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Iron-grass native grassland project

What are iron-grass native grasslands?

Native grasslands are threatened vegetation communities dominated by grasses and have little to no trees or taller shrubs. They support a high diversity of species, with a mix of grasses plus a range of wildflowers including herbs, lilies, orchids and small shrubs. A high-quality grassland can be as diverse as a rainforest!

In South Australia, we have a unique type of native grassland which is characterised by the presence of a relatively large, spiky plant called iron-grass. The name is misleading because iron-grass is not actually a grass, it is a type of lily. This long-lived, hardy plant is the backbone of the grassland community.

Iron-grass grasslands occur in the transition zone between the higher rainfall forests and woodlands and the drier Mallee areas. Intermingled with grassy woodlands, iron-grass previously occupied the area from the base of the eastern Mount Lofty Ranges across to the Mallee, and from Callington northwards to Terowie and beyond. Click here to view a map of the area, including the project's target survey areas.

Why this project is needed

The Iron-grass Natural Temperate Grassland of South Australia is listed as a critically endangered ecological community by The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). Ecological communities are a naturally occurring group of native plants, animals and other organisms that interact in a unique habitat. Their characteristics are determined by environmental factors such as soil type, position in the landscape, altitude, climate and water availability.

Since European settlement, the patterns of grazing have changed. Contributing factors include; the introduction of stock, installation of fencing, and increased kangaroo numbers due to availability of water. In addition, the once widespread use of fire by First peoples has ceased. As such, there is very little of this grassland community remaining. Native grasslands have evolved with the presence of grazing animals, and periodic disturbance is essential for maintaining diversity. The trick is to get the intensity and frequency of grazing right.

Intact and diverse grasslands have a greater ability to be resilient to climate variability and dry times.

What is being done

This project aims to engage all groups who have an interest or have knowledge in native grassland management, including current land managers, ecologists and our Traditional Owners.

The Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board is working with partners Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, Mid Murray Landcare SA, Greening Australia, Seeding Natives and in collaboration with land managers to undertake activities to improve the condition of the Iron-grass Natural Temperate Grassland of South Australia.

Activities during this project will include:

  • raising community awareness about the importance of grassland conservation
  • setting up trials on grassland properties throughout the Murraylands and Riverland and Northern and Yorke landscape management regions
  • enhancing species diversity through supplementary plantings
  • controlling pest animals and weeds
  • providing advice to land managers on best practice management for dual production and conservation gains.

Timeline

This project has been funded for five years, due for completion in June 2023. The project team hopes that ongoing restoration work and management of the Iron-grass Natural Temperate Grasslands in the Murraylands and Riverland region will continue beyond the official project.

Lead agency

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board

Partners

Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, Mid Murray Landcare SA, Greening Australia

Funding partners

This project is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

Iron-grass native grassland project

More information

Landscape Ecology Team

Units 5-6, Level 1 Sturt Centre, 2 Sturt Reserve Road, Murray Bridge, SA, 5253

08 8532 9100

MRenquiries@sa.gov.au