I understand at present the West MacDonnells National Park is …

Comment on Buffel inaction makes mockery of parks hype by Alex Nelson.

I understand at present the West MacDonnells National Park is under assessment for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s perhaps worth considering that the Great Barrier Reef’s continuing status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is threatened by the environmental degradation this region is suffering from climate change-induced coral bleaching, increased sedimentation and consequent algae / seaweed proliferation, and frequent predation from outbreaks of Crown of Thorns starfish.
In my opinion the integrity of the natural environment of the West MacDonnells, indeed of the entire range system and also other regions, is under severe threat from the encroachment of buffel grass.
Should this threat continue to advance, the listing of the West MacDonnells must surely be a dubious prospect or may be short-lived if the listing proceeds.
Peter Latz isn’t alone in his criticism of buffel grass. My father informed me that George Chippendale, the first government botanist of the NT, expressed reservations about the wisdom of introducing buffel grass into Central Australia, and that was at the time of the notorious drought of the 1960s.
I remember in the early 1980s Frank McEllister, the senior horticulture technical officer in the NT Department of Primary Production, regularly cursing the proliferation of buffel grass at the Horticulture Block at AZRI (which ironically was the same site in the early 1960s where the CSIRO conducted a trial for the introduction of pasture grasses, finding a range of buffel grass types potentially of greatest potential for this purpose in Central Australia. I hasten to add that the CSIRO was by no means alone in this kind of research work).
Frank pointed out to me several times the disparity in the relative value of production (at least potentially) per unit area of land between horticulture and pastoralism, with the former far superior than the latter; however, while buffel grass is considered useful for grazing, it represents a serious cost to horticulture because of its weediness.
It was Penny van Oosterzee who I believe was the first person in Alice Springs to publicly highlight the threat buffel grass posed to the natural environment, in an article published in the Centralian Advocate in 1987.
That sparked a war of words which I now regret included myself in defending the work that had been done to introduce buffel grass.
However, Penny’s article opened my eyes and I began to realise through my own observations she is correct.
I’ve had a bit to say myself on this topic, see http://youtu.be/5YU_la8jQEo (A theory on roo poo) and http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1444.html (Buffel grass increasing flood risk in The Alice? COMMENT by ALEX NELSON).

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Buffel inaction makes mockery of parks hype
@ Ian Sharp (Posted July 7, 2016 at 12:29 pm): There has been research on the genetics of buffel grass, Ian, conducted on sites across northern Australia over a decade ago.
The study revealed that the genetics of buffel grass in areas where it’s been long established cannot be traced back with any certainty to the original strains that were sown in the first place – in short, buffel grasses are evolving into local strains that adapt the species best for the localised environmental conditions wherever it grows.
Unlike nearly every other introduced problem species, buffel grass has a varied genetic base from all the different strains that have been systematically trialled and sown across Australia, giving it an enormous advantage to evolve and adapt to Australian conditions. There’s no hope whatsoever of distinguishing buffel grasses grown on pastoral leases from those advancing into areas of high conservation value.
Buffel grass is just one of a suite of exotic plant species that were introduced for improved pasture and/or soil conservation. In the Top End this included Mission Grass, Para Grass and Gamba Grass, all now declared noxious weeds despite their usefulness for grazing.
In the Centre and other inland regions across Australia for many years Athel Pine was officially recommended and planted for erosion control, wind breaks and shade, but today is classified as one of the worst noxious weed species in the country.
The history of Athels in Central Australia parallels that of buffel grass but our responses to the environmental threats they pose have diverged markedly – and frankly Athels have far less ability to invade across the landscape than does buffel grass.

Buffel inaction makes mockery of parks hype
@ Peter (Posted June 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm): Oh, don’t tempt me, Peter, wouldn’t I just like to trial the release of these insects.
Given the reluctance of relevant government bodies to confront this issue, it’s probably a matter of time when someone will take matters into their own hands.

Buffel inaction makes mockery of parks hype
@ Peter (Posted June 28, 2016 at 11:24 am): Thanks for your comment but it’s not the case that birds can’t eat buffel grass seed. I’ve observed four species (galahs, cockatiels, budgerigars and zebra finches) that eat this seed, and have photographs of most doing this; however, they only do so in specific situations (along roadsides or where grass has been mown or slashed) and consume only a tiny fraction of the amount of seed produced.
Zebra finches were probably the first birds locally to be observed eating buffel grass seed, they used to raid seed stocks held in storage by the Soil Conservation Unit several decades ago when this grass was being systematically established around the Alice Springs Airport.
I’ve also observed and photographed termites and seed-harvesting ants collecting buffel grass seed but again in quantities usually insufficient to adversely affect the spread of this grass.
One exception appears to be during extended dry periods or droughts when termites apparently temporarily deplete buffel grass seeds in the soil bank but this is rapidly restored when surviving grass clumps respond to good rainfall.
There are also two species of sap-sucking insects which I’ve observed and photographed on healthy green buffel grass foliage. One of these is a type of white-fly, although its infestations on the undersides of buffel foliage give it the appearance of a scale infestation. T
hese insects are farmed by ants which feed on the honeydew that they exude. I first noticed the white-fly at the AZRI Horticulture Block in the early 1980s.
Once again, these insects appear to cause no significant impact on the health and vigour of buffel grass but they are potentially vectors of viral diseases.
Finally, there is a native species of caterpillar in southeast Queensland that has so readily adapted to the consumption of buffel grass seed-heads that it is considered a commercial pest.
It’s actually known as Buffel Seed-head Caterpillar and has been problematic in Queensland since at least the 1980s. I have a Queensland Agriculture Department Agnote paper from that time which provides advice on how to manage this insect species infestation of buffel grass pastures.
Indeed, when the infestation is too heavy, the recommendation is simply to plough all the grass into the ground and start again! It’s clear from this that there are already a few potential natural control agents for the spread of buffel grass.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Car crashed into supermarket, alcohol stolen
Certainly not the first time that kind of offence has occurred at those premises!

Nationals in Canberra run Country Liberals media
Perhaps it’s splitting hairs but there were two previous Trades and Labour Councils established in Alice Springs before Warren Snowdon “founded” the Central Australian Regional TLC.
The first was in December 1976 when Miscellaneous Workers Union officials Bill Thomson, from Sydney, and Ray Rushbury (Melbourne) arrived here to establish the Alice Springs Trades and Labour Council, as an adjunct to the TLC in Darwin. This was achieved by the end of the year, and Rushbury was appointed the permanent organiser in late 1977.
In early 1977 the Alice Springs TLC shared office space with the NT ALP in Reg Harris Lane. The new NT Labor leader, Jon Isaacs, was the secretary of the MWU in Darwin – he rose to prominence during 1976 when the North Australian Railway was closed.
The first Alice Springs TLC appeared to have become defunct by the end of the decade. In January 1981 a new organiser, Ray Ciantar from Perth, was appointed to re-activate the Alice Springs TLC but with responsibility extending to Tennant Creek and other regional communities; however, this effort seems to have been even less successful than the first.
The third “founding” of the TLC in Alice Springs was by Warren Snowdon in 1985, this time called the Central Australian TLC.

Wards for Alice council, including one for town camps?
Wards for the Alice Springs Town Council are not a new idea but have never been supported by the NT Government.
There was discussion about wards in the mid-1990s, which was firmly rejected by the government.
It was also raised by candidate Steve Strike during the town council election campaign in May 1988. Like Eli Melky’s current proposal, Strike also suggested five wards, each with two aldermen; however, he didn’t overlook the rural area on that occasion over 30 years ago (the other wards suggested were for Eastside, Gillen, Braitling and the Gap Area).
The town’s municipal boundaries were expanded significantly in early 1988, incorporating the whole rural area for the first time despite widespread opposition from affected residents. The idea of a ward system was the final suggestion to differentiate the rural area from the town, after calls for a separate community government and a shire were rejected by the NT Government.
It’s interesting to note that during the operation of the original Alice Springs Progress Association from 1947 to 1960, the town was divided into wards a couple of times for choosing delegates onto the association. The wards were the (now old) Eastside, town centre (now the CBD), the south side of the town, and the Farm Area along what is now Ragonesi Road. The town’s population grew from about 2000 to over 3000 residents during this period, which was long before there was a town council.
One person who represented the south ward from 1958 onwards was Bernie Kilgariff, kickstarting what was to become an illustrious career in NT politics.
Personally I support the concept of wards; for one thing, it would substantially reduce the cost and inconvenience of town council by-elections.
With regard to increasing the number of councillors from eight to 10; well, it’s just over a decade ago the reverse occurred.
Moreover, the ASTC first started off with eight aldermen (plus the mayor) in 1971 until 1977, when the number was increased to 10.
Here we go again?

Move School of the Air to Anzac High building
@ Watch’n (Posted April 15, 2019 at 4:48 am): Remember when the Drive-in was de-listed? To make way for real estate? Wasn’t that a great development.

Gallery fiasco: school heritage process ‘massively flawed’
It’s obvious the majority of voters in Araluen got it right in the last Territory election campaign.

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