Ecosystem in decline

This is an eastern quoll, one of the many species considered locally extinct from the Macedon Ranges.

By Steph McNicol

Macedon Ranges Shire Council has thrown its support behind the shire’s smallest residents, outlining the plight of the area’s ecosystem, including endangered flora and fauna.

The council’s submission to the State Parliament’s Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria highlights potential effects including further exstinctions; the economic impact on services such as the shire’s agricultural industry, which injects nearly $200 million each year; the health and wellbeing of residents; and tourism.

At its August meeting, council highlighted the need for increased efforts to improve ecosystem health across Victoria, and its submission highlighted the decline in Macedon’s ecosystem, labelling it ‘severe and ongoing’.

Powerful owl.
Lyre bird

“Macedon Ranges has experienced significant species decline as the result of the fragmentation of habitat associated with land clearance and past logging of native forests,” the submission read.

“This decline will continue as land is further fragmented by subdivision and development and remnant patches of native vegetation are degraded by threatening processes such as domestic uses, lack of weed and pest animal management, inappropriate fuel reduction works, and overgrazing.”

The submission also lists other reasons for ecosystem decline, including historic and current clearing of land and climate change.

Council’s submission also highlighted several species that are now considered locally extinct from the Macedon Ranges, including eastern quoll, lyre bird, long-nosed bandicoot, southern brown bandicoot, leadbeater’s possum and greater glider.

Long-nosed bandicoot.

The submission also highlights a number of fauna considered endangered or threatened in the ranges, including the powerful owl, brush-tailed phascogale, brown toadlet, and Yarra pygmy perch.

A decline in four flora species including the black gum (eucalyptus aggregata), hairy leaf triggerplant (stylidium armeria subsp pilosifolium), wombat bush-pea (pultenaea reflexifolia) and swamp bush pea (pultenaea weindorferi), were addressed in the submission.

Swamp bush pea.

Council’s planning and environment director Angela Hughes said one of council’s roles was to advocate to other levels of government about issues affecting the shire.

“This particular submission fulfils the advocacy initiatives set out in council’s Biodiversity Strategy 2018,” she said.

“One key concern involves the continued decline of a number of native flora and fauna species within the shire, leading to increased local extinctions. These species play an important role in maintaining ecosystem health and resilience.

“Ecosystems at risk include the grasslands and grassy woodlands either side of the divide, which have been significantly cleared for agriculture.

“Areas at risk from the impacts of climate change include the forests and woodlands at higher elevations such as on top of Mt Macedon and the native species they support such as Snow Gums.”

Ms Hughes said a decrease of species could have a flow-on effect on the rest of the ecosystem.

“All ecosystems provide ‘ecosystem services’ such as clean water, clear air, pollination and natural control of pests,” she said.

“These services support the productivity of our farms as well as the health of our communities. When species die out from an area this can have a flow on effect to the rest of the ecosystem.

“Macedon Ranges is unique in supporting a diversity of ecosystems across a variety of elevations and geological settings.”