Canberra

The Charles Sturt University campus in Canberra borders St Mark's Native Grassland. The site contains two hectares of remnant Natural Temperate Grassland, declared an endangered ecological community under ACT and Commonwealth legislation. Two hectares have been assessed as having very high botanical value and one hectare as having moderate botanical value.

The conservation grassland is dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) with an extremely high diversity of native wildflowers, several of which are regionally uncommon, including orchids and lilies. A population of the Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides), declared endangered under ACT and Commonwealth legislation survives in the grassland. This is the flagship species for this campus.

The Golden Sun Moth, Synemon plana was first sighted in the grassland in 1997.  Themeda grasslands are not identified as typical habitat for these moths. They are listed as endangered in ACT and critically endangered under Commonwealth legislation.  This is a very special remnant of national significance.

The below video shows the cool ecological burn that was implemented in April 2018 to reduce the thick covering of the grass creating inter-tussock spaces.

Below are links to additional resources about the grassland:

The below gallery show cases native forbes, grasses and insect species identified through biodiversity monitoring activities undertaken each spring by Plant Ecologist Dr Sarah Sharp, Friends of Grasslands.

Charles Sturt University extends our sincere gratitude to the following talented and very generous photographers for granting permission to publish their amazing images.

Thank you to: Simon B Cotterell, Ian Montgomery birdway.com.au, Jennifer Horsnell, Geoff Burrows, Dr Joanne Connolly, Tim Bergen, Alexandra Knight, David Hunter, Mark Stephenson, Cilla Kinross, Ian Kerr, Roger France and Ken Monson.

Wildflower images are sourced from canberra.naturemapr.org

Flagship species - Button Wrinklewort

Conservation status: Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the ACT Nature Conservation Act 1980 and as Threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

The Button Wrinklewort Rutidosis leptorrhynchoidesis a native flora species in the Asteraceae family. They are found in the St Mark’s remnant grassland bordering the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture and the St Mark’s National Theological Centre which forms the Charles Sturt University campus at Barton, Canberra.  It is a slender perennial wildflower that grows to about 30 cm in height, branching mainly at the base. The leaves are narrow, dark green ageing to yellow-green and up to 2.5 cm long, with rolled edges concealing the undersides. The stems usually die back in late summer or autumn and the new basal leaves appear by early winter. The species has yellow button flowers (2 cm wide) from October to April.

Habitat requirements

The grassland is dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and a high diversity of native wildflowers, several of which are regionally uncommon, including orchids and a number of lilies. A population of the Button Wrinklewort occurs within the grassland.  They have been found in less than 30 sites so enhancing genetic diversity is very important for the recovery of this species.

Key threats

The Button Wrinklewort is at risk of extinction throughout its range and threats include:

  • habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation (e.g. by urban, residential, infrastructure and agricultural development)
  • invasive weeds -  particularly St John's wort and exotic pasture species (e.g. Phalaris aquatica, Paspalum dilatatum and Avena spp.)
  • changed fire regimes – allowing biomass build up and loss of inter-tussock spaces;
  • grazing - resulting in modification of soil structure through compaction, increased nutrient loads and promotion of weeds.
  • herbicide use;
  • mowing impacts; and
  • loss of genetic diversity

What Charles Sturt University is doing

The major conservation objective is to maintain viable populations of the Button Wrinklewort within this functional native grassland.  This habitat has been declared in the ACT as an endangered ecological community. Management focuses maintaining the Button Wrinklewort as a component of this grassland ecosystem.

  • A Management Plan developed by Dr Sarah Sharpe in 2007 when she was based with the ACT Government.  It provides a strategic approach ensuring that activities on the site (within and adjacent to the Conservation Area) do not compromise conservation outcomes.
  • The grassland site has been identified as an area of high conservation value and ratified in April 2017 as a CSU biodiversity zone.
  • Maintenance of inter-tussock spaces in the Kangaroo Grass to allow the diversity of forbes (wild flowers) to thrive through a regime of cool mosaic burning every two years.
  • Minimisation of shade on the grassland.
  • Fostering partnerships with local community groups (FoG) to share knowledge and experiences, particularly in ongoing monitoring activities.

Monitoring

The grassland site is managed by Charles Sturt University’s Division of Facilities Management (DFM) in consultation with the joint lessees, St Mark’s National Theological College and the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

DFM partners with the Friends of Grassland, a local community volunteer group, to undertake an annual survey every November monitoring the presence of the species.

How you can help

Participate in activities enhancing this biodiversity zones including:

  • participate in the volunteer working bee events run by the Friends of Grasslands.
  • pick up your rubbish
  • do not smoke anywhere near the area
  • do not walk your dog on the site
  • do not walk through the site unless you have washed your shoes to ensure no weeds are spread
  • learn more about this valuable remnant ecosystem as it is a window into the past.

Sources