Extract from ABC Wide Bay Queensland – February 2009
Botanist Caroline Haskard said the Bunya Mountain Bluegrass is found not only in the Bunyas but a few adjacent state forest areas in the Darling Downs and South Burnett – and nowhere else in the world.
“Not many people would recognise it even if they stumbled across it,” Ms Haskard said, “They’d probably just think it was one of the other bluegrasses that graziers tend to like.”
The Bunya Mountain Bluegrass is found only on ‘balds’ – open grassy areas in the middle of the rainforest.
“It’s the only place in the world where grassland patches occur within rainforest. There’s nowhere else that happens on the face of the globe. So, it’s important culturally and conservation wise to make sure we keep those.
“There are some projects going on at the moment in the Bunya Mountains with Traditional Owners, the Queensland Herbarium and the Environmental Protection Agency to do with fire, because the balds were traditionally maintained using fire in the past.
“But because fire has been taken out of the landscape to such a degree in national parks, what’s happening now in the Bunya Mountains is the rainforest is encroaching back onto those grassy bald areas.”
Ms Haskard said Traditional Owners maintained the open areas for hunting and for ceremonial purposes, and removing fire from the equation is allowing the surrounding forest to eat into the balds.
“The balds have been shrinking slowily over time, but politically, culturally and educationally it’s been quite a process to develop a project to determine what to do about it.
“Some experimental burning has already occured, I believe, and will continue to occur in association with Traditional Owners, because it’s important to keep the balds as bald areas.
“Management is the only way to protect most of our threatened species, whether they be plants or animals, and that’s proactive management; not writing a plan to gather dust, but getting out and doing something about the issues threatening those species.
“Working with people’s the best way to do that, so it’s lovely to see the Traditional Owners’ knowledge and skills being used and implemented to address conservation issues.”