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Birchip's doing its bit for Chariot Wheels

The Mallee region is made up of a large array of native flora and fauna, many of which are currently under threat and in need of protection.

“Biodiversity is the web of life, and it’s important that we take action now to ensure the plants and animals that inhabit our region are preserved for future generations to come,” Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Chair Sharyon Peart said.

In the Birchip area a key species is Chariot Wheels (Maireana cheellii), a small perennial shrub found in native grasslands. Chariot Wheels are listed as vulnerable under the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Half of the north-west Victorian population can be found in Birchip.

The native shrub is a member of the saltbush family. It grows on seasonally wet, heavy red loam or clay soils and is restricted to areas such as roadsides or paddocks that have only been moderately grazed and never cropped.

The major threats to this species include cultivation of grasslands for cropping, stock grazing, weed invasion and the construction of firebreaks on roadside where the species are known to occur.

In the last nine years the Birchip Landcare Group has been instrumental in driving local conservation efforts to protect Chariot Wheels in the south-eastern Mallee, coordinating projects such as surveys on private and public land, installing a hot house at Birchip P-12 School for students to propagate plants and erecting signs on roadsides to preserve Chariot Wheel populations.

“Efforts over the last decade from the Birchip Landcare Group have made a meaningful difference, not only conserving the species but increasing the community’s awareness and knowledge of threatened species in their surrounds,” Ms Peart said.

“Biodiversity month provides the perfect opportunity to recognise the vital contribution such groups make in preserving threatened species.”

The local community can aid the survival of the threatened shrub by controlling weeds and avoiding intensive grazing in areas where Chariot Wheels are present, or by becoming a member of a local Landcare group.

To find out more information on programs to protect Chariot Wheel habitat, or to get involved with Landcare please call the Mallee CMA on 5051 4377 or contact the Regional Landcare Coordinator Kevin Chaplin on 0428 370 175.

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