Recovering our natural ecosystems: Friends of Grasslandsí experience in Southern Tablelands of NSW and ACT
Frienmds of Grasslands†is committed to keeping, managing and recovering our natural ecosystems especially grassy ecosystems, i.e. those dominated by native grasses and associated wildflowers. Destruction of our natural ecosystems has caused many problems such as salinity, soil degradation, weed invasion, and general loss of biodiversity. On the other side of the coin, healthy ecosystems provide a range of ecosystem services such as clean water and air, healthy soils, protection against weed invasion, and keeping our natural salty systems functioning in a highly productive way.
Healthy ecosystems are also those best adapted to global change. Unless we manage land for good production and conservation outcomes, we will achieve neither. FOG was started in 1994 by concerned ecologists and members of the Australian Native Plants Society knowing that our grasslands were in serious trouble: natural temperate grasslands in south-east Australia occupied 0.5 percent of the area at time of settlement (1788).
FOG has attempted to understand why these grassland communities, which for example once occupied eleven percent of the Southern Tablelands and the most fertile areas, had almost become extinct, and in the process realised that many grassy ecosystems were under similar stress, and began to understand some of the reasons for this stress.
Over time, FOG developed its strategies that were aimed at understanding the science of how ecosystems function, what different type of ecosystems existed and why, and what was needed to recover them. It has been dedicated to advocacy, research (especially plant and animals surveys), education at all levels, strategic on-ground work, and infrastructure building leading to the identification, linking, management, and recovery of our high quality natural vegetation, in short an ecosystem approach. From its inception, it has realised that conservation of grassy ecosystems to date has resulted from good agricultural practice and so has strived to understand and reinforce them.
FOG has always believed that respect for all views will only get the best conservation and sustainable results, and that eventually landowners should be compensated for providing ecosystem function. This presentation will look at what has been done in the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the ACT to map our ecosystem remnants, to identify high quality remnant vegetation and ecological corridors, to educate and involve the community, and advocate good conservation outcomes. FOG has advocated highly practical and scientifically based proposals to move forward. FOG also realises that many of its views are widely accepted in other organisations, and has always welcomed working with others.