Conservation park grows from invisible habitat
Monday, 16 October 2000
On Sunday 15 October, South Australia gained its newest conservation Park, Mokota, located 15 kilometres north of Burra in the state's mid-north.
The name 'Mokota' is derived from Maori words meaning 'beautiful view,' and preserves the title of the property from which the park was acquired with funds from the state government, NHT and Nature Foundation SA, which has also funded a biodiversity study of the park and other grassland habitats.
"Mokota is the first native grassland reserve in South Australia, and conserves an important habitat type,' said Ann Prescott, President of the Nature Conservation Society of SA, who spoke at the dedication of the park by the Hon Iain Evans, Minister for Envorinment and Heritage. "Grasslands have been the invisible habitat for too long," she said.
The park is substantial, covering more than 450 hectares of tussock grassland community that was once widespread across the state's mid-north, but has largely been cleared for cropping and grazing. "This site exists because the former owners have managed it conservatively, with low stocking and fertiliser rates," said Ms Prescott.
Ms Prescott graduated with an honours degree from Adelaide University's Botany Department to become the World Wildlife Fund's grasslands extension officer. She is well-known as the author of the popular field guide, It's blue with five petals, and has been actively involved in grassland research and education for many years.
"All grasslands have some wild oats and other weed species," said Ms Prescott, "but in terms of the mid-north, Mokota is in excellent condition. It has a high diversity of native grasses among more than 150 indigenous plant species, including 32 of significant conservation value in the state."
Ms Prescott sees a need for further research into grassland ecology and management, in which Dr Jose Facelli and his post-graduate students in the Botany Department will be involved. "Because grasslands, unlike some other habitats, must be actively managed, they will need baseline surveys to gather data,' said Ms Prescott.
"The Nature Conservation Society has some funding to look at management strategies; how do we manage weeds? Should we burn, slash or graze?" she asked. "Interstate experience suggests that we should and, hopefully, Jose and his students will help give us those answers."
Dr Facelli sees the acquisition of Mokota as an important step in assisting that research. "We now have at least one grassland conservation park, but the vast majority of grasslands are in private ownership and are likely to remain so," said Dr Facelli. "That means that proper management of them is essential. If we can understand and develop strategies fore grazing that don't decrease the farmers' profits and at the same time improve biodiversity, then we can help to conserve the grasslands that are privately owned, as happens elsewhere in the world."
Nature Conservation Society of SA
Business: +61 8 303 5108
Mobile: 0411 256 784
Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762