Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
    Australia warned of increased risk from invasive buffel grass

    Researchers have warned of the increased risk to people, homes, and biodiversity in Australia due to the spread of unmanaged invasive grasses like buffel grass. Buffel grass was inadvertently introduced to Australia in the 1870s and was later deliberately used to improve degraded rangelands and suppress dust. However, it has now spread beyond its planted areas and is present in every mainland state and territory. Buffel grass is highly flammable and able to grow vigorously, building thick fuel loads throughout the landscape. Without diligent, ongoing management, it poses a real threat to human life and housing, particularly in remote communities.

    The spread of buffel grass in Hawaii was highlighted when the island of Maui suffered deadly fires, with invasive grass species covering a quarter of the state. Invasive grasses in Australia, like buffel grass, also pose a threat to property, people, and biodiversity. They can cause bigger and hotter fires compared to natural conditions, and completely change the landscape. Buffel grass has the ability to spread across 60 to 70% of Australia and is predicted to increase with climate change. It is currently mainly found in arid regions but is expected to spread further south.

    Efforts to manage buffel grass have been implemented in South Australia, where it has been declared a weed. A strategic plan has been developed to guide its management through a zoning approach. However, managing buffel grass is labor-intensive and costly due to its widespread distribution, often in remote areas. The Northern Territory is also considering declaring buffel grass a weed. More awareness of the threat and funding for its management is needed. Scientists have highlighted the issue of introduced grasses and their associated fire risk in a global report on invasive alien species.

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