Native grasslands and our roadsides

Native grasslands include local indigenous grass species, as well as mosses, lichens, fungi, native lilies, orchids, daisies and other plants.

They are habitat for many species of native animals, including threatened species, such as the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar).

Why we care about native grasslands

Less than 0.1% of the native grasslands at European settlement are left.

Grasslands are now listed as a threatened community under both State (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988) and Federal Legislation (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).

Fire hazards - native grasses compared to introduced grasses

Image of native grasses and flowers

Well managed native grasslands have:

  • lower flame heights
  • slower flame speed
  • slower rate of spread
  • lower radiant heat
  • fewer embers.

Roadsides are important for native grasslands

In Western Victoria about 30% of known native grasslands are on roadsides.

Roadsides support some of the most intact and diverse patches of native grassland. They have survived partly because of past management including burning by the CFA.

The Old Melbourne Road between Lara and Little River is Geelong’s largest roadside grassland reserve.

CFA brigades and native grasslands

Local CFA brigades burn approximately 400 kilometres of native grasslands on roadsides and railway lines each year in the CFA Barwon South West region, in accordance with a fire prevention plan.

Timing of burning native grasslands is important

Regular burning can reduce invasion of trees and weeds. It reduces fuel load and makes ‘spaces’ for a diversity of plants to seed and grow.

Native grasslands can be vulnerable

Bogong moth

Although native grasslands are well adapted to the local climate and conditions, they are vulnerable to soil disturbance, herbicide spraying, trampling, wheel marks, inappropriate grazing or mowing and fertiliser.

Over one third of native grasslands surviving on roadsides in the 1980s were destroyed by 2004.

The benefits of native grasslands

Agriculture has relied on native grasslands for many decades. Native grasslands may:

  • require lower inputs (for example: no fertilisers)
  • respond better to summer rain
  • reduce:
    • the need for supplementary feeding
    • drought risk
    • fire risk
  • enhance land and water protection
  • provide opportunities for new farming enterprises such as seed collection and native plant harvesting.

You can help

If you have native grassland on roadsides adjacent to your property, contact us before doing any works.

Proudly supported by:

Environment, Land, Water and Planning Department logo    Country Fire Authority logo

Adapted, with thanks, from the Native Grasslands and our Roadsides brochure, CFA South West Area.

Reference material

Crosthwaite, J. 1997. The Economic Benefits of Native Grassland on Farms. Environment Australia – Biodiversity Group. Grassland Ecology Program Project Number GEP 017.

Williams, N. S. G. 2007. Environmental, landscape and social predictors of native grassland loss in western Victoria, Australia. Biological Conservation 137, 308-318.

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Native grasslands with gumtrees and an echidna and cockatoos flying overhead

Page last updated: Monday, 4 November 2019