The land we see today is a far cry from the landscape of 150 years ago.
Prior to the 1860s as Australia moved towards Federation, clearing of vegetation was virtually confined to land close to large settlements. Bushland full of native flora and fauna was never far away. As governments encouraged a more robust economic climate supported by large-scale farming such as wheat and dairy, people moved into the wider regions, the Outback, the valleys and mountain ranges and began clearing native vegetation. Advances in technology, pesticides and surplus of workers after the Gold Rush, accelerated the clearing of native vegetation.
Contrary to popular belief, approximately the same area of land has been cleared in the past 50 years as was cleared during the 150 years prior to 1945. [DEST 1995]
The clearing of native vegetation, and the subsequent agricultural development, has brought considerable short-term wealth to the south west and the State of Victoria. But this prosperity has come at a cost.
Removal of native vegetation has altered many of the processes necessary for the continued survival of working ecosystems. Water and nutrient cycles are no longer in balance - major problems of soil erosion, salinity and flooding are the result. Removal and fragmentation of native vegetation has led to substantial reductions in habitat and fauna survival.
Native vegetation now covers less than 13 per cent of South Western Victoria. Some vegetation communities are now far less common than this figure may suggest. There is only about 1000 square kilometres of predominantly intact, original native vegetation left on private land in the region. Two of the original broad-vegetation types, box ironbark forest and riparian forest, now appear to be extinct. The remaining areas of native vegetation are a significant regional resource.
The CMA works with landowners to reverse the damage by embracing ecological sustainable development – using, conserving and enhancing the community’s natural resources to improve and maintain the quality of life.
The focus is now long-term vision, not short term - and the results are showing.
Native vegetation – what does it do?
Native vegetation plays a vital role in the shape of our landscape. Native plants help produce oxygen, form and protect soils, maintain biodiversity, protect water resources, provide carbon sinks that absorb greenhouse gasses, provide shelter for native animals and much more.
Native vegetation assists landowners in:
- maintaining water table levels and prevent salinity;
- providing shade and shelter to stock;
- providing windbreaks for crops; contributes to soil erosion control;
- providing habitat for natural predators of crop pests (such as birds and carnivorous insects);
- maintaining microclimates which assist water retention and quality;
- providing sites for tourism and recreation;
- conserving genetic resources for future development of pharmaceutical or agricultural products; and
- providing timber and other products (such as honey and flowers). [DEST 1995]
Native vegetation also has a range of direct economic benefits that include:
- Windbreaks for crops
- Soil erosion control
- Shelter and shade to stock
- Timber and other products such as honey and flowers
- Maintaining microclimates which assist water quality and retention
- Providing habitat for natural predators of crop pests
- Providing deep rooted vegetation which assists in maintaining lower water tables
- Conserving genetic resources for future development of pharmaceutical products or hybridisation
- Cultural and social benefits e.g. providing a sense of identity and place and providing for recreation
Revised bio regional conservation statuts of Ecological Vegetation Classes
Since the preparation of the CMA Native Vegetation Plan, there has been a revision of the Bioregional Conservation Status (BCS) of the Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs). It is essential that you use this revised list to obtain information regarding the EVC BCS, particularly if you require the information for Planning Permit purposes.