[ASC-media] Media release: camels to help save the Outback

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Fri Sep 22 08:12:40 CEST 2006

Stories from 15th Australian Weeds Conference, Adelaide, 24-28 Sept 2006

Media Release 22 Sept 2006 

1. It's a tough pest-eat-weed world out there

The phrase 'dog-eat-dog' in the tough real world took on new meaning this week when scientists applied it to the havoc that weeds cause in Australian ecosystems. 

One of the worst weeds of the rangelands is parkinsonia, a plant from central America that now infests approximately 1 million ha of land across northern Australia. It is established in thickets, especially along watercourses, in the Pilbara and the Kimberley in Western Australia, and in much of the Northern Territory and Queensland. Scientists estimate that parkinsonia has the potential to invade more
than three-quarters of mainland Australia.

However, in work presented at the 15th Australian Weeds Conference in Adelaide this week, researchers reported that one of Australia's worst feral pests, the camel, happily dines out on the invasive shrub.

Parkinsonia plants are capable of producing thousands of seed pods per year. But in a study at Charters Towers in Queensland, camels were found to reduce the pods to just one per shrub.

John McKenzie from the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water said the impact of camels could provide a neat containment strategy for pastoralists while they put in place bigger plans for parkinsonia control. In Queensland where camels are not a declared pest, a small number of land managers have been using domesticated camels for several years to control woody weeds such as parkinsonia and prickly acacia.

Besides parkinsonia, camels also eat some native flora, but whether this will result in any marked ecological impact needs further research.

Contact: John McKenzie  Qld DNRW,  (07) 4761 5718 bh 
When available: bh Mon-Fri 
Conference attendance:  Yes

2. Weed invaders free riding on global development 

Invasive plants and animals are having an international field day, or century, free riding on booming global trade and development, according to visiting US scientist Prof. Hal Mooney of Stanford University. 

Presenting the keynote 'CAWS Oration' (Council of Australasian Weed Societies) at the 15th Australian Weeds Conference in Adelaide this week, Prof. Mooney said that around the world there were now thousands of plant species actively invading new regions where people had deliberately or accidentally taken them. In his view there were about 22 000 plant species world-wide able to invade ecosystems when moved to other locations or countries.

Before humanity started moving plants around the world in such numbers, the rate of natural movement was extremely low. In Australia, for instance, scientists are only sure of a single introduction before European settlement, namely the tamarind tree from Indonesia.  However, since 1788, over 30 000 species of plants had been introduced to Australia, mostly ornamentals, and 3000 of which were now reproducing freely in the wild. 

The main reasons for the global weed explosion, according to Prof. Mooney, are (1) global trade, (2) the atmospheric increase in CO2, (3) nitrogen pollution caused by human activities, and (4) climate change.

Prof. Mooney says faster and more effective international cooperation is needed to stem the tide. Article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity requires all its 150 signatory nations to take real action, but Prof. Mooney says that so far not enough is being done.

In the meantime, say scientists, native ecosystems around the world are being invaded by common weeds leading to a global 'dumbing down' of biodiversity.

Contact: Prof. Hal Mooney, Stanford University, California, USA
When available: 24-28 Sept via Weeds Conf media room 
Conference attendance:  Yes

Further information

Media unable to reach any of the above sources can contact the Weeds Conference media room (Meeting Room 8, 1st floor, Adelaide Convention Centre) at the Weeds Conference from Monday 25 to Thursday 28 September. The main contact officers will be:

Mr Peter Martin 0429 830 366
Ms Rita Reitano 0419 184 153

Main tel. no. for the Adelaide Convention Centre: 08-8212 4099

Images available 

Images will be available from Thurs 21 Sept for the above stories, downloadable from http://www.plevin.com.au/15AWC2006/media.htm.

More information about the ASC-media mailing list