Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Treasures of the Desert Knowledge Precinct

Land for Wildlife coordinators recently carried out a property assessment at the Desert Knowledge Precinct. As locals would know, the precinct is located on the Stuart Highway just south of Heavitree Gap and the town of Alice Springs. The property is large (72 Hectares) and managed as a multi-use property, with areas of landscaped gardens, open space and remnant vegetation. Built environments are composed of an education facility, cafe, solar power plant and offices occupied by staff of the Centre for Appropriate Technology.  
The property is situated on old floodplains of St Mary's Creek and the Todd River, with St Mary's Creek a prominent feature where the entry road fords this small tributary of the Todd River. The natural vegetation type of this landscape is Ironwood and Corkwood open woodland with an understorey of native grasses, although introduced Buffel Grass now predominates. River Red Gum and Bastard Coolabah line the channel of St Mary's Creek.
Although the property has a long history of grazing and other potentially degrading land uses, some treasures were uncovered during the assesssment, including:
  • This huge Ironwood (Acacia estrophiolata). With a trunk diameter of 85cm, this tree must be several hundred years old. Keeping the area around the base of such trees free from the encroachment of Buffel Grass is important. Hot, frequent fires fueled by thick growth can kill these ancient trees.
    Scarlet Bracket Fungus
  • Scarlet Bracket Fungus (Pycnospora coccineus). A relatively common fungus occuring on dead timber throughout central australia. It varies in colour from bright scarlet, through orange to bleached white. Two colour varieties are shown here.
    Scarlet Bracket Fungus
  • Fork Leaved Corkwood (Hakea divaricata). Some very large and old examples of this species occur as part of open woodland communities. Most were in their early stages of flowering during the property assessment. This is one of two species of corkwood that are common around Alice Springs. It is easily recognised by the leaves that fork into several sharp pointed needles.

Fork Leaved Corkwood

The property already has a detailed land and fire management plan, that includes the protection of significant trees, control of Buffel Grass and the maintenance of fire breaks. Land for Wildlife is now developing further recommendations for the management of the property.


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