Hot Topics

Federal Election- the outcome for our Biosphere

By Geoff Brooks, Foundation Board Deputy Chair and Treasurer

A resounding message from the recent federal election was that climate action must be front and centre of the political agenda for the incoming Labor government.

The question for communities seeking strong and effective action on climate and associated issues of biodiversity preservation and restoration will be how fast and far the new government will move on these issues.

Climate policy must join the dance with the imminent challenge of the rising cost of living, in particular soaring energy prices driven by a combination of supply problems created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and issues closer to home like the cost-competitiveness of various power generation options and the need for huge investment in power distribution infrastructure.

It is therefore encouraging that the Albanese Labor government has appointed Tanya Plibersek as Minister for the Environment and Chris Bowen as Minister for Climate Change and Energy. These are two of its most senior and experienced politicians and cabinet members and their appointments ensure that environment and climate are central to the government’s policy development and priorities.

Labor went to the election with a policy to reduce emissions by 43% on the 2005 levels by 2030. The teal independents pitched a 60% reduction and the Greens 75%. The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has said Labor will execute its target, if necessary, without requiring legislation, a reflection of the fact that the Greens balance of power in the Senate may be problematic for the 43% to be passed into law.

Climate action will undoubtedly be an issue at Victoria’s state election in November this year but, almost certainly, the die has been cast and the platforms for all aspirants to the treasury benches will need to include a plan to tackle climate and environmental issues.

This is the context within which the Biosphere Foundation is considering its strategy for future projects.

It is encouraging that the successful candidate for Flinders, Zoe McKenzie, included a $920,000 commitment to the restoration of oyster reefs and seagrasses in Western Port in her campaign.

Recognising this was contingent on the re-election of the Morrison Government, it is obviously no longer guaranteed. However, the inclusion of these two projects in the campaign was based on the merits of the environmental case and benefits, previously discussed with former Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, and Zoe earlier in the year.

The election outcome does not diminish their value and we will be keen to work with our new local member to advocate their merits to the new government.

We are also keen to engage with the members of parliament elected in the other four electorates fringing Western Port – Dunkley, Holt, Latrobe and Monash –  to ensure that they have an opportunity to understand and lend their cross-party support to climate action and biodiversity in the biosphere reserve.

Separately, we are looking forward to the research findings from Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab in the second half of this year. The contribution of mangroves, seagrasses and saltmarsh in Western Port and the eastern edge of Port Phillip Bay to carbon absorption will support Australia’s commitment to its 2030 targets and the 2050 net zero commitment, which is common to all political parties at state and federal level and across most local councils.

One of the Biosphere Foundation’s strategic imperatives is to promote sustainable development of the reserve, a challenge for government, our partner councils and the broader community in one of the fastest growing residential corridors in Australia.

Our purpose is to enable people in our communities to connect with our environment in a manner that will ensure it remains one of the most attractive places to live and work for future generations.

We will be expanding awareness, education, water management and other programs to promote sustainable living and care for our environment. For this, we will rely heavily on the support of our five council partners, our educational institutions and business to extend our reach and impact to their communities.

Achieving our goals for the Western Port Biosphere Reserve requires us to advocate and work with governments of all political persuasions. Thankfully, the electorate is unifying behind the call for climate action and environmental stewardship.

We see the 2022 federal election’s powerful message on these aspirations as a positive enabler of our future efforts.

 


Noosa Biosphere gets Shark Smart

By Noosa Biosphere Reserve

The Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation is working with the Queensland Government’s to implement several positive shark control measures in Noosa.

Following the Noosa Marine Species Protection Symposium held in May 2021, the Foundation submitted its recommendations to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Shark Control Program with Noosa’s preferred shark control measures to be considered as part of DAF’s trials of non-lethal shark mitigation technologies across the State.

Noosa has been included in the state’s trial and DAF has approved three key recommendations to proceed. The three initiatives will include:

The Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation is facilitating a Noosa SharkSmart Education Program working group to develop the Shark Smart education campaign with representatives from Noosa Council, Noosa World Surfing Reserve, Surf Life Saving Queensland, Noosa Surf Life Saving Club and Surfrider Sunshine Coast.

The trial is an important step towards protecting both human and marine life across Noosa’s bays and beaches. www.noosabiosphere.org.au

                   

Noosa’s SharkSmart Working Group. Photo (L-R): Sam Fary, Shark Control Program; Ross Fisher, Noosa Heads SLSC; Shane Urban, Surf Lifesaving Qld; Noosa Councillor Tom Wegener; Rowan Rafferty, NBRF Chair; Dr Tracey Scott-Holland, Shark Control Program. Source: Phil Jarrat

 

 

 


An update from our Landcare partners

By Chantal Morton, Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network 

Linking the Mornington Peninsula Landscape Project Update

 The Linking the Mornington Peninsula Landscape (LMPL) project is the overarching planning mechanism for the development of biolinks on the Mornington Peninsula. The Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network, generously funded by the Natural Resources Conservation League, undertakes biolink planning in two catchment areas per year. This initiative commenced in 2015 with the Western Linkage Pilot Program. Since then, eight of the ten Mornington Peninsula Landcare Groups have had biolink plans completed in their catchment in which Landcare groups have been supported to work with landholders in priority regions to develop their biolink plans. Landcare groups are typically successful in receiving grant funding for the implementation of these plans.

This year new biolink plans will be developed for the Devilbend-Hastings and Balcombe & Moorooduc catchment areas. Catchment plans will typically include ten key properties to establish agreed areas for biolink connections in high priority areas. Biolink plans detail the works required and provide estimate costs for the works plan, which is carefully designed so as not to encroach, but be complementary to agricultural activities.

Greens Bush to Arthurs Seat Biolink Project Update

Rosebud Sea Scouts Planting Event 28 May 2022 Image courtesy of Callum Kindred

The Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network’s ‘Greens Bush to Arthurs Seat Biolink’ (GB2AS) is an ongoing project to improve catchment health and address the lack of landscape connectivity between the two largest areas of remnant vegetation left on the Mornington Peninsula. To date GB2AS has restored over 56 hectares of remnant bushland and planted over 28,000 indigenous trees and mid storey shrubs to help support the peninsula’s threatened species.

More recently, Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network is making inroads to deliver its Victorian Landcare Grant funded “Greens Bush to Arthurs Seat Biolink – Strengthening Connections” project and is on track for acquittal in November 2022. Bushland regeneration specialists have completed extensive environmental weed control across 5.6 hectares on a key property at the northern section of the biolink near Murray Anderson Creek. Two adjoining properties are also set to undergo works with additional funding received from the Mornington Peninsula Shire through its Biolink Support Grant initiative. In addition, two large land parcels in the heart of Main Ridge will have over 5,000 indigenous plants installed across eight different planting zones, including indigenous shelterbelts and biolink patches. These new plantings will form integral habitat linkages while also contributing to sustainable farming practices. Be sure to visit https://mplandcare.org.au/events/ and save a date to attend one (or more) the many planting events scheduled between June and July.

Planning is also underway for delivery of the “Greens Bush to Arthurs Seat Biolink – Catchment Stewardship Project”, which is being funded through the state government’s ‘Our Catchments Our Communities’ initiative.  This two-year project will increase landholder capacity for good stewardship practices on private land. Participants will contribute to improved catchment health and better outcomes for the Mornington Peninsula’s unique and precious biodiversity. This project will have a strong emphasis on capacity building, with eight tailored Land Management Plans to be developed for selected eligible properties to document the natural assets on their farm and develop a farm biodiversity management plans.

Emerging Pest Animal – Feral Deer on the Mornington Peninsula

Trail Camera Image Devilbend Natural Features Reserve 26 February 2022 courtesy of Parks Victoria

Deer are having serious impacts on peri-urban areas of Melbourne and regional townships where their presence can be intimidating. They destroy fences and gardens and are becoming a serious road safety issue. Irresponsible deer hunting activity can be very distressing for residents and recreational users of public land. Deer graze and browse in cereal crops, orchards, vineyards, market gardens, pastures and plantations and destroy fences and nets. This is having a serious impact on the economic viability of agriculture and forestry at many locations throughout the state. Even more serious is the potential of deer to transfer disease to livestock. Feral deer are transforming the state’s native ecosystems. The impact of more than 1 million deer on the biodiversity of natural landscapes in Victoria is substantial. As well as competing with native animals, degrading waterways and spreading weeds, serious damage is being caused to very sensitive ecosystems such as alpine bogs, rainforest and coastal areas.

The Victoria Government released the Victorian Deer Control Strategy in October 2020. This strategy sets out a pathway forward for private and public land managers to manage this highly transient pest collaboratively. These collaborations are supported through the development of regional strategies. There will be a regional strategy for Eastern Victorian and Western Victoria. The Mornington Peninsula fits within the Peri Urban Melbourne landscape – one of the most complex areas to manage deer. The Peri Urban plan was released by DELWP in May. Deer are an introduced species and not isolated to one park or landscape area as they are highly transient.  Fallow deer use bushland, crops and farmland for shelter and feed and move between sites easily. Deer numbers and impacts have reached unacceptable levels in many areas of the state, and are causing major damage to our parks, water catchments and farms. While control efforts are being upscaled in key locations, effective collaboration between Government, communities and commercial industries is needed to ensure long term landscape scale control programs are established. Parks Victoria has established some fantastic cross tenure collaborations to reduce the impacts of deer on private and public land and support actions undertaken by communities such as Landcare groups, engaging volunteer sporting shooter members to assist in landscape scale solutions.

In March this year, in response to complaints from a local vineyard, where deer had consumed half the crop and become tangled in a vine net, Parks Victoria established ten trail cameras to gauge deer presence within the Devilbend Reserve. The cameras were left in place for four weeks, and nine out of the ten cameras returned numerous images of fallow deer. At this site Parks Victoria is investigating control options including partnering with the Sporting Shooter Association of Victoria and the Australian Deer Association to deliver a control program. The populations in this area are fallow deer – a gregarious/herding species currently in low numbers. Therefore, the potential to reduce the numbers could be achieved with an effective ground shooting program. These control programs take many months to safely establish and will require input from many neighbours as the deer move easily from one site to the next. For a program such as this to be truly successful, in requires local government and local landholders to be supportive so the Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network together with Mornington Peninsula Shire are partnering with Parks Victoria to collect any information you can provide on deer behaviour. Details such as times of day, locations, impacts such as damage to fences and crops, via photos and dates would help to gain further information prior to the development of a control program to eradicate deer on the Mornington Peninsula before they become more established and difficult to control.

If you would like to be involved in this program, please contact Rhyl Shaw, the Parks Victoria program coordinator for deer control for Melbourne region rhyl.shaw@parksvictoria.com.au. Any deer information, such as crop, fence, or vehicle damage is also worth reporting to local government. In addition, there is an app called “Feral Scan” which is simple and free, to download and use. This app gathers information and helps to provide evidence of deer presence across the state. Reporting deer presence, movements and damage, to Parks Victoria, Local government and the app can be very helpful when developing a control program or applying for grants to deal with such an issue.

For further information regarding these and other initiatives of the Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network, please contact Landcare facilitator, Chantal Morton facilitator@mplandcare.org.au.

 

 

By Lisa Wangman, Bass Coast Landcare Network

Future Homes and Farms for 2040 video resources ready for viewing

Future homes and farms for 2040 is a program of online and in person workshops and video resources, designed to educate, inspire and empower people to make changes to their lifestyle, homes and farms to reduce the impacts of climate change. A web page on the Bass Coast Landcare Network website currently has 16 videos of workshops and fantastic forays into individual homes, gardens and farms, showing how local people are adapting, enabling information sharing and building of community resilience so successful, supported climate adaptation can take place. There will also be more workshops and video resources coming up this year, to watch find out more please visit https://www.basscoastlandcare.org.au/future-homes-and-farms-for-2040.html

                                 

 

 

By Cecilia, Western Port Catchment Landcare Network

The Western Port Catchment Landcare Network share their latest news and happening through a monthly eNews. You can read the ways in which this group seeks to enhance the biodiversity of ecosystems within the catchment through promoting regenerative land management practices to landholders in collaboration community here:

https://mailchi.mp/03e4d63d08b8/wpcln-enews-for-june


Board members visit the Global Biosphere Network – near and far

Visit to Noosa Biosphere April 2022 – by Colette Day, Biosphere Foundation Board Member and Chair Science and Education Committee

Out on the road again and traveling North, we are hosted by Noosa Biosphere for a lovely day in the Hinterland with much discussion with the outgoing Chair Rowan Rafferty and his partner Jan.

Warm, gentle breezes and clear skies are a remarkable difference for us after our travels through flood ravaged northern NSW. We reckon that it has been 20 years since we were last in Noosa and the difference we see is also remarkable. Noosa is a beautiful place with National parks, stunning white sand beaches and wooded lagoons. At the same time there is a permanent population of some 56600 spread in low rise housing throughout the area. Tourism is a major industry for the area, welcoming 2 million visitors in 2018 and even 700,000 in COVID effected 2021.  With such activity there are pressures on the sustainability of these fragile ecosystems.

Our host enlightened us on the Noosa & Region Agri Hub project, www.noosabiosphere.org.au/portfolio/agri-hub . The project aims to increase the value of sustainable agriculture to the area, creating a framework to bring together local landowners and farmers, develop markets for regional produce and therefore an economy providing jobs and economic diversity for the Noosa region. Programs to train and educate prospective farmers, developing carbon capture and storage, along with potential Agri-tourism opportunities are areas for our own Western Port Biosphere to explore.  Improved Agri business will perhaps lessen the focus on the more intrusive industry of tourism.

Of course tourism can be sustainable and eco-friendly. We took time to join a Noosa North Shore kayak trip, and were treated to thrilling sites of turtles, many shorebirds, fishes and a huge, graceful manta ray, all explained and guided by a delightful ecologist. The flora and fauna in the National Parks at the core of the Biosphere is certainly world class and deserving of its its UNESCO recognition.

 

Visit to French Biospheres May/June 2022 – by Isabelle Higgins, Biosphere Foundation Board Secretary

With borders reopening, I was able to go back to see family and friends in France.  I also took the opportunity to visit some of France’s 13 UNESCO Biosphere reserves.  As volunteering in France is not common, Biosphere reserves are operated by the government organisations running the National or Regional Parks of the biosphere area.

– Cevennes Biosphere reserve was recognised by UNESCO in 1985. It is quite large at 3050 square kilometers. Its limestone plateaux, ‘Causses’ are stunning geological formations where vegetation is very limited. The area is also famous for its menhirs, its caves, its vultures and for its Roquefort cheese made from the milk of the many sheep grazing the land. For more info, see https://en.unesco.org/biosphere/eu-na/cevennes

– The Marais Audomarois in the North of France was designated a Biosphere reserve in 2013. It is much smaller at 225 square kilometres and contains at its core a Ramsar wetland that was modified in the 7th century by King Dagobert to cultivate the rich soil. Still today a large portion of the wetland is cultivated mainly for cauliflower. I was able to talk to the biosphere staff who gave me a sample of the newsletter they send to all residents in the biosphere every year.  For more info, see https://en.unesco.org/biosphere/eu-na/marais-audomarois

                                     

– The Luberon in Provence was designated a UNESCO Biosphere in 1997. It has stunning hill cliff villages, lavenders and olives fields and around Roussillon, a small remaining ochre industry. This industry was booming in the  first half of the 20th century before ochres were replaced by pigments. For more info, see https://en.unesco.org/biosphere/eu-na/luberon-lure

And to top it off, while not a UNESCO Biosphere, my family lives in the UNESCO listed World heritage in the North of France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais mining basin where coal was extracted till the late 1900s and where my grandfathers and father worked.  For more info, see https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1360/


Biosphere Foundation’s History Project

By Greg Hunt, former Executive Officer Biosphere Foundation

How did our very own Biosphere come about? Who had the idea? Who acted on it and what happened next? Well, it depends on who you asked as there were different views about such things, quite different views. We reckoned that we needed to capture these stories while those who could tell them, those who were involved in the late 1900s and very early 2000s, were still around.

But more, the gathering of these stories would not be an end in itself. The Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation (the Biosphere Foundation) has now been around for almost 20 years, having been awarded its charter in UNESCO’s Global Biosphere Network in late 2002. It is a requirement of UNESCO that each member Biosphere reviews and reports on its programs and achievements every ten years. Delving into the history, hearing the stories of those involved and the events and activities that have shaped the Biosphere provides a great opportunity to distil what has been learnt and figure out how that can shape the next ten years.

A number of interviews, chats and longer conversations have already led to many of the early players being identified and consulted. Importantly, some issues for addressing in the next ten years have also been raised.  Among these are the following:

We will provide updates on this project through our usual channels, so please keep a look out. But meanwhile, if you have something to contribute to the establishment story of the Biosphere, descriptions of early events and activities, please send them in. And if you have ideas for the Biosphere in the next ten years, don’t keep them to yourself, jot them down and send them in an email as follows: info@biosphere.org.au.  If you do want to keep your name out of it, please say so in the email.


Biodiversity in Schools, Term 2, 2022

By Lucy Kyriacou, Project Science Officer 

It’s been another busy term for the Biodiversity in Schools program, with Blue Carbon at the front and centre of delivery. As awareness about the importance of mangrove, saltmarsh, and seagrass habitat around Western Port grows, local schools are beginning to place the importance of the marine and coastal environment front and centre of their teaching.   It’s not all about carbon preservation either. These habitats are vitally important for the biodiversity they support, their value for migratory shorebirds, erosion control, flood mitigation and potentially to protect against the worst effects of sea level rise. We are able to support this with our small team of passionate education officers and local experts, offering guided walks and workshops at some of Western Port’s blue carbon hotspots, or by bringing the marine environment to the classroom with lots of species to explore and migratory shorebirds to learn about.

This term, St Mary’s in Hastings has initiated the Sea is Our Best Friend program, connecting the middle and senior students with their local coastal mangrove and saltmarsh ecosystems with regular walks to observe and interact with the environment. The Biosphere Foundation supported students’ learning with an introductory incursion. . The students had immense fun exploring the trays we brought in filled with mangroves and seagrass, and there were squeals of delight over the crabs and critters that wriggled out of the seagrass, highlighting exactly why these ecosystems are so important for birdlife with the abundant food source they provide. We also supported the students on a guided walk where they learnt about the fossil fuel industry first-hand with the gas works in the background, and the amazing ability of mangroves to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

St Joseph’s Primary, Crib Point, who have been visiting the mangroves of Woolley’s Beach Reserve for four years, extended the students’ learning about blue carbon by taking them on a trip, guided by the Biosphere Foundation, to French Island to observe as close to pristine coastal ecosystems as they could. They students walked over 11km on the day along the OId Coast Road to Fairhaven Beach, where they explored the environment and observed the natural succession of the ecosystem from beach to saltmarsh, to tea tree forest, as the sea grasses break down providing essential nutrients for the successive ecosystems to develop.

Carrum Primary joined us on a guided walk and workshop day to Woolley’s Beach as an introductory excursion for the coastal and marine inquiry topic they were starting. We introduced the students to the changing habitats and ecological vegetation classifications as we walked through the bush to the sea and engaged them with a ‘treasure hunt’ for species such as the carnivorous groundcover, Drosera spp., the ephemeral vine, colloquially known as Snotty Gobble, and the pupae casing of the rain moth, a large empty brown shell that sticks out of the ground and looks a bit like ET’s finger. On the beach they rotated through four activities, including an introduction to the mangroves, a rock pool rummage, and a talk on migratory shorebirds and the importance of mudflats.

                                   

Newhaven College continue to actively engage in their Water Stewardship plan, with the Year 9 students working on a drain design on the school grounds. Students have identified the challenges with the drain and have begun drafting the solution focused drain design which will be further supported with our resident expert Lance Lloyd. The students finished the day with a planting session within the schools wetland, strengthening the riparian zone with plantings of Selleria spp.

Milly Formby from Birdlife Australia has just taken off on a flight around Australia in a microlight plane, on her Wing Threads adventure, and the Biosphere Foundation is sponsoring the leg of her journey from Tyabb to Latrobe. She is going to be visiting Coolart Wetlands for a story book reading and talk for school children in a joint Biosphere Foundation and Coolart Wetland event. Landing in Tyabb is currently scheduled for August, we will keep you updated with the exact date and time closer to the time. Be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook for updates on this courageous journey!

As our funding through the Federal Government’s Environmental Restoration Fund is drawing to a close, we are moving to a fee-for-service model for delivery of the Biodiversity in Schools Program. If you are interested in learning more about the incursions and guided field trips we can offer, please visit https://www.biosphere.org.au/biosphere-projects/current-projects/biodiversity-in-schools-term-2-2022/ , or get in touch with Lucy Kyriacou or Jessica Brady at pso@biosphere.org.au.

 

 


Projects update

By Stephen Brend- Project Officer, Western Port Biosphere Foundation

Can the bandicoot cross the road?

That question is not the start of a joke, we ask it in all seriousness. Southern Brown Bandicoots are one of the Biosphere Reserve’s most iconic but threatened species.  These insectivorous marsupials are at risk of localised extinction because of all the familiar threats:  habitat destruction; introduced predators; land clearance and climate change.  However, they face an additional threat – roads.

Bandicoots do not disperse radially, like ripples from a stone dropped in a pond.  Rather, their dispersal is linear, typically along drainage lines which tend to provide the cover they need.  The same is also true for road reserves and road edges.  Unfortunately, creeks, canals and roads inevitably end up crossing another road.  What happens then?

Long term studies, undertaken with the support of the Biosphere Foundation, through the Southern Brown Bandicoot Regional Recovery group suggested that, at best, the local population is stable but could be declining.  It certainly isn’t expanding.  This is worrying as there are a number of sites where they have always been – those individual groups (sub-populations) have not been lost, so why can’t they expand when we know there is suitable habitat available to them?

That is one of the questions that we hope will be answered by a new project that the Foundation is starting in partnership with Parks Victoria, the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne and DELWP, with funding from the Gippsland Transport Environmental Projects – Pilot Program.  The project will identify persistently strong and sizeable populations, suitable vacant habitat and the obstacles to dispersal.  Ultimately, it is likely that a translocation plan will be developed.  If the bandicoots can’t cross the road, perhaps we can help them.

In praise of Bivalves

To most people oysters are probably synonymous with fancy restaurants or wine bars where they are taken from a bed of ice and slurped straight from the shell.  That image is a very good illustration of the concept of “rarity value”; the rarer something is, the more expensive it becomes.  When it comes to oysters, it is also an illustration of our impact on the natural world in general and, specifically, on Western Port.

In the 1800s, oysters were poor-people’s food, so numerous they could be harvested virtually for free and sold for cents (well pennies and half-pennies!).  As so often happens with an abundant, easily accessible resource, we over-harvested it.  Massively.  Catastrophically.

The oyster industry collapsed within only a few decades of starting.  No one knows exactly how many tens of millions of oysters were taken from Western Port, but it drove the population essentially extinct.  Taking out the oysters took away all the ecosystem services they provide: water filtration; habitat for dozens of other species; erosion control and a cultural and an economic resource.

A single oyster can filter a staggering 50 litres of water per day.  They digest what they can and the deposit the remainder on the sea floor.  This is important as it makes the water cleaner and clearer.  This allows more sunlight to reach the seabed and so promotes the growth of sea grass and kelps.  Oysters grow on top of each other, forming complex 3D shapes that provide shelter for juvenile fish as well as hunting grounds for lobsters and sea anemones.  The simple presence of oysters boosts biodiversity.  Plus, they are tough.  You can imagine the difference in impact of a wave or retreating tide swirling over soft Western Port mud when compared with the water hitting an oyster reef.  Finally, the annihilation of Western Port’s oysters was yet another harmful act perpetrated against the Bunurong/ Boon Wurrung people for whom oysters were an important food.

For all those reasons, isn’t it time we brought oysters back? The Biosphere Foundation firmly believes so and are working on plans to make it happen.

 

Water Stewardship Update – By Glenn Brooks-MacMillan, Programs Manager, Western Port Biosphere Foundation

This quarter we continued to undertake water stewardship plans across the reserve, specifically on Phillip Island and Mornington Peninsula. We aim to conduct more in Frankston, City of Casey and Cardinia in coming months.  We were delighted to be invited to talk to the Mornington Peninsula Farmers Group on Sat 18th June at Peninsula Fresh Organics where Lance Lloyd took the group through the Water Stewardship process. Wayne Sheilds spoke about how his business has been involved over the years and how it helped them obtain a recent grant from Coles. The group then went for a walk to inspect some of the water stewardship actions undertaken on this property.

We have also been successful in receiving a Climate Action grant from Mornington Peninsula Shire to undertake awareness programs in schools and to develop water plans.  Raising awareness of human impact on the climate and the systems that support us e.g. hydrological and ecological, is the greatest driver of action and behaviour change.  Whilst the project aims to reach four schools, the hope is that the number of students inspired will extrapolate out and affect change across the broader community, as they share their knowledge and skills.  The project seeks to skill participants in practical conservation skills, such as revegetating with indigenous plants, designing and putting in frog bogs and ponds, cutting swales, and water capture and storage. Implementation of water stewardship actions will significantly reduce the school’s ecological footprint, enhance the environment for biodiversity and help mitigate against some of the impacts of climate change.


CEO Report

By Mel Barker, Biosphere Foundation CEO

I’d like to personally thank all the donors that generously contributed to our successful EOFY fundraising campaign. It was the Foundation’s most ambitious fundraising campaign ever, asking our supporters and community to donate $50,000 to support our programs on climate action, environmental protection and restoration and saving at risk species.  The support we received in achieving this target will enable us to progress with several important projects in 2022-23 that we will be announcing in coming weeks.

A new Biosphere Reserve in Australia has officially been approved by the United Nations, via UNESCO.  We congratulate the Sunshine Coast on their successful nomination, taking the number of Australian Reserves to five in a global network of 738.  You can read more about the new Sunshine Coast Biosphere Reserve on our website.  In this Connector, you can also read about two of our Board members holiday travels to other Biosphere Reserves – Colette went up the coast to Noosa and Isabelle visited a number of sites in France after a long awaited trip back to her home country.  We are continuing with our own 10 Year Periodic Review for UNESCO, ably led by Kat Palthe (our intern from last year).  If you have any feedback, or would like to make a contribution to the review, then please email us at gso@biosphere.org.au.

As you’ll read about in the Projects and Biodiversity in Schools updates, the team has been very busy these past few months.  We have secured some new grants to expand our programs and have also been busy delivering our existing projects.  Jessica Brady has joined our team to assist with a number of projects, including our schools programme.  Jess comes to us with extensive experience as a conservation practitioner and sustainability program leader and facilitator in schools.

On a brisk Saturday morning back in May I was fortunate to join a Rotary group on a boat trip around Western Port.  Throughout the trip, members of the Western Port Seagrass Partnership shared their incredible knowledge of the seagrasses and mangroves.  I was honoured to speak with Hugh Kirkman from the Seagrass Partnership who was a pioneer of the research into seagrasses in Western Port and contributed to the Shapiro report back in 1973-74.  I also presented at several community forums in the last few months, including the DRIFT festival held in Hastings (along with Jeff Weir from the Dolphin Research Institute).

I hope you enjoy reading more about our work in this newsletter, as well as that of some of our partner local Landcare Networks.

 


From the Chair

By Jo McCoy, Biosphere Foundation Chair 

It’s now just over two years since my first Connector article as Chair, so I recently went back to my files to see what I was writing about then. Unsurprisingly, I opened with reflections on the unfolding Covid pandemic but I also mentioned parallels with the climate emergency.  As concerns about the pandemic are now fading, in the public consciousness at least, it is heartening to see that climate action is again front and centre in the national discourse. The election of a new federal Government in a parliament with record numbers of Greens and Teal independents should ensure that climate action remains high on the agenda.  This will certainly be the case if the ‘unexpected’ energy crisis being experienced on the eastern seaboard continues much longer.

 

 

Climate Action

Prime Minister Albanese has reaffirmed Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement with the United Nations Frameworks Convention on Climate Change. The convention’s secretary has been advised that the new government’s policy includes an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030.  While this is not as much as many would have liked to see, or believe is necessary, it is at least a step change up from Australia’s previous inadequate commitment. Please read the excellent Federal Election Wrap up article by our Deputy Chair Geoff Brooks for further thoughts on this topic.

Biodiversity Loss

I have also commented in recent articles about the other major environmental crisis confronting the world – biodiversity loss.  Readers may be interested in The Nature Conservancy’s latest Global Insights newsletter and for something from a bit closer to home, please have a look at the recent panel discussion on the topic convened by the University of Melbourne. Both are recommended!

History Project

I’d like to highlight the article written by our former Executive Officer, Greg Hunt who has been compiling information and stories about the Biosphere and its early days as we approach the 20th anniversary of our designation by UNESCO at the end of this year.  While that occurred in November 2002 following an extensive lead up process, it was not until 1 December 2003 that the then Victorian Minister for the Environment, John Thwaites, approved the proposed administrative arrangements for the Biosphere. The original Biosphere Constitution was then adopted at the inaugural meeting later in December 2003. We therefore have a year of anniversaries coming up, not to mention some other significant related milestones. While a lot of thinking has already done about the best ways to mark the occasion, we would be happy to hear from you about any ideas you might have.

Please feel free to write to me at chair@biosphere.org.au if you have any comments or suggestions for issues or updates that you would like to see included on the website and/or addressed in future editions of Connector.

 

 


Get involved with dolphin research as part of the Western Port Project

By Pippa Salmon, Dolphin Research Institute

“Hang on, I see one!”

I scramble for my binoculars, adjusting the focus and scanning the horizon.

“Right there! Just to your left a little…”

And… got it! Two dolphins, flipping gracefully through the water. As they disappear into the waves, I look around. The ocean is shimmering; reflecting the subtle pinks and tangerine that appear as the day comes to a close. Magic.

As an intern at the Dolphin Research Institute (DRI) in Hastings, I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the water as part of our new Western Port Research Project.

DRI director Jeff Weir thinks there are around 20 resident dolphins inhabiting the Western Port. Until now, they have been largely unstudied.

“We want to better understand these bottlenose dolphins – where they’re spending their time, as well as their interactions with other beings. This way we have the knowledge to protect them,” Jeff said.

However, getting this information requires an immense amount of sitting and surveying (not to mention concentration!). It’s tricky for a small organisation to get all the data we need on our own, which is why we want your help!

The Western Port Study is looking for citizen scientists to record their dolphin sightings.

“We are particularly looking for people who are willing to sit on the beach for half or one-hour blocks and put all their attention into surveying. That way we can accurately record the times when there are no dolphins in the bay, as well as when they are around,” Jeff said.

Alternatively, if you are on the beach and happen to see a dolphin, fill in the PodWatch survey on the DRI’s website.

If you are interested in helping with surveying for the Western Port Project, we would love to hear from you! Get in contact with Jeff via email, director@dolphinresearch.org.au

Happy surveying!