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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 42(6)

Long-Term Vegetation Change in Relation to Cattle Grazing in Sub-Alpine Grassland and Heathland on the Bogong High-Plains: an Analysis of Vegetation Records From 1945 to 1994

CHA Wahren, WA Papst and RJ Williams

Australian Journal of Botany 42(6) 607 - 639
Published: 1994


Changes in vegetation composition and structure are described for grassland and heathland communities on the Bogong High Plains, in the Victorian Alpine National Park. The data are based on long-term records collected from permanent reference plots over the period 1945 to 1994 from plots established in 1945, 1946 and 1979. In the Pretty Valley grassland plots, established in 1946, cattle grazing has prevented the large-scale regeneration of a number of tall, palatable forbs and short, palatable shrubs, while in the absence of grazing, the cover of these Life forms increased substantially. The amount of bare ground and loose litter was significantly greater on the grazed compared with the ungrazed plot. Between 1979 and 1994, there was little or no identifiable trend in the cover of Vegetation or bare ground at either the Pretty Valley grazed site, or two additional grazed grassland sites established nearby in 1979. The current condition of grazed grassland on the Bogong High Plains is interpreted as stable, yet degraded. Improvement in condition will occur in the absence of grazing. In the Rocky Valley open heathland plots, established in 1945, increases in shrub cover over the study period were due to growth of shrubs following the 1939 bushfires that burnt much of the Bogong High Plains. From 1945-1979 shorter-lived shrubs increased in cover; since 1979, these shrubs have senesced, and are being replaced mainly by grasses. On the grazed plot longer lived, taller shrubs have continued to increase in cover and are not senescing. Between 1979 and 1989, total shrub cover declined on the ungrazed plot, but increased on the grazed plot. There was no evidence that grazing has reduced shrub cover, and therefore potential fire risk, in open heathland. These findings have significant management implications for the Alpine National Park and are consistent with those from other regions in the Australian alps.

Full text doi:10.1071/BT9940607

© CSIRO 1994

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