Biodiversity priorities for widespread weeds

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Dr Peter Turner

Department of Primary Industries and Office of Environment and Heritage, Hurstville, New South Wales.

Cite this article as:

Turner, P. (2012). Biodiversity priorities for widespread weeds [Book Review]. Plant Protection Quarterly 27(4), 139.

There are over 340 weed species currently identified as impacting biodiversity across New South Wales (NSW, Australia). Many of these weeds are listed as Key Threatening Processes under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. That is, these weeds are placing NSW’s most threatened native species and ecological communities at risk. Although “prevention is better than cure” most of the weeds in NSW that are having the greatest impact on biodiversity are widespread.

Once a weed is widespread, management programs within the core distribution should become site-led. That is, the purpose of control is to protect or reduce the impact on assets at risk at particular sites. Such an approach is consistent with Goal 3 of the NSW Invasive Species Plan. Distinguishing between weed-led and site-led programs keeps the focus on what is to be achieved from the weed management.

Evidence-based decision making and risk assessments should feature in prioritising weed management programs. To reduce the impacts on the environment and to ensure maximum benefit, resources need to be prioritised to sites where control is both achievable and likely to have the greatest benefit to native biodiversity, independent of land tenure (Williams et al. 2009).

Development of the threat abatement plan (TAP) for Chrysanthemoides monilifera (L.) Norl. (bitou bush and boneseed) in NSW (DEC 2006) led to a process for identifying and prioritising biological assets at risk from a widespread weed and sites for control. This TAP approach was subsequently applied to Lantana camara L. nationally (NLMG 2010), and was most recently adapted to identify and prioritise widespread weeds and sites for weed management within each Catchment Management Authority (CMA) region in NSW.

The report entitled ‘Biodiversity priorities for widespread weeds’ was published last year (DPI and OEH 2011). It includes a statewide framework detailing the background and process, and 13 region-specific strategies for each CMA region (Parts A-M). The main aim of these strategies is to minimise adverse impacts of widespread weeds on biodiversity. The strategies achieve this through identifying the highest priority programs within each CMA region, ensuring that actions are achievable and deliver measurable outcomes.

Thirty nine workshops were held across NSW between 2007 and 2009 and using existing research and workshop outcomes, interim lists of priority weeds and biodiversity at risk were created. Workshop participants and other stakeholders were then asked to nominate sites (across all tenures) for assessment. As a result, each CMA regional strategy identifies:

the major widespread weed threats;

the biological assets (native species and ecological communities) at risk from the weeds identified in step 1; and

sites for management where the major weeds are impacting the biological assets at risk.

Identified sites were prioritised based on the threat to biological assets and the likelihood of achieving a positive biodiversity response. To date, information on 2 614 weed management sites across NSW (including those from the Bitou TAP and Lantana Plan) has been collected and prioritised. As this is an ongoing, dynamic process site lists are held electronically so they can be updated as new information becomes available.

The development of these regional strategies now provides land managers and other stakeholders with a strategic approach to widespread environmental weed management across NSW.

For more information and to download documents mentioned in this review see:


Dr Peter Turner

NSW OEH, Hurstville


DEC, Department of Environment and Conservation (2006). NSW Threat Abatement Plan-Invasion of native plant communities by Chrysanthemoides monilifera (bitou bush and boneseed). (New South Wales Department of Environment and Conservation, Hurstville, Sydney). 85 pp.

NLMG, National Lantana Management Group (2010). Plan to protect environmental assets from Lantana. (Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Yeerongpilly, Brisbane). 68 pp.

NSW DPI and OEH, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and Office of Environment and Heritage (2011). ‘Biodiversity priorities for widespread weeds’. Report prepared for the 13 Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) by NSW Department of Primary Industries and Office of Environment and Heritage, Orange. (Authors: Whiffen, L.K., Williams, M.C., Izquierdo, N., Downey, P.O., Turner, P.J., Auld, B.A. and Johnson S.B.). State framework and 13 parts.

Williams, M.C., Auld, B.A, Whiffen, L.K. and Downey, P.O. (2009). Elephants in the room: widespread weeds and biodiversity. Plant Protection Quarterly 24, 120-2.

This article has been modified with the authors permission from and article presented in ‘A Good Weed’ (2012) Newsletter of the Weed Society of New South Wales 57, 11.


First published online: December 15, 2012