A history of careful pastoral management has contributed to the treasure-trove of plants and wildlife on the Vale of Belvoir.

Story By Ken Eastwood

A history of grazing and careful pastoral management may have helped preserve one of the most diverse highland grasslands in Tasmania. The grass valley, the Vale of Belvoir – situated just north of Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park – was bought last year by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) and turned into a reserve. Medium-term plans are to continue cattle grazing in the valley because it is probably beneficial to diversity.
The ‘Vale’ sits at an altitude of 800–1100 metres and has about a dozen endangered species, including some nationally threatened paper daisies growing among the thick poa grass tussocks. Although much of the 467-hectare reserve is treeless, it is surrounded by snow gum and ancient myrtle forest, and supports masked owls, rare ptunarra brown butterflies and the densest population of marsupial carnivores in the world, with spotted quolls, eastern quolls and devils galore. It is pitted with sinkholes from underlying limestone caves, and in summer is covered in wildflowers such as alpine candles and yellow daisies.
“It’s one of the most diverse grasslands in Tasmania that we know of,” says Daniel Sprod, landscape ecologist with TLC. “We find that with grazing removing some of the grassy overstorey, it allows some of the smaller herbs and flowers to grow between the tussocks.
“Grasslands are regarded as a disturbance community, and grazing is one of those disturbances,” he says. “They’re quite difficult things to manage to maintain that diversity. There’s a balance between grazing, fire and doing nothing that you’ve got to find in all grasslands.”
Daniel says that prior to grazing, which began in the area about 150 years ago, a combination of burning by Aboriginal people and a higher density of marsupial grazing would have had a similar impact. “In grasslands, in general, graziers and Aboriginal managers seek the same outcome – green pick for grazing animals.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #74

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2011