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Get a wriggle on

A GIANT Gippsland Earthworm information session and field day was held on a dairy property at Poowong East recently.
The day, organised by the South Gippsland Landcare Network, is part of a project aimed at providing private landholders with information about the biology and habits of these fascinating creatures (GGE), and to help landholders identify and manage worm habitat on their property.
Eighteen people attended to hear Dr Beverley Van Praagh, who has been studying the earthworm for over 20 years, talk about the worms’ history, biology and habitat.
“We are still very much in the dark when it comes to how they live their lives and what they need to survive,” she said.
“These worms only occur in South and West Gippsland where they survive under small areas of pasture along creekbanks and south facing hill slopes.
“Their very restricted distribution and limited ability to move from place to place means they are vulnerable to changes in their environment.”
The worms live a life of slow motion.
“They have a long life span, a slow growth rate and produce few young which means it is difficult for them to recover if their numbers are reduced,” Dr Van Praagh said.
It’s not just national parks and nature reserves that help protect our threatened species. The farming community can also play a significant role in helping to conserve our biodiversity.
“The majority of suitable GGE habitat occurs on private land, therefore farmers need the most up-to-date information to helpthem protect GGE habitat on their farms,” Dr Van Praagh said.
“The survival of GGE colonies is linked to very specific soil moisture levels. Revegetation of habitat occupied by worms can dry out soils making them unsuitable for GGE colonies.
“While revegetation has multiplebenefits for the environment, it is important that GGE are considered during the planning phase of revegetation projects where GGE potentially occur.”
After the presentation, the field day attendees donned gumboots and headed off to visit one of the GGE colonies closest to the farm. The worms were quite active with lots of gurgling and squelching noises to be heard much to the delight of those present.
The GGE project is looking for suitable properties to take part in a trial of different revegetation techniques to find out what plants species are best suited for revegetation and the recommended proximity to GGE colonies.
These properties will then act as demonstration sites that other landholders can visit to see how they can revegetate in a precautionary way so to not affect their worms.
“Ideally we are looking for properties where the landholder is sure they have GGE colonies on their property having definitely heard gurgles over the last winter, streamside sites or south facing slopes arethe most typical GGE habitat,” Dr Van Praagh said.
An expression of interest form can be downloaded from the GGE website, officially launched recently, can be found at www.giantearthworm.org.au.

Worm insight: Gippsland Giant Earthworm expert Dr Beverley Van Praagh (centre) with field day hosts Wilma and Peter Mackay of Poowong East.

Worm insight: Gippsland Giant Earthworm expert Dr Beverley Van Praagh (centre) with field day hosts Wilma and Peter Mackay of Poowong East.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=8737

Posted by on Sep 24 2013. Filed under Featured, Rural News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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