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The impact of grazing by Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) on vegetation recovery after fire at Reef Hills Regional Park, Victoria


  • By Trevor Meers,

  • Robyn Adams

  • This paper reports findings from part of a 2-year research project into postfire vegetation recovery aimed at developing an ecologically based fire regime for Reef Hills Regional Park, Victoria. Trevor Meers undertook part of the work while doing Honours in the School of Ecology and Environment at Deakin University, and he is currently a PhD student at the Forest Science Centre, University of Melbourne (Creswick, Victoria. Email: Robyn Adams (corresponding author) is a senior lecturer in ecology in the School of Ecology and Environment, Deakin University (221 Burwood Highway, Victoria 3125, Australia. Tel. + 61-3-9251 7606, Email:


Summary In southeastern Australia ecological burning is frequently used to maintain a number of plant and animal populations. However, many of these prescribed fires are small, and may focus intense grazing activity on new regrowth. At Reef Hills Regional Park, Victoria shrub species have senesced, presumably due to the absence of fire. Ecological burning may be necessary to promote regeneration, however, the population density of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is high (approx 38 per km2), and grazing pressure presents a significant risk to postfire vegetation recovery. An assessment of grazing patterns and their effects on postfire recovery was carried out at Reef Hills Regional Park through grazing exclusion plots. Preferential grazing by Eastern Grey Kangaroos occurred on small burnt plots compared to adjacent unburnt areas as determined by faecal pellet counts. On burnt areas, there was a significant reduction in shrub diversity on grazed plots compared to ungrazed plots. Most observations of kangaroos were of animals grazing on farmland surrounding the Park, and it is likely that any burning might shift grazing from farmland to burnt areas when new growth occurs. This needs to be considered before any ecological burn plan is applied to manage vegetation communities, particularly if the plan requires small areas to be burnt. We recommended that a large area up to 200 ha area be burnt and monitored to determine whether burning larger areas disperses grazing pressure from macropods to a level where impacts on vegetation are reduced and localized plant extinctions do not occur.