The Victorian Dry Eucalypt SuperSite is actually a regional SuperSite hub consisting of several nodes. This new regional SuperSite’s vision is to provide the scientific infrastructure and institutional collaboration required for world-class science and sustainable management of terrestrial ecosystems in South Eastern Australia based on a sound understanding of their structure, composition, functions and processes.
There are two core nodes, located at Whroo in north-east Victoria (near Shepparton) and Wombat State Forest (near Ballarat), and a series of 3-4 high quality satellite sites that will provide the basis for scaling measurements from point to landscape to catchment. This new regional SuperSite builds on existing infrastructure, long term study sites, biodiversity and other monitoring sites. It includes investment in new observation platforms in key locations, extending across a range of land covers and uses. Both nodes host flux towers as part of TERN's OzFlux network and PhenoCameras collecting data for TERN's AusCover facility with live flux tower data and PhenoCam images available online from Whroo and Wombat Forest.
Wombat Forest Node
The Wombat State Forest Flux Tower site, managed by the University of Melbourne, not only monitors ecosystem fluxes of energy, water and carbon dioxide above-ground, with a flux tower, but also below-ground. The below-ground measurements are obtained using an automated chamber system that is connected to a Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectrometer in a mobile laboratory on site.
Experimental plots with rainfall reduction treatments will be used to study the effect of rainfall reduction and drought on the carbon and greenhouse gas cycles. These experimental approaches will allow a better understanding of the processes that control the carbon and greenhouse gas balance in the dry eucalypt forest systems in Australia. Thus, researchers will be able to make a thorough assessment of how changes in our climate will influence the carbon exchange processes in forests, and the vulnerabilities of these forests with regard to their carbon balance. In the long run the Wombat Flux site will also enable study of the impact of forest disturbances on the carbon and greenhouse gas balance.
The Whroo site near Shepparton was established in 2011 in box woodland and managed by Monash University. Flux tower measurements of energy, carbon and water exchange are complemented by vegetation measures including Leaf Area Index using digital hemispheric photography and optical instrumentation (LAI-2000/LAI-2200 and TRAC sensors); Biomass measures using an array of leaf litter traps, coarse woody debris surveys and tree inventory; Leaf photosynthesis and light response and Tree growth (automated and manual dendrometers).
Prior to european exploration (Major Mitchell, 1836) and settlement (around 1845), Whroo was central to the lands of the Ngurai-illam-wurrung Aboriginal people. The name “Whroo” is derived from the aboriginal name for the key waterhole in the area “Wooroo” meaning mouth. The Whroo area was settled by pastoralists and the site of gold mining in the 1850’s with a township established (population peak of 2100 in 1857). All the town’s buildings have now been removed and a 500 ha area maintained as the Whroo Historic Reserve. Remnant native vegetation occurs in the Whroo and Rushworth State Forest area.
Education and Outreach
Postgraduate research projects have been carried out at both nodes of the Victorian Dry Eucalypt SuperSite, including a study of surface water balance at Wombat State Forest using eddy covariance and sap flow techniques.
The Wombat Forest node hosts a postgraduate subject (Forests, Carbon and Climate Change) as part of the Master of Environment and Master of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne.
Community organisations advocating for the protection of Wombat State Forest and Whroo include:
- Wombat Forestcare Inc
- Victorian National Parks Association
- Whroo Goldfields Conservation Management Network
The Whroo Goldfields Conservation Management Network (WGCMN) was formed in 2008, and has grown to 250 members. The aim of the WGCMN is to promote appreciation and protection of the Box Ironbark ecology. Activities include on-ground works such as fencing and revegetation, field trips, nest box building workshops, presentations and talks to local groups and schools, participation in community events and displays.
The WGCMN currently has two Victorian State Government Communities for Nature funded projects underway, ‘Yellow Gums and Goldfields’ and ‘Linking the Landscape’. These projects aim to connect remnant vegetation on private land to public land and reserves, revegetate private property in strategic areas and increase the number of winter feed trees (Yellow Gums) in the landscape.
Another major project is the nest box program, the ‘Thousand Hollows Project’. As the Box Ironbark forests are greatly lacking in natural nest hollows, these nest boxes are readily taken up by hollow-dependant fauna. This program is funded from a variety of sources such as the Victorian State Government, City of Greater Bendigo, and Mandalay Resources and has resulted in (currently) 620 nest boxes on private and public land which are monitored annually for the endangered brush-tailed phascogale and the sugar glider. In six years of monitoring, there has been about 55 % of the nest boxes used by the target species.
Resources for Managers
- Detailed maps of Whroo and Wombat State Forest can be accessed from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment Forest Explorer website.
- The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and Environment carry out yearly surveys in Wombat State Forest for the (vulnerable in Victoria) Brush-tailed Phascogales.
Earlier research at these sites
Kellas J.D. Jarrett R.G. and Morgan B.J.T. 1988. Changes in species composition following recent shelterwood cutting in mixed eucalypt stands in Wombat Forest Victoria. Australian Forestry 51, 112-118, DOI: 10.1080/00049158.1988.10674523
Kellas, J.D. Kile G.A. Jarrett R.G. and Morgan B.J.T. 1987. The occurrence and effects of Armillaria luteobubalina following partial cutting in mixed eucalypt stands in the Wombat Forest Victoria. Australian Forest Research 17, 263-276.