A project providing funding for Midlands farmers to protect native grasslands on their properties has allowed them to reduce stock earlier in times of prolonged dry conditions, improving their drought resilience.
Ecologists from across Australia will visit a Midlands property on Wednesday to learn about the Midlands Conservation Fund, which has run for seven years as a partnership between Bush Heritage Australia, Tasmanian Land Conservancy and Midlands farmers.
The project has recently expanded from 4500 hectares to just over 7000 after adding two more farms, bringing it to 15 farms in total.
With more than 95 per cent of Tasmania's native grassland cleared, Matt Appleby, of Bush Heritage Australia, said it was vital that the remaining grasses were protected - and farms were playing an important role.
MORE FROM THE ECOLOGICAL SOCIETY CONFERENCE IN LAUNCESTON:
"On some of the older farms, we're seeing good maintenance of native species diversity through very hard times of low rainfall," he said.
"Normally they would get a bit degraded and sometimes over-grazed. But with these payments through the project, some of the farmers have said that they've been able to destock early and not put pressure on those areas.
"That's helped to maintain that grass diversity during that time."
The project - privately funded through philanthropy - primarily involves the protection of native grasslands, but also involves some woodland and wetlands.
Farmers with native grasslands put in a bid for funding to protect them, and if it meets the criteria, they enter into a stewardship agreement.
Mr Appleby said the grasses were low input and were more resilient.
"One of the best things about these grasses is they are used to drought, they evolve with dry periods, they are multi-species systems as well. So while some might be worse affected, they'll still be there and other species might cope a bit better," he said.
"In a lot of cases, if you treat your introduced pastures, and graze them right down during a drought, often what the farmer has to do is spend a lot of money resowing and fertilising those areas to get them back into good condition. With native pastures, they're low input."
Running via a non-government organisation without government funding made the project one of the only of its type in Australia.
Mr Appleby hoped that the project - which has properties from Pontville to Perth - could continue to expand.
The work of the Midlands Conservation Fund is being highlighted as part of the Ecological Society of Australia Conference in Launceston this week.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.