Cape York is a bridge between introduced species coming from further south to those coming down from Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait.
Several weeds are declared on the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 because they damage agriculture and grazing areas, wetlands and rainforest habitats. These include several forms of plants, such as sicklepod, pond apple, hymenachne, rubbervine and gamba grass. Feral animals include feral pigs, cats and wild dogs, which have a major impact on native animals, such as turtles, birds, mammals and aquatic species.
Understanding and managing invasive species on Cape York is best done through integrated pest management using multiple techniques, such as shooting, trapping, herbicide control, biocontrol, fire and stock management. This should be integrated with the easiest and best monitoring tools and mapping, also supporting coordination among local landholders and managers.
Cape York people mention the importance of having land free of weeds and feral animals. However, the continuing debates over some of the species shows the value of pest species for different purposes. For example, several grass weeds are used as fodder for cattle, pigs provide meat, wild dogs have an ecological function and several plants are used as garden ornaments.
This complexity of values needs integrated management to balance these uses while containing the impact on surrounding landscapes.
Patterns of weed distributions changes as the plants invade new areas and as people eradicate and contain these infestations. At the same time, there are some notable shifts in feral animal populations. Unfortunately, until the last decade poor surveillance and monitoring has clouded our understanding of the populations and distribution of these invasive species. Recently, local groups are getting more of a chance to manage their own land through access to funding, information and training.
What are the key issues?
Weeds and feral animals on Cape York are one of the major concerns of both environmental groups and farmers. Established invasive species can severely impact agricultural productivity and threaten native animals and habitats. Added to this, new weed infestations, new weed species, more feral animals, the emergence of new diseases and disturbance from cyclones are a constant worry.
Nevertheless, we do not know enough about what the actual threats are and people often disagree about the objectives of pest management. For example, pigs damage wetlands but are a possible source of meat. Dogs threaten cattle but might be an important predator in the natural food chain. Also, some weeds are useful fodder (such as gamba grass) or planted in gardens (such as lantana) but then start taking over native habitats.
One of the possible ways to resolve these issues is to work together to discuss people’s objectives, understand the impact of these species, learn the best ways to control them, then share and develop skills to reduce their impact. Doing this in hard-to-reach remote areas makes integrated pest management a very challenging and long-term issue.
Aspirational Program Goals
- Healthier country, waterways and ecosystems.
- Invasive species are controlled locally by skilled Indigenous rangers, Traditional Owners, community groups and landholders..
- Invasive species impacts are minimised due to integrated and coordinated pest management across Cape York.