Managing for biodiversity
Native vegetation is well adapted to the harsh Australian environment and provides essential ecosystem services such as integrated pest management, healthy soils and landscapes.
Striving towards ecologically healthy and diverse farming systems provides more resilience to climate change and can improve both profitability and biodiversity values.
Appropriate management of native pastures brings about key contributions to biodiversity and landscape health, not only because native species are critical components of the ecosystem, but also species diversity and habitat structure in native pastures are far more diverse than in improved pasture systems.
A major benefit of adopting appropriate deferred grazing management is the increase in the density and persistence of perennial native grasses that benefit biodiversity. Deferred grazing may also influence invertebrate ecology and have potential flow-on effects on litter and soil structure. This benefits the soil food web and nutrient cycling process by enhancing the abundance of beneficial fungi and bacteria.
These benefits are the result of increased availability of suitable habitat structure and niches for native fauna and flora species in which they find shelter from competition, protection from predators and increased availability of food and nutrients.
Increasing the ground cover and abundance of native perennial grasses and forbs using deferred grazing also reduces grazing pressure, allowing natural regeneration of shrubs and trees for shelter. This is one of the most effective strategies for promoting biodiversity in the long term.
Low-input native pastures are also perceived as ‘clean and green’, providing stock with a diverse diet.
Significant production value can also arise from non-grass components of the native grasslands. For example, inter-tussock forbs constitute a small percentage of the vegetative cover but are often highly palatable and nutritious and can form a large part of the diet of domestic livestock. However, many perennial forbs are susceptible to grazing and decrease dramatically under intense grazing regimes.