant distances. Furthermore the Tothill Ranges lie just inside the boundary between the semi-arid pastoral country to the east and the wetter, reliable rainfall areas that many animal and bird species move into seasonally and during times of severe drought.
The extensive clearing and degradation of natural habitat in the surrounding area further increases the conservation significance of the Tothill Ranges.There are no other comparable, protected areas of vegetation in the mid-north and the Tothill Ranges therefore can be likened to a habitat island in a sea of cleared land.
It is vital to maintain the area as a viable habitat reserve. to protect the biodiversity of this habitat management strategies aim to minimise threats to the integrity of the ecosystems upon it, and repair the damage of any significant impacts upon it wherever possible.
Land degradation, Revegetation and Natural regeneration
Formerly cleared areas have been re-vegetated with local species using seed collected on the property or nearby. Direct seeding has been used in conjunction with Roundup* for knockdown weed control. Tubestock was only used in special circumstances such as where insufficient viable seed was available for direct seeding or where vegetative propagation is preferable.Some 20 ha has been successfully re-vegetated using direct seeding.
Adjacent landholders will be encouraged to develop corridors linking the company’s land with remnant vegetation on their properties.
Natural regeneration can now be effective with the removal of grazing. It is also anticipated that the presence of the Rabbit Calici Virus (RCV) will allow further significant natural regeneration.
Pest plants, Animals and Kangaroo numbers
The main pest of concern is Soursob Oxalis pes-caprae, which occurs in several small patches. annual weeds include Salvation Jane Echium plantagineum, Capeweed Arctotheca calendula, Barley grass, Hordeum murinum, wild Oats Avena fatua and clovers. To date the insidious Olive Olea europa has not been found, however bridal creeper Myrsiphyllum asaragoides has been found and removed on the eastern side of the Niblett Gap Block, not far from the Klingberg house.
Soursob patches are being sprayed with Ally * or Roundup*. It is anticipated that the annual weeds will slowly decline as soil fertility decreases following the removal of sheep and as the native under storey is restored. Whenever necessary or practicable, hand weeding of selected patches will be organised using member working bees
Rabbits which are not controlled by RCV will be targeted by poisoning and/or fumigation. Foxes, cats and hares will be shot and/or poisoned. In the past problems have arisen with a build-up in the numbers of Western Grey Kangaroos on the property. On several occasions significant damage to native vegetation has been noted, particularly to the direct seeding areas. Neighbours have reported damage to their crops as the numbers build up. They are unable to control this population as the kangaroos retreat into the scrub during the day. When considered necessary approval for the culling of the kangaroo population will be sought.
The soil borne fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi is considered a threat to natural systems in SA. It causes disease and often death to many of our native plants and is able to grow in areas where the rainfall is above ca 500mm (20 inches)and soils are acid to neutral. It has been found in the Mt Lofty Ranges, the Fleurieu Peninsula and on Kangaroo Island. The fungus causes root-rot, stem rot and sometimes death to infected plants with some species being more susceptible than others (eg Xanthorrhoea and Banksia spp. are very susceptible). Infestations can often be recognised by the occurence of many dead plants in a localised area.
The main means of introduction to new sites is through the transport of microscopic mycelia from infested sites. It does best when soils are warm and moist but it can remain dormant in soils under a wide range of conditions. The best way to control it is to prevent its dispersal through infected soil or plant material. Adherence to the following guidelines will help stop its dispersal and we hope prevent its introduction to Bushland Conservation Pty Ltd holdings.
- Avoid driving or walking in areas when soils are wet and sticky
- Stay on formed roads and tracks to avoid transfer to uninfested areas.
- Heed warning signs when roads and tracks are closed
- Clean vehicles, boots and camping gear before and after each trip to an area.
- Use wash-down stations where they are provided
- Report any unusual plant death suspected to be caused by Phytophthora.
Bee keeping and Bee Agistment
There is evidence that in some circumstances domestic or commercial beekeeping competes strongly with native birds and insects for nectar and pollen and may affect the successful pollination rates of some plant species (David Paton pers. comm.) In the interests of maintaining biodiversity no approval will be given or arrangements entered into for bees to be agisted on the land.
The boundary fences are in fair to new condition. All boundary fences will be maintained in stockproof condition and will be monitored regularly in conjunction with adjacent landowners. The main cause of damage is kangaroo traffic.
Because of the rugged terrain, vehicle access is only possible in a few places; at three points on Section2 and at two points on the western boundary from which a fire access track runs north-south inside the boundary for several kilometers. The is access from the east from Niblet Gap road and through a new gate in the council reserve area off the Niblett Gap road on the western side.
The electricity authority has established an access track from the northern boundary of section 2 to a large pylon on the crest of the ridge. This is part of the west-east transmission line for which an easement exists and which is subject to periodic tree loping.
The use of motor vehicles on tracks is discouraged by restricting campsites to fixed localities.
The land forms part of a larger area of native vegetation extending 7 km north of Webb Gap ( 5km of which is owned by the Bullocks or Bushland Conservation) and at least 7 km south of the southern boundary. On the eastern side of the Webb Gap land there is a roughly equal area of native vegetation also owned by private landholders. farming land adjoins the native vegetation on both east and west sides.
The rugged terrain means that firefighting by conventional means is only possible on the northern and western boundaries of the company’s land. these are the most likely directions from which bushfires could threaten the property. Therefore it would be almost impossible to fight fires originating on the land e.g. from lightening strikes until they reach the northern or western boundaries (apart from aerial water bombing) and fires would therefore have to be allowed to burn themselves out. A fire that was caused by lightening strike at the Niblet gap end was indeed put out using aerial water bombing as the weather forecast was for extreme fire risk the following day.
Because of the rugged topography of the land and its relative inaccessibility close cooperation with adjoining landholders is important. Several local landholders are shareholders in the company and therefore have a vested interest in fire protection and control,
Liaison with local CFS groups is maintained to ensure that the conservation objectives of the company are taken into consideration in any local fire management plans and fire suppression activities. Strategic or controlled patch burning is not contemplated due to the rugged terrain.
Campfires are prohibited during the peak fire danger season. At other times campfires should meet the usual precautionary requirements. The CFS and shareholders who are local farmers should be the first point of contact in the case of bushfires. They include M.l’Aston, G. Mosey, G. Schmaal, J. Kernchen as well as J. Smyth from Riverton.
The major elements of the fire policy for this land in summary are:
- the emphasis will be on prevention and cooperation
- availability of firefighting water is signposted.
- A fire access track will be regularly maintained along part of the western boundary.
Bushland Conservation members understand that it is important that the local community is supportive of the company’s philosophy and objectives. Apart from local landholders who are shareholders (comprising three local families), neighbours on the eastern side are sympathetic to the activities of the company, having an adjoining block under conservation management. That several of the shareholders are local farmers must help relationships with the local community.
The Tothill Creek Landcare Group, although currently inactive , recognises the value of the native vegetation on the catchment in combating rising groundwater levels and dryland salinity. Continuing revegetation work of this nature will further increase the effectiveness of the existing vegetation in counteracting salinity.
Bushland is also a Landcare group in its own right (Bushland Conservation Landcare Group).
Wherever possible opportunities to promote the company’s approach will be taken, including the following initiatives on all of the company’s holdings:
- Inviting the community to visit the land when meetings and camp-outs are being held
- Allowing controlled access to the land by relevant community groups such as natural history groups, bush-walkers etc.
- Encouraging neighbours to visit the land, with members and join the company if they wish.
- Make available company observations of flora and fauna on the land eg through species lists, re-vegetation records etc.
- Offer full cooperation in local pest control programs.
All of the land is under heritage agreement. The company therefore receives rate refunds from the state government. The government also contributes to the coat of boundary fence construction and/or replacement when needed.
Over the years grants, for which we are very grateful, have been received from the Native Vegetation Council, Federal Landcare “Save the bush”, and Bushcare grants provided assistance for fencing of the Tothill Range land. The Northern and Yorke Natural Resources Management Board’s Burra- Kapunda Project provided assistance to upgrade some fencing on the western side and to combat pest animals and plants. Under this project the property will provide seed for reseeding ventures on neighbouring properties if required.
Heritage and Passive Tourism
The ruins of the old house provide a tangible link with the early settlement of the area. Local materials were used in its construction, chiefly flat stones and med covered by plaster. Negotiations were underway with the Department of Recreation and Sport to restore the house so that it could be used as an overnight stop by walkers on the Heysen Trail, which adjoins the property on the west and north. Despite n agreement being reached the work is delayed indefinitely due to lack of availability of government funding.
Some attempt has been made to monitor changes in the landscape following the removal of stock and the direct seeding sites and photographs were taken initially at roughly 6 monthly intervals by JP. More recently photos are taken at two points at roughly two yearly intervals.
Records of plants, birds and other fauna observed during visits are kept by various shareholders and are available to anyone requiring that information (see bird and plant lists)