FUTURESCAPES is South West NRM’s on-ground works incentive program. Although the devolved grant incentive system is not new to stakeholders in the region, FUTURESCAPES has renewed the process, with a fresh marketing campaign attracting thirty applications in its first round.
After a highly competitive selection process, one of the outstanding successful projects was a project aimed at protecting natural ground springs in the upper reaches on the Warrego catchment, proposed by the Australian Bush Heritage Fund (ABHF). “The importance of the FUTURESCAPES program cannot be underestimated.
The fact that the pastoral community can tap into advice, support and monies for natural resource management encourages better land management practices that will eventually benefit all Australians” said Darren Larcombe, Manager of Carnarvon Station.
Carnarvon Station Reserve Project Case Study
The “Conglomerate and Mailman Spring Protection” project involved the exclusion of feral herbivores from these springs by fencing, to improve water quality and protect a threatened ecosystem.
Consists of a string of permanent water holes in the bed of a small ephemeral creek which drains into the Channin Creek system via Boulder Creek. In excess of 25 axe grinding grooves have been found adjacent to the rock pools. This indicates that this was most likely a significant Aboriginal occupation site.
The site has never been fenced and has been degraded significantly by the impacts of feral pigs and horses accessing water. The project proposes to exclude feral herbivores from the water source and cultural heritage areas by fencing a buffer around the spring approximately 100m x 150m with a 1.2m high horse and pig proof fence. Visitor access will be provided by a pedestrian gate.
Consists of a series of seepages in the base of a drainage lined sand country.
Historically the spring was tapped to water cattle and the source was fenced. The infrastructure has long been in poor condition and the area has suffered severe erosion, compaction and loss of aquatic vegetation due to feral herbivores, particularly pigs, accessing the site.
A levee bank established in the 1980’s to divert water to a small catchment at the spring source has caused considerable erosion which is still active. Part of this proposal is remove or breach the levee prior to fencing. The proposed fence will protect the spring source and 200m of stream below with a 1.2m high horse and pig proof fence. Visitor access will be provided via a pedestrian gate.
Carnarvon Station Reserve protects a large percentage of the headwaters of the Warrego catchment, including 36 springs of which 31 are currently known to still exist. Of these, 11 are protected by feral herbivore exclusion fencing so far. “I’m very happy with the outcomes of the project. ABHF can easily tap into volunteer support, however things can get a little tight when looking at larger capital expenditure projects such as the Conglomerate & Mailman Springs Fencing Project. The financial support for the purchase of water monitoring equipment and fencing materials was greatly appreciated” said Darren.
ABHF is committed to protecting and improving water quality on a local and catchment level. Any measures to improve water quality and conservation in the upper Channin Creek will have flow-on positive outcomes for other catchment users in the Warrego River catchment and beyond.
The strategic fencing of spring sites on the Reserve will result in, not only improvements in water quality, but the long-term preservation of these unique and threatened sites. The strategic management of feral herbivore watering points is an integral part of introduced fauna management
on the Reserve.
Reserve management will benefit from the exclusion of feral herbivores from this and other springs on the property in the following ways; reduction in carrying capacity of pest species through limiting available watering points; reduced distribution of weed seed and pathogens carried and spread by feral herbivores; reduced sedimentation in springs creeks and drainage lines; decreased soil loss and erosion from watering points and feral animal trails; and increased faunal and floral diversity on a local/regional level.
The project forms part of ongoing strategy outlined in the Reserve’s management plan for conservation of significant sites. An important issue identified in the plan is the degradation of springs by feral herbivores. Exclusion of feral herbivores from these areas has been identified as an effective strategy for the protection of springs as well as reducing the density of feral herbivores on the reserve.
“We have managed to kick some major conservation goals with the exclusion of pigs and horses from these two springs, already water quality has improved and revegetation of the stream banks begun” said Darren.
If no action was taken then the spring sites would continue to degrade. With the removal of grazing over the Reserve’s 59,000 ha it is to be expected that the carrying capacity for herbivores, both feral and native, will continue to increase before stablising. It is a management aim and a responsibility of ABHF to see that these management actions do not result in a net increase in feral herbivores.
All these strategies engage to protect and manage the Reserve’s natural assets on a landscape scale and add to the conservation values of the region.
All spring sites on Carnarvon Station are different. Fence styles that have been trialled on the property to date range from rigid stock-mesh exclosures, on a small scale, to large stand-alone electrified exclosures. Judging from the results of protection measures to date, the larger an exclosure the more beneficial, particularly if it excludes both pigs and horses as the exclosures in this project will. Native fauna, particularly macropods access the springs by rock and log ramps (a local innovation called a “Larbey Ladder”). Feral herbivores can continue to access water at dams and artificial sources where controlled efforts and monitoring are more practical, and the negative environmental impacts considerably lower.
Data collection on Carnarvon Station is in its early stages and little baseline data is available to demonstrate improvements in water quality. However, early indicators such as markedly decreased turbidity and dramatic increases in riparian and in-stream vegetation indicate that current fencing strategies are effective. It is expected that the re-establishment of suitable habitat will result in an increase of aquatic invertebrates and frogs. The sites are part of ABHF’s overall monitoring program and data is collected annually through photo survey points and the SAVMON monitoring system. Water quality testing and invertebrate monitoring is conducted at this site and other springs 2 times a year.
There is a rising stage sampler installed in the Channin Creek downstream of the project site, which was supplied by South West NRM, through funding from the Australian Government Envirofund.
- Number of kilometres fenced: 1 km
- Total area protected/revegetated: 2 ha
- Number of properties participating in the project: 1
- Length of river watercourse fenced: 500m of spring source