The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) welcomes the NT Greens $9.8 million funding commitment for the management of buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) across Central Australia, in addition to policy announcements around declaring buffel grass of Weed of National Significance, a Key Threatening Process and implementing the Federal Government’s Threat Abatement Advice for buffel grass that was developed in 2014.
Jade Kudrenko, ALEC General Manager says that “this commitment is significant as it represents a step-change in how buffel grass is perceived at the Federal Government level. After decades of inaction and the buffel grass crisis worsening, it is the first time ever that a major Federal political party has recognised that we need to better manage buffel to protect Central Australia’s unique biodiversity and landscapes.”
“It is critical that Federal election candidates and parties step-up and show national leadership around buffel grass. It is the greatest invasive species threat to arid and semi-arid environments”
“It is a transformer of landscapes where it outcompetes native grasses, while promoting hotter and more intense wildfires that destroy shrubs, trees and special places. You can see its devastating impacts where it has monocropped entire landscapes” states Ms Kudrenko.
ALEC Policy Officer, Alex Vaughan says that “these are significant policy commitments which are a no-brainer for all political parties. It is vital that Labor and the Country Liberal Party also recognise the threat and step-up. Ignoring the issue isn’t going to make buffel go away”.
“Buffel grass has already spread across vast regions in Central Australia, from Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Tjoritja/ West Macdonnell Ranges National Parks to Indigenous Protected Areas such as those around the Tanami Desert which are threatened by further invasion. These policy commitments are critical to limiting the further spread of buffel. We need to manage roadsides and waterways which are central to the spread of buffel, stop buffel grass encroaching into areas that are buffel-free, and to have targeted management in areas of ecological and cultural importance. A waterhole army is a great start”.
Mr Vaughan says that “this commitment is exciting as it is focusing on holistic management of buffel grass. We need an integrated approach, building the funding, research and resourcing capacity. Buffel grass is destroying beautiful country and it must be managed to protect and save Central Australia’s biodiversity. Buffel management should be an urgent priority”.
Dr Christine Schlesinger, Senior Lecturer at Charles Darwin University, leads the Arid Zone Wildlife Ecology & Conservation research lab located at the Alice Springs campus says “apart from the obvious impacts of buffel grass on promoting fire and transforming Central Australia’s landscapes there is a large body of evidence showing the widespread impacts on specific flora and fauna. Left unchecked, we expect the impacts of buffel grass will rival those of more recognised threats like feral animals on threatened species such as Slater’s skink (Liopholis slateri slateri) and a host of more common species, as their habitats are increasingly transformed.
“The justification for buffel grass to be recognised as a Key Threatening Process and a Weed of National Significance is based on a solid body of research. Controlling buffel grass in areas with significant environmental and cultural values, and where buffel grass has the greatest impacts, such as waterholes, as a first priority is strongly supported. Buffel grass encroachment is now widespread across arid Australia and affecting diverse ecological communities, each with their own localised and specific conditions that determine how native species are impacted and how it can be most effectively and appropriately be controlled. There is an urgent need to increase research capacity and fund effective management programs.”
“We are seeing the rapid change of Central Australia’s landscapes and ecosystems, as a result of buffel invasion and buffel-fulled fires” states Dr Schlesinger.
Enquiries: Jade Kudrenko, General Manager, Arid Lands Environment Centre, 8952 2497, [email protected]