Sheoak woodlands once covered vast areas of Eyre Peninsula. In fact, it was the most common vegetation type after mallee. Now it has been drastically reduced in area and is in need of management if these woodlands are to remain in the region.
It is now listed as critically endangered under the EnvironmentProtection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Read about how we were involved in petitioning for this change in listing, which we hope will help to look after the few remaining healthy remnants.
It’s inspiring to see what can be done to recover and restore these woodlands, and more and more locals are stepping up to assist. Read our 2020 biodiversity monitoring story that shows how a fenced off sheoak grassy woodland has recovered over a decade.
Through the Coffin Bay National Park Sheoak Grassy Woodland Restoration Project, National Parks and Wildlife Service SA (Eyre and Far West) staff have been working in collaboration with many groups, particularly the volunteers of the Friends of Coffin Bay Parks and Friends of Southern Eyre Peninsula Parks, since 2001 to restore the Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) Grassy Woodland which once covered the Coffin Bay Peninsula within the Park.
In the below brief video, you can see footage taken in 2019 of a mature dense Drooping sheoak woodland which was planted in the early 2000’s fenced in an enclosure and only recently opened to general grazing pressure, right through to some of the most recently planted sheoaks which have been planted in the last few years in the open (more grassy) woodland areas.
Sheoak grassy woodland restoration program – Coffin Bay National Park
In the past, sheoaks were removed from many areas by domestic livestock (sheep, cattle and horses), and boom-bust populations of kangaroos and introduced rabbits which heavily grazed on emerging sheoaks. Inappropriate fire regimes further decimated sheoak woodlands on the Eyre Peninsula. Nowadays, grazing pressure from rabbits, Italian white snails and native animals (kangaroos) continues to prevent the growth of sheoak seedlings, and associated native plants and grasses which would otherwise produce seed and form tussocks that provide food and shelter for many small animals. Fortunately, Drooping sheoaks are easy to propagate from seed, and grow rapidly if grazing pressure is low and rainfall is good.
Many other native plant species that were once present in Sheoak Grassy Woodlands, also recover if grazing pressure is low. Native grasses persist in many rocky areas and bounce back when rainfall is good and grazing pressure is reduced over consecutive years.
In Coffin Bay National Park, grazing pressure has been reduced by the removal of horses and cattle, and the ongoing control of rabbits and Western Grey Kangaroos, and when required baiting of introduced snails. The closure of artificial water sources has also helped to maintain sustainable numbers of kangaroos.
The decline of Sheoak Grassy Woodlands, and the presence of introduced cats and foxes, has led to the decline or localised extinction of numerous native animals on Eyre Peninsula. These include the Greater bilby, Brush-tailed bettong, Tammar wallaby, bandicoots, Bush stone-curlew and Diamond firetails and others.
National Parks and Wildlife Service SA Rangers continue to work with volunteers to suppress introduced predators, thereby allowing native fauna species to flourish and populations to recover within the National Park.
The restoration program has received multiple sources of funding over the years, including funding from the Australian Government. The program has had many collaborators and partners over the years, including (but not limited to) our organisation, the Friends of Coffin Bay Parks, Friends of Southern Eyre Peninsula Parks, Lower Eyre Coastcare Association, Eyre Native Seeds, Coffin Bay Pony Society, Kallinyalla Garden Centre, Eyre Peninsula 4WD club, Greening Australia, Greencorps and Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Restoration on private land
There are other focal restoration projects on the Eyre Peninsula such as WildEyre and a number of private land managers undertaking restoration works. Be sure to check these restoration sites as you journey along the Flinders Highway.