Buffel grass is now considered to be the single greatest environmental threat to arid ecosystems. It out-competes native grasses and is transforming landscapes , leading to more dangeous fires, significant biodiversity loss and loss of Aboriginal culture.
- Native to parts of Africa and Asia, Buffel Grass is a perennial tussock grass that was introduced to Central Australia in the 1960s and 70s to provide pasture for stock and to stabilise soils that were eroded as a result of overgrazing. It has since invaded much of Central Australia.
- Buffel has an extremely high fuel load and causes very hot, widespread, frequent fires. It is the first plant to come back after fire.
- Such fires pose risk to wildlife, native vegetation as well as human safety. The MacDonnell Ranges are recognised by the Federal Government as one of twenty priority places nationally for threatened species conservation, yet they’re overrun by buffel grass.
- Buffel competes with native plants, smothering desert ecosystems. It has spread widely in the last 20-30 years, which means its full impact has not been realised nor mapped.
- Aboriginal people are leaders in land management and have been working to manage Buffel’s impacts for years. Buffel ranks higher than any other environmental threat in terms of its social and cultural impacts for Aboriginal people. As buffel spreads it affects the availability of bush tucker, threatens sacred sites and cultural practice.
- Buffel is still not considered a weed in the Northern Territory and continues to be grown on pastoral properties. This is under review and the Buffel Technical Working Group is due to hand its findings to Minister Kate Worden on 30th November 2023.
The good news is that research shows once buffel is properly managed, native flora and fauna can bounce back. There is an urgent need to prevent the deliberate spread of buffel grass and for management on a much larger scale in the NT.
ALEC is campaigning for:
- Buffel grass to be declared a class A/B weed (see Weed declaration classes) in the Northern Territory and listed as a Weed of National Significance
- Strategic, coordinated and committed action to slow the spread and manage this exotic species at local, regional, Territory and National levels.
- The distribution of buffel grass to be mapped, enabling monitoring opportunities to track the spread and impact of buffel and further research on buffel’s impacts upon different ecological communities.
Landscape scale solutions, driven by research, including biological control
Scaling-up of efforts to inform and engage the community around the threat buffel grass poses.