Resilient Landscapes

”In ecology, resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly”. Wikipedia

When the first colonial settlers spied the Barrabool Hills they saw a parkland of native grasses scattered with Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata). This was the perfect site for introducing the crops they were used to in Europe.

The fertile soil and sparse vegetation of Ceres, a small hamlet on the fringe of ‘the Hills’, is recorded as one of the two sites in the new colony that were ideal for cereal crops. This ‘ideal’ landscape was the direct result of the burning and selective harvesting practices of the Wadawurrung People, ‘the Hill’s’ traditional owners for thousands of years.

Typical parkland of Allocasuarina ( photo credit Stephen Murphy)

When the European farmers arrived, the Hills underwent a significant transformation. Almost all the Drooping Sheoak were harvested for fire wood and the perennial native grasses were replaced with cereal crops and some vineyards.  A significant wild fire in the early 1850’s saw what remained of the native vegetation incinerated.

Agriculture for many generations was profitable, with many of the early settlers still represented in the Hills community. However climate change and the resultant decrease in effective rainfall has added significant pressure to making a living from traditional agriculture.

Whilst the rolling hills are now recognised by the National Trust as a significant landscape, the loss of tree cover has left some places very exposed to wind and erosion.  This has also resulted in a loss in soil fertility and an increased susceptibility to annual weed incursions.

Current landholders, many of whom are members of the Barrabool Hills Landcare community, recognise that land management practices need to change to make the landscape more resilient to all these new external pressures.

The Barrabool Hills Landcare program sets out to build ecosystem resilience into land management practices across the area, so that humans and the native flora and fauna can once again live in harmony.