Ground Cover

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BC Bare Cover (0-5%)

LC Low Cover (5-20%)

MC Moderate Cover (20-50%)

HC High Cover (50-80%)

VHC Very High Cover (80-100%)'

Ground cover consists of pasture plants, leaf litter, twigs and debris. Studies have repeatedly shown that the greater the density and more even the ground cover the greater the water infiltration. Bare or patchy pastures lose higher levels of sediment and nutrients through hillslope erosion, reducing long-term property sustainability. Rain causes much less soil damage and runoff loss if the land has good groundcover, so it is critical to maintain minimum cover levels at the end of the dry season.

The benefits of maintaining a high ground cover level include the trapping of valuable sediment and nutrients, increased infiltration and reduced runoff, and greater pasture production for grazing. The level of ground cover required depends upon land type. Ground cover levels of at least 50% in upland areas and 60% in frontage country are recommended for most land types in 7 out of 10 years (accounting for drought years) with higher levels required for some land types (for example, high slope, erodible soils and/or Indian couch dominated pastures).

Even on the best country, ground cover levels are likely to decline in very low rainfall years. A grazing regime with light to moderate pasture utilisation rates will maintain and/or improve ground cover over the long term and play a pivotal role capturing and using rainfall for improved productivity and water quality.

Soil fauna activity Soil fauna activity by termites and earthworms etc. is critical for landscape health, particularly soil health and water infiltration rates. The superior infiltration rates in 3p grass patches appear to be a direct consequence of the greater abundance and activity of the soil macro and micro-fauna in these patches. Healthy 3p grasses also have strong root systems, which encourage soil fauna activity essential for nutrient cycling and soil health. Good ground cover and pasture composition, a healthy tree-grass balance and reduced trampling all promote soil fauna activity and consequently, soil health.

Managing to maximise rainfall use and minimise sediment loss requires an integrated management approach which considers all indicators of land condition.

Reference

Definition of ABCD land condition framework