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Planted saltbush (Atriplex nummularia) and its value for birds in farming landscapes of the South Australian Murray Mallee


  • Stuart J. Collard,

  • Andrew M. Fisher,

  • David J. McKenna

Stuart Collard is Senior Environmental Consultant, Rural Solutions (GPO Box 1671, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; Tel: +61 8 8463 7885; Fax: 61 8 8301 5720; Email: Andrew Fisher is Principal Advisor, Landscape Management, SA Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Future Farm Industries Co-operative Research Centre (GPO Box 1047, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; Email: David McKenna was a Research Scientist when this work was undertaken but is now a Fire Management Officer with the SA Department of Environment and Natural Resources (GPO Box 1047, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; Email: This research was conducted as part of a broader Department of Environment and Natural Resources project on the opportunities for establishing planted woody perennial vegetation in the agricultural landscapes of South Australia.


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.