Back from the brink
Ornithologist Dr Stephen Murphy is leading efforts to research the newly discovered population of Night Parrots. Dr Murphy takes a moment to discuss the significance of this work.Read More
Bon Bon Station Reserve in South Australia is a true outback marvel, an expansive landscape dotted with shimmering salt lakes, red dune sands supporting mulga trees, open ironstone plains studded with stately myall trees and stunningly beautiful expanses of pearl bluebush.
But Bon Bon’s beauty is threatened by an invasive weed that has been proliferating in Australia since the 1860s, a species some ecologists have called ‘the botanical equivalent of the cane toad’.
Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is an aggressive coloniser that's displacing Bon Bon’s native species and stripping its soils of precious nutrients. Alarmingly, it's also highly flammable. Areas suffering infestations of buffel grass experience wildfires so hot they have the potential to transform entire woodlands (such as the South Australian mulga) into grasslands of a single species.
The invasive weed is native to Africa and Asia, and is believed to have arrived in Australia 150 years ago with Afghan camel trains. Cattlemen took an interest in the grass when they discovered it was drought resistant and able to withstand heavy grazing, and it quickly became the pasture grass of choice among graziers in northern Australia. It's now moving south, often along roads, adapting to more temperate climates where it's not wanted.
Thankfully, however, the species has now been declared a weed in South Australia. At Bush Heritage’s Bon Bon Station, reserve managers Mike Chuk and Julia Harris are leading one of the largest buffel grass eradication projects taking place on a single property in Australia.
“In the pastoral districts of South Australia buffel grass has the potential to outcompete native plant species and change the fire regime to produce hotter, more severe wildfires, as well as altering habitats and impacting on biodiversity,” Mike says.
It’s the major weed threat on Bon Bon Station Reserve.
Since 2013 more than 70,000 litres of herbicide mix has been sprayed on Bon Bon Station Reserve to specifically target buffel grass. Overall, a 65km length of the Stuart Highway has been treated, along with a further 55km of minor roads and 2km of creek line.
In a systematic approach to bringing infestations under control, this work has been carried out concurrently by Bush Heritage volunteers, SA Main Roads, the SA Arid Lands NRM Board and the Native Vegetation Council.
While work continues on the ground, Bush Heritage will also embark on a new science and research‑based approach to better understand the impact of buffel grass. Honours students from Flinders University will join Bush Heritage Ecologist Aaron Fenner to investigate the impact of buffel grass on biodiversity.
It’s hoped that by better understanding how buffel grass interacts with native species, we can eventually introduce more robust and targeted strategies to eradicate it.
“The battle against buffel grass at Bon Bon will continue for many years,” Mike says. “Continued vigilance, monitoring and regular treatment will be key, along with supporting community efforts to reduce the weed in surrounding areas.”
Buffel grass first arrived in Australia 150 years ago with Afghan camel trains and, due to its ability to withstand heavy grazing, quickly became the pasture grass of choice in northern Australia. Today it's an invasive weed that produces wildfires so hot it has the potential to transform entire woodlands into grasslands of a single species.
Since the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) was established in 2013, Bush Heritage has been fostering a partnership with the traditional owners – the Martu people – and the Central Desert Native Title Services Land and Community Team. The Martu people were granted native title to 136,000 square kilometres of their country in 2002, the largest native title determination in Australian history at the time.Read More
It was an emotional moment for Meredith Geyer and her family as they arrived at South Australia's Boolcoomatta Reserve and entered the renovated shearers' quarters. Fixed to the wall beside the fireplace is a stained timber board acknowledging the generous donors and benefactors who have helped to fund Bush Heritage's work at Boolcoomatta. Meredith's father, John Weightman, who passed away two years ago, is the latest name to be included on the plaque.Read More
Bush Heritage Australia is leading the recovery effort to secure one of the world’s rarest birds, the mysterious Night Parrot. In 2013 Queensland naturalist John Young set the ornithological world atwitter after sighting and photographing a bird that has been the ‘Holy Grail’ for birdwatchers, the enigmatic Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis), a bird so rare and elusive that it's bordered on the mythological.Read More