On this page:


Our five-yearly ecological outcomes reports outline our progress and show how we're tracking against our goals for each species and ecosystem. Scientists from the Arthur Rylah Institute conduct monitoring for the MSA Program, and they look at measures like population counts and weed levels.

Take a look below to see the key findings for the Ecological Outcomes Report (2014 to 2020) or view the PDF document below.

Senecio macrocarpus flower Mount Cottrell_MarciaRiederer
Button wrinklewort

For the 2014 to 2020 period, we found that for golden sun moth, striped legless lizard, natural temperate grassland and seasonal herbaceous wetland, all our targets were met.

For the other species and ecosystems, too few locations or not enough time under MSA Program management meant that we didn't have enough data to set a baseline. A baseline is like a starting point for any research - it's important as it helps us track our progress.

Over the coming years, more conservation sites will be transferred into the MSA Program, which means increased monitoring, better data and more detailed reporting

Key findings

Key Findings

About the natural temperate grassland ecosystem

  • Filled with native grasses, wildflowers and a scattering of shrubs and trees, these grasslands once covered much of the Victorian volcanic plains.
  • Today, less than 1% of this unique ecosystem remains.
  • Now confined to a few small remaining patches.


  • Weed invasion, over-growth of grass

Conservation goals

  • Improve the composition, structure and function of the grassland

Conservation targets

  1. Grassland does not change from a more to a less desirable state (hasn’t been assessed).
  2. The area covered by native wildflowers expands or stays the same.
  3. The number of different wildflower species expands or stays the same.
  4. The area covered by kangaroo grass stays the same (or increases, in cases where it is absent).
  5. The area covered by any native grasses, excluding Kangaroo grass, stays the same.
  6. There is always a good balance between areas with dense grass growth and areas with open ground.
  7. The area covered by weed species decreases.


Monitoring began in 2013, and the overall quality of the grassland remained relatively steady. In permanent plots, the cover of weeds generally decreased. In most years, there was a good balance of open and dense areas. Other key highlights:

  • Valuable native wildflowers  remained above the baseline, this includes many rare species.
  • Cover of kangaroo grass was maintained.

Cover of other native grasses such as spear grass and wallaby grass species remained above the baseline.

About the grassy eucalypt woodland

  • When intact, the grassy eucalypt woodland canopy is dominated by the majestic river red gums, with an understory of shrubs, grasses and wildflowers.
  • Other eucalypt species, like swamp gum and yellow box are sometimes found here too.
  • Home to threatened animals and plants, including the matted flax lily and the striped legless lizard.


  • Weeds, overgrowth of young river red gum saplings, excessively hot fire

Conservation goals

  • Improve the composition, structure and function of the woodland


We could not assess the woodlands as not enough sites have been protected through the MSA program.

About the seasonal herbaceous wetlands

  • Isolated, shallow, freshwater wetlands occurring on fertile clay soils.
  • Generally low and open, the vegetation is made up of native grasses, sedges, wildflowers and ferns which survive in both wet and dry conditions.
  • Filled by rainfall but can remain dry for long periods.
  • During dry periods, the wetlands may seem to disappear from the landscape, but remain vital habitat for numerous plants and animals.

Conservation goal

  • Improve the composition, structure and function of the seasonal wetlands in all areas where it is protected

Conservation targets

The following targets are tracked every summer, and whenever the wetlands have filled with water:

  • richness (diversity) of native wildflowers is above the baseline
  • percentage of weed cover is below the baseline.

Conservation threats

  • Weeds


All targets met

The overall quality of the wetlands remained steady.

  • The diversity of valuable native wildflowers remained steady, including important ‘indicator’ species, which signify high-quality sites.
  • Weed cover did generally not increase. Continually reducing weed cover will help important, longer-lived native wildflower species to flourish.

About the button wrinklewort

  • A small native, long-lived daisy, the button wrinklewort has several yellow flowerheads during spring and summer.
  • Once widespread south of the Great Dividing Range, it’s now restricted to remnants in south-western Victoria and around Melbourne.
  • It grows in grassy woodlands and grasslands, generally in places free from intense overgrowth by other plants, particularly weeds and grasses.
  • Only one location within the MSA area – Truganina Cemetery Grassland – contains button wrinklewort.
  • The department is partnering with LaTrobe University’s Nangak Tamborree Wildlife Sanctuary to boost population numbers and genetic diversity.

Conservation threats

  • Competition from introduced species, genetic decline, and altered fire regimes

Conservation goals

  • No substantial negative change to the population of button wrinklewort within the program area

Conservation target

  • The 5-year average of population counts must remain above a baseline. This baseline is set by the first 5 years of population counts.


  • In 2020, we completed the first 5 years of data collection at the site, so we have a baseline. This means we can measure our progress in the next reporting period.
  • The population was relatively steady, despite generally low recruitment (new seedlings) and some mortality after a fire in 2020. Weed levels remain consistently low.

About the large-fruit groundsel

  • Native daisy with grey foliage with yellow flowers, growing to around 40 cm.
  • Lives in grassy woodlands and grasslands, generally preferring more open spaces with less competition from taller plants.

Conservation threats

  • Introduced species and altered fire regimes

Conservation goal

  • No substantial negative change to the population of large-fruit groundsel within the program area

Conservation target

  • The 5-year average of population counts must remain above the baseline set from the first 5 years of counts.


  • The only large population within the MSA program area has not yet been protected and is not currently monitored. One smaller population, discovered in one of our conservation areas in 2017, has declined slightly from 17 to 12 plants. The baseline for this population was set in 2021.

About the matted flax-lily

  • Found in native grasslands, this lily was once widespread but is now restricted to small pockets, scattered across Victoria.
  • A long-lived native flower with grey-green leaves and blue or violet star-shaped flowers.
  • Forms mats up to 5m wide.
  • During dry periods it retreats underground, which can make detection difficult.

Conservation threats

  • Overgrazing and weed invasion

Conservation goal

  • No decrease in matted flax-lily population

Conservation target

  • Yearly detection rate of known plants must remain above the baseline set from the first 5 years of monitoring.


  • Not enough data to draw any conclusion about trends.The first 5 years of monitoring finished in 2021 and we have a baseline. The data shows that the population is steady, with no evidence of decline.

About the small golden moths orchid

  • Small orchid around 15cm tall, with a single stem supporting one to two small yellow flowers.
  • Each summer it retreats underground and at other times when conditions aren’t favourable.
  • Only found on the Keilor and Werribee Plains.

Conservation goal

  • No substantial negative change to the population of small golden moths orchid


  • The small golden moths orchid is only known at one location, but this has not yet been protected so no monitoring has occurred.

About the spiny rice-flower

  • This delicate shrub with tiny white flowers reaches around 30 cm high and is found on fertile plains such as the Victorian Volcanic Plain of western Victoria.
  • Living for up to 100 years, usually lives in grasslands, particularly near kangaroo and wallaby grass species.
  • It also occurs in small numbers on four other sites.


  • Overgrowth by native grasses as a result of changed fire regimes, weed invasion

Conservation goal

  • No substantial decrease to the population, and the population is self-sustaining

Conservation targets

  • The 5-year average population count (individual plants measured in clusters) must remain above a baseline set by the first 5 years of the survey.
  • Recruits (babies) must form over 10% of the MSA-wide population in at least one year of the 10-year reporting period.


  • Monitoring of these populations began in 2019. Results show that both sites had relatively low weed cover, and there are several hundred plants of spiny rice-flower.

About the golden sun moth

  • Changes in land-use (primarily for agriculture) have led to population decline, and this little moth is now only found in smaller patches in south-eastern Australia.
  • Wingspan of around 3 cm.
  • Active during the day rather than at night.
  • Female lays eggs in the base of wallaby grass, and the larvae feed on the roots for up to 2 years before they emerge as adult moths.
  • Females are unable to fly very far, so with scattered populations, the genetic variations needed for a healthy population can be lost.

The golden sun moth is found in the Western Grassland Reserve.


  • Excessive vegetation, predators (birds), loss of food plants


  • Ensure the golden sun moth persists in the areas under MSA management


  • The 5-year mean proportion of monitoring sites occupied by the golden sun moth must remain above a baseline set by the first 5 years of the survey.


Target met

  • This indicates progress towards our conservation goal. We now monitor 11 permanent sites for golden sun moth.

About the growling grass frog

  • One of Australia’s largest frogs, with a distinctive growling call that sounds like a motorbike.
  • Usually found in still or slow-moving water pools filled with various aquatic plants and close to open grasslands.
  • These are ideal locations to find the small insects and other foods it lives on.


  • Disease, habitat loss, predators


  • Ensure the growling grass frog persists within the MSA area


  • The proportion of sites occupied in a given year in each of the 7 identified growling grass frog corridors will remain above a baseline set by the first 5 years of monitoring.


  • The growling grass frog is found at several locations in the MSA area. During this time period, no monitoring occurred as these locations were still in private ownership.

About the southern brown bandicoot

  • This little bandicoot grows up to 30 cm long.
  • Lives in the dense undergrowth of grassy woodlands and grasslands, which helps to protect the bandicoot from predators.
  • Eats insects, fruits, seeds and fungi.
  • An important ‘ecosystem engineer’, helping keep the bushland ecosystems healthy.


  • Predators (foxes, cats and dogs)


  • Ensure the southern brown bandicoot persists within the management area


  • The proportion of sites occupied by the southern brown bandicoot will remain above a baseline set by the first 5 years of monitoring.


Not enough data available, but key highlights include:

  • In 2019, we completed the first round of surveys which enabled us to establish baselines for the species, based on the different habitat types it uses. We’ll measure our performance against these in the next reporting period in 2024.
  • Overall, the results for this reporting period are encouraging. They tell us that the southern brown bandicoot persists despite land use changes and urbanisation. That puts us well on the way to meeting our conservation goal.

About the striped legless lizard

  • A small, thin, reptile growing up to around 30 cm.
  • Remaining populations are found mainly in Melbourne’s outer west.
  • Often mistaken for a young snake, this little lizard is easily distinguished by stripes along its body and small flaps that act as back legs.
  • A long-lived species, sheltering in soil cracks, crevices, under rocks or at the base of clumps of grass, so it’s rarely seen.


  • Loss of native grasslands


  • Ensure the striped legless lizard persists in the MSA program area


  • Evidence of the striped legless lizard at least once in every 5-year period at 100% of permanent monitoring sites (sites where detections were previously recorded).


Target met.

  • During 2014 to 2020, we found evidence of the striped legless lizard at 11 different sites, including Mt Cottrell and Truganina South Nature Conservation Reserves.
  • We also collected data on other environmental factors including weeds, bare ground and rock cover. At both Mount Cottrell and Truganina South, levels of bare ground and rock cover, and weeds, remained stable over the monitoring period. These are positive indications that suitable habitat and conditions for the striped legless lizard are being maintained.


To ensure each species and ecosystem has the best chance of survival, the conservation areas are managed to maintain the appropriate habitat, using techniques such as ecological burning and weed control. We also use an adaptive management approach.

This means techniques are adjusted and tweaked over time, depending on what’s working well for each species and ecosystem. In short – we repeat successes and avoid making the same mistakes.

Finally, each species and ecosystem is monitored regularly in the field, using the most suitable techniques and methods.

How we measure progress

Each species and ecosystem has a single conservation goal and one or more targets that show how we will achieve that goal – we measure our progress against the goal by tracking these targets. Most targets need each species or ecosystem to remain above a baseline (in cases where we want high measurements, such as the population number of threatened species) or below a baseline (in cases where we want low measurements, such as the amount of weeds).

Reporting results

For most species and for wetlands, results are reported separately for different locations. We have a single measure for all locations for the southern brown bandicoot and golden sun moth. This helps determine if the improvement is consistent or mixed and lets us compare results for different sites under different management regimes.

Newly-discovered populations of EPBC-listed species are also monitored. For the grassland and woodland ecosystems, results are reported separately according to ‘states.’ States are areas of different status within each ecosystem (such as different history or quality).

Reporting on each state helps us understand if the improvement is even or mixed and allows us to have different baselines for different states.

What do the results tell us?

Change in the condition of vegetation and the population of species is usually very slow. Sometimes, it can be hard to separate what influence our management actions are having versus natural influences, such as floods or bushfires. Collecting data over a long period helps us see environmental trends.

All of the species and ecosystems we monitor are threatened and have been in decline since European settlement. We don’t have any site-specific data on the rate of decline before we took over management of these areas. However, we can use monitoring data to set a baseline to understand if our management is stopping any further decline and stabilising populations and beginning to increase populations or the condition of the ecosystems.

It’s important that we remain focused on achieving our conservation goals. We use this data in an adaptive management approach that ensures land management decisions and on-ground actions are responsive to the results of this monitoring.

Page last updated: 13/02/24