Desert Jewels Project into Final Year

Grazing impacts
Grazing impacts

Previous newsletters have included progress reports on the Desert Jewels project a three year, $1m project funded through the Australian Government to develop improved management programs for South Australia’s mound springs. DEWNR has led this project but FOMS is a significant partner and has had considerable input. The project commenced in mid 2013 and is due for completion in June 2016.

While the Desert Jewels project has several facets, including fish surveys at Dalhousie Springs, FOMS’ involvement has focussed on improved management of springs subject to cattle grazing and of springs that have been protected from grazing but where proliferation of reeds (Phragmites) appears to be impacting upon other spring flora and fauna.

Interestingly, at some springs fenced to exclude cattle in the mid 1980s and where reed growth has been prolific, there are signs that the reed growth is now waning. One theory is that a long history of cattle ingress led to elevated nutrient levels which, in turn, prompted prolific reed growth when cattle were excluded. In springs where reeds are now declining, it may be that nutrient levels are gradually diminishing.

This has been a complex project and progress has not always been optimal.

Reed proliferation
Reed proliferation

However, over the remaining nine months of the project, DEWNR and FOMS are focussing on the following:

  • Burning trials at Beatrice, the Fountain and Big Perry Springs. Burning may hasten the nutrient reduction process and therefor expedite the diminution of reed growth.
  • Fencing of Levi Springs on the Peake Pastoral Lease. These are important springs: Peake lessees S Kidman & Co have been very supportive of this fencing proposal.
  • Fencing of a spring on Billa Kalina Station, whereupon a controlled grazing trial will be run in collaboration with Billa Kalina manager Colin Greenfield.
  • Water and sediment testing will be undertaken, including nutrient sampling.

The above work requires clearance by the local Arabana community and negotiations about this have been undertaken. DEWNR Project Officer Sam Gitahi and FOMS’ Simon Lewis met with the Arabana Directors’Group in early September 2015.

FOMS will continue its involvement in this work and may have a longer term role in helping with data collection and monitoring.

More information about FOMS’ involvement in the Desert Jewels project is included in the FOMS trip reports.