MELBOURNE NEWS

Sustainability

Matchstick grasshoppers boost biodiversity

10 August 2022

Hundreds of tiny, flightless grasshoppers have been released in Royal Park as part of a pilot project to help address the biodiversity emergency. 

We have partnered with the University of Melbourne to restore the local population of matchstick grasshoppers – a declining native Australian species that is currently locally extinct in the municipality.

Researchers have collected more than 3000 matchstick grasshoppers from across Victoria, which are being reintroduced to suitable new habitats in Melbourne, including Royal Park in Parkville, Burnley and the Bayside area.

Matchstick grasshopper

A matchstick grasshopper up close

The population will be monitored and assessed over the coming months, with grasshopper numbers hoped to jump into the thousands by 2023.

The experimental translocation is our first-ever attempt at reintroducing a locally extinct species, and an important milestone in our Nature in the City Strategy, which aims to support a diverse and resilient natural environment.

‘Protecting and enhancing locally endangered creatures in our ecosystem could not be more important, so we’re proud to be working with the University of Melbourne to reintroduce matchstick grasshoppers to our wonderful city,’ Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

‘We’re calling on Melburnians to look out for these tiny creepy crawlies and become a citizen scientist, to help us gather information to protect and restore their population.’

A container of matchstick grasshoppers

Matchstick grasshoppers ready for release

Insects like grasshoppers play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem and are an abundant food source for larger animals such as praying mantis, lizards and birds.

The tiny, wingless critters thrive in habitats of everlasting daisies, native grasses and ample sunlight, and in environments that are free from weeds and predators.

The matchstick grasshopper’s population has dwindled in recent years due to a scarcity of suitable environments and an inability to relocate from one habitat to the next.

A word from the University of Melbourne’s biosciences experts

‘The matchstick grasshopper represents a uniquely Australian species that has been a part of Melbourne’s natural environment for hundreds of thousands of years.

‘It’s exciting to see these harmless and charismatic insects returned in the city as the Council recreates new natural environments that can support them.

‘We look forward to these introductions being the start of a process to restore many other invertebrates that formerly called the city home.’

Professor Ary Hoffman
Chair of Ecological Genetics, Biosciences
University of Melbourne

‘Before European settlement, these grasshoppers would have been common and widespread in the grassy areas of Melbourne that the Wurundjeri Willam managed with fire. It’s great to be able to renature Royal Park in this way.

‘Matchstick grasshoppers were a major focus of evolutionary research at The University of Melbourne in the 1960s. We have been able to build on this past work to help save these grasshoppers from extinction around Melbourne.’

Professor Michael Kearney
Biosciences, University of Melbourne

A matchstick grasshopper in a leafy bush

A matchstick grasshopper in the wild

‘Insects are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, playing a vital role in sustaining humanity by pollinating plants, turning over soil and providing food for creatures higher up the food chain,’ said Environment portfolio lead Councillor Rohan Leppert.

‘It’s fantastic to be welcoming the humble matchstick grasshopper back into our environment. We hope to see them flourish, and eventually, restore more species of invertebrates across our city parks, gardens and backyards.’

The project brings together researchers, scientists, community groups and land managers to support biodiversity.

It provides an opportunity to foster local food webs, and has ecological benefits, as well as education and community participation opportunities such as site management and species monitoring.

Scientists at work in a parkland

Team members at work

The collaborative approach facilitates longer-term testing and adaptive management through experimental plots designed as public amenity with aesthetics and park function in mind.

The grasshoppers are being released into habitat sites created through community planting days.

The Matchstick Grasshopper Renaturing project is led by the University of Melbourne and supported by the City of Melbourne.

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