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Saltland sites successfully seeded, a follow up article from Connector Newsletter #36

By Carrie Taylor Project Officer and Annie Leitch Communications coordinator within the Fitzgerald Biosphere

Landscape Ecologist Nathan McQuoid with Nowanup Caretakers collecting seed at beginning of project

Nine months after commencing native seed collection alongside Nowanup Rangers and Nathan McQuoid, our saltland revegetation sites for 2023 are finally taking shape! This represents a positive step in restoring biodiversity to unproductive agricultural areas within the Jerramungup Shire of the Fitzgerlad Biosphere that have become salinised since being cleared.

Seeds were collected, sorted, and sieved by FBG (Landcare Group) & Nowanup Caretakers (Rangers) from November to March, prior to being sown in July/August. On the day of seeding, seeds were separated into fine and coarse mixes, bulked out with vermiculate, then treated with homemade smokewater, fungicide, and ethepon for optimal growth by Greening Australia’s Glen Steven.

Kicking off on July 31, the first site involved a lot of weaving among the existing Yate trees, one broken hose, and 4ha worth of beautiful seeding lines comprised of local provenance species collected from right next to the site. The 2nd site presented different challenges, with a mixture of soil, weed, and salt types to navigate. Despite this, the locally collected, salt-tolerant native trees and shrubs are now ready to spring up across ~ 14ha of successfully seeded land, thanks to some well-timed rain on the day of completion!

Seeding lines at site #1 weaving through Yate trees

Nowanup Caretakers completed in-fill planting with salt tolerant seedlings in spots the seeder couldn’t reach. Just as circles are reflected in indigenous art, Noongar involvement from seed collections to final plantings has come full turn.

Thanks very much to Glen from Greening Australia for executing the seeding, Nowanup for all the seed collection work, and to our wonderful landholders for all the time spent planning, spraying, ploughing, marking out fence lines, and most of all, being so willing to restore some of your land to a biodiverse ecosystem!

 


CEO Report

By Mel Barker, Biosphere Foundation CEO

One of the highlights for me last month was attending a UNESCO conference up on Butchella Country on K’gari (Fraser Island).   There were representatives from island and coastal Biospheres in all corners of the globe (including Finland, Brazil, the Maldives and the Isle of Wight to name a few), as well as from UNESCO itself.  Island and coastal biospheres are all particularly vulnerable to climate change, so it was a great opportunity to share with each other the projects and solutions we’re developing and implementing to leverage our joint knowledge.  Blue carbon projects involving mangroves and seagrasses were a common theme so we will continue to utilise these international linkages for our own Blue Carbon program here in the Western Port Biosphere Reserve (see hot topic here for more information about the Ministerial announcement Climate action gets a $1.2 million boost in Western Port – Western Port Biosphere).   

The Butchella people are the Traditional Custodians of K’gari and they shared their knowledge of Country with us, as well as the importance of the recent formal recognition by the Queensland Government of their connection to Country through the change of name to K’gari this year.  I wasn’t aware of the origin of the name ‘Fraser Island’ – if you’re interested, there’s some background here. 

Voting is now open for the Referendum on the Voice to Parliament to recognise First Peoples in the Constitution.  The Biosphere Foundation supports a ‘Yes’ vote – more details can be found on our website, in this Connector and through our socials. 

I’d like to thank Luke from McConnell Dowell for inviting me to visit a significant road upgrade project in Koo Wee Rup to see the habitat initiatives they’re implementing.  Traditionally roads have represented a threat to fauna as they are barriers to wildlife traversing the landscape.  If animals do attempt to cross roads, this can often result in accidents with cars, or death.  I’ve heard that there has been an increased number of wildlife incidents on roads on the Mornington Peninsula in recent weeks.  This issue is another example of the challenges of our modern society – how to balance the needs of nature with the desire of humans to drive around?  Wildlife corridors are a critical part of the solution, so it is great to see the increased construction of road crossings for fauna.  At the Koo Wee Rup road upgrade, there are dry tunnels under the road in a number of key points to allow bandicoots to cross roads safely, as well as wet tunnels and ponds to provide frog crossings and habitat.  Monitoring will be put in place to assess the effectiveness of these designs, which will support their continuous improvement to see better outcomes for wildlife. 

We’ve had very positive feedback about our recent ‘All Things Western Port’ forum in Hastings.  Thanks to Melbourne Water for supporting this event – it was great to bring together community members, scientific, and our partners to discuss both the on-ground work, as well as the scientific research underway for the Western Port region.   All the tickets were snapped up for this event, so we look forward to having more events like this to continue the conversations and bring people together.   

I hope you enjoy the articles from the team and our partners and hope to see you somewhere in the Biosphere soon ! 

 


Koala Hope

Corey Everitt- Journalist for Pakenham Gazette

This year, ecologist Kelly Smith made the vital discovery that Strzelecki Koalas reside in the Grantville Nature Reserve. Kelly’s important work is opening up projects that hope to further assist the enduring, yet still very much endangered koala.

Starting out as a veterinary nurse, Kelly has come across her fair share of koalas, but she may not have realised that through her further studies in ecology, koalas would become a central part of her work.

Such work with this iconic animal in the wild is rarely with direct contact, but rather with what they leave behind.

The story would begin when Kelly was studying koalas at Federation University.

“It started with my third year project at uni, so that was with the Mornington Peninsula koalas and that was a genetics study exactly like this,” she said.

“Using volunteers to collect scat for that.”

An important part of such work is the collection of koala droppings in the locations they reside, from such samples, tests can be conducted that reveal the genetics of koalas in a location, vital to understanding important factors like genetic diversity or even whether koalas are around at all.

It was in further study that Kelly would branch over to Western Port Bay.

“And then I was asked to do an honours on the Mornington Peninsula as well, part of the honours, we did at the end of it branch out and get scats from across here and in other parts of Victoria,” she said.

“As part of that honours project I found that there was one koala in Grantville.”

This year, Kelly would be hired by Western Port Biosphere as the organisation’s Koala Project Officer.

Her result of one koala in Grantville was something she wanted to pursue further with Western Port.

“I found one and that was like okay, there must be more, so then after I finished my honours I got a job with the Western Port Biosphere and got a Melbourne Water grant to do this project.”

“And then we found more koalas.”

Kelly and volunteers would discover two more koalas in Grantville.

While also going on to discover a few koalas living in Inverloch and Cape Paterson.

Three koalas in Grantville is not enough to declare a sustainable population but it’s a promising sign of koalas residing in areas where we have completely dismissed their presence.

“It’s just showing, okay they’re here and this is the extent of the boundary of the genome which extends to Western Port Bay,” Kelly said.

The biggest factor of this discovery is these are Strzelecki Koalas, also known as the South Gippsland Koala.

They are a unique genome of the species that, as of now, is known to be isolated to South and East Gippsland.

“Strzelecki genome goes as far as Sale that we know of,” Kelly said.

“So now it’s a question of how far that genome extends from Sale and into Western Victoria.”

The Strzelecki Koala has a unique history and survival on mainland Victoria which means they represent a unique genetic branch that is vital to study and conserve for all koalas.

“They haven’t been affected by the trans-located koalas that were used as a breeding program back in the 1900s,” Kelly said.

“So they weren’t affected by the hunting as well, back in the 1800s.

“I think there is about 2500 left, they’ll be okay if we stop chopping down all the trees.”

In the late 1800s, koalas in Victoria were rapidly declining due to hunting and deforestation.

As an attempt to conserve their numbers, a small population was relocated to French Island as part of a long-term breeding program to increase their numbers for mainland reintroduction.

These efforts expanded to other pockets such as Phillip Island.

Due to this breeding program koalas did retain their population to exist, so much so that a majority of existing population today are derived from that original French Island genome.

Though the program was to save the population, the confines of an island purposed to isolate them from threats also presented long-term problems that still affect koalas today.

Predominantly with genetic diversity and over-eating.

Confined from movement, inbreeding was prevalent in koalas, risking serious genetic complications, from reproduction to disease, in whole populations for koalas.

Koalas on Kangaroo Island, just off South Australia, where similar breeding programs occurred in the 20th century, were found to be of poor reproductive capability in 2020, with many male koalas found to be defected with only one testicle.

As these islands today are classified to have an abundance of koalas, so much so they are labelled pests, ecologists for years have raised the need to diversify their genetics, a need that could risk extinction if not addressed.

With some many confined on these islands, they breed rapidly and over-feed, practically stripping fields of eucalypts bare of their sole food source.

Without anywhere else to go, they starve, a leading cause of death for koalas.

In this circumstance, the Strzelecki Koala stands out.

In an article called the ‘The Significance of the Strzelecki Koala’, published by Friends of the Earth (FOTE) in 2020, it’s detailed how the koala miraculously hanged on and provided an important factor to recovering koala numbers and diversity.

In the 1920s, koalas were thought to be extinct on mainland Victoria, however a government survey noted at the time there were ‘remnant’ populations of koalas in “near the southern Victorian town of Yarram on the south eastern edge of the Strzelecki Ranges”, as the FOTE article wrote.

Little did they know at the time that these koalas, untouched by the French Island-derived programs, would survive up to today, although still in very small numbers.

With a unique genome, they are vital koalas who can assist in the important need for genetic diversity.

It was last year that Koala Life, a not-for-profit organisation supporting koala conservation, relocated four Strzelecki Koalas to South Australia to mate with Kangaroo Island Koalas.

It is unknown as of yet the success of the program, but the mixing of different koalas from across the country is vital.

For Kelly, her discovery of the koalas in the Grantville hopes to get people onboard with two things: more effort to accurately map out the extent of koalas in Victoria and the country, as well as more effort to link them together through the bush.

She would contact the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, and her work got their attention.

“After this project, I sent this through to the government and asked them for funding and they’ve actually asked me to come on board their population survey project, doing this exact work across Victoria,” Kelly said.

“We now know they aren’t just in this bubble, they are extended, quite possibly right across Victoria, we just don’t know because it hasn’t been researched.”

The State Government’s Victorian Koala Management Strategy, released this year, largely focuses on measures to control their populations on the coastal islands, where they are classified as abundant.

But the mainland can tell a different story and with such surveys, Kelly hopes we can get a clear picture of koalas in the state, especially with the Strzelecki Koala which is far from abundant.

“I found three in Grantville, you wanna find more than that to define it as a population,” Kelly said.

“We need to know that there are more of them, because the more there are, the stronger the genetic diversity will be.”

While another issue is the available habitat for however many koalas are out there.

In our corner of the world, where koalas used to roam freely, the years of land clearing and grazing have limited their movement and space on the mainland.

In many ways, the koalas are just as much stuck in islands locked by roads and farms, as much as their counterparts locked in islands surrounded by the sea.

“If you look at the satellite map it’s all just cleared, but they would of all been here and you look at Grantville and it’s just this island with very little corridor connections,” Kelly said.

“And there is just hardly anything at all, except for the shoreline from Tooradin to here.

“If you’ve got fires, we’re gonna have more and more fires, those animals and plants can’t move North East, South West, they’re stuck.

“And then eventually they become locally extinct in that part of the bush and they can’t interbreed.”

This is the reason for Western Port Biosphere’s upcoming biolink project.

The aim is to provide avenues or corridors of vegetation that link various habitats across the Western Port area and surrounds.

Doing so can help koalas, and every other native fauna from birds to bandicoots to link up and spread their population, increase diversity, enrich plant-life and other conservation factors.

The plan will hopefully allow itself to link with other biolink projects. The biggest element at this stage is showing how landowners and farmers are a vital part of its success.

“The plan is to be able to connect Mornington Peninsula to here, that would be the end goal which could happen if we work together,” Kelly said.

The first stage of the project is working with landowners to revegetate parts of their property, which will be a free service by Western Port Biosphere.

“Landholders can just register to have their property planted for free, we’ll figure out the rest, we’ll organise all the funding and anything that needs doing,” Kelly said.

“We’ll assess the property, see what needs doing, if it needs fencing, if it needs weeding, we can help them sort it out, easy.

“Property owners can do their bit by planting out their land not just for animals, but for their property, it benefits the soils, it benefits the water, it’s windbreak, there are so many benefits.”

The project will be announced in the coming weeks, in the meantime property owners in the area can register their property by contacting Kelly at [email protected]

Kelly will also be running information sessions across Gippsland on scat locating and how to identify koalas.

With dates and times to come, you can stay in contact regarding the sessions through her email.


Renewed. Refocused. And now … Refreshed.

Jessica Brady- Communications and Engagement 

As mentioned in Jo’s report, the Western Port Biosphere has undergone a significant change by unveiling a fresh logo. This logo marks a new era for this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and signifies the Biosphere’s commitment to unity between humans and nature, as well as its readiness for the digital age. One of only five UNESCO-listed Biospheres in Australia, Western Port Biosphere needed a distinctive brand identity to increase community awareness and attract new partners and funding.  

The new logo combines images of the region’s plants, animals, and the built environment, conveying a strong message that humans are an essential part of nature, not separate from it. The new visual identity represents the Biosphere and its inhabitants, humans, flora and fauna, living and working together in one connected ecosystem. 

From the logo, which contains references to native species and local sculptures, to layered macro and micro photography to express the breadth and depth of the Reserve’s conservation and research work, the new identity allows the Biosphere to communicate on both a scientific leadership level, and an inviting community level. 

The logo’s contemporary design, with clean lines and bold colours, makes it easily recognisable and memorable. This modern look aligns with current branding trends and suits the Biosphere’s goal of expanding its reach through digital channels. 

We extend our gratitude to Western Port Biosphere resident, Joe Rogers of The Contenders for donating his time and talent to helping us identify and articulate the essence of our vision and purpose and the creative team Cúpla - Lyndal Kearney, Kayla Streatfeild and Justine Donaldson – who created a contemporary visualisation of these. 

Renewed, refocused, and refreshed, the Western Port Biosphere’s new logo marks the beginning of our third decade in the global UNESCO network. It’s a symbol that speaks to our interconnectedness with nature and our commitment to its preservation. 

Read our Press Release here: Biosphere Refresh Press Release

Read the full story behind the rebrand by Cupla here:

Western Port Biosphere — Cúpla | Strategic branding & design agency | Melbourne (cuplastudio.co)


Indigenous knowledge vital to science

By Geoff Brooks, Board Director

“Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.”

— The Science Council

The recent Victorian Government announcement of blue carbon grants totally $1.2 million shared between the Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation ($700,000) and the Bururong Land Council (BLC) ($500,000) will include substantial co-operation between our two organisations.

The partnership will aim to produce recommendations to the government for the future of blue carbon and associated marine ecosystem preservation and management based on a combination of western science and indigenous knowledge.

This is something brought into focus for me when I visited one of Australia’s great wilderness areas in June, the vast tract of ancient land in the north-west of our continent known as The Kimberley.

Black Kite: one of the Kimberley’s ‘firehawks’. Photograph by Geoff Brooks

There I happened to hear the yarn about how the black kites were one of several raptor species known to carry and drop burning sticks to spread fire, flushing out small animals on which they prey.

This fascinating insight into ‘firehawk’ behaviour was obviously brand new to me, known only to western science since revealed in 2017 by scientists, Mark Bonta and Robert Gosford, yet common knowledge for indigenous inhabitants for thousands of years.

Bonta and Gosford note in their paper published by the Society of Ethnobiology, Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia, that:

Though Aboriginal rangers and others who deal with bushfires take into account the risks posed by raptors that cause controlled burns to jump across firebreaks, official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading hampers effective planning for landscape management and restoration.”

It raises the question about the interconnection between western science according to the definition of The Science Council and indigenous knowledge. I suggest that there is plenty about indigenous knowledge that meets the formal method of western science and the two have more in common than difference.

The indigenous rangers in The Kimberley and elsewhere are drawing on thousands of years of observation and experience to understand fire risk mitigation. It may not be documented in a manner to which we may be accustomed in the west, but Bonta and Gosford’s research discovered that the raptor behaviour is “often represented in cultural ceremonies”, a known method in indigenous cultures for passing knowledge through generations.

Can we regard indigenous knowledge as “systematic methodology based on evidence”?

The Founder and Chair of Gene Campaign, Indian scientist Suman Sahai, suggests in a SciDev.net article, Indigenous knowledge is a form of science – don’t ignore it, that it does have scientific substance:

“Indigenous knowledge has developed from understanding and documenting the processes in nature. An iteration of practices over time has led to products and processes that are based on sound scientific principles. Take plant extracts for example. Observing that animals did not eat certain plants and assuming that this was because they were toxic, communities took extracts and tested them for a range of uses. Many were, and still are, used as pesticides in agriculture, in bait to catch fish or to treat maggot infestations in livestock,” she wrote.

It appears that others are plenty of subscribers to her argument. The authors of a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment article, “Contributions of Indigenous Knowledge to ecological and evolutionary understanding”, note that:

“Humans were generating, transmitting and applying information about the natural world long before scientific inquiry was formalised. Indigenous people around the world have developed, maintained and evolved knowledge systems via direct experience interacting with biophysical and ecological processes, landscapes, ecosystems and species over millennia.”

The broader acceptance of the contribution indigenous knowledge can provide foundations and support for on-going scientific learning is acknowledged in data from the ISI Web of Science (July 2019) based on an examination of 11,934 scientific studies (below):

Research involving Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is growing and concentrated in the ecological sciences. (a) A search of ISI Web of Science for records containing the terms “Indigenous Knowledge”, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge”, or “Indigenous Ecological Knowledge” reveals that the number of studies involving use of these expressions has increased over time (from five studies in 1990 to 1404 studies in 2018: n = 11,934 studies collectively from 1990 to 2018). (b) The field of ecology has the most studies (n = 5228). Data from ISI Web of Science (searched July 2019).

With climate change and biodiversity loss central to the challenges and discussions about the future of the natural world and of humanity, it is pleasing to see the formal integration of indigenous knowledge into scientific exploration and learning. The best and perhaps most novel solutions to these existential problems will derive from this.

On ScienceDirect.com, Australia’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies scientist, Gretta Pecl and international researchers Edwin Ogar and Tero Mustonen co-wrote “Science must embrace traditional and indigenous knowledge to solve our biodiversity crisis”, noting:

“… humans have survived through multiple ice ages and planetary transformations before – largely as a function of Indigenous wisdom and traditional knowledge…. Indigenous knowledge is very much about the present, rooted in the wisdom of the past – it supports models of sustainable living in a given place…

“… in order to survive the present century, we need to embrace Indigenous knowledge, be intimately guided and led by the knowledge holders and, where appropriate, consider it alongside the best scientific understanding of priorities needed to prevent ecosystem collapse.”

The collaboration between our Foundation and the BLC will extends over at least two years, and is a model that should become more commonplace.

UNESCO has highlighted the gaps in knowledge and data regarding the trends and drivers for many ecosystems and species and, consequently, the importance of mobilising all existing natural and social science, new technologies and indigenous and local knowledge to inform ourselves of these and of effective approaches to recovery, resilience and behavioural change.

The question of whether indigenous knowledge does meet the criteria defining western science is counterbalanced by the equally important question of whether science itself can meet the definition if it fails to take into account indigenous learning over millennia.

Photo: Black Kite, one of the Kimberley’s ‘firehawks’ that I was fortunate to encounter.

 

 

 


From the Chair

by Jo McCoy- Chair 

Welcome to the Spring edition of Connector! This season of growth and new beginnings seems like a great excuse to talk about our refreshed brand and visual identity which I’m sure you’ve all seen by now. It’s been a great team effort between the staff and directors all working with the talented creatives at Cupla to come up with a new logo and guidelines for using imagery, fonts and colours that best capture the message we’re trying to convey.  

The logo represents the Biosphere and its inhabitants – humans, flora and fauna, all living and working together in a connected ecosystem. Feedback to date tells us that you love it just as much as we do. 

This work complements the new brand narrative developed with Joe Rogers from the Contenders and will be included in our soon to be released Strategic Plan which will guide our work to the end of the decade. 

Lots else has happened since my last report which you can read about in the following pages. Perhaps the most significant though was some news from UNESCO in Paris in early September. We were delighted to hear that our Ten-Year Periodic Review, submitted nearly a year ago, was highly commended and that the Western Port Biosphere Reserve officially meets the criteria of the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. Once again, I would like to congratulate the team of staff and directors, led capably by CEO Mel Barker and then intern Kat Palthe, on all the work that went into achieving this significant outcome. 

Speaking of the UN, some of you may have spotted reports about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the news in recent days.  The 78th UN General Assembly in New York included an SDG Summit where the need for significant funding and urgent action was emphasized in order to address the reversal of development gains by multiple global crises including climate change, war, and the coronavirus pandemic.  

The money that needs to be outlaid each year to reach the SDG targets by 2030 is quite staggering, but of course the alternative is even more sobering. A good rundown of some of the sessions can be found here. On a positive note, have a look too at this video clip from UN TV with young people urging everyone, everywhere to take action. 

Continuing with the positive theme and bringing things a bit closer to home – but not quite into our own Reserve, I also saw an inspiring article about Tasmanian agricultural seaweed startup SeaForest which has been nominated for a 2023 EarthShot Prize. This is a program launched by Prince William and David Attenborough with the intention of supercharging ideas that could solve major environmental challenges.   

SeaForest holds a commercial license to produce FutureFeed, a CSIRO-backed livestock feed ingredient derived from the Asparagopsis seaweed.  Studies show that when added to the diets of livestock like cows and sheep, the asparagopsis compound is capable of significantly reducing the methane emissions released by those animals.  Given these emissions count for around 15% of the annual greenhouse gases produced by human activity, a large reduction would obviously be great news. 

I think I first saw reports about this on ABC’s Landline a few years ago. Things seem to have progressed quite rapidly since then, showing what great science can do to with the right backing.  Here’s an article from around that time explaining the science and the issues. 

It would be great to think that one day soon, we might be able to see something of this scale happening here. 

Please feel free to write to me at [email protected] 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. 

 


Bandicoot Translocations, one step closer?

By Stephen Brend- Project Science Officer

Our project “Can the Bandicoot Cross the Road?”, an assessment of the feasibility of using  translocation as a conservation tool for Southern Brown Bandicoots, is entering its final stage.  It is very exciting.  The first phase of the project looked at the practicalities and feasibility of translocating bandicoots: what was required, what it would cost, what would be the likely outcome?  The conclusion, as we have reported earlier, was that translocation was not only feasible, it was recommended.  There seems no other way to reestablish a population of bandicoots.  They cannot disperse on their own.  There are two many threats and obstacles.

The next question we looked at was where the bandicoots come from?  Here, we got a surprise.  There is not one single eligible source population left in the State.  All Southern Brown Bandicoot populations are showing very low levels of genetic diversity.  If we moved animals from one location, we would not only bring that problem into the Biosphere Reserve, we might make it worse. Only a relatively small number of individuals would be translocated to act as the founders of the new population.  Fewer individuals means fewer mate choices and that inevitably leads to a decline in genetic diversity.  This is a problem as it could lead to poorer health, reduced fertility and increased susceptibility to disease.  The only solution is to source bandicoots from either a genetically diverse population or individuals from multiple populations that are geographically separated, such as from East Gippsland and Mt Rothwell, in the west.  Each breeding cycle would then bring about genetic mixing, hopefully, leading to a genetically healthy translocated population.

The third issue we looked at was suitable sites into which bandicoots could be released.  The Department for Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) laid out some strict criteria.  Foremost amongst these was that the site had to be greater than 200Ha with effective introduced predator control.  There was an obvious candidate: Millowl (Phillip Island).  Extensive discussions and site visits have resulted in agreement in principle for us to work with Phillip Island Nature Parks on this.

We are not ready to establish a SBB population on Millowl yet.  There is more work to be done and we need to secure adequate funding.  However, we are establishing the connections – that’s our strength – and laying out the pathway ahead.  The final part of the project will be a translocation proposal written in accordance with DEECA’s template.  We are very grateful to Gippsland transport for funding this work.


What are nature based solutions?

By Stephen Brend- Project Science Officer

Many people are familiar with shelter belts – lines of trees that break up wind flows. This is perhaps the simplest and most common “nature based solution”, which is the use of natural products, ecosystems and structures to address environmental problems, particularly those caused by climate change.  When most people hear the word “breakwater”, they probably picture a high concrete and stone wall.  But why couldn’t the breakwater be an oyster reef?  That would be a nature-based solution.

There are countless more examples:  billabongs to absorb and disperse flood waters, mangrove plantings to diffuse storm surges, even using bees as pollinators is a nature-based solution.  They are important for many reasons.  Understanding and accepting natural water flows, for instance, rather than trying to block or control them, is both easier and more cost effective.  Nature based solutions put more natural elements back into our environment, thereby increasing overall diversity and resilience.  They regenerate naturally and are visually less intrusive.  However, the real reason why they are important is because they are a solution.  The climate crises is upon us.  We need to adapt and mitigate.  It is far better for us to start working with nature rather than against her.


Living and Learning OUR Fitzgerald Biosphere

By Annie Leitch, Communications and Events for the Fitzgerald Biosphere Community Collective (FBCC)

During National Science week in August, the FBCC and UWA Walking together project team came together to showcase research alongside UNESCO Biosphere principles for the local community.

Merningar Bardok Elder and UWA Research Associate Auntie Lynnette Knapp welcomes and shares with us personal stories from her childhood, endorsing research and sharing her lived experiences as she teaches us; ‘..Country evokes the story’.

Nathan McQuoid, Chair of the FBCC, shows us where we sit geologically and socially ‘..to get our heads and hearts around the place’ and begin to ‘..get the dogma out this stuff and start knowing Country.’ Providing FBCC updates and valuable take homes for us all as community members within the Fitgerald Biosphere.

Professor Steve Hopper follows ‘you have anywhere between 10, 15, 20, 30 endemics depending on how you define it (East Mt Barren)..people get excited about the Fitzgerald (National Park), but it ain’t half the story. It’s your properties in the buffer and transition zones too’

Dr Alison Lullfitz and PhD Candidate Ursula Rodrigues compliment the narrative by highlighting the two-way science approach to research that underpins the Walking together project work. One catalyst to demonstrate this was looking for the gaps between the National Biodiversity Hotspots (places needing the most attention within the nation) and overlaying the use of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) when informing these conservation areas/projects and what it is required to achieve good regenerative, cultural and ecological outcomes.

As the Fitzgerald Biosphere region lays at a Noongar nation crossroads we acknowledge the Menang, Goreng, Merningar, Wirlomin and Wudjari Custodians and their Elders. By utilising two-way science methodology, engaging with Biosphere principles of reconciling sustainable development alongside conservation of biodiversity and looking at how we can understand these landscapes together, we as a community can  celebrate OUR Fitzgerald Biosphere. Following on from the 11th WNICBR conference held at K’gari earlier this month – WE are ALL Connected.


Healing Water Country- Port Phillip & Western Port Biosphere Reserve

By Glenn Brooks-MacMillan – Program Manager

In recent years the Foundation has been busy implementing a range of Water Steward Plans across the Reserve. These plans essentially are actions for landowners to protect, enhance and regenerate our waterways. The stewardship approach builds the capacity of the landowner to better understand the risks associated with water management on and around their property.

While saving water is one initiative, the basic principle is about improving the water quality and quantity to best suit the enterprise’s objectives. This process is achieved through close interaction with the landowner and sharing the risks and associated opportunities. The landowner eventually develops a plan and commits to the implementation over an agreed period.

What do I normally see as the outcomes?

A combination of returning the land to its original condition many hundreds of years ago, while integrating the production benefits the land has to offer. To do this an understanding of the history of the catchment and how the property fits within a whole system begins the vision which assists in the re-aligning, re-establishing, and re-generating waterways to way they used to be.

In many cases the outcomes are achievable, practical, and cost effective, but more importantly integrating natural systems into the production of the property.

In almost all cases our waterways have changed where vegetation has been removed, invasive plants and animals introduced, and pollutants and contaminants are present. Assessing the property from a water perspective has enabled several landowners to become more aware of the risks and develop plans to help improve the waterway.

In early 2020, the Foundation began discussions with Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and DEWLP, to brainstorm the idea of improving the water way adjacent to the site that Willum Warrain operate from.

Thanks to the input from Uncle Peter Aldenhoven, CEO Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association, the concept quickly adopted the name ‘Healing Water Country’. Peter has been passionate about the approach and has demonstrated through practical solutions ways in which redesigning and rethinking how water originally moved throughout the catchment results in a more sustainable outcome.

We are delighted to announce that thanks to Peter’s passion and hard work, we have connected his wisdom and knowledge to an area in Boneo to build on the Healing Water Country approach by integrating First Nations principals into the design of improved water ways. This exciting project will build on existing works to improve a section of the Tootgarook Wetlands through the implementation of a ‘Healing Water Country – Revillaging Project’.

Thanks to the support of the Port Phillip Bay Fund, the aim of the project is to work with a range of First Nations people and the landowner and neighbours to implement an improved waterway.

This sort of catchment works, and design is an example of what the Foundation is working on with a range of landowners and managers across Western Port, as part of the Blue Carbon Planning Project that is developing management plans to help protect, enhance, and revegetate Saltmarsh, Mangroves, and seagrasses.

If you are interested in knowing more or wanting to participate, then please contact us and we can discuss further some of the options available.