A grey box seedling planted to replace two dead trees in a paddock 18 months ago is thriving nicely, safely protected from cattle grazing by a purpose-built mesh guard.
The seedling was planted by members of the Goomalibee Landcare Group, who had gathered at a property to hear about the Goulburn Broken CMA’s Linking Landscapes - On Your Guard Paddock Tree Guard project.
Goomalibee Landcare Group (through the Gecko Clan Landcare Network) was the first landcare group to trial the tree guard program but since then the project has taken off, with 496 guards distributed to around 150 landholders across the Goulburn Broken catchment.
“This means an extra 496 paddock trees are now protected for the future,” Goulburn Broken CMA’s Janice Mentiplay-Smith said. “Our landscape is rapidly losing the big, old iconic paddock trees that provide so much shade and shelter for our stock, provide habitat for wildlife, help maintain healthy soils and simply look nice, dotted across the paddocks.
“Fencing off large trees is of course the ideal way to help preserve them, but it’s often not practical to do so. As well, sometimes it’s too late to save the old trees, as the processes that are accelerating their deaths have been happening for a while. By protecting newly germinated trees, or by planting seedlings and guarding them with these purpose-built tree guards, we can ensure the next generation of paddock trees.”
Ms Mentiplay-Smith said protecting naturally germinating paddock tree seedlings or planting a small tree that would one day grow into a paddock tree, was playing the “long game for your property”.
“The large, hundreds of years old iconic trees we see today are rapidly dying out, so it is up to us to act for future landscape health,” she said. “Guarding seedlings that will one day grow into large trees useful for wildlife, shade and shelter, is a meaningful way to leave a legacy. However, it is important to remember that guarded trees of even just a few years old will still provide valuable shade, shelter and wildlife benefits.”
Up to three guards (each 1.8m tall, 0.7m in diameter) are supplied to each program participant. The guards need to be secured either by clips or wire, to three or four steel posts. It is recommended that a smaller tree guard is placed inside the larger guard so the seedling or germinated sapling is protected from hares, which can squeeze through the mesh. The guards are purpose-built to withstand pressure from cattle, horses, sheep, goats, deer and kangaroos. When the tree is strong enough, the guard can be removed and re-used to protect another young tree, the ultimate in recycling.
This project is supported by the Goulburn Broken CMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.