Carbon Balance in Local Eucalypt Forests

If you’ve wondered about the ‘steel towers’ in the Wombat Forest on the road between Newlyn and Barkstead, you may find some answers in a talk to Wombat ForestCare by Dr Stefan Arndt of Uni Melbourne, Creswick. 

The ‘Flux Towers’ are used with other instruments to measure changes in Carbon Balance over time, and between different seasons, and for different tree species. In dry periods trees can lose more CO2 (through Respiration) than they sequester. NET Carbon balance over the whole year is positive but has varied between 6 tonnes per ha in 2013 and 14 tonnes in 2020.  The species with highest productivity and Net sequestration was E. obliqua (Messmate-Stringybark) and E. radiata (Narrow-leaf Peppermint) was lowest producer. 

Julio Najero takes readings at a Wombat Forest Flux Tower

We congratulate Stefan, Lauren Bennet and other researchers at Creswick and Burnley campuses for providing this valuable data on carbon in our local forests. Stefan has supplied copies of his slides and of 8 research papers related to the presentation – entitled “Resilience of Wombat Forest – and Changes in Climate”.

Professor Stefan Arndt presented his thoughts and findings to the Wombat Forestcare group. See the presentation at:

The Wombat Stringybark Eucalypt Supersite is one of 12 sites across Australia – with the aim of investigating impacts of climate change and disturbances like fire and drought, on our forests. You can read more about this Federal research program via this link.


Out for a walk

If you are looking for a place to stroll within 5 km of Ballarat, try the new Dementia Trail in Woowookarung Regional Park. It is accessible from Katy Ryan Road, Canadian. The path is not finished and there are still some work to do but a lot of energy has already gone into this project. The interpretive signage is in place and the planning for this project is evident in the features that have been added to make this an enjoyable place to walk. It is already proving very popular and last Sunday the carpark was full. We loved the new stone seats but you will have to go for a walk to see them.

Four Creswick Goldfields Sites

Four Creswick Goldfields Sites have been newly listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory

Over the past year FNCB members have worked with other groups to document and seek recognition for some historic sites in Creswick Regional Park. Heritage Victoria has now completed assessments of the ‘site cards’ submitted for 4 sites, and found that all meet the ‘threshold policy’. 

These are now listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory, which means that the places ‘cannot be disturbed without authority from Heritage Victoria’. As you may see from the photos these sites are not easily distinguished from the surrounding area. Much of the information on these heritage sites was sourced from a local Creswick historian, his maps and the publications of the Creswick and District Historical Society along with many ground surveys. 

The sites are shown below with their Inventory Numbers, which allow the public to seek information about these places by searching for these numbers on the  Victorian Heritage Database.  

·       Slaty Creek Chinese Garden and Sluicing Site – H7623-0343  

·       Chinese Hand-Puddlers and Huts Site – H7623-0344

·       Garden of the Manila Men Site – H7623-0345

·       Back Creek Chinese Garden and Orchard– H7623-0346    [Not yet uploaded to HV data base] 

There are still some addtional sites to be added.

Strolling Close to Home

Residents of Ballarat are well served for places to visit that are relativity close to town. Sometimes it is easy to forget about some places when you want to go for a walk in nature. Below is an incomplete list and most of these places may be found by doing a quick Google search. Additions are welcome. The photos are from near Nerrina Reserve Wetlands via Wallaby Track, a path that runs beside the Yarrowee in Brown Hill.

Bakers Dam Reserve

As the much anticipated fungi excursion to the Wombat forest was cancelled for yesterday it was up to members to do their own explorations. We chose Bakers Dam, a Ballarat Environment Network (BEN) managed reserve in the Mt Doran area. It is one of the places that is easy to drive past as entry is down an unused and treed road reserve. The reserve has large old trees that surround a wetland, good ground cover and very few weeds.

This reserve is also known at the Mt Doran Water Reserve and is one of several that BEN manages in the area including Mt Doran Recreation Reserve, Mt Doran Scenic Reserve and the Morrisons Racecourse at Borhoneygurk.

Arbutus Feast on the La Gerche Trail

The long rainy season has led to a much bigger that average crop of Arbutus unedo along the La Gerche Trail this year. Not only is the crop more prolific but the fruit are ripening and tasting sweeter that usual.  If you’re quick, you could collect a basket of fruit and make Irish Strawberry Marmalade (or Wine) for the winter months ahead.  

Why would Field Naturalists feature an introduced species (‘a weed’ some might say) on this website?  Well, the La Gerche Trail features many exotic species planted by early foresters near the historic forest nursery north of Creswick. Tree Strawberry has a remarkable place among other plants brought here from Europe.

Like plants of the genus Pinus, many in the genus Arbutus are well known for their strong relationships with Mycorrhizal fungi, which enable them to extract soil nutrients and water more efficiently than most other plants. It seems that Arbutus and Pinus share many of the same Mycorrhizal fungi. Tree Strawberry is evergreen and grows most prolifically under Pines (especially P. nigra) in this area. Arbutus growing outside the Pine plantations in this area is not an invasive species, as it tends to be under pines.  

Ripe (red) Fruit – about 2 cm in diameter, has a slightly rough but edible skin

It is this link to Mycorrhizal fungi that enables Arbutus spp. to obtain enough nutrients from the poor acid soils of this site to produce such a prolific fruit crop. No local native species is able to fruit as prolifically on the same soils.

Tree Strawberry Marmalade 

Heat 1 kg of (mostly ripe) fruit for about 20 minutes with 3 cups of water, and then finely sieve the product to remove most of the granules that come from the skins. Add 400 grams of sugar and then add the juice and the finely cut skin of a whole lemon (or orange) to the mix. Cook slowly until thick enough for marmalade. The raw fruit is high in pectin and very high in Vitamin C and several antioxidants.

Bottle in sterile jars as for other jams. 

Words and photos contibuted by John P.

Irish or “Tree Strawberry” on the La Gerche Trail near the Smokeytown Water Race

Botanical Wanderings

After our walk along Hovells Creek Trail on Sunday we drove ‘very slowly’ due to the activity on the foreshore, to have lunch near the Geelong Botanic Gardens. We managed to time entry to the gardens it to take advantage of a guided walk.

The garden are looking very lush and green and we enjoyed hearing about  the back stories to some of the many interesting plants. The keen-eyed spotted a few big bracket fungi which are probably not a good omen for the tree.

Continue reading

A leisurely stroll at Limeburner’s Bay

Limeburners Bay is a broad and sandy estuarine inlet of high conservation value, located on the northern shore of Corio Bay, Geelong, where Hovells Creek enters. Hovells Creek begins below the Brisbane Ranges National Park south of Granite Road, near Mt Anakie.

Our recent excursion was to Geelong and began with a 3km return walk along Hovells Creek trail with access is via the carpark at the end Foreshore Road near Geelong Grammar. The view across the salt marsh to the You Yangs is beautiful as is the one looking back across more than 100 resting swans towards Geelong.

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Waterbugs of the Yarrowee / Yaramlok

Waterbugs of the Yarrowee / Yaramlok is a family discovery session, held on Sunday 28th February 9 am to 12 midday, with Don Butcher, member of Friends of the Yarrowee River

Come discover the minibeasts of our Yarrowee – some older than dinosaurs! Discover dragons and damsels! Many waterbugs are like cicadas – destined to fly but they are swimmers before they fly.

Kids love waterbugs (so do ducks, turtles, fish, platypus & rakali), and this will be a fun way to focus kids on the wonders of our river and her wetlands. Waterbugs provide an important insight for water quality and our river’s health. Continue reading

Benefits of using iNaturalist

The recent Great Southern Bioblitz weekend motivated quite a few of our members to become involved and has seen a greater use of iNaturalist. It is one online place to explore and share our observations from the natural world.

Genduara punctigera, Crexa Moth

Our club has provided an online training session, some guiding notes and followup question and answer sessions and now many members are more confident about loading photos.

It is an interesting way to keep track of sightings and source identification for harder to name species. To reach ‘research grade’ more than one person needs to agree with an identification. One of the best aspects is that the records help scientists and resource managers understand when and where organisms occur.

Schizophyllum commune, Splitgill

Our administrator has recently added a new series of projects to help us track species observed in some of the more common places we visit, such as Creswick Regional Park, Woowookarung Regional Park and Lake Burrumbeet.

Commius elegans, Shield Bug on a cherry ballart

Records may be added via the phone app or from the computer. Some species are really hard to identify from photos and it may come down to the hairs on a stem, shape of a petal or the length of an antenna! So remember to take several photos and make sure you get ones of the main features and from a few different angles.