The importance of travelling stock reserves for maintaining high-quality threatened temperate woodlands

Date: 21, Sep, 2017
Author(s):   O'Loughlin, T., O'Loughlin, L.S., Michael, D.R., Wood, J.T., Waudby, H.P., Falcke, P., Lindenmayer, D.B.
Publisher: Australian Journal of Botany

Travelling stock reserves (TSRs) are thought to represent some of the highest-quality and least degraded remnants of threatened temperate woodland in south-eastern Australia. These public reserves have not had the same high levels of grazing pressure and other disturbances as woodland remnants on private land. Thus, TSRs are expected to be important for the protection of biodiversity in heavily cleared and modified landscapes. We tested the hypothesis that land tenure had significant effects on the quality of woodlands by comparing vegetation structural attributes between TSRs and remnant vegetation used for primary production purposes. Vegetation attributes were monitored in 155 permanent plots over 5 years in remnant temperate woodland sites in the Riverina bioregion of New South Wales. Overall, TSRs supported higher native plant species richness and were characterised by higher ground cover of native shrubs and less cover of exotic plant species than agricultural production areas. We found land tenure had significant effects on some vegetation attributes demonstrated to be important for threatened fauna. We attribute these results to TSRs having a history of lower grazing pressure compared with remnants managed for agricultural production. Our study provides empirical evidence to support the high conservation value of TSRs in formerly woodland-dominated, but now extensively cleared agricultural landscapes.