A centuries-old Yellow Box at Longwood.
An ancient Yellow Box at Longwood.

Paddock trees- those deep-rooted, isolated, big, old, trees that still dot the landscape in some districts. They are so precious, irreplaceable and part of our collective heritage.

About thirty-five of us gathered at Marta and Lindsay’s spectacular Longwood property last November to talk paddock trees. The vast majority of old paddock trees in rural Victoria are not regenerating and if nothing changes, most will be gone in several decades!

The afternoon started with talks from Kim Wilson and Beatrix Spencer. Kim has worked on revegetation and property management projects for many years and spoke about the ecological and farm production values of paddock trees at a landscape scale and a farm scale. Kim highlighted how paddock trees are declining across the landscape and ways we can protect them. Some of the mains points were:

  • Maximum lifespan of paddock trees range from 200-500 years old.
  • A healthy paddock tree can take up to 150-200 years to form small hollows.
  • At the current rate of decline it is estimated that paddock trees will be lost between 40-80 years in the GB catchment.
  • Farm values; shade and shelter to stock, increase soil nutrients and soil biota, enhance pasture quality, reduce salinity and erosion and improve real estate value.
  • Ecological values; provide stepping stones across the landscape, valuable nectar sources, provide habitat inc hollows, leaf/log litter provides valuable habitat, trees are known as a ‘living zoo’ a ‘globe’ to many species.

Beatrix recently completed research for her Masters of Environment and spoke about the values and management of paddock trees in the Goulburn Broken Catchment. The talk covered the social values of paddock trees identified through interviews with landholders in the GBC. The research found paddock trees had historical value, social status and achievement value, economic value, ecosystem service value and aesthetic value. Beatrix also discussed the different management actions these values were driving (e.g. conservation, ‘cleaning up’ or damaging processes), and how understanding the social values of paddock trees can encourage more positive management practices.

Marta and Lindsay’s property sits on a ridge with spectacular views and several impressive gums. An afternoon stroll across part of the property allowed us to take in the views and discuss the important role of trees in this landscape, particularly for the many fauna species that require hollows for survival.

We finished the evening with presentations by several speakers, all focusing on different aspects of the importance of paddock trees. Our Keynote Speaker was Dr. Lindy Lumsden from DELWP and the Arthur Rylah Institute. Lindy has spent a lifetime studying bats and shared her knowledge of microbats in rural landscapes.

We finished the evening with Lindy demonstrating the use of a bat-detector, an electronic gadget that detects and records the high-pitched echo-locating calls that bats use to navigate and hunt. These ‘calls’ are often distinctive, enabling identification of the species making the call.

What a brilliant afternoon and evening. Thanks to each of our presenters and special thanks to Marta and Lindsay.