Native and Remnant Vegetation

Clearing of native vegetation in rural and rural residential areas has greatly reduced native vegetation cover.  The remaining native vegetation is referred to as remnant vegetation. This includes original (never been cleared) and regenerated native vegetation communities such as forest, woodland, native grassland, and isolated native trees, shrubs, and groundcovers.  Remnant vegetation on your rural residential property might occur as natural bushland, roadside vegetation, shelterbelts, riparian areas or isolated paddock trees.

Native Vegetation—Benefits and Threats

Remnant native vegetation has high biodiversity and conservation values and can provide shelter and shade for livestock, reduce soil erosion and prevent sediment and nutrients entering waterways.  Native vegetation can also be managed as a source of income, via forestry, seed harvesting, firewood or via recently emerging carbon trading markets.  Native plants in the garden and on your property also require less water, and are more tolerant to environmental conditions such as drought and frost.

The replacement of native vegetation with pasture or open grassland contributes to a range of land management issues including soil erosion, degradation and salinity, and destruction of wildlife habitat.  Activities causing damage to native vegetation include removal of understorey vegetation (small trees, shrubs and groundcovers), excessive or frequent burning, overgrazing, weed infestation, and ‘tidying up’ to create lawn and parkland style gardens.

Assessing the Health of Native Vegetation

Healthy remnant native vegetation has a variety of native plant species and resists threats such as weed infestations, and extreme weather such as drought and frost.  Healthy native vegetation will include a mix of healthy mature trees, regenerating juvenile trees and shrubs, a diverse understorey and a range of ground cover plants.  Remember though—all remnant native vegetation has value, including individual trees in grazing paddocks or those which are surrounded by weed species!

Planning for Revegetation and Regeneration

Once you have assessed the health of existing native vegetation you can prioritise its management on your property to maximise the benefits it provides.  Protecting and enhancing existing native vegetation requires less time and money than establishing new plantings.  You can improve the health of existing vegetation by removing threats (eg. removing weeds or erecting fences to prevent grazing).  If you are replanting cleared areas, choose sites that will expand and connect patches of remnant vegetation.  This will improve the overall health of the existing vegetation, be easier to maintain in the long term and provide corridors for native wildlife.  Plan your revegetation so that the site is well prepared and you are able to water seedlings if needed.

Local Council
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (within OEH)
Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority
Botanic Gardens

Revegetation Techniques

There are three main techniques for re-establishing native vegetation. All methods will require exclusion of stock to protect young plants. Natural regeneration is the cheapest option; it basically means allowing the bush to grow back by itself, from seed stored in the soil.  Direct seeding involves establishing plants on the site from seed, rather than planting tubestock, and requires good site preparation (weed removal, stock exclusion) and large amounts of seed.  Tubestock planting, using nursery grown seedlings has good survival rates if site preparation and timing is well planned, however is more labour intensive and has higher costs.

Seed Collection and Provenance Seed

There is more to revegetation works than just deciding what plants to put in the ground and where to put them.  You need to consider where you will get your plants from—or if plants are not available, where to obtain native seed, how much you will need, and how you will grow the plants.  Provenance seed refers to the site or area where seed has been collected. Provenance seed allows you to grow plants that have adapted to growing under local conditions, including climate, soil type and topography.  For specialised revegetation projects, such as for salinity remediation, you should source plants that are adapted to those conditions.

Identifying Native Plants and Collecting Plant Specimens

Identifying the native plants on your property and in your area gives you a greater understanding of both your property and the local environment.  If you are just starting to learn the skill of plant identification, become familiar with some of the common botanical terms used for describing, naming and grouping plants, especially those that describe plant physical characteristics such as leaves, flowers and fruits.  There are a variety of books and Internet resources describing common native plants which include photographs and diagrams.  Your Local Council may be able to provide you with a list of common native plants for your area.

Collecting plant samples can be useful for getting help to identify plants on your property (taking plants from National Parks, State Forests or other reservation areas requires a permit).  Make sure you record details such as the area you collected the specimen, flower colour, soil type, etc.  You will need to preserve any plant samples you take.  An easy way to do this is by the traditional pressing method, placing the samples between paper and holding down with a heavy object (phone books are a readily available option).  Herbariums will not return samples, so you may want to preserve more than one sample.  Digital cameras are also a useful tool.


Copyright 2011 HCCREMS