Cooper Street Grassland Significance
NEROC MUVP (B) 9, Biosites 3514
Hume – Remnant Vegetation Sites 129, (118), [158]

Calocephalus citreus at Cooper Street Grasslands Western extensionLocation

An area of approximately 100 ha of open space along and surrounding Merri Creek between Barry Road and Cooper Street including the 52.6 ha Cooper Street Grassland Reserve managed by Parks Victoria.

Ecological Communities

The Cooper Street grassland supports large areas of Plains Grassland. Along the Merri Creek are Reference Stands* of Woolly Tea-tree Riparian Scrub (along with those in Craigieburn Grassland, the most intact in NEM) (Beardsell 1997).
Escarpment Shrublands and patches of Red Gum Plains Grassy Woodland also remain.
  • Reference stands:Woolly Tea-tree riparian scrub (18.2); Kangaroo Grass plains grassland (23.2)
  • Relatively intact and extensive stands: Brown-back Wallaby-grass seasonal wetland (25.3)
  • Partially intact or small stands: River Red Gum (volcanic plain) grassy woodland (14.1); Lightwood-Tree Violet cliff/escarpment shrubland (20.5); Kangaroo Grass stony knoll grassland (22.1); Common Tussock-grass plains grassland (23.1)
  • Critical assemblages or populations: Reference stands of Woolly Tea-tree riparian scrub (along with those at Craigieburn Grassland, the most intact in NEM) and Kangaroo Grass plains grassland (one of few ungrazed, species rich stands in NEM).

Flora

The Cooper Street Grassland supports two plant species of national significance (Swollen Swamp Wallaby-grass and Gilgai Blown Grass), and three plant species of State significance. DCE (1990) listed 157 native vascular plant species for the grassland.
The endangered White Diurus and Vulnerable Swamp Diurus occurred on grey soils (similar to those at Cooper St and the O’Herns Road section of Craigieburn Grassland) nearby on the North Eastern Railway reserve at Somerton railway Station until the construction of the standard guage line in the early 1960s (Ros Garnett pers. comm.). The Vulnerable and regionally extinct Leafy Greenhood was a collected along the Merri Creek at Campbellfield in September 1896 by Reverend R. H. Rupp. It more than likely grew in association with the Woolly Tea-tree shrubland on the basalt pavement sections of the floodplain. (NEROC DRAFT – Sept 1992 p. 57)

Fauna

Significant fauna located at the site include the nationally significant Golden Sun Moth, Growling Grass Frog and Striped Legless Lizard, also Swift Parrots have been sighted at the southern end of the grassland. Faunal species of State significance include Little Button Quail and Spotted Harrier.
The patches of Red Gum Plains Grassy Woodland and areas of Escarpment Shrubland support a diverse population of wood/shrubland birds including Australian Owlet-nightjar, Tawny Frogmouth, Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Shrike Thrush and Striated Pardalote.
Beardsell (1997) recorded 92 native fauna species for this site. This included 70 birds, 3 mammals and 19 frogs and reptiles.
Birds – Spotted Harrier, Swift Parrot, Whistling Kite, Swift Parrot, Rufous Songlark, Banded Lapwing, Australian Hobby, Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Long-billed Corella, Brown Songlark, Singing Bushlark, Black-shouldered Kite, Banded Lapwing, Musk Lorikeet, Eastern Rosella, Tawny frogmouth, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Tree Martin, Grey Shrike-thrush, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Dusky Woodswallow, Mistletoebird, Striated Pardalote, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Raven
Mammals – Water Rat
Reptiles – Striped Legless Lizard, Red-bellied Black Snake, Common Long-necked Tortoise, Large Striped Skink, Cunningham Skink, Little Whip Snake, Tussock Skink, Common Blue-tongue Lizard, Eastern Three-lined Skink, Southern Water Skink, Eastern Brown Snake, Lowland Copperhead
Frogs – Growling Grass Frog, Bibron’s Toadlet, Common Froglet, Southern Bullfrog, Spotted Marsh Frog, Southern Brown Tree Frog

Site Significance

Overall the area has a high degree of habitat variation, and is of State-National significance for conservation.

The Plains Grassland area is of national significance as habitat for two nationally significant species. The grassland was rated as having State (floral) significance (DCE 1990) and is one of the largest areas of relatively undisturbed native grasslands in the Melbourne area.

The Merri Creek and the River Red Gums along the escarpment are rated as State significance on the basis that the trees infrequently provide habitat for endangered species.

Cooper Street Grassland, together with Craigieburn Grassland and the link between, is listed on the Register of the National Estate (Australian Heritage Commission 1998). The listing was on the basis that the

grasslands are some of the best remaining examples of the grasslands which covered much of the western basalt plains grasslands in Victoria, a community which is considered endangered in Victoria …..Cooper Street grassland display a high degree of habitat variation as it contains large areas of plains grassland, escarpment scrubland, riparian scrub and red gum plains grassy woodland, a rare and restricted vegetation community in Victoria…..”
 

Threats and Management

“Maintenance of faunal significance depends on management investment. Further fragmentation of the grasslands for factory or residential areas and severance of links to Craigieburn Grassland will eliminate reptile species. Loss of the Striped Legless Lizard could result in a decline to low significance.” (Beardsell 1997 V.2 p.66)

Maintain intact riparian link upstream to Craigieburn Grassland and downstream to Barry Road Gorge.

Land tenure and reservation outlook:

DCE (1990) listed Cooper Street Grassland, as one of eight highly significant grasslands in the Melbourne area in private ownership. It recommended investigating its purchase by the government and reservation for conservation.

A small section (22 ha) was subsequently acquired by the state government as a Crown Land Reserve and is managed for conservation. A further 21 ha was added to the reserve in compensation for construction of the Craigieburn Bypass, and the Merri Creek frontage was transferred to Crown Land as part of a deal with the Istra Social Club which owned it as part of the title to their Clubroom area.

Approximately 40 ha of the grassland was lost in 2007-8 to industrial development.

At the southern end of the site there is a stream and floodway zone managed by Melbourne Water. In 2003 a group of wetlands were constructed on part of this site for stormwater treatment.

Strong consideration must be given to acquiring the creek frontage east side adjacent to the reserved land (and linking adjacent sites) from the private owners. In addition to protection of the important species and communities occurring there, and maintaining the habitat corridor - having control of the creek-line is important for protecting the reserved areas from incursions such as the infamous "Jerilderie Cattle Invasion of Merri Creek" of Nov 2002 - late April 2003. (Friends of Merri Creek 2003, p. 4-5)

Private land on which the Golden Sun Moth population has been discovered must be acquired for inclusion in the reserve and appropriately managed to maintain the Austrodanthonia food plants of the larvae.


*Reference Stand: one of the most viable and intact stands representative of its habitat known in GM (Greater Melbourne) (Beardsell 1997 Vol. 1, p. xxv)
 
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