Research has shown that grazing has had a substantial impact on the composition, structure and condition of all the major vegetation types eaten by livestock, on virtually all of the Bogong High Plains. We don't need any more research in the Australian Alps on cattle grazing.
The Baillieu government has been trying to blackmail the University of Melbourne into overseeing its controversial alpine grazing trial by threatening to withdraw millions of dollars in research funding.
Associate Professor Dr Bossinger of the School of Land and Environment said previous studies had found the incidence of fire in the high country was not cut by cattle grazing. The School was basically being blackmailed to give the research results wanted.
There is no need for more research on the impact of cattle on the Australian Alps. They, including the Bogong High Plains, have been used for the summer agistment of domestic livestock for nearly 150 years.
Stella Grace Maisie Fawcett (1902-1988) an Australian Botanist played a central role in demonstrating the effects of overgrazing on Australia’s high plains. She headed a study by the Soil Conservation Board to measure the toll that cattle and sheep were having on the landscape.
Fawcett (later Mrs Carr), an ecologist, was appointed by the newly formed Soil Conservation Board in 1941 to assess the effects of cattle grazing in the vegetation of the Bogong High Plains.
During the summer of the severe 1902-03 drought, 40,000 sheep, in addition to large mobs of cattle and horses, were grazing on the Bogong High Plains. The late 19th century and the early 20th had the peak number of livestock grazing there.
The results were devastating to the environment. In many places the soils and vegetation were damaged severely and in some places stripped entirely, and stony erosion pavements resulted. Alpine soils are extremely low in nutrients, and are easily disturbed by erosion. This means a short regrowth season, and regeneration is slow.
'Alpine grazing reduces blazing' is a widely and strongly held view concerning the effects of livestock grazing on fuels, and therefore fire behaviour and impact, in Australia's high country landscapes.
"...it can be concluded that protection from grazing and absence of fire results in (a) the development of luxuriant vegetation which provides adequate cover for the soil surface, and (b) promotes an improvement in soil structure and presumably in the hydrological characteristics of the mossbeds and their catchments."' Carr, S.G.M. (Maisie Fawcett) Report on Inspection of the Bogong High Plains, 1977.
It is of significance that the majority of fires in these areas were actually lit by the graziers themselves in an attempt to obtain better quality pasture in the short term.
Studies have shown that free-ranging cattle affect alpine plant communities by grazing selectively (e.g. by preferring herbaceous vegetation to shrubby vegetation) and by trampling the vegetation.
In 1946 the government departments and graziers acted together to make sheep, horses and burning off banned. The length of grazing season limited and cattle numbers held at then current levels.
Wetlands occur where drainage is impeded, and water remains near the soil surface for more than one month per year. They are vital to water catchment protection, soil conservation, and maintenance of nature conservation values. They have been listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
Few grazed wetlands on the Bogong High Plains are in good condition.
Analysis of the decades of data showed that grazing did not reduce blazing as the cattlemen had argued.
Research has shown that grazing has had a substantial impact on the composition, structure and condition of all the major vegetation types eaten by livestock, on virtually all of the Bogong High Plains. Cattle grazing, by increasing the occurrence of bare ground, also has the potential to cause and exacerbate soil erosion, and can facilitate the invasion of grassy patches by shrubs and exotic species, including weeds.
There is no necessity for further research on the impacts of livestock on alpine ecosystems. This present "research" is a political decision and shows that our State government has little experience in environmental matters, and not being able to say "no" to rural voters