Grass half full or grass half empty? Valuing native grassy landscapes

Proceedings of a forum to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Friends of Grasslands supporting native grassy ecosystems

30 October – 1 November 2014

CSIRO Discovery Centre, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory


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Grass half full or grass half empty? Valuing native grassy landscapes. Proceedings of the Friends of Grasslands 20th anniversary forum, 30 October – 1 November 2014, Canberra, Australia. Editors: A. Milligan & H. Horton. Friends of Grasslands Inc. ISBN 978-0-9944958-1-5



This is ‘grey literature’. None of the contents has been peer-reviewed.

This proceedings is published only as a record of the forum and the information presented. The contents are derived mostly from transcripts of sound recordings and powerpoint slides. All the presentations included here have been cleared by their originators for publication as grey literature. Do not cite these contents as authoritative. Contact presenters for information, via their institutions, or by emailing

This proceedings is available for download from the Friends of Grasslands website, as a compilation and as individual papers. It is not available as a printed volume. 

© Friends of Grasslands Inc. 2015

ISBN 978-0-9944958-1-5

Friends of Grasslands Inc.
PO Box 440, Jamison Centre  ACT 2614




Friends of Grasslands Inc. warmly thanks all the people who contributed to making the forum a success and the publication of these proceedings online: all the speakers and Chairs of the sessions on the three days, the behind-the-scenes teams (e.g. registration, sound recording; design; editing), and the generous people and groups that sponsored and supported the forum. 

Chairs and behind-scenes: John Fitz Gerald; Jamie Pittock; Rainer Rehwinkel; Naarilla Hirsch; Kathryn Wells; Tony Lawson; Kim Pullen; Andrew Zelnik; Stephen Horn; Margaret Ning; Leon Pietsch; Sarah Sharp; Geoff Robertson; Lesley Peden; James Milligan; Michael Bedingfield; Helen Horton; Richard Bomford.

Sponsors and supporters: Greening Australia; Conservation Council ACT Region; Kosciuszko to Coast (K2C); Office of the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment; Regional Landcare Facilitator; Earth Basics; CSIRO Discovery Centre.

Thank you all.

Transcriptions: TranscriberOnline,

Images:             Presenters; Barbara Payne (front cover); Michael Bedingfield (forum banner).

Compilation:    Friends of Grasslands Inc.

List of presentations, posters, workshops, demonstrations and field talks


Friends of Grasslands

Introduction to this forum

Not published here: The following people presented papers or posters or talks at the forum and field trip which are not included at this time:

Brett Howland
David Johnson
Adrian Manning
Shaun McKiernan & Nicholas Gill
Bob Neil
David Wong.

Note: Emma Cook's presentation was included on 6 February. Versions of the compilation documents downloaded before then may not have her paper included.

Spoken presentations

Complete set of presentations (7MB)  (HiRes version 24MB)

What has changed in twenty years of grassy landscape conservation?
Sarah Sharp

Perceptions and values of grassy ecosystems
Sarah Ryan and Nick Abel

Are biodiversity offsets an appropriate way to conserve grassy ecosystems?
Philip Gibbons

The moths and lizards that shaped Canberra
Michael Mulvaney

A glass three-quarters full: regenerating native grassland landscapes with holistic grazing management
Charlie Massy

West Belconnen, ACT
Tony Adams

Start with the grasslands  (HiRes version 2.6MB)
Adrian Marshall

Protected Area Networks, why they are important and what we have learnt in the past 20 years
Nathan Wong

Celebrating 25 years of ParkCare and Landcare in the ACT: reflections and a vision for the future
Jasmine Foxlee

African Lovegrass and endangered grassy ecosystems on private land – trends and risks
Josh Dorrough

Lessons learnt by Friends of Grasslands
Geoff Robertson

Horses for courses: restoring grassland diversity on public and private land in the ACT and surrounds: lessons learnt over a seven-year journey  (HiRes version 2MB)
Graham Fifield

Indigenous values and grassy ecosystems in the ACT region
Adrian Brown

Reintroducing Indigenous practice in our landscapes, and mapping cultural resources
Geoffrey Simpson

Biomass accumulation in grasslands and why it matters in south-east Australia (HiRes version 2.7MB)
John Morgan

Management of grassland floristic diversity
Ken Hodgkinson

Eaten out of house and home: impacts of grazing on ground-dwelling reptiles in Australian grasslands and grassy woodlands  (Abstract only)
Brett Howland

The double-edged sward: managing after the sheep are gone (HiRes vesion 3.6MB)
Sue McIntyre

Restoring species-rich grassy woodland of the Cumberland Plain: a new approach  (HiRes version 3.5MB)
Paul Gibson-Roy

A decade of hunting dragons: monitoring Grassland Earless Dragon populations in the Majura and Jerrabomberra Grasslands of the ACT
Emma Cook

What’s killing the trees? Investigating Eucalyptus viminalis (Ribbon Gum) dieback in the Monaro region of NSW
Catherine Ross

A summing up of the forum: where are we up to, where do we go now?
Ian Lunt


(All 9 posters in one file: 11MB)

Grasslands in residence
Barbara Payne

Perception of grass
Sarah Ryan

Paradoxes of native vegetation management in the context of bushfire
Samantha Strong

Smartphone apps for invasive weed control
Steve Taylor

Multi-scale phenology of temperate grasslands
Chris Watson

Native forb species richness in a Canberra nature reserve
David Johnson

Perennial grass survival in drought
Ken Hodgkinson

Habitat and connectivity modelling project: The mapping of fauna habitat and connectivity values in the South East Local Land Services area
Jamie Love, Rainer Rehwinkel and Kristy Moyle

Golden Sun Moths and citizen science: outcomes from a survey of lowland grasslands in the ACT region, 2008–09
Sarah Hnatiuk and Annet Richter


Advocacy and community involvement
Jamie Pittock, John Fitz Gerald, Naarilla Hirsch

On-ground & weed management & restoration
Geoff Robertson, Nicki Taws, David Johnson

Indigenous land management practices
Lauren Van Dyke

Balancing grassland conservation & other land uses (HiRes version 3MB)
Sarah Sharp, Alice McDougall, Graham Fifield


(All four in one file: 1MB)

BUD – Grasslands web portal, a ‘gamma’ version
Kathryn Wells

Photography for conservation: grasslands and beyond
David Wong

Smartphone apps for invasive weed control
Steve Taylor

Canberra Nature Map: citizen science and the important role you can play
Michael Mulvaney and Aaron Clausen

Field sites and talks

Stirling Park
Peter Beutel, Jamie Pittock, Tyronne Bell and Wally Bell

Mulligans Flat
Anthony Hart, Nicki Taws, Sue McIntyre, Jason Cummings

Jerrabomberra Grassland Reserves
Maree Gilbert, Kim Pullen, Rainer Rehwinkel
Including an addendum:
A Revised Floristic Value Scoring Method to assess grassland condition
Rainer Rehwinkel

About Friends of Grasslands

Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a non-profit association, run by volunteers, focusing on grasslands in south-eastern Australia. FOG was established in November 1994 and is incorporated and registered in the Australian Capital Territory.

To protect and ultimately recover grassy ecosystems, it is necessary to build strong community understanding, skills, and support. FOG was launched to provide such support.

FOG’s founders saw the need to attract attention to grassland conservation through community liaison, public education and information. To be successful, a new group must get off to a good start, and FOG’s founders were fortunate in being able to draw on many highly skilled people who were excited by a new concept of grassland conservation from the ecosystem perspective.

Eighty people attended the launch of the organisation. The first FOG president was Edwina Barton, who had a wealth of experience, a large network, and total commitment to grassland conservation. Since then FOG has attracted successive presidents with similar deep commitment to grasslands, their recognition and conservation.

Education, advocacy, on-ground work and research are the group’s main activities. FOG believes that to prevent further loss of, and particularly to recover SE Australia’s grassy ecosystems, it should be helping grassland users, managers and interested people to gain a good theoretical and practical grounding in grassy ecosystem conservation.

In advocacy FOG has made numerous submissions to governments and stakeholders, and its advice is actively sought. To provide a sound basis for advocacy FOG has aimed to recruit practising scientists, land owners, managers and committed conservationists to its ranks, and they have provided their services voluntarily.

FOG’s activities include field visits to grasslands in the region, on-ground monitoring, clearing of invasive plant species, planting and workshops. Also, in 2003 FOG co-sponsored the Third Native Grasses Conference with Stipa Native Grasses Association.

Friends of Grasslands was created to build community support for grassy ecosystem recovery. Membership is open to all, whether individuals or organisations. FOG’s members are interested in conservation, production and land-management, Landcare and ParkCare; they are professional scientists and ecologists, and members of the community from a range of backgrounds, and private and government agencies. The membership is based in several states and held together by the website and FOG’s publications and workshops.

To read more about FOG or find useful information resources about grasslands, and to apply for membership, visit our website at <>.

Introduction to this forum

‘Grass half full or grass half empty? Valuing native grassy landscapes’ is the sixth major forum that Friends of Grasslands (FOG) has hosted.

This latest forum is being held in the year of FOG’s 20th anniversary, to recognise and celebrate and promote its on-going commitment to conservation of grassy ecosystems.

FOG’s main activities are co-operative advocacy, education and on-ground action, working with all stakeholders be they community, government or developers. An important aspect of this is FOG’s provision of a conduit for communication between scientists, land managers and on-ground conservation practitioners and volunteers. That is also an aim of this forum.

An incredible amount has been achieved in building understanding and in protecting the ecology of grassy ecosystems in the past 20 years. Often, caught up in the problems or concerns of the moment, we who care about grasslands forget what advances have been made. I know that the general understanding of these grassy ecosystems is far more sophisticated now than 20 years ago. Grassland supporters have moved a long way from the first tentative steps of retaining areas and maintaining their condition; now we see ambitious programs to significantly enhance condition and extend areas and species through restoration. A number of examples of this will be provided at the forum.

In the last few years there have been few opportunities for people with different agendas and priorities to meet and share results of studies and on-ground work; few chances to dig our teeth into the issues, successes, questions and answers relating to grassy ecosystems. Therefore, this forum will investigate several major themes across the broad spectrum of presenters’ experiences, including:

As always, we would like to have included so much more in the program — to have given more opportunities for everyone to share their experiences, and to have covered a broader range of related topics. There is much more to native grassy ecosystems than we could possibly cover in three days. We have endeavoured, therefore, to provide plenty of opportunities for all delegates to be actively involved in discussions, and to share their knowledge with others.

In this electronic world it is easy to forget how important it is to actually see each other and to talk together, rather than just relying on communication through computers and talking to a few closely aligned colleagues. I hope that after the forum all delegates will be feeling stimulated, excited and energised to continue, in individual ways, to ensure the protection and maintenance of our natural ecosystems. I also hope that some useful new links with other delegates will be forged.

We thank many organisations for the support they are providing — financial from some, to help keep the costs to a minimum, and practical help from others.

In particular I would like to thank Greening Australia, the Regional Landcare Facilitator, the CSIRO Discovery Centre, Kosciuszko to Coast, Earth Basics, the Conservation Council ACT Region and the Office of the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. The support of all the participating delegates, whether giving talks or providing posters or demonstrations, or sharing knowledge in the workshops and presenting in the field is highly appreciated. Many thanks in particular to the delegates who have come from beyond the Capital Region, from Victoria and NSW. The additional effort that is required to travel here to participate and share your knowledge is really appreciated and we will all gain from your involvement. ACT Parks and Conservation Service, National Capital Authority and the ATSIC Cultural Centre have all provided permission for us to take delegates onto some pretty special grassland and grassy woodland sites in the ACT. Last and far from least, of course, thank you to the FOG members who have volunteered a great deal of time to ensure this event is successful and smoothly run.

Sarah Sharp
President, Friends of Grasslands
30 October 2014