Microhabitat Field Day

In June 2008 the CMN ran a field day focusing on ground layer habitat sometimes referred to as microhabitat. On the day we set up a demonstration site in Bournda to act as a trial to see what sort of success we can get by recreating microhabitat with artificial material that anyone can get hold of and replicate at home. We’ll monitor the results over time so stay tuned…..

When we think of habitat we imagine trees, shrubs, grass maybe, and to restore habitat is to replant or regenerate native vegetation. There is an element to most vegetation types that we often overlook and is a vital link in the ecological web of almost any ecosystem. Ground layer ‘microhabitat’ refers to small structures on the ground that form home to many reptiles, small mammals and invertebrates. In an undisturbed or healthy system microhabitat takes form as fallen dead and decaying wood, grassy tussocks, thick mulch or rocky crevices and outcrops.

The aim of our recent field day was to look at ways to restore microhabitat in disturbed or newly created native vegetation. Many landholders in the South East have replanted parts of their property to return it to natural habitat or are restoring highly degraded sites. However it can take 50 years or more for a new planting to form dead wood and create microhabitat. By adding artificial structures in its place we can bridge the time gap and create homes for fauna that would otherwise not appear for many years to come.

We’re very grateful to Cliff Wallis for offering his property in Bournda to lay out the demonstration. We are also grateful to Hayes Haulage for their donation of material, a pallet each of bricks, bessa bricks, roof tiles and a stack of old decaying railway sleepers.

The day was led by Steven Sass, Senior Ecologist with NGHenvironmental. Steven has extensive experience with small animal habitat having undertaken more than 400 terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity surveys across eastern and central Australia since 1990. He is also an Adjunct Associate of the ecology and biodiversity group within the Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS), a leading research group at Charles Sturt University.

One of Steven’s main points was to highlight the factors that degrade habitat for small fauna. The major threat is removal of critical habitat through fire wood collection, over grazing of native vegetation and ‘cleaning up’ of the forest floor

A lack of microhabitat can create a lack in the fauna that rely on it and open up a gap in the food web. There are many other animals that feed on or rely on these animals, predatory birds other larger mammals and reptiles for example.

The demonstration was well attended by CMN members and others who had an interest. The group tapped into their artistic urges as they created sculpture like structures from bricks, old fence posts, roof tiles and roofing iron. All in all exactly 100 small structures were created for small fauna.

We don’t encourage removing dead wood or rocks from other ecosystems so we used common artificial materials in the demonstration that are often found unused around the farm. They were chosen for good thermal properties and protective crevices.

The demonstration results will be monitored to record and report on any increase in small fauna.  We’ll run a field day to learn about monitoring techniques and gather the first set of data. This will be held on Sunday, September 28th. Anyone interested can join in, send us an email or call now to let us know you are keen and we’ll keep you informed.

Other resources
CMN Microhabitat Fact Sheet