Rare plants found as part of landscape assessment

Rare and threatened plant species have been found as part of a field-based assessment of the Chain of Ponds waterways near Munro.

The Providence Ponds and Perry River catchment is unique as it hosts one of the most intact pond systems in Australia. Chain of Ponds waterways were once common across south-eastern Australia and are now very rare.

As part of an assessment of the ponds’ condition, nine rare or threatened plant species, previously not known to be in the area, were found. These include several species of Fireweed, a range of herbs such as rare Winged Water-Starwort, Eastern Bitter-cress and Pale Swamp Everlasting, as well as River Swamp Wallaby-grass, and the small Grey Scentbark tree.

“Overall 150 native species were recorded during the assessment and it is exciting that these rare and vulnerable plants were among those,” said Martin Fuller, CEO of West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.

He said as well as the discovery of the plants, the assessment provided vital data to help protect the future of the ponds in the area.

“There is very little historical information on the extent, location, vegetation and overall condition of the Chain of Ponds.

“While we knew that the catchment area contained some of the most intact ponds in the country, we wanted to map their location and learn more about their current condition,” Mr Fuller explained.

“This information will help us manage them better and give us a baseline condition that can be measured against over time.”

Ecologists from Pathways Bushland and Environment undertook an inventory and then designed and implemented a field-based assessment of the ponds’ current condition.

Over 1000 ponds of various sizes were identified and mapped in the catchment area and a subset was then rated, based on the Index of Wetland Condition method.

“The overall condition rating of our Chain of Ponds system was Good, which reflects their relatively intact nature,” said Mr Fuller.

“Unfortunately, due to historic land use changes and the current impact of deer, the vegetation component was rated as Poor to Moderate.

“However, the ponds rated strongly in terms of ecological values, as they support a diverse range of wetland plants.

Mr Fuller said the assessment also revealed the Providence Ponds and Perry River catchment had the most extensive occurrences of Wet Verge Herbland known in Victoria.

More details on the Protect our Ponds project can be found at https://www.wgcma.vic.gov.au/our-region/projects/protecting-our-ponds

The Protecting Our Ponds project is funded by the Victorian Government’s Our Catchments Our Communities program through the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.

 

Background Information

A Chain of Ponds is a system of irregularly spaced ponds linked by shallow floodways. The Providence Ponds and Perry River Catchment contains sections of fully intact ponds, which are very rare.

It is also one of the only places where remnant habitat provides a link between the Great Dividing Range and the Gippsland Lakes and is home to many threatened plant and animal species, including Dwarf Galaxias, Green and Golden Bell frog and the Gaping Leek-orchid.

Over the years, these ponds have been affected by land-clearing, stock, weed and pest animals, or even excavated and used as dams.

Maintaining and improving that link is vital for the movement of species and important for the overall health of the catchment.

Key highlights of work conducted as part of the Protect our Ponds project in the past twelve months include:

  • WGCMA and Wellington Shire Council targeted roadside African Lovegrass to control the spread of this invasive weed
  • Trust for Nature worked with landholders to eliminate weeds in the riparian buffer zone, particularly African Lovegrass and Blackberry.
  • HVP Plantations and Trust for Nature are developing a 20-year plan to create riparian buffer zones within the HVP managed estate.
  • WGCMA worked with HVP to identify and assess erosion sites on their estate.
  • WGCMA worked with a private landholder whose property contains some of the most intact ponds.
  • Maffra and District Landcare Network worked with private landholders on weed control, fencing and revegetation.
  • An inventory and assessment method was developed to help establish the baseline condition of the ponds.
  • Known erosion sites were visited and prioritised for structural work.
This pond, located in the HVP Estate, is part of the Chain of Ponds in the Providence Ponds and Perry River Catchment.