There are many ways in which farms can integrate conservation with production. The most important step that landholders can take is to identify and protect areas of native vegetation and other important habitat features, such as rocky outcrops, paddock trees, fallen logs and wetlands. It is far easier, cheaper and more successful to protect healthy sites, or restore partially degraded sites, than it is to revegetate a cleared site.
There are three key components to sustainable management of native vegetation and habitats on farmland:
- Retain existing vegetation where possible. In many cases, native vegetation brings economic benefits by preventing land degradation, providing shelter and shade for livestock and generating products such as honey, bush foods and seed.
- Protect native vegetation from degradation by fencing it off from neighbouring land uses. This allows the landholder to control grazing and other management actions.
- Manage native vegetation, where needed. High-quality native vegetation may not require active management, but areas that are modified or degraded often require weed and pest animal control and other management strategies to encourage regeneration. For example, native grasslands may benefit from grazing or burning to reduce dominant grasses and promote a diversity of species.
In addition to protecting native vegetation and managing major influences such as grazing, fire and invasive species, there are a variety of smaller ‘fauna-friendly’ actions that landholders can take on productive farms. These include measures such as:
- installing wildlife-friendly fencing to replace barbed wire fences, which can entangle and kill native animals;
- reducing barriers to wildlife movement by installing features such as wombat gates in fences, or fish ladders beside dams in streams;
- minimising slashing and mowing of native vegetation;
- protecting wetlands and watercourses by fencing, managing stock access, and/or planting native vegetation on stream banks; and
- ensuring that dams and watercourses contain logs, boulders, submerged branches and other natural habitat features.
Another way in which conservation values can be enhanced on farms is by creating a vegetation buffer between areas with different land uses, to soften the impacts of particular land management techniques on neighbouring areas. It can be particularly valuable to place a buffer zone between productive areas of a farm and areas of remnant vegetation. Vegetation in the buffer can protect the core habitat patch by acting as a firebreak, blocking the incursion of weed seeds, controlling erosion and soil run-off, and reducing the amount of pollutants, chemicals and fertilisers drifting across from the farmed area.
Where to get further advice
More specific information about integrating wildlife conservation with farm management in particular regions can be obtained from the local natural resource management authority, or from the relevant State Environment or Agriculture Departments.