A not-for-profit environmental organisation boosted their nature conservation efforts with the help of a Green Adelaide Grassroots Grant. Find out about the project and how you can apply.

Diamond Firetail
A native diamond firetail bird spotted at Para Woodlands. Photo: Dragos Moise

Para Woodlands Nature Reserve is an expansive 500 hectare site near Gawler in Adelaide's north that is gradually being revegetated with locally native plants.

Once a farming property, the reserve contains remnant vegetation such as river red gum, peppermint box, blue gum woodlands and native grasses and herbs.

Nature Foundation is committed to its conservation efforts at Para Woodlands and is aiming to restore it to a native grassy woodland, providing habitat for local birds and animals.

The organisation was successful in obtaining a Grassroots Grant to boost their ongoing restoration efforts in the reserve and invite the community along for the journey with site visits, presentations and activities.

Read on to learn about the Nature Foundation’s Grassroots Grant story:

Bird watching para woodlands
Bird watching at the Para Woodlands Nature Reserve. Photo: Kelly Arbon

Why is this grant project important?

Nature reserves are protected areas, and they are vital refuges for threatened species and ecosystems.

Grassy woodlands are important habitat for native birds such as the strikingly colourful diamond firetails and the red-browed finches with their flashes of bright red feathers.

Red-browed finch
A red-browed finch. Photo: Martin Stokes

The habitat restoration work undertaken has resulted in the return of these birds to the reserve, some of which have been displaced by the growing urban sprawl happening close by.

The revegetation and weed control techniques used during the project promote ongoing natural regeneration and there is already evidence of this occurring on site.

The focus for this project of improving the existing ecosystems extends to the South Para River waterway.

South Para River
The South Para River flows through the Para Woodlands. Photo: Anne Clark

The South Para River flows through the Mount Lofty Ranges, passing through the Warren and South Para reservoirs before merging with the North Para River and forming the Gawler River.

This river system is home to many rare and threatened aquatic species and it also provides much of the domestic water supply for this part of Adelaide.

The weed control that is part of this project, identified and reduced the spread of harmful weeds downstream.

Para Woodlands Native Orchid Society tour
Nature Foundation supporters on a tour of the Para Woodlands

How did the Grassroots Grant help?

The grant funding enabled Nature Foundation to undertake weed control over 19 hectares along the steep slopes of the South Para River, and revegetation of over 100 trees and shrubs.

The grant was also integral to finding and controlling a patch of Coolatai grass, a stubborn, invasive grass that is a declared weed. Being a protected area and less visited, the grass would have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for this project funded by the Grassroots Grant.

The project included bat surveys, which detected 10 species of tiny, winged mammals known as microbats - which was a new record for the Para Woodlands.

The grant also enabled 3 community engagement activities, including a presentation to the Field Naturalist Society, a site visit from the Native Orchid Society of SA and a tour of the reserve with a group of Nature Foundation supporters and guests.

Native Orchid Society tour admiring view
Nature Foundation supporters on a tour of the Para Woodlands

How did the project improve the environment for the community?

The community engagement activities that took place were great opportunities to involve the various community groups and showcase the restoration efforts that have occurred over the years at Para Woodlands.

During the site visit with Nature Foundation supporters, the attendees had the opportunity to see and learn about the seed orchard (a plantation of native grasses and herbs to enable easy collection of seeds), which has been established in the reserve.

Lesser wanderer seed orchard
A lesser wanderer butterfly rests at the seed orchard. Photo: James Rolevink

As many of the plants were in flower, this provided a great opportunity for people to learn about the local native butterflies.

The attendees were also provided opportunities to self-explore different parts of reserve, where bird watching was the main interest.

By opening up the area for education and engagement activities, it has raised interest from other groups such as Birds SA in arranging bird-watching activities at the woodlands.

rainbow bee-eater James Rolevink
A stunning rainbow bee-eater. Photo: James Rolevink

Restoring natural habitat to the areas in between urban development and rural or bush areas (known as peri-urban areas) is so important for the community. As woodland areas are cleared to make way for development it is vital that these protected areas are carefully managed to secure biodiversity for future generations.

Apply for the next round of Grassroots Grants

Green Adelaide’s Grassroots Grants is an annual program that puts much needed funds into the hands of individuals and groups to help them transform their local environment.

Round 3 of the Grassroots Grants is now open until 29 June 2022. To find out more visit the grants webpage.

Words of advice for future grant applicants

Grassroots Grants can be used to kick-start a new project or build on an existing one.

For Nature Foundation, the grant was used to boost their conservation work and enabled them to engage with key community groups.

Their advice to other groups is to identify the issues affecting your area, discuss them with the Green Adelaide grants team and come up with a plan for a successful project.

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