Red Gum Plains

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Overview

The Gippsland Red Gum Plains extend from near Traralgon and the Latrobe Valley in the west, to Bairnsdale in the east (refer to map). The northern boundary of the plains is characterised by the heavier vegetated foothills of the Victorian Alps. The plains have been cleared of native vegetation to support agriculture production, mainly dryland sheep and cattle production. The plains also support endangered flora and fauna, namely the Red Gum Grassy Woodland and associated Native Grassland Community.

Only a portion of the Red Gum Plains lies within the East Gippsland CMA region. This equates largely to the areas north of Lake Victoria in the Gippsland Lakes. While East Gippsland CMA will continue to work collaboratively with West Gippsland CMA to manage the Red Gum Plains, this local area paper is focussed on the portion of the local area that is within the East Gippsland CMA region.

Through having been extensively cleared for agriculture, the remnant native vegetation across the plain is scarce and highly fragmented. This remnant vegetation includes three communities that are considered to be critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act: Gippsland Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Associated Native Grassland, Seasonal Herbaceous Wetlands (Freshwater) of the Temperate Lowland Plains and White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland. There are also many endangered flora and fauna species found on the plain.

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Available data indicate that the Red Gum Plains is in moderate condition (Table 1).

Table 1: Condition and trend of the Red Gum Plains

ThemeIndicatorConditionTrend
WaterLand cover (DELWP 2020)There has been a 40 % decline in wetland extent in this local area since 1985.Declining
Index of Stream Condition (DELWP 2011)Toms Creek and Forge Creek were in moderate condition when last assessed in 2010 with low scores of riparian vegetation and aquatic biota.Unknown
BiodiversityCollaborative Australian Protected Areas DatabaseArea of permanent protection in this local area is low.Potentially declining
The Conservation Action Plan for the Gippsland Plains and Strzelecki Ranges Parks LandscapeVegetation condition of the dry forest woodland on the Red Gum plains is fair.Stable
Abundance of orchids is indicative of fair condition.Declining
Abundance and diversity of woodland birds is fairDeclining
The abundance and extent of mammals is a knowledge gap.Unknown
LandAustralian National University’s Centre for Water and Landscape DynamicsOver 10 % of the land in this local area has exposed soil. The state of soils and their water holding capacity, however, remains a knowledge gap.Increasing
Grazing on modified pastures is the dominant land use, with only 20% native vegetation cover remainingStable
CommunityThe area includes smaller farming communities of Bengworden, Forge Creek and Fernbank. Communities are active in Landcare and Agricultural groups. In October 2010, the Federal Court made a determination that native title exists over much of Gippsland, including the Gippsland Lakes local area, is held by the Gunaikurnai people (those persons who identify as Gunai, Kurnai, or Gunai/Kurnai).

The following high or very high threats to dry forest and woodland of the red gum plains have been identified through the Conservation Action Plan for the Gippsland Plains and Strzelecki Ranges Parks Landscape, regional Biodiversity Response Planning (Red Gum Plains) and stakeholder workshops.

Habitat fragmentation

Infrastructure and development, such as construction of roads, fuel breaks, and other structures, can reduce connectivity between habitat and populations across the local landscape.

Natural resource extraction

Legal and illegal natural resource extraction can destroy habitat (e.g. grazing, timber harvesting, track creation) or directly affect species populations (e.g. hunting, fishing).

Weed invasion

Weeds displace native species, alter vegetation structure and impact fire regimes. Over abundant native species displace existing flora.

Predation

Declines in populations and abundance of native species due to fox and cat predation. Introduced predators can act as disease and weed vectors.

Grazing

Threats to vegetation communities including threatened species from introduced grazers in particular rabbits and deer.

Altered flow regimes

Changes to natural flow regimes impacting upon wetlands and flow connectivity.

Land clearing

Incremental land clearing, edge effects and lack of secure tenure, particularly from grassland and grassy woodland remnants and linear reserves. 

Vision

The resilience of natural assets, agriculture and communities in the Red Gum Plains Local Area are increased and ecosystem services are maintained in the face of climate change and other stressors.

Outcomes

By 2040, the long-term objectives for the Red Gum Plains are to:

  • protect and enhance the condition of the high and medium quality threatened vegetation communities (Gippsland Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Associated Native Grassland, Seasonal Herbaceous Wetlands (Freshwater) of the Temperate Lowland Plains and White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland)
  • promote sustainable land management practices, particularly relating to soil and groundcover management, that support higher productivity and protection of the environment
  • maintain and improve the condition of significant waterways on the Gippsland Plains
  • promote awareness of, and participation by, communities and land managers in the management and protection of the vegetation communities on Gippsland plain; and recognise, develop and utilise Traditional Owner knowledge of the cultural landscape.

This will be achieved by focussing on the following themes:

  1. Biodiversity – protecting remnant native vegetation 
  2. Water – protecting waterway health; including Seasonal Herbaceous Wetlands
  3. Land – increased resilience and production in agricultural land
  4. Community – supporting community and landholder participation.
Theme - Water

Water – protecting waterway health

Current State
(2021)

Waterways such as Forge Creek, Toms Creek and wetlands in this local area are subject to pressures from agricultural activities including stock grazing, nutrient and sediment inflows and past land clearing. 

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Extent, structure, and diversity of vegetation on riparian corridors is improved along Forge and Toms creeks.

Extent, structure, and diversity of vegetation on Gippsland Plains priority wetlands is improved.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

The condition of riparian vegetation along Forge Creek, Toms Creek and priority wetlands is improved, providing habitat native animals, and improving resistance and resilience of waterways, reducing risk of instability.

Theme - Biodiversity

Biodiversity – protecting remnant native vegetation

Current State
(2021)

High quality remnants, particularly of Gippsland Red Gum Grassy Woodlands, are at risk due to threats from invasive weeds, rabbits, livestock grazing, and altered fire and hydrological regimes. There are also many patches of other medium quality remnants with low levels of protection and connectivity. 

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Maintain, and where possible improve, the condition of Gippsland Plains Grassy woodland, increase extent by 30%.

Increase the area of native vegetation under permanent protection.

There will be no reduction in known threatened plant species populations.

Bird numbers and species diversity will remain stable at 2020 levels.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

The Gippsland Red Gum Plains will have improved ecological function. All significant areas of remnant native vegetation will have basic protections in place and will be better connected to each other across the landscape via strategic plantings.

Theme - Landscapes

Land – protecting agricultural land and soil health

Current State
(2021)

Emerging focus on sustainable practices, particularly relating to soil and groundcover management. The focus is shifting from recovery following drought to increasing resilience to climate change and other stressors.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Continue to work with landholders to improve farm management practices

Effective management of groundcover to conserve soils for the benefit of both agriculture and the natural environment.

Landholders will use systems and techniques to deliver long term outcomes for both farming and the environment, making the whole system more resilient to on-going threats (e.g. invasive weeds, pest animals) and to climate change.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

Over 750 properties with active sustainable land management practices in place relating to soil and groundcover management.

Theme - Communities

Community – supporting community and landholder participation

Current State
(2021)

Emerging awareness of local native vegetation and participation in protection programs. There is also growing interest in alternative farming practices aimed at improved soil and land management (e.g. Landcare, Regeneration Ag Alliance, Soils for Life, Soil Ambassador). 

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Community actively involved in agricultural and Landcare groups.

Community invited to participate in citizen science programs, such as bird, frog, turtle and water quality monitoring.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

High awareness of local native vegetation and active participation in protection programs with increased numbers of groups and landholders actively involved and measured levels of awareness improved.

There are four phases in the framework that describe the current status and trajectory of the local area:

  1. Target setting
  2. Taking action
  3. Recovery and growth
  4. Target achieved.

The Gippsland Red Gum Plains are currently in phase 2, Taking Action. This reflects the substantial planning and past works supported by investment from both the Victorian and Australian Governments. These works have focussed on addressing threats from grazing pressure, weeds, feral animals and clearing; and has included fencing, pest plant and animal control, ecological burning and thinning, revegetation, landholder agreements and cultural survey and mapping. With stakeholders and community working together, some of the more degraded areas are beginning to show signs of recovery.

  • Establish baseline data levels for number of properties (area) under active sustainable land management.
  • Engage with local community, key landholders, and other community groups.
  • Identify priority areas for on-ground works for biodiversity, land, and water management.
  • Establish clear management agreements with landholders and agencies.
  • Develop a staged program for works and activities; with clear monitoring regimes.
  • Enhance high and medium quality vegetation condition and extent through:
    • exclusion fencing (browsing fauna)
    • revegetation using keystone species
    • control weeds and rabbits.
  • Support the activities under the Future Drought Fund by working with beef and sheep farmers to build understanding of options to manage drought risks.
  • Implement actions of the East Gippsland Waterway Strategy to protect waterways via fencing and riparian area works.
  • Implement the actions in the Conservation Action Plan for the Gippsland Plains and Strzelecki Ranges Parks Landscape through management of pest plants and animals and recreation.
  • Support the actions of the East Gippsland Shire’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, including the update to the Roadside Vegetation Strategy.
  • Improve landholder participation through incentives or stewardship payments.
  • Continue to work with landholders and build understanding of the value of remnant vegetation and ground cover.
  • Maintain weed control and revegetated areas to support natural processes.
  • Monitor and maintain works following natural impacts, such as floods or fires.
  • Monitor the condition of the remnants and adapt.
  • management accordingly to increase resilience.
  • Monitor the condition of the systems.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of works.
  • Evaluate project achievements against aims and objectives.
  • Maintain weed control and revegetated areas to support natural processes.
  • Maintain support for private landholders who are actively protecting remnants.