Merri Creek Management Committee

Location

Merri Creek corridor running north from Donnybrook Road, then along the North Eastern Railway Corridor north to Beveridge Road. The area includes Kalkallo Common and Kalkallo Cemetery.

Ecological Communities

The Kalkallo Common/Kalkallo Cemetery has an extensive and intact area of Gilgai plain. Kalkallo Common also has stands of Plains Grassland and seasonal wetland. This stand of grassland is the only one remaining in GM with a shrub-pea stratum. The Kalkallo Common/ Cemetery site is a Critical Conservation Area for Gilgai Plains Grassland.
An area of stony knoll grasslands extends northeast from the Kalkallo Cemetery.
Along Kalkallo Creek are small stands of River Red Gum drainage line woodland. The Merri Creek in this section (upstream of the junction with Kalkallo Creek) has stands of Woolly Tea-tree riparian scrub and cliff/escarpment shrubland.

To the east of Bald Hill as far as Merriang Rd and south as far as Donnybrook Road is the nationally significant biosite Bald Hill[1].
Fauna
The Bald Hill site has National significance for fauna on the basis of the presence of species such as the Grassland Earless Dragon seen by Beardsell in October 1988 along the Merri Creek escarpment[2]. There has only been the one sighting due to difficulties in finding the species. The suitability of habitat along both sides of the creek for the Grassland Earless Dragon has been remarked upon in all reports.

This site covers both sides of the Creek from Barry Road south to Horne Street. It is a biosite of State Significance[1]
The City of Hume owns land on the west side of Merri Creek at the Hatty Court and Bambury Court Reserves. Apart from the Hume Freeway Reservation owned by VicRoads, the most significant parcel of land is the 93 hectare Melbourne Water retarding basin site which extends from just north of Barry Road to downstream of Horne Street and includes land on both sides of the stream. This land was purchased in the 1970s to permit retardation of flood waters. The area is now known as Galada Tamboore from the Aboriginal name meaning creek waterhole.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the area is its geology and geomorphology with the Barry Road or Merri Gorge having been assessed as being State significant[2]. Rosengren describes the site as having cliffs, alluvial and bedrock terraces and minor floodplains. The major geological and geomorphological feature is the 15 metre high cliff on the west bank. This cliff exposes an unconformity between the bedrock of Silurian sedimentary rocks and the Newer Volcanic basalts.

From Craigieburn East Road south to Cooper Street, the land surrounding Merri Creek and incorporating the Craigieburn Grassland comprises a biosite of National significance[1].
The Craigieburn grassland covers an area of approximately 400 hectares between Craigieburn Road East and Cooper Street, although parts of the area have little or no significance including a quarry, house and improved pasture[2]. The Craigieburn grassland has six key vegetation communities ranging from Plains Grassland to Danthonia Grassland and Stony Knoll Grassland[3]. The site has been assigned National significance for flora[4] due mainly to the presence of Carex tasmanica, Dianella amoena and Amphibromus pithogastris.
The Craigieburn habitat of Amphibromus pithogastris is likely to be critical habitat. This is also likely to be the case for Carex tasmanica[5]. There are 10 State significant plant taxa and 114 regionally significant taxa at Craigieburn[6].
The Craigieburn Grassland has also been assigned National significance for fauna due to presence of Striped Legless Lizard and Plains-wanderer[7], . It also has three State significant species (Black Falcon, Red-Chested Button-quail and Freshwater Blackfish), as well as 27 regionally significant species[8]. In relation to the Grassland Earless Dragon while it has not been recorded at the Craigieburn site, it may occur there, as relatively large areas of apparently suitable habitat are available. These include the bases of Stony Knolls, especially near the top of the Merri Creek escarpment. Given the extent of potentially suitable habitat, the site could prove to be one of the most important sites for this species in Victoria[9].
The critically endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) was rediscovered in Craigieburn Grasslands in December 2003.
Merri Creek provides a key element of the Craigieburn site and the riparian and escarpment vegetation are of high quality. The creek corridor forms an important habitat link with sites such as Cooper Street to the south and Bald Hill to the north and is an especially important link for ground mammals. According to Beardsell, “the presence of the locally rare Common Wombat and Black Wallaby (not known from closer in along Merri Creek), suggests it acts as a faunal corridor”[10] as pivotal to strategic habitat links between the Merri and Plenty systems[11].. He identified the Craigieburn Grassland
The Merri Creek through this reach contains fast-flowing riffle sections of basalt cobbles and tessellated pavement, slow-flowing open water, reedy pools and a shallow gorge with columnar basalt cliffs and boulder screes and escarpments[12]. Future management of the stream frontage will need to take account of these values.
Beardsell described the Craigieburn Grassland and O’Herns Road Wetland as “the most extensive, intact, rare, diverse and significant volcanic plains rocky grassland, stream and wetland flora and fauna assemblage in Greater Melbourne. No biological reserve containing both of these systems is in existence”[13].
The Victorian Government purchased the bulk of the site in the late 1990’s and hearings into the Craigieburn Bypass eventually led to its construction mostly to the east of the grassland. Unfortunately freeway planning failed to provide satisfactory provision for habitat linkages to the north and east, so the potential for movements along these corridors for ground dwelling animals has been severely curtailed.
Issues relating to management of the site include:
· Control of weeds especially stipoid weeds,

· Biomass reduction by grazing needs to be managed to enhance the range of grassland values, including rare plants, stony knolls and riparian verges.

The Craigieburn Grassland Interim Mangagement Statement, produced in 1998, includes much relevant information.



[1] DSE, Biosites Maps and Reports – Port Phillip Region – 2005 Biosite 3619
[2] see map appended to Schulz and Webster, 1991
[3] Ecological Horticulture, 1993
[4] DCE, 1990; Frood, 1992; Ecological Horticulture, 1993; Ecology Australia, 1996; Beardsell, 1997
[5] Ecology Australia, 1996
[6] Ecology Australia, 1996
[7] Beardsell, 1997
[8] Ecology Australia, 1996
[9] Ecology Australia, 1996
[10] Beardsell, 1997, Vol. 2, p. 79 Print Version of CD
[11] see Beardsell, 1997, Strategic Habitat Link Network map
[12] Schulz and Webster, 1991
[13] Beardsell, 1997, p. 2, Appendix 2.1 to Vol. 2, Table of Contents Version of CD

 

 

 

 
NEROC MUVP (B) 9, Biosites 3514
Hume – Remnant Vegetation Sites 129, (118), [158]

Calocephalus citreus at Cooper Street Grasslands Western extensionLocation

An area of approximately 100 ha of open space along and surrounding Merri Creek between Barry Road and Cooper Street including the 52.6 ha Cooper Street Grassland Reserve managed by Parks Victoria.

Ecological Communities

The Cooper Street grassland supports large areas of Plains Grassland. Along the Merri Creek are Reference Stands* of Woolly Tea-tree Riparian Scrub (along with those in Craigieburn Grassland, the most intact in NEM) (Beardsell 1997).
Escarpment Shrublands and patches of Red Gum Plains Grassy Woodland also remain.
  • Reference stands:Woolly Tea-tree riparian scrub (18.2); Kangaroo Grass plains grassland (23.2)
  • Relatively intact and extensive stands: Brown-back Wallaby-grass seasonal wetland (25.3)
  • Partially intact or small stands: River Red Gum (volcanic plain) grassy woodland (14.1); Lightwood-Tree Violet cliff/escarpment shrubland (20.5); Kangaroo Grass stony knoll grassland (22.1); Common Tussock-grass plains grassland (23.1)
  • Critical assemblages or populations: Reference stands of Woolly Tea-tree riparian scrub (along with those at Craigieburn Grassland, the most intact in NEM) and Kangaroo Grass plains grassland (one of few ungrazed, species rich stands in NEM).

Flora

The Cooper Street Grassland supports two plant species of national significance (Swollen Swamp Wallaby-grass and Gilgai Blown Grass), and three plant species of State significance. DCE (1990) listed 157 native vascular plant species for the grassland.
The endangered White Diurus and Vulnerable Swamp Diurus occurred on grey soils (similar to those at Cooper St and the O’Herns Road section of Craigieburn Grassland) nearby on the North Eastern Railway reserve at Somerton railway Station until the construction of the standard guage line in the early 1960s (Ros Garnett pers. comm.). The Vulnerable and regionally extinct Leafy Greenhood was a collected along the Merri Creek at Campbellfield in September 1896 by Reverend R. H. Rupp. It more than likely grew in association with the Woolly Tea-tree shrubland on the basalt pavement sections of the floodplain. (NEROC DRAFT – Sept 1992 p. 57)

Fauna

Significant fauna located at the site include the nationally significant Golden Sun Moth, Growling Grass Frog and Striped Legless Lizard, also Swift Parrots have been sighted at the southern end of the grassland. Faunal species of State significance include Little Button Quail and Spotted Harrier.
The patches of Red Gum Plains Grassy Woodland and areas of Escarpment Shrubland support a diverse population of wood/shrubland birds including Australian Owlet-nightjar, Tawny Frogmouth, Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Shrike Thrush and Striated Pardalote.
Beardsell (1997) recorded 92 native fauna species for this site. This included 70 birds, 3 mammals and 19 frogs and reptiles.
Birds – Spotted Harrier, Swift Parrot, Whistling Kite, Swift Parrot, Rufous Songlark, Banded Lapwing, Australian Hobby, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Long-billed Corella, Brown Songlark, Singing Bushlark, Black-shouldered Kite, Banded Lapwing, Musk Lorikeet, Eastern Rosella, Tawny frogmouth, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Tree Martin, Grey Shrike-thrush, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Dusky Woodswallow, Mistletoebird, Striated Pardalote, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Raven
Mammals – Water Rat
Reptiles – Striped Legless Lizard, Red-bellied Black Snake, Common Long-necked Tortoise, Large Striped Skink, Cunningham Skink, Little Whip Snake, Tussock Skink, Common Blue-tongue Lizard, Eastern Three-lined Skink, Southern Water Skink, Eastern Brown Snake, Lowland Copperhead
Frogs – Growling Grass Frog, Bibron’s Toadlet, Common Froglet, Southern Bullfrog, Spotted Marsh Frog, Southern Brown Tree Frog

Site Significance

Overall the area has a high degree of habitat variation, and is of State-National significance for conservation.

The Plains Grassland area is of national significance as habitat for two nationally significant species. The grassland was rated as having State (floral) significance (DCE 1990) and is one of the largest areas of relatively undisturbed native grasslands in the Melbourne area.

The Merri Creek and the River Red Gums along the escarpment are rated as State significance on the basis that the trees infrequently provide habitat for endangered species.

Cooper Street Grassland, together with Craigieburn Grassland and the link between, is listed on the Register of the National Estate (Australian Heritage Commission 1998). The listing was on the basis that the

grasslands are some of the best remaining examples of the grasslands which covered much of the western basalt plains grasslands in Victoria, a community which is considered endangered in Victoria …..Cooper Street grassland display a high degree of habitat variation as it contains large areas of plains grassland, escarpment scrubland, riparian scrub and red gum plains grassy woodland, a rare and restricted vegetation community in Victoria…..”
 

Threats and Management

“Maintenance of faunal significance depends on management investment. Further fragmentation of the grasslands for factory or residential areas and severance of links to Craigieburn Grassland will eliminate reptile species. Loss of the Striped Legless Lizard could result in a decline to low significance.” (Beardsell 1997 V.2 p.66)

Maintain intact riparian link upstream to Craigieburn Grassland and downstream to Barry Road Gorge.

Land tenure and reservation outlook:

DCE (1990) listed Cooper Street Grassland, as one of eight highly significant grasslands in the Melbourne area in private ownership. It recommended investigating its purchase by the government and reservation for conservation.

A small section (22 ha) was subsequently acquired by the state government as a Crown Land Reserve and is managed for conservation. A further 21 ha was added to the reserve in compensation for construction of the Craigieburn Bypass, and the Merri Creek frontage was transferred to Crown Land as part of a deal with the Istra Social Club which owned it as part of the title to their Clubroom area.

Approximately 40 ha of the grassland was lost in 2007-8 to industrial development.

At the southern end of the site there is a stream and floodway zone managed by Melbourne Water. In 2003 a group of wetlands were constructed on part of this site for stormwater treatment.

Strong consideration must be given to acquiring the creek frontage east side adjacent to the reserved land (and linking adjacent sites) from the private owners. In addition to protection of the important species and communities occurring there, and maintaining the habitat corridor - having control of the creek-line is important for protecting the reserved areas from incursions such as the infamous "Jerilderie Cattle Invasion of Merri Creek" of Nov 2002 - late April 2003. (Friends of Merri Creek 2003, p. 4-5)

Private land on which the Golden Sun Moth population has been discovered must be acquired for inclusion in the reserve and appropriately managed to maintain the Austrodanthonia food plants of the larvae.


*Reference Stand: one of the most viable and intact stands representative of its habitat known in GM (Greater Melbourne) (Beardsell 1997 Vol. 1, p. xxv)

There is less than 2% of Victoria’s original volcanic plains grasslands remaining. These grasslands are listed as critically endangered by the Federal Government. Click here for fact sheet. (external pdf).

This is why the Craigieburn Grassland Reserve is so important. The grassland covers approximately 400 hectares between Craigieburn Rd East and OHerns Rd in Melbourne's outer north. It contains Nationally Significant endangered plants such as the Matted Flax-lily Dianella amoena (external pdf) and Curly Sedge Carex tasmanica (external pdf). The grassland is also home to Nationally significant fauna such as the Striped Legless Lizard, the Plains-wanderer and the Golden Sun Moth.

To visit the Craigieburn Grassland Reserve permission must first be obtained from Parks Victoria.

Golden Sun Moth

The Golden Sun Moth is a sun loving moth that is found in the Craigieburn Grassland. The moth was only rediscovered in this area in 2003. Individuals start emerging from their cocoons around mid-November and are rarely seen later than mid-February. They live out their short adult life span in only a few days. See the Golden Sun Moth Lifecycle.

Female Golden Sun Moth showing her colours

This critically endandered animal has made a friend in the Friends of Merri Creek who have planted 7,500 small wallaby grasses in the Craigieburn Grassland Reserve. These wallaby grasses are the favoured food for the Golden Sun Moth caterpillar . The female is thought to lay her eggs in the base of the grasses.

The grasses also provide a playground for the mating dance, with the male moth patrolling the grasslands between 11am and 2pm on sunny days, flying rapidly about a metre above the grass searching for females to mate with while dodging predatory dragonflies and birds.

Females rarely fly. They sit on the ground and flash their brilliantly coloured wings of metallic gold to attract the male (photo above: female Golden Sun Moth).

The Friends of Merri Creek and Merri Creek Management Committee have undertaken surveys of this critically endangered species. Look at a summary of the results of the Golden Sun Moth surveys. Click here for a more detailed report on the Golden Sun Moth surveys (pdf).

More detail on the Craigieburn Grasslands can be found here.

View Craigieburn Grasslands in Google Maps.

Craigieburn Grasslands in Late Summer

Craigieburn Grasslands is made up of Plains Grassland, Grassy Wetland, Stony Knoll Grasslands and Escaprment Shrublands

 

Plains Wanderer

 

 

 

 

The Plains Wanderer is a small, rare ground-dwelling bird found in lowland grasslands, such as Craigieburn Grassland.