Bellarine Rail Trail a corridor for biodiversity

The Bellarine Rail Trail in Victoria contains the Bellarine Peninsula’s last patches of remnant vegetation, with flora species that can be found nowhere else on the Bellarine, plus a vibrant bird life which is unique to the area. But that rich diversity is under threat from weed invasion, including gorse, flax-leaf broom, and watsonia.

A partnership between Bellarine Catchment Network, VicTrack and Landcare Australia is helping to reverse the decline by targeting the removal of these weeds and allowing the natural regeneration of Indigenous species. The Bellarine Landcare Group and Swan Bay Environment Association have also been closely involved with the project.

In the second half of 2016, a Green Army team made inroads into cutting and painting the woody weeds along the trail. This work was complemented and followed up with herbicide spraying, a task which will be on-going given the nature of these weeds. The seeds can be in the soil for 30 years and the soil’s seed bank can accumulate as many 400 million seeds/ha under mature gorse.

A twice monthly “Weed and Walk” group led by local botanist, Beth Ross, has helped control weeds at key high biodiversity sites. The sessions are fun and educational, and the participants soon develop a passion for weeding due to Beth’s enthusiasm.

Community engagement has been a key to the success of this project, with community groups such as Swan Bay Environment Association and local schools revegetating degraded areas with Indigenous species.

Matt Crawley, the Bellarine Catchment Network program coordinator, said, “The kids and community members gain a sense of ‘pride in place’ from being part of the planting days, and they learn why this work is so important.”

Over the past seven months there have been three community groups and four schools involved in community planting days, where 700 seedlings from the endangered vegetation community ‘Coastal Moonah Woodland’ have been planted.

“We hope this funding is renewed so that we can maintain the quality of this important work and ensure we can be really proud of the Bellarine Rail Trail into the future,” Matt said.

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