Native and Remnant Vegetation
Clearing of native vegetation in rural and rural residential areas has greatly reduced native vegetation cover. The remaining native vegetation is referred to as remnant vegetation. This includes original (never been cleared) and regenerated native vegetation communities such as forest, woodland, native grassland, and isolated native trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. Remnant vegetation on your rural residential property might occur as natural bushland, roadside vegetation, shelterbelts, riparian areas or isolated paddock trees.
Native Vegetation—Benefits and Threats
Remnant native vegetation has high biodiversity and conservation values and can provide shelter and shade for livestock, reduce soil erosion and prevent sediment and nutrients entering waterways. Native vegetation can also be managed as a source of income, via forestry, seed harvesting, firewood or via recently emerging carbon trading markets. Native plants in the garden and on your property also require less water, and are more tolerant to environmental conditions such as drought and frost.
The replacement of native vegetation with pasture or open grassland contributes to a range of land management issues including soil erosion, degradation and salinity, and destruction of wildlife habitat. Activities causing damage to native vegetation include removal of understorey vegetation (small trees, shrubs and groundcovers), excessive or frequent burning, overgrazing, weed infestation, and ‘tidying up’ to create lawn and parkland style gardens.
Assessing the Health of Native Vegetation
Healthy remnant native vegetation has a variety of native plant species and resists threats such as weed infestations, and extreme weather such as drought and frost. Healthy native vegetation will include a mix of healthy mature trees, regenerating juvenile trees and shrubs, a diverse understorey and a range of ground cover plants. Remember though—all remnant native vegetation has value, including individual trees in grazing paddocks or those which are surrounded by weed species!
Planning for Revegetation and Regeneration
Once you have assessed the health of existing native vegetation you can prioritise its management on your property to maximise the benefits it provides. Protecting and enhancing existing native vegetation requires less time and money than establishing new plantings. You can improve the health of existing vegetation by removing threats (eg. removing weeds or erecting fences to prevent grazing). If you are replanting cleared areas, choose sites that will expand and connect patches of remnant vegetation. This will improve the overall health of the existing vegetation, be easier to maintain in the long term and provide corridors for native wildlife. Plan your revegetation so that the site is well prepared and you are able to water seedlings if needed.