Track work to protect grass trees in Woowookarung
Friday 14 April, 2023
Parks Victoria rangers and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners have commenced work on a track rehabilitation program to protect vulnerable native species from the devastating soil-borne disease Phytophthora cinnamoni.
Also known as cinnamon fungus, Phytophthora poses a grave threat to grass trees and other native vegetation – relied on by native animals like the antechinus.
Listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, it attacks and destroys root systems, causing plants to die through lack of water and nutrients.
To prevent further spread of the disease and to heal country, the joint Parks Victoria and Wadawurrung project has closed 7km of the park's more than 120km of roads, tracks and trails, and resown them with native plants and trees.
“Woowookarung meaning Place of Plenty, there are many culturally and ecologically important plant species. The attractive old growth of the Xanthorrhoea grass trees are extensive and provide important habitat to many animal species in the area. Many elements of the grass trees were used for food, fibre, medicine, and tools,” Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation Biodiversity Officer Chase Aghan says.
“With the increasing spread of Phytophthora cinnamoni, the precious old Grass Trees are at an extreme risk of depletion in the landscape along with other important heath species that reside in the park. We need to mitigate the spread of the disease so we can all enjoy the beauty of what makes the park such a special place,” he says.
Grass trees are a vital habitat for native species across Victoria. Credit: Parks Victoria.
“We chose the tracks to be closed through consultation with the local community and groups like mountainbikers, orienteers, and bushwalkers, who really wanted to see the grass trees protected and understood why we were doing it,” Parks Victoria Ranger Team Leader Alex Schipperen says.
Seeds for the resowing were collected by local field naturalists and Seeding Victoria. Some of the seeds, like wattles, are heated up and smoked before planting, to mimic the effects of fire – a key part of their natural ecosystem.
The old track surface is laid with a mesh that enables the seeds to develop while offering some protection.
Parks Victoria and Wadawurrung work together on track rehabilitation in Woowookarung Regional Park. Credit: Parks Victoria
“We’ve really enjoyed working with Wadawurrung on this project and benefitted a lot by sharing skills and knowledge with each other,” Alex Schipperen says. “We’re excited to work together to mitigate harm to Country from the disease and share knowledge of the importance of healing Country.”
“Over the next few years these old tracks will blend in with the native bushland once more and protect the grass trees from cinnamon fungus.”