Our Post Quake Farming 4WD tours are proving a great day out for small groups of local farmers.
A lot of you weren’t too sure what the Biodiversity and Ecology day was and wanted to know more about how the first one went.
The idea is that most of the hill country farms have unknown ecological resources, and it’s beneficial for those who run them to learn about these resources and how to look after or manage them on your terms.
We were lucky with the weather and everyone had a great day out, learning how to do ecological monitoring of creeks and bush on-farm, and how to relate monitoring to actions on-farm.
We used a score-based rating system to evaluate vegetation and waterway health.
The vegetation assessment covered off variation in vegetation types and effects of grazing or pest plants on native vegetation. The presence of plants like native broom, (which is highly palatable) indicates grazing pressure is low and vegetation is likely to be in good condition across the area.
The freshwater assessment covered off the quality of riparian vegetation, effects of stock access or discharges, water clarity and appearance, bed material (rocky or silty), and types of invertebrates present in the stream.
Bird diversity is an excellent indicator of forest health and is relatively easy to measure. Bird counts are a really important component of a predator trapping or pest control programme, as they tell you a lot about forest health and whether what you are doing is working. They can easily be done as part of walking a trap line.
Information on bird counts can be found here:
Information on identifying birds can be found here:
It is well worthwhile learning how to monitor creeks and waterways when you make a change to practice on farm; so you have an idea if what you have done is worthwhile or not.
For example, if you are fencing an area to exclude cattle, it would make a lot of sense to do a freshwater check at the same time and follow up a year or two later to see if there is any difference. The same goes if you plant riparian vegetation or do predator trapping or control.
Dealing with regulation or changing expectations is always easier if we think about what is good for the environment. If you know this, and monitoring really helps, then you are much better placed to respond because you know what the outcome is that you are trying to achieve, and you know what actions are likely to make a difference.
We spent some time talking about the One Billion Trees Programme and how this might be applicable to farms in the project area, whether to supplement regeneration of forest, planted permanent forest, or riparian planting. There was a lot of interest in how the project might support better understanding of the programme, including demonstration trials and 4WD tours with groups of farmers looking to use trees in innovative ways.
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