An introduction to the symposium: Managing weeds for conservation of biodiversity in New South Wales

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Authors

Stephen B. Johnson

Weed Research Unit, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 6006, Orange, New South Wales 2800, Australia.

Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 833 Orange, New South Wales 2800, Australia.

Peter J. Turner and Hillary Cherry

New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, New South Wales 1481, Australia.


Cite as:

Johnson, S.B., Turner, P.J. and Cherry, H. (2015) An introduction to the symposium: Managing weeds for conservation of biodiversity in New South Wales. Plant Protection Quarterly. 30(3), 72-75.


Introduction

Weed conferences held throughout Australia and New Zealand offer an opportunity for weed professionals, land managers and researchers to progress the challenges faced and share ideas, best practice and current research, for example see CAWS (2015) and WS NSW (2015). The 18th New South Wales Weeds Conference will be held in October 2015. Starting in 1971 as “Weeds schools” for Local Government Weed Officers, and then continuing as Biennial Noxious Weeds Conferences from 1981, the New South Wales Weeds Conferences have evolved to become one of the primary fora within the state for the management of weeds that impact primary production, the community and societal values, and the environment.

This year, the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage have sponsored a symposium on managing weeds for conservation of biodiversity. Unlike other weeds, environmental weeds do not just affect areas that are continually disturbed by human activities, with many weeds invading relatively undisturbed native vegetation (Vranjic et al. 2000). Consequently, environmental weeds tend to impact on public lands, although other native vegetation remnants can also be affected. Areas with native vegetation are diverse and complex with many and varied interactions between species and their environments. As such, this diversity brings with it the need to recognise that there is no one weed management approach that can be applied (Muyt 2001).

Effective environmental management requires the cooperation of government agencies at various levels as well as the involvement of community groups and private landmanagers (Vranjic et al. 2000). Awareness raising and capacity building are also two key aspects of collating, learning and implementing better weed management. Therefore, this paper briefly introduces and summarises some of the current approaches and future challenges to weed management for conservation of biodiversity in New South Wales to help maintain this level of cooperation and to build capacity. It introduces a number of papers prepared as part of this symposium, and for the wider conference.

Current problems and challenges 

1. Introduced species, particularly weed species, are second only to habitat loss due to land clearing in the causes of biodiversity decline in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith and Downey 2006).

2. At least 340 plant species are recognised for their weedy level of threat and ability to impact on (threatened and non-threatened) biodiversity in New South Wales (Downey et al. 2010b).

3. Plant naturalisations will continue in New South Wales. As at 2013, that is in the 226 years since European settlement, at least 1749 taxa had been introduced into new areas of the state and had naturalised (Johnson 2013b).

4. There are large number of plants existing in cultivation that can still (and recently have) jump(ed) the fence (Hosking et al. 2003, Groves et al. 2005, Hosking et al. 2007, et al. 2011).

5. Contention or conflict about such species is likely to continue, particularly as plants with a commercial use are introduced, but also as they escape to become weedy in areas managed for environmental values, for example Bennett and Virtue (2004), Johnson (2007), Johnson (2012) and Grice et al. (2013).

6. Weed control alone may not be sufficient to restore invaded native ecosystems and other management actions and/or restoration may be needed (Joseph 1999, Cherry et al. 2010, Godfree and Stol 2015, Robertson 2015).

Planning, coordination and cooperation 

7. High level documents like the New South Wales Invasive Species Plan (NSW Government 2008), species-specific strategic weed management plans for example (Bean et al. 2012) and Threat Abatement Plans (TAPs) (for example DEC (2006) and Hamilton and Turner (2013)) have been developed to assist in protecting native biodiversity from weeds. In addition, the New South Wales Saving our Species Program documents individual actions (including weed management) for the protection of threatened taxa.

8. The declaration of weeds as noxious can help ensure that all outbreaks of the weed are managed, for example Johnson and Downey (2008), Downey and Johnson (2010) and Johnson (2013a).

9. Weed risk management tools can be used effectively to prioritise weed management actions, particularly on a species basis (Johnson 2009a, b, Downey et al. 2010a, Hamilton et al. 2014, Schroder et al. 2015).

10. A different approach for the prioritisation of one site over another has been developed, that is a triage-based approach (Downey 2010, Downey et al. 2010c, NSW DPI and OEH 2011).

11. Both site-led and species-led approaches to weed management are required, with selection of the most appropriate approach dependent on the outcomes sought and the resources available (Downey and Sheppard 2006, Downey et al. 2010a).

12. As a public land manager, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service uses both site-led and species-led approaches (Turner et al. 2013, Scanlon 2015, Schroder et al. 2015).

13. Since weeds are often landscape-scale problems, and often not constrained by human socio-political boundaries, cooperative arrangements involving all levels of government and affected stakeholders are needed, for example through the Weeds of National Significance program (Cherry et al. 2012, Cherry and Sheehan 2013, Cherry and Bosse 2014).

14. Management is usually undertaken through joint or complementary programs with state, regional (Natural Resource Management) and local government agencies (for example Hamilton and Turner 2013), or with the assistance of community groups and volunteers (Hamilton et al. 2015, Schroder et al. 2015).

Current management and evaluation tools 

15. A broad spectrum of tools are available to support awareness and to assist management. This includes best practice management guides (Broese van Groenou and Downey 2006, AWC 2015a). Internet and/or other electronic resources including websites and applications (app/s), for example the New South Wales ‘WeedWise’ and ‘Weeds of South East Queensland’ apps, (Cherry and Bosse 2014, and van Oosterhout 2015, respectively) and identification guides (and workshops) both for the weeds under management, for example, AWC (2015b, c) and Cherry et al. (2012), but also for biodiversity under threat, for example, Hamilton et al. (2008) are also available.

16. Control techniques are constantly being developed or refined, for example for new incursions such as the hawkweed species (Hamilton et al 2015), carrion flower (Hamilton et al. 2013) and cabomba (Inkson 2015), and for established species, for example see Cook (2009), McConnachie et al. (2015) and Morin (2015).

17. Monitoring tools are available so that the result of weed management efforts and recovery of native species can be recorded, evaluated and used to inform future management in an iterative fashion, for example, Auld (2009), Hughes et al. (2009) and Hamilton and Turner (2013).

Research and future tools 

18. Research is critical in driving better weed management. Even though research gaps exist for a number of key weed species in New South Wales, research is crucially filling some of these gaps (Cook 2009, Cherry 2010, Caldwell et al. 2012, Hamilton et al. 2013, Hofstra et al. 2013, McConnachie et al. 2015, Morin 2015).

19. Knowing where such weeds are is a critical first step, pre-empting the above, for example Martin (2013), Arundell and Johnson (2015), Scanlon (2015) and Schroder et al. (2015), and assists with evaluation of programs (Hamilton et al. 2012).

20. Remote sensing/detection of weeds using small robotic aircraft is possible, particularly in detecting woody and aquatic weeds and Opuntia species (Hung and Sukkarieh 2013, Clements et al. 2014, and references summarised therein), and more recently, smaller herbaceous plants like orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum ssp. carpathicola Nägeli & Peter; Hung and Sukkarieh 2015). This development holds great promise for weed detection, so that the eventual eradication of orange hawkweed from Kosciuszko National Park may be achieved (Hamilton et al. 2015). Practical applications of drone technology can also be found in Biddle (2015), Lawson (2015), Holloway and Plumb (2015), Potiris (2015) and Taylor et al. (2015).

21. The successful use of weed detection dogs for finding of orange hawkweed has been demonstrated by Hanigan and Smith (2014), following earlier work from the South Australia government for detecting branched broomrape (Orobanche ramosa subsp. mutelii (F.W.Schultz) Cout., for example DeDear 2013). This is another potential tool helping in the successful delimitation and eradication of orange hawkweed from New South Wales and Victoria. There is increasing interest and research in the use of dogs for more accurate detection of various other weed species, for example Goodwin et al. (2010), Brown and Raal (2013), Chandler (2014) and Havell (2014).

22. An understanding of the biology and ecology of weeds is needed. Although, publications like Biology of Australian Weeds have increased our understanding, gaps still remain (Groves and Panetta 2014, Hamilton et al. 2014).

23. An increased understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on weed species in New South Wales (and across Australia) has been the focus of recent research including Duursma et al. (2013), Gallagher et al. (2013), Hughes et al. (2013) and Roger et al. (2015). Climate modelling indicates the southern (poleward) movement of various weeds/groups, for example Roger et al. (2015).

24. Genetic analysis tools are likely to become more common place to support weed management efforts. Genetic analysis is being used to ascertain the origin of certain weeds, and hence the potential for biological control agents to be effective against them, for example, Kwong et al. (2013) and Gopurencko et al. (2014). Genetic tools are being investigated and used for the detection of genetic diversity and variability (useful for ascertaining plant origins so as to better tailor control (Zhu et al. 2013, Gopurencko et al. 2014), the discrimination of unknown species at a species level (Forster et al. 2013, Zhu et al. 2014, Wang 2015), the remote detection of a species from a mixed sample of pollen or other material containing DNA (Forster et al. 2013, S. Brooks personal communication 2011), as well as detection and a determination of the prevalence of herbicide resistance within a weedy population (Forster et al. 2013).

Acknowledgements 

We acknowledge not only the authors who prepared and presented their papers, but also those who kindly peer reviewed the documents contained in this volume. Dr Rex Stanton kindly loaded many of the past New South Wales Weeds Conference proceedings on the Weed Society of New South Wales website which allowed us access to this material. Mr Peter Gray, formerly of New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, provided history about what are now the New South Wales Weeds Conferences. Funding for parts of this research was provided by various sources including the New South Wales Government.

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This paper has not been peer reviewed.

It has been published to provide an introduction to the peer reviewed papers in this volume, mainly presented at the Managing weeds for biodiversity symposium held during the 18th New South Wales Weeds Conference, Cooma, 12-15 October 2015.


 

First published online: October 29, 2015