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Update from the Program Manager

By Glenn Brooks-MacMillan, Biosphere Foundation Program Manager

Water Stewardship – Environment Restoration Fund

As we enter into our last reporting period for our three-year Water Stewardship program, thanks to the Federal Government – Environment Restoration Fund, we are now beginning to workshop some of our water plans with each of the water stewards. This process involves going through in more detail some of the risks and opportunities identified through the assessment stage. These workshops are an opportunity for each landowner to work collectively with other stewards and trainers to clarify and build solutions in a one-on-one environment.

Our first workshop for this period was at Coolart in Somers. We conducted two workshops in one day with private businesses, schools, government, and private landowners broken across the day in two sessions.

The aim of the workshop is to assist the landowners come up with actions that are achievable. Coming up with a date to complete an action can be difficult to plan at times and being able to brainstorm options with like minded landowners is a real positive feature of the program.

Some of the actions being planned include:

These actions are considered and committed by each of the landowners and becomes part of their water plan.

We are looking forward to following up with landowners in the coming weeks to help complete their plans and get them started on their actions.

For the rest of our catchments, we are aiming to conduct more workshops to include landowners on Phillip Island (Bass Coast Shire), Frankston and Cardinia Shires and City of Casey.

Our aim is to have completed all of our plans by this Christmas which will pretty much finish this project ready for new initiatives in which we are seeking further investment from key stakeholders.


Blue Carbon Mapping

Our Blue Carbon mapping project across Port Phillip Bay and Western Port with the Blue Carbon Lab at Deakin University has progressed well with three milestone reports received so far. Milestone one helps us better understand where Blue Carbon was present pre-European settlement and where it exists today. The maps are showing areas for restoration, but it also shows there are seagrasses present now where they weren’t in the past. One reason for this might be the fact that there is limited information available on the extent of seagrasses in the past. Another reason might be the movement of sediment in the bay may have made it easier to establish now in some areas and not in others. The next milestone shows us where there are opportunities for restoration, with some initial estimates showing over 800 ha available for restoration. The third and current milestone is informing us on the co-benefits of these restoration opportunities. This includes carbon sequestered, nitrogen absorbed, kg’s of fish increased as well as increase in fish for recreational purposes. Some of the other co benefits includes the number of houses protected through coastal protection. This step compares the co-benefits as of today and then compares to what it might look like if the restoration works are implemented. We are now looking forward to the next milestone which is around a ‘road map’ for our councils on a proposed way forward. In readiness for the final report in November we will also be creating a story map to help share the information in a way that is more understandable and practical for each of the council partners.


Western Port Bryozoan Reef project

The Western Port Bryozoan Reef Community is a 1.74 km2 species rich, subtidal biogenic reef located in the Rhyll Segment of East Arm, Western Port, Victoria. While bryozoan reefs are distributed worldwide, the Western Port Bryozoan Reef community was formally described in 2017 and is unique in its species composition, depth range, and extensive linear mound formations. Bryozoans are non-photosynthetic invertebrate filter-feeders, which live in colonies and are commonly referred to as ‘lace corals’ owing to the delicate calcium carbonate matrix they produce. The biogenic reef substrate is comprised of three species of bryozoan that form large colonies of up to 1.5 m vertical relief. The Western Port bryozoans are special because they are shallow, large and form contiguous reefs providing important habitat for a multitude of marine species including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and worms. They also provide shelter for some species from the strong currents that are typical of this marine waterway.

Through money raised from the End of Year Financial campaign we are supporting a project that will enable local scientists to expand their research into Western Port’s bryozoan reefs. The research project, spearheaded by La Trobe University and marine consulting and research firm, Fathom Pacific, will quantify the extent of these fragile reefs, the processes that threaten and make them vulnerable, and will shed light on their growth rate. At present, there is no long-term datasets available on the previous known extent of the reefs as the community. It is hypothesised that the substrate that originally supported the settlement and growth of the bryozoan reefs is no longer present, and that new recruitment is limited today to on-reef growth rather than lateral expansion. Sediment impacts due to land use changes and historic oyster dredging in the area may have fundamentally altered the availability of substrate suitable for larval settlement (Ford & Hamer 2016). This leads to the hypothesis that deleterious impacts to the Western Port Bryozoan Reef community may be irreversible.  However, it is hoped that this research gives insight into ways to conserve the remaining reef and generates ideas for evidence-based methodology to create conditions for restoration and growth.


Biodiversity in Schools, Term 3, 2022

By Lucy Kyriacou, Project Science Officer

In term 3, 2022, we worked in eight schools from pre-school to secondary level across the Bunurong/Boonwurrung Western Port region. We delivered workshops on topics including Schools Tree Day, climate action, blue carbon, water stewardship, and several planting sessions to create wildlife corridors in school grounds. We supported three schools by drafting grant applications to enable them to carry out projects such as, creating a bandicoot-friendly garden, developing a permaculture designed kitchen garden, and creating a wetland, water recycling and recharge system.

We also donated indigenous plants to schools through a free-plant giveaway. Working in partnership with Willum Warrain Bush Nursery, we have 1350 local indigenous plants and trees to distribute before Christmas. Participating schools so far include Koo Wee Rup Primary, St Mary’s Primary, St Joseph’s Primary, Newhaven College, Newhaven Primary, Carrum Primary, and Western Port Secondary. We still have several hundred available. If you are interested, please do get in touch through the Project Science Officer link on https://www.biosphere.org.au/biosphere-projects/current-projects/biodiversity-in-schools-term-4-2022/

We supported St Mary’s and St Joseph’s with their Water Stewardship plans, including drafting two Climate Action grant applications, a workshop at Coolart Wetlands, and working with students to plant up areas prone to water logging.

We worked in collaboration with Kate Gorringe-Smith, a local climate activist and artist, to deliver a climate action workshop on blue carbon at Western Port Secondary. The students used art as a medium to raise awareness about the coastal ecosystems of Western Port.

Rowellyn Preschool, Frankston, applied for trees through the Schools’ Tree Day campaign. We supported them with two visits, the first to work with the 4-year-old kinder students to plant up the school garden, and the second to plant over 100 plants around the perimeter fence. The preschool gave away the remaining plants to families to create habitat for local wildlife at home.

Term 4 is upon us, and we still have spaces available for workshops. Please see https://www.biosphere.org.au/biosphere-projects/current-projects/biodiversity-in-schools-term-4-2022/ for more information and to get in touch if you would like to book one for your school.

If you are a school in the Mornington Peninsula Shire, we still have a couple of spaces available for a free climate action project we are running. Please see here for more details.


Protecting the Ramsar Values of Western Port

By Stephen Brend, Biosphere Foundation Project Officer

We are delighted that our collaboration with the Catchment Management Authority, now a part of Melbourne Water, continues.  The CMA funded our project investigating the impact of recreational fishing on migratory shorebirds and the local environment.  This project successfully concluded last year.  However, there is still more to do which is why we are delighted Melbourne Water has agreed to another three year “Ramsar values enhancement project”.

We will focus on community engagement, with “community” encompassing many groups – from visiting anglers to local residents.  Everyone is familiar with Western Port’s two big islands; Phillip (Millowl) and French but there are also two other smaller islands in North Western Port: Quail and Chinaman’s.  Quail Island has had Southern Brown Bandicoots on it.  We would love to collaborate on trying to make it predator free.  Spartina (cord grass) is a highly invasive weed which can rapidly colonise mud flats.  This would rob our all-so-important migratory waders of a key resource, so we will be monitoring that as well.  Obviously, the Ramsar habitats of Western Port also represent the bay’s blue carbon stocks which dovetails with our Blue Carbon project.  As we said, there’s lots to do.


Advocacy vs Action

By Colette Day, Board Director and Chair Science & Education Committee

We all want a better world, and that looks different depending on where you stand. For those of us who live in our world class Biosphere Reserve, a better world is about conservation and even restoration of the precious biodiversity and surrounding natural beauty.

When a rural outlook is jeopardised by increased industrial activities or expanding urbanisation the hackles are raised at the prospect of any ecological impact such as removal of precious disappearing habitats.

Sustainable Development is of upmost importance to the Biosphere Foundation and is a major priority.  In one of Australia’s fastest-growing regions, we provide evidence-based advice on sustainable approaches to residential, industrial and agricultural development and promote community behavioural change sympathetic to the environment. Our water stewardship project is a practical projection of this pillar. We understand that environmental effects of industrial and urban developments are monitored by EPA and the relevant State Government’s regulators, and the Biosphere Foundation assumes compliance to these laws.

There are many community “Action” groups who watch developments more closely, often raising issues to us, and when the correct regulatory process is not adhered to, or the clear science is flouted on issues directly effecting the Biosphere, we are able to advocate a position.  We are not anti-development, but when a development ignores guidelines or avoids proper process then we will support resistance to the proposals.

Climate change is a huge issue facing the world and also a priority for the Biosphere Foundation.  Our Blue Carbon project works to directly impact this. Current Projects – Western Port Biosphere

We trust our regulators to uphold the laws which address air pollution, mining activities and planning, while we focus our Biosphere Foundation resources on our field of influence, including protecting our vulnerable ecology. We also advocate for the strengthening of environmental regulations and support developing technological solutions.

 


Schools’ Tree Day at Frankston Heights Primary School

By David Cross, Foundation Board Director

Students from Frankston Heights Primary School recently celebrated Schools Tree Day with activities at nearby Wallace Reserve.  “Our school considers the environment an important aspect of our student’s education,” said teacher Tara Crick.  “The students learn about environment and sustainability practices through our school’s Science Program.  We’re proud of the fact we’re very community minded and have established strong links with Frankston City Council and the Friends of Wallace Reserve.”

The students spent some of the day planting seedlings at Wallace Reserve, under the guidance of the Friends of Wallace Reserve and Frankston City Council rangers.  Many parents were also on hand to help, along with Frankston Mayor Nathan Conroy, Federal Dunkley MP Peta Murphy and State Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke and Councillor Claire Harvey and Sue Baker.

Secretary of the Friends of Wallace Reserve David Cross said “The students enjoyed their excursion through the reserve to the planting site.  After a look at the progress of their previous years’ planting, they got stuck into planting and mulching the specially prepared area.”

The Frankston Heights Primary School students have made Schools Tree Day an annual event at Wallace Reserve since 2006 and have now planted about 6,500 seedlings since then.  Friends Group president Tony Gustus stated that “We see ourselves as a truly community-oriented organisation, where everyone has the opportunity to ensure the protection of our environment.  We have fantastic support from Frankston City Council Rangers and management, as well as the local community.”

For further information, please email me at fowr@atmanuals.com.au.

David Cross (Secretary)

On behalf of the Friends of Wallace Reserve


Platypus in the Biosphere Reserve

By Stephen Brend, Biosphere Foundation Project Officer

The Great Australian Platypus Search is a citizen science project aiming to get a better understanding of these iconic mammals.  Platypus can be hard to study because they are most active in the evenings and at night, and they don’t leave obvious signs.  Or do they?  The Great Australian Platypus Search looks for eDNA (environmental DNA), which is DNA that animals leave behind in the environment.  For aquatic species, it can be found when analysing water samples.

Platypus were found in Balcombe Creek, near Mornington.  There was also a possible detection at Rutherford Creek, near Warneet at the Northern end of Western Port.  Obviously, we are delighted that platypus can still be found in the Biosphere Reserve. It highlights the importance of water stewardship.  Maintaining healthy creeks, especially in the face of climate change and urbanisation, is the surest way to save this unique but threated species.

To find out more visit www.thegreataustralianplatypussearch.org


Yam daisies at Willum Warrain Bush Nursery

By Peter Aldenhoven, Chief Executive Officer, Willum Warrain

Those of you who have read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu will be very familiar with the importance of Murnong (Microseris walteri) to Victoria Koori people. Endless plains of golden yellow daisy flowers stretched westwards from Melbourne to the South Australian border. They were tended by Aboriginal women over millenia. They were not just a staple food source but highly valued as an ancestor plant of great cultural significance. Sheep ate them out between 1870 and 1880 and, here on the Mornington Peninsula, only a few small precious pockets remain. Across the country, there is currently high interest in cultivating and harvesting the plant that sustained mobs in South-Eastern Australia for hundreds of generations.

With this belated renewal of interest has come some challenges with taxonomic confusion and widespread industry mislabelling resulting in the wrong species of murnong often being sold to enthusiastic (but ultimately disappointed) customers. There are three species, the sweetest one, the one that Koories cultivated and ate was Microseris walteri – when slow-cooked, it yields a sweet and delicious juice called minnee which tastes like coconut. The alpine Microseris lanceolata was never eaten – nor was the bitter tasting but vigorous Microseris scapigera which has been widely distributed through a national garden supplier.

If you come to Willum Warrain to purchase your murnong, you can be confident you will be getting the right one. Planted out this Spring, you might be harvesting a murnong feast to share with your family on Xmas Day this year along with more traditional roast vegetables. Come to think of it what could be more traditional that eating the original staple food from country! In addition, you will be supporting your local Aboriginal community.

Willum Warrain’s Bush Nursery is a 100% Aboriginal community-owned social enterprise providing employment opportunities for local Aboriginal people. It is the only Aboriginal-run nursery south of Melbourne, specialising in plants endemic to the Mornington Peninsula, especially those with cultural uses and meanings. Around the country, much Indigenous cultural plant knowledge has been commercialised with little or no benefit to Aboriginal communities. By buying yam daisies from Willum Warrain, you are engaging in edible reconciliation!

P.S. Western Port Biosphere are co-partners with Willum Warrain in an ambitious three year creek restoration project (Healing Water Country) at the rear of the Gathering Place linking up fragmentary habitat and improving water flow into Warringine Creek.


Update from the Biosphere Reserves: Sunshine Coast

By David Moore, Sunshine Coast Biosphere Reserve

Sunshine Coast Biosphere – Australia’s newest Biosphere Reserve

On 15 June 2022, the Sunshine Coast local government area was officially recognised as Australia’s newest Biosphere Reserve, by the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB ICC). This was the culmination of years of work by Sunshine Coast Council and the community working in partnership to achieve this exciting international recognition by UNESCO. The Sunshine Coast Biosphere designation supports council and the community’s clear plan and vision for the future, in striving to be Australia’s most sustainable region: Healthy, Smart, Creative.

While nothing has changed overnight in terms of how the Sunshine Coast community goes about their daily lives, being a Biosphere provides greater clarity around what the region’s future looks like, with sustainability as a fundamental consideration in the choices we make going forward.

The Sunshine Coast Biosphere is now transitioning into its implementation phase, including establishing the Sunshine Coast Biosphere brand, implementing governance arrangements, and completing a baseline performance measurement.

In the spirit of Biosphere Reserves being described by UNESCO MAB as ‘learning places for sustainable development’, the Sunshine Coast Biosphere designation also offers a wonderful opportunity to learn from and with other Biosphere Reserves, both within and beyond our Australian network.

For more information on the Sunshine Coast Biosphere designation including an introduction to the new brand, refer to the media release, which coincided with the announcement in June 2022:

Sunshine Coast officially becomes a UNESCO biosphere – Our SC, Connecting our Community


Update from the Councils: Cardinia Shire

By Jessica Shakespeare

Climate Change Adaption Strategy

A Strategy to build the foundations towards a more resilient community in the face of climate change has been adopted by Cardinia Shire Council. The Climate Change Adaptation Strategy will provide the guiding pathways to reduce the community’s vulnerability to adverse climate events and promote the resilience of social, ecological and economic systems.

Acknowledging the important role of the community in fostering resilience across the natural environment in the Shire, Council aims to empower its residents by partnering and supporting environmental groups and organisations.

Careful planning will embed adaptive measures into Council operations and processes, as well as recommend actions for the community to reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

Supported by a budgeted 10-year Action Plan, Council has identified 49 actions, which includes 17 actions developed to address the risks associated with the decline and loss of populations and species listed in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

Each action is focussed on the community’s relationship with the environment, such as action 40 of the Plan, which prescribes working with community environmental groups to establish and protect seagrass and mangrove communities.

To view the policy and to learn more about what Council is working towards in the sustainability space, visit www.cardinia.vic.gov.au/sustainability


Update from Landcare: Bass Coast Landcare group

By Robbie Gray

Bunurong Natural Resource Management team visit to BCLN

Shani (Environment Coordinator) and Damien (Environment Team Leader) from the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) will lead the newly formed BLCAC Natural Resource Management Team. The NRM team will deliver a range of BLCAC and other on-ground projects across the region. They recently visited BCLN, meeting staff to get a feel for the projects undertaken by the network. The first stop was the River Garden where Lisa gave an overview of Training and Education, then to the Powlett River mouth to discuss Invasive Species programs with Aaron, before stopping for lunch in the hills. Paul Speirs gave a tour along his creek with Jye talking about NRM projects, and we finished back at the Nursery and Depot with Mark and Stevie showing us around. BCLN looks forward to working with the BLCAC on many joint projects into the future. The day was made possible through support from the WGCMA, and Callum (Coastal Waterways Officer) came along to help out with the tour.


Climate Adaption Planning Tool is live!

Fantastic news. Bass Coast Landcare Network and its key partners are pleased to announce that the long awaited Climate Adaptation Plan (CAP) is live! The CAP can be accessed via the Growing Southern Gippsland website which provides farmers with access to climate resources and local examples of climate adaptation and mitigation. It is designed to encourage self-guided information gathering and research.​ The CAP tool has been designed to enable farmers to identify specific climate impacts relevant for their enterprise and provide guidance of identifying specific on farm solutions. We encourage you to use the CAP tool to investigate which climate impacts are most relevant to your farm and to identify the actions you can take to mitigate or adapt to them. Once you complete your journey through the CAP you will have developed your own individual plan that will enable you to take your first steps to a climate resilient farm. We encourage all landowners in Southern Gippsland to take a journey through the Growing Southern Gippsland website and the CAP tool. Bass Coast Landcare network are planning on running a series of workshops in the future to help landowners develop their own Climate Adaptation Plan.

Click here to access the toolFor further information please email info@basscoastlandcare.org.au