[ASC-media] CSIRO: Dead or alive - bridal creeper is bad for environment

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Wed Sep 19 04:48:14 CEST 2007


19 September 2007 

Ref 07/187

Dead or alive - bridal creeper is bad for environment

Bridal creeper, a native of southern Africa, is an attractive plant once
much loved by gardeners. Now it is one of southern Australia's worst
environmental weeds. It smothers native vegetation and its huge tuber
mats prevent germination of native plants.

This invasive plant has been successfully targeted by biological control
programs across Australia with control of up to 95 per cent, but until
now little has been known about what happens after the weed is
controlled or killed. The assumption has been that the native bush would
regenerate. 

New research has shown that this is not necessarily so. Instead,
restoration and revegetation projects need to manage the lingering
environmental changes associated with weed invasion.

At the 9th International Conference on the Ecology and Management of
Alien Plant Invasions in Perth 17 - 21 September, researcher Peter
Turner will present the results of his PhD research on the ecological
effects of bridal creeper invasion and its removal.

"Generally native plants are adapted to low nutrient soils while exotic
invasive species prefer more fertile soils," Mr Turner says. "But bridal
creeper has no problem invading low nutrient soils and taking over.

"Our research has shown that once bridal creeper is removed it leaves
behind more fertile soil than when it first invaded and these changes in
soil nutrients could favour invasion by other weeds rather than the
regeneration of the native bush.

"We have shown that soil in areas invaded by this weed in south west
Australia have higher levels of available nutrients than nearby weed
free areas."

A bridal creeper invasion replaces native woody shrubs and increases the
rate of nutrient cycling. It is deciduous at the end of spring and as
its foliage contains higher phosphorous and nitrogen levels than
natives, the decaying foliage adds these nutrients to the soil. Its
tuberous root mat then traps these nutrients.

"One important finding of our research is that restoration and
regeneration work at sites freed from bridal creeper need to take into
account the increased soil fertility or it could just be a case of
exchanging one weed for another," Mr Turner says. "Sites with high
conservation value need to be identified so that the biological control
actions can be used in conjunction with other restoration techniques."

Mr Turner is completing his PhD at the University of Western Australia
and CSIRO Entomology. The research was part of the Cooperative Research
Centre for Australian Weed Management. He has recently moved to Sydney
to develop a national plan aimed at reducing the impacts to native
biodiversity caused by another serious environmental weed, Lantana
camara.

Image available at:
http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/mediarelease/mr07-187.html

Further Information: 
Peter Turner	0401 807 997; turnep01 at student.uwa.edu.au

Media Assistance:
Julie Carter, CSIRO Entomology	02 6246 4040; 0439 033 011;
julie.carter at csiro.au

www.csiro.au

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Beck Eveleigh
Media Assistant
CSIRO Media Liaison
6276 6451
0409 395 010
 


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