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Keywords:

  • agricultural landscape;
  • Atriplex;
  • biodiversity;
  • birds;
  • farm management;
  • fodder shrubs;
  • saltbush

Summary  In the fragmented agricultural landscapes of temperate southern Australia, broad-scale revegetation is underway to address multiple natural resource management issues. In particular, commercially-driven fodder shrub plantings are increasingly being established on non-saline land to fill the summer-autumn feed gap in grazing systems. Little is known of the contribution that these and other planted woody perennial systems make to biodiversity conservation in multifunctional landscapes. In order to address this knowledge gap, a study was conducted in the southern Murray Mallee region of South Australia. Selected ecological indicators, including plant and bird communities, were sampled in spring 2008 and autumn 2009 in five planted saltbush sites and nearby areas of remnant vegetation and improved pasture. In general, remnant vegetation sites had higher biodiversity values than saltbush and pasture sites. Saltbush sites contained a diverse range of plants and birds, including a number of threatened bird species not found in adjacent pasture sites. Plant and bird communities showed significant variation across saltbush, pasture and remnant treatments and significant differences between seasons. This study demonstrates that saltbush plantings can provide at least partial habitat for some native biota within a highly modified agricultural landscape. Further research is being conducted on the way in which biota, such as birds, use available resources in these dynamic ecosystems. An examination of the effects of grazing on biodiversity in saltbush would improve the ability of landholders and regional natural resource management agencies in making informed land management decisions.