Driving through the mid-north of South Australia in late Spring, the landscapes match the national colours of green and gold – the vibrant green of healthy grain crops and the glorious gold of canola blooms. The outlook is promising for the farmers who have planted the crops, provided that the rains fall at the right time and the frosts stay away.
However, the bright colour scheme highlights a serious lack in the landscape, a lack of the natural colours of native habitat. The watercourses show up as bare grassy meanders through the crops, lacking trees and shrubs, and native vegetation only appears as small remnants. Intensive farming over many decades has removed virtually all riparian vegetation lining creeks and rivers. If anything remains, in most cases it is a planted row of lonely single trees with no native bushes or groundcover. There is no habitat for water-dependent species or migration corridors for birds and animals along the rivers and creeks. There is no buffer between the crops and the watercourses, and no functioning ecosystem to filter water running off from the land into the creeks.
The balance has shifted too far, with only 5-10% of native habitats remaining, and some valleys with no native plants at all. There needs to be positive action to swing the balance back, to put back a minimum area of native habitat to ensure that our landscapes are sustainable for the future. The landscapes need to include at least a portion of the gold of wattles and sennas, and the dusky green of eucalypts and native shrubs, for a sustainable balance.