In the extensively cleared and modified grasslands and woodlands of central Victoria, road reserves may contain virtually all of the remaining native vegetation, and the oldest and largest trees with the tree hollows needed for a wide range of wildlife.
So road reserves are the “reservoirs” of the local biodiversity – and a reference and resource for local landscape conservation. They also provide some ecological connectivity in highly cleared landscapes.
Road reserves also provide the habitat links for the movement of plants and animals across the landscape, and the framework on which biolinks can be created. They provide ecosystem services, from natural pest control and pollination to climate moderation - services that we will increasingly need with climate change. And they form an essential part of the attractive rural landscapes typical of central Victoria.
However, road reserves are not the best place for biodiversity. Traffic using the roads threaten the safety of wildlife, and vegetation along roadsides affects the safety of people particularly during fires. But this is the landscape we have inherited from the past 180 years of clearing for farmland. Any off-road revegetation will take many decades to grow and become habitat for a richer and wider diversity of plants and animals. In the meantime, roadsides will continue to be an important reservoir of biodiversity in rural landscapes.
If our roadside vegetation is lost, it will be a big loss for the people, plants and animals of central Victoria.
Roadsides are managed by VicRoads and local Councils. Although these agencies recognise the value of roadside biodiversity conservation in various strategies and codes of practice, they are primarily interested in making roads for the safe passage of vehicles.
But destruction of roadside vegetation can be minimised with good practices – and can be avoided by placing roads outside these corridors of remnant vegetation.
3 things really worth doing - and you can do now..
Take note of quality roadside vegetation and roadside weeds in your area. Make sure your local shire knows about both.
Organise a working bee to remove roadside weeds
Place new roads outside corridors of remnant vegetation - case study Peter’s example from Seymour?
The Weedies - Newham and District Landcare’s Roadside Weed Management Group - read about them (Photo)
VicRoads. 2011. Roadside Management - a balanced approach.