Merri Creek Management Committee

Planting - Queens Lodge July 2016During July, MCMC helped residents of Queen’s Lodge in Lalor to transform a weedy down trodden area into a new lively indigenous garden at their doorstep. The project, coordinated by Arts Access Victoria, includes glass mosaics, landscape design, and earthworks. MCMC’s role was supported by recurrent funding from City of Whittlesea.

We are enormously grateful to have received a substantial grant from The Myer Foundation’s Sustainability and Environment Capacity Building Stream 2016. This will enable us to undertake much needed strategic and organisational planning to continue building on our achievements and ensure we remain viable and vibrant.

We have secured two Corridors of Green grants from Melbourne Water. One is for weed control and revegetation to encourage the regeneration of Escarpment Shrubland and Streambank Shrubland along Kalkallo and Merri Creeks at Laffan Reserve, south of Kalkallo. The other is to replace weedy vegetation with competitive revegetation to achieve a continuous 3.3 km stretch of managed indigenous vegetation on the west bank of the Merri Creek in Fawkner. These projects will be rolled out between July 2016 and December 2017. (June 2016)

We feared the polluted fire-water runoff generated from an industrial waste fire in Somerton in late 2015 would have a terminal impact on nearby populations of endangered Growling Grass Frogs in Merri Creek. Thankfully this is not the case. A report by Growling Grass Frog expert Dr Geoff Heard confirms the frogs have persisted and successfully reproduced at three sites downstream from the tip fire site. It’s even possible the frogs benefited because the deoxygenated fire-runoff killed formerly wide-spread European Carp and Redfin Perch, both predators of frog eggs and tadpoles.
It’s also possible the massive effort by Melbourne Water to pump fresh water into Merri Creek during and after the fire may have helped the frogs.  
Unfortunately the wider picture for the Growling Grass Frog in the middle reaches of Merri Creek is much less rosy. Of an average of 12 sites occupied by Growling Grass Frogs for ten years up to 2012, only 6 were occupied in 2015-16 and of these 6 sites, 3 sites recorded only a single frog. (June 2016)

Plains Yam Daisy in cageMCMC has cracked some of the Plains Yam Daisy’s ‘lifecycle code’, expanded its Merri Creek populations and prepared the way for others to follow.
We learnt that on the Merri Creek:
•    plants go dormant during late summer dry periods and regrow rapidly following fires and autumn rains;
•    flowers and seed are mainly produced in autumn with a second flowering peak in early summer;
•    plants are generally short lived in cultivation but appear to have an indefinite lifespan in the wild; and
•    seedlings germinate rapidly following autumn rains when they are vulnerable to slugs and trampling by kangaroos but that copper tape barriers and chicken wire cages are an effective protection.

Download the full details here.

Some people listening to Bill NicholsonThe Sumner Loving project has worked hard to engage the community over two years of many diverse events and activities. Irena Cassettari has now stepped forward to coordinate the new Friends of Merri Park group (as a sub-group of Friends of Merri Creek) for 2016 and has kicked off her role at the Merri Magical Morning event on 21 Feb by meeting up with many friends and families connecting with this gorgeous creekside area. This event was extremely well attended and people enjoyed the Welcome to Country from Uncle Bill Nicholson, the Djirri djirri Dancers, the butterfly tent, the tour of Merri Park Wetland, and twining toys from local grasses. Irena will lead the Clean Up Australia Day event in Northcote on 6 March supported by MCMC. Please join us and register at: http://www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au/Merri+Park

Plains Grassy WoodlandsIn February 2016 MCMC received a $13,000 grant from the Dhal Trust, which supports project that focus on Eucalypts. So this year we will be exploring and celebrating all things gum with Connecting Kids: the future protectors of River Red Gums. This will include running Eucalypt education with students of varying ages, that will culminate in a presentation of their ideas about how to protect these iconic trees into the future.

To try and tackle the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields, MCMC decided to focus on environmental science and provide opportunities to girls in the latter part of their schooling careers. We received a grant from the Victorian Women's Benevolent Trust to build on the Women in Science conference that was held in 2015 for 140 upper high school students.

PYD flower smallIn November 2015, MCMC reached a milestone in our Communities for Nature project to replenish the vulnerable Plains Yam Daisy, when monitoring showed at least 177 thriving new plants! These are the result of our largest round of direct sowing established six months ago. Over the last five years we have pieced together a jigsaw of facts about the Plains Yam Daisy and its reintroduction in the Merri Creek valley.

The most important lessons from this long-term project:

Establish from seed
Earlier unsuccessful attempts to plant Plains Yam Daisies into remnant grasslands using tube stock suggested that this plant needs to develop from seed, rather than transplanted seedlings. This allows the plants to develop a root system capable of withstanding harsh grassland conditions. Direct sowing was chosen as the preferred method for this project.
Understand Habitat and lifecycle of remnant plants
Between 2010 and 2014, several rounds of monitoring described the habitat and followed the lifecycle of nearly a hundred remnant plants at Kalkallo Common. This information was used to choose suitable reintroduction sites and the timing of planting and monitoring.  
Know the population size
Methodical searches increased the mapped wild population of Yam Daisies in the Merri Creek valley from just a handful of plants at one site in 2010 to over 250 at three sites by 2015. The seed collection program has been expanded to capture the genetic variety of this larger population.  
Confirm that habitat maintenance regimes suit the species
Repeat surveys have indicated that ecological burns and weed control has enhanced natural regeneration around remnant plants across a three year cycle. This confirms that re-established plants should thrive under an enhanced grassland management regime.
Access good quality seed source
Wild plants produce seed sparingly that is slow, and expensive to harvest.  Lifecycle monitoring showed that seed production reaches a peak in the autumn following a late summer fire.  This information improved seed collection efficiency and the genetic diversity of seed available for reintroductions.  
Use a ‘Seed Orchard’ to increase seed for sowing
Direct sowing requires a large amount of seed. The precious wild-collected seed was grown up by the Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Cooperative and the potted plants used as a ‘Seed Orchard’ as these robust plants seeded far more prolifically than wild ones: supplying approximately 1,500 fresh seeds for  this season’s sowing.
Create gaps among the grasses and disturb the soil
Studies in the 1990s confirmed that many grassland wildflower seedlings require a gap among grasses where competition and herbivore activity is reduced. Studies by researchers at Victoria University in the 2000s identified the importance of deep soil disturbance to improve establishment of grassland seedlings. Historically such areas of gaps and soil disturbance are thought to have resulted from digging by native Bettongs and Bandicoots as well as the food harvesting activities of Aboriginal people. This project has carefully re-created a combination of ‘gap and disturbance’ within Critically Endangered Grasslands to improve seedling establishment.  
Protect from slugs and kangaroos
In a 2014 trial of direct sowing, seed germinated but most of the small seedlings soon disappeared. Paw prints suggested that Kangaroos like to hop on the bare soil of the gaps, trampling the seedings. Apparently they like to see where they put their feet! The introduced Grey field slug was observed to be very active during the peak germination period in early winter. So in 2015 direct sowing plots sported simple kangaroo cages and copper slug barriers. The copper strip barriers apparently work by reacting with the slime the slugs secrete, disrupting their nervous system. Bait stations with an environmentally ‘friendly’ slug killer were placed inside the barriers.

This species was once a staple food plant for the local Aboriginal people and members of the Wurundjeri tribe have been among the many community members contributing to this project. One vision for this project is that the daisies will be in sufficient number within remnant grasslands to be available for cultural renewal purposes. There are now hundreds of new Plains Yam Daisies at two Grasslands as a result of both protection and reintroduction activities.  We also look forward to applying our new-found expertise to help other rare grassland plants.

How you can help
A final survey of our direct sowing sites will occur in May 2016. You can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be notified about plant conservation projects to receive specific invitations to monitoring activities by MCMC.

Tawny Frogmouth ex FacebooksmallTawny frogmouths are becoming more common along Merri Creek’s middle reaches and four nesting sites were once spotted on a 2 kilometre walk between Egan’s Reserve in Coburg and CERES in Brunswick. We think this is because revegetation sites make ideal hunting grounds, the eucalypts planted around 25 years ago are now mature enough to support Frogmouths, and they are relatively safe along the Merri from traffic.

Photo was taken at Egan Reserve Coburg by Karla Pringle

In November 2015, MCMC was one of only 24 community organisations to receive funding from the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services to showcase philanthropic partnerships. MCMC received $10,000 for the project: Stepping into Print - Philanthropic Support for Engaging the Community and Moving into the Literature, which involves exploring, celebrating and sharing the outcomes of successful partnerships through a series of innovative events. In December we’ll be holding a workshop, including a Wurundjeri Welcome, by invitation only (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. us if you’re interested). The project is supported by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal.