Works restore productive ecological functions on Pilbara stations

Bonney Downs and Corunna Downs pastoral stations in the Pilbara have carried out water bore and erosion control works to maintain access to reliable sources of water to support grazing practices and to restore landscapes.

Sieve fencing structures placed on low lying areas beside a track prone to erosion. (Photo: Peter Goyder)

Sieve fencing structures placed on low lying areas beside a track prone to erosion. (Photo: Peter Goyder)

Pilbara Corridors Program Manager Ian Cotton said the works were part of a roll-out of Ecologically Sustainable Rangelands Management (ESRM) Plan initiatives supported by the Pilbara Corridors Program.

He said the ESRM Plan was developed in 2015 to identify key issues and ecological management practices to promote sustainable cattle grazing on the land, control weeds, and manage fire and feral herbivores on the properties.

“The aim of the project is to acknowledge pastoral values and to encourage conservation and the use of resources for better outcomes,” Mr Cotton said.

“We know that the presence of and distance between water points for grazing stock largely determine where animals will congregate, in what numbers and how long they will stay in one location before moving to the next.”

He said optimal spacing for water points depends on the types of palatable vegetation available, competition for vegetation, stock numbers, feral numbers, natural water availability, seasonal climatic conditions and the prescribed burning programs undertaken.

Peter Goyder Station Manager at Bonney Downs said the water point maintenance and infrastructure would allow cattle to access feed in paddocks that may for periods of the year have no natural surface water, and that otherwise would be too far away from other water sources for cattle to use.

He also reported that the erosion works had held up well with the light recent Pilbara rains and that further rain events were needed to combat the dry conditions.

“Looking forward to some decent rains to test the works, and an expectation that they will provide good results. The ponding banks and earth works will slow the flow of water across the landscape and reduce erosion,” said Mr Goyder.

“We can now consider planting to further increase the area of ground cover and further stabilise the landscape,” he said.

Mr Cotton said the sieve fencing captures water borne vegetation during flood events and acts as a buffer zone, slowing water and causing alluvial matter to settle.

“Ponding banks and sieve fencing also increase the opportunities for seed capture in, on, and around the structures,”

“Reducing erosion and hydrating the soil promotes plant growth and over time encourages the return of fauna,” he said.

Mr Goyder said the earth works and sieve fences would be monitored over time to ensure they are maintained and resulting landscape changes would be documented.

Pilbara Corridors is a coordinated approach to address biodiversity threats on a landscape scale in the Pilbara. It is funded through the Australian Government Biodiversity Fund.