Fresh Blog

News as it happens - discussion; views; topics; information

Nature Foundation SA

Ashleigh Coombs - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I have just been looking at the annual report of the Nature Foundation SA. What a tremendous amount of work they do. As well as supporting the purchase of a number of conservation value properties they own six properties, Witchelina, Hiltaba, Watchalunga, Tiliqua Nature Reserve, Para Woodlands and Cygnet Park Nature Reserve; all different types of property each with its own challenges. Altogether the total land acquired by the foundation is just short of 500,000 ha. {approx. 5000 sq. kms}.Weed control, pest animal eradication, repairs to infrastructure etc. is carried out on them where necessary and a huge amount of research undertaken; all done by volunteers. A number of grants are given each year to students to assist them in their projects as they study for their degrees. This is no mean effort when you consider all of this is provided by sponsorship and fund raising. One page (of the NFSA report) is set aside to appreciate the value of volunteers, ‘they are the very heart of NFSA.’

This is only an insight into the organization, further information can be found on

... words from Colin Malcolm, President FOOP

... extract from The President's Page of Friends of Onkaparinga Parks December newsletter

Monitoring and maintaining Southern Alinytjara Wilurara region

Ashleigh Coombs - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In mid August this year, Paul Gregory, Ceduna-based Project Officer with Natural Resources Alinytjara Wilurara (NR AW) and Dennis Hocking from the West Mallee Protection Group (WMPG) set off on a four-day expedition along the East West rail corridor and through the Yellabinna and Yumbarra parks.

In this remote region, the distances between areas that need to be monitored and maintained means that returning to Ceduna each night is not a practical option.

Setting off early from Ceduna, Paul and Dennis’ first job was to monitor and treat Buffel grass along the East West rail corridor and assess if spraying was needed in response to winter rains. Trains travelling through areas where Buffel grass is growing, inadvertently spread the seed across the pristine AW landscapes.For this reason, the tracks need to be constantly checked and outbreaks destroyed before the Buffel grass becomes unmanageable and causes irreversible ecological damage.

Monitoring along the rail corridor from Ooldea to Malbooma revealed three areas that required treatment and a single plant that had sprung up near the Barton siding.

“There was hardly any healthy mature Buffel grass compared to past inspections at this time of year. It’s really great to see that our treatment programs using residual chemicals and granules have been so effective” said Paul.

On completion of the Buffel grass monitoring work, Paul and Denis travelled to Mount Finke to assess how effectively the access and campsite management work, undertaken earlier in the year, had been at decreasing erosion and destruction of fragile vegetation caused by visitors.

“It was rewarding to find that all the access management work carried out at Mount Finke appeared to have been respected by visitors to the area. Instances of driving off track and informal camping had decreased significantly since we undertook the access management work” said Paul, who had been part of the original work team.

Next they travelled to Googs Lake which is a very popular visitor site for both locals and distance travellers.

“Over the past few years, groups of volunteers joined NR AW staff in establishing campsites, disguising unnecessary tracks and clearly identify access routes around the region. The local farmers and Traditional Owners who camped out with NR AW staff for 5 days in 2014 and again in 2015 did an incredible job of transforming this area. Their help was invaluable.

“We were disappointed to find however that approximately 300m of track leading to a revegetated area that had previously been closed off appeared to have opened up and used with some frequency. Without any heavy equipment on hand, we dug a deep trench across it to deter visitors from continuing to use this route and from destroying the 200ha of revegetation work.

“Sadly, on this occasion we found that the area around the Googs Lake memorials was heavily littered by an assortment of beer cans, bottles and other rubbish.“Goog” and his son were the first to forge a vehicle track to the lake. We collected over 20kg of rubbish from around the camping area and the memorials, and were left to wonder what sort of people could visit this beautiful place and go off and leave such a mess behind.” said Paul.

In 2013, 600 native trees were planted to promote re-vegetation in the Googs Lake area. The tree guards installed around each of the young plants were now starting to dislodge and be scattered by the wind. These were collected and taken back to Ceduna to be disposed of.

“Given the harshness of the conditions and the failure of some visitors to respect the revegetation areas, it was pleasing to find that about 20% of the trees planted had survived. ”

Paul and Denis then carried out repeat photography at long established photopoints within the Googs Lake access management area. These would be used to compare with previous records and note changes in the landscape including to vegetation and soil erosion.

The team then visited areas around Nalara and Lois granite out-crops where they mapped existing tracks and noted their condition. This would be used to inform plans for future access management work and environmental preservation.

To find out more about the Alinytjara Wilurara region (north-west SA) visit our website at or our Facebook page

30th anniversary of the Coorong and Lower Lakes being named a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention

Ashleigh Coombs - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This year South Australia celebrates 30 years of the Coorong and Lower Lakes being recognised as a Ramsar site, an internationally significant wetland. The area is one of Australia’s iconic wetlands supporting critically endangered, endangered, threatened and vulnerable species and ecological communities.Phillips and Muller (2006) outline that the Coorong and Lower Lakes support extensive and diverse waterbird, fish and plant assemblages which are reliant on its complex mosaic of wetland types and the Ramsar convention is an acknowledgement of its significance not only in Australia but internationally.

In geographic language, the Coorong is defined as a long, shallow brackish to hypersaline lagoon 140 km in length that is separated from the Southern Ocean by a narrow sand dune peninsula and there is much information, brochures and books that describe and illustrate its unique landscape and diversity as well as Lakes Albert and Alexandrina.

However, moving away from the geographic, there is also much descriptive language that tries to capture the beauty of the Coorong and the Lower Lakes. Stories detail the low lying dunes framing the horizon, the big open sky, the long expanses of lagoon with water swirling in and out of the old fish traps and the wind-swept ti trees with their plucky white flowers. They try to capture the experiences of scents along the winding tracks that make their way through the coastal wattles, all the way to the ocean and the visions of pelicans flying in formation overhead. These experiences cause us all to do a second take on what really matters and the Friends of the Coorong are one community group that are well acquainted with such experiences.

However, it is the words used by the indigenous peoples of the Coorong and Lower Lakes, the Ngarrindjeri, and the culture and understandings that they have in relation to the area that help us reflect on the meaning and importance of the Ramsar recognition.

The Ngarrindjeri culture teaches about the interconnectedness between all living things and according to these principles the ‘environment’ cannot be compartmentalised, all things are connected and interconnected. For the Ngarrindjeri people, the land and people themselves are one. According to my understanding, their philosophy is based on maintaining the integrity of the relationship between place and person and it stresses the responsibility of the living to maintain this continuity.

The Ramsar recognition resonates with these principles – it asks us to become aware of and value the ecology of the region and the interconnections between water health, the land it nurtures and the fauna and flora that it supports, as well as to take appropriate national action. The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Although the situation is not as dire as it was in the drought, issues relating to the flow of water down the Murray continue and the struggle for a balance between cultural, ecological and economic needs continues. Local communities around the Coorong and Lower Lakes can provide heartfelt testimony to these struggles. The Ramsar convention mentions international cooperation which is not relevant to us as an island but we do have a great need of both regional and interstate cooperation to maximise the water flow into the Coorong and the Lower Lakes to maintain the health of the wetland.

As the traditional custodians of this area, the Ngarrindjeri people have recognised the uniqueness and richness of the Coorong for many, many more than 30 years. This commemoration is not only an ideal point in time to reinvigorate our understandings of the interconnections of the ecology of the area but also to reify a systematic approach and in doing so, to pool collective wisdoms and develop shared goals to promote this wonderful wetland that so many of us love.

Yunti Ngopun Ngami - Together We Walk

... words contributed by Jane Fitzgerald, Friend of the Coorong
picture is lower portion of a photo by Debbie Jeisman


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