An electric exclusion fence has been erected around the ecologically-valuable Nicholson Range to control total grazing pressure in the area.
The Nicholson Range acts as a watershed between the Roderick and Sanford River systems, two regionally significant catchments in the Mid-West rangelands region.
The range stretches between the Mt Wittenoom and Meka pastoral leases and covers an area of approximately 58,000 hectares.
Rangelands NRM’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Kane Watson said the region was historically frequented by goats and unmanaged livestock.
“The uncontrolled access to the area by feral goats, kangaroos and unmanaged livestock has shown negative impacts with a decline in the overall function and health of this significant ecological site.” Mr Watson said.
By ensuring this system is preserved, the overall landscape function will be improved thereby reducing any impact of sediment load entering either of the significant drainage systems.
“Reducing the speed of the water flow across the 110,000 hectares of flood plains between the Nicholson Range and the Sanford River system, will improve the regeneration and ground cover due to continued water infiltration,” he said.
Mr Watson said the members of the Nicholson Range Management Committee want to ensure this range is completely taken out of production and managed to conserve its unique ecosystems.
Across the two projects there is now 30km of new fencing, 12km of upgraded fencing and 10 monitoring sites.
“Given lessons from the project, the Committee is also expanding the area with additional fencing to include a greater proportion of the foot slopes and additional spurs from the range.”
Manager of Meka Station, Bob Grinham said the project was initiated when they could see the footslopes on the range starting to collapse, with erosion every time a thunderstorm occurred the water was disappearing down the creeks.
“With research and advice from Hugh Pringle, we realised we could fence it and stop the grazing baring back the slopes, we could increase the vegetation, retain the moisture and stop the runoff.” Mr Grinham said.
With the completion of each stage of the project, change in the vegetation is already becoming evident from the removal of kangaroos, goats and sheep.
“It is definitely paying dividends–the water is traveling under the ground instead of over it,” Mr Grinham said.
Mr Grinham said from here they would like to continue with ponding banks and getting the eroded areas under control.
“In the long term, by achieving revegetation on those footslopes we can achieve water travelling underground and the areas down slope that aren’t protected will recover on their own, up to 46 per cent just from the water being retained.”
“I have fixed 60 per cent of the erosion on the property in 12 months. This has given me better productivity out of less sheep,” he said.
Peter Curry, Director of Vital Options Consulting said the continuing demise of breakaway footslope grassy chenopod communities throughout the Gascoyne-Murchison has been an active interest of his for some years.
“It would be very interesting to know how the remnants of Eragrostis dielsii and other native grasses in particular will go when protected in granite country – we really don’t know.”
He said the combined grazing pressure of stock, roos and ferals normally keeps this component down to butts on the soil surface.
“A Total Grazing Management fence with a dingo population on the inside has got to be very good for the ecology of granites and breakaways in the long run,” Mr Curry said.
This site is recorded in the Rangelands NRM Murchison Environmental Asset Register (2011), and has been included due the high ecological value of this breakaway site. The range has been recorded as being highly significant ecologically and floristically (by several DAFWA surveys).
(Top) Bob Grinham and Kieran Massie (Rangelands NRM) inspect the property (Image: Kane Watson)
(Left) Gate strainer assembly on Nicholson Range exclusion fencing (Image: Bob and Trish Grinham)
(Right) Trish Grinham working on Nicholson Range exclusion fencing (Image: Bob and Trish Grinham)