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The mallee

Deser Baeckea

What are mallee ecosystems?

Mallee ecosystems take their name from the small, multi-stemmed eucalypts which feature lignotubers (mallee roots) just below the soil surface, which store carbohydrates and water, and allow the tree to reshoot from the base if stems are destroyed by fire.

The blanket of sandy soil which characterises the mallee, has created a gentle scenery and superficially simple landscape, with species of mallee and understorey of saltbush, heathy shrubs, sedges, grasses or ephemeral herbs varying subtly according to soil type, depth and salinity.

Mallee facts

  • Low, unreliable rainfall, high summer temperatures and poor fertility of the sandy soils are a key characteristic – leading some parts to be called ‘deserts’
  • Surprisingly diverse flora and fauna including many species of reptiles
  • Small nocturnal ground-dwelling mammals use burrows for breeding and protection
  • Has a distinctive range of birds including the Mallee Fowl which constructs huge mounds of sand and litter to incubate its eggs
  • Parrots are prominent, including the colourful Mallee Ringneck, Major Mitchell Cockatoo and Regent Parrot.

Threats

  • Grazing by exotic animals (e.g. rabbits, goats)
  • Predation by foxes
  • Weed invasion
  • Increased temperatures and decreased rainfall are potential threats to species that already ‘live on the edge’
  • A potential increase in the frequency of large, intense fire events is also a threat to species that require ‘old-growth’ habitat.

Where do I find mallee ecosystems?

Find out more

Deptartment of Environment and Primary Industries – Distribution map and information about mallee ecosystems found in Victoria.

Melbourne Museum – Mallee in Victoria – Information about Victoria’s mallee and a video about the conservation of the Malleefowl.

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