Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project: Managing invasive plants at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria

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Authors

Kate Blood

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, PO Box 7, Beaufort, Victoria 3373, Australia.

Bec James

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Private Bag 15, Ferntree Gully Delivery Centre, Victoria 3156, Australia.


Cite as:

Blood, K. and James, B. (2016) Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project: Managing invasive plants at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Plant Protection Quarterly 30(1), 6-7.


Abstract 

The Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project focuses on high risk early invaders that threaten biodiversity. We work with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria staff looking after public land at any scale anywhere in Victoria.

By investigating the barriers that prevent action on early invaders, WESI has created a process and tools to assist public land managers.

The WESI project’s framework leads users through a decision making process; this is supported by a set of detailed guides.

The guides help answer questions such as: I found a new plant in my park, what do I do? Is this weed in my reserve a high risk? How do I work out how far this weed has spread? How do I prepare an eradication response plan?

The focus of the WESI project is enabling the early intervention and localised eradication of high risk early invaders. It aims to support, enable and build the capabilities of DELWP and Parks Victoria staff.

The project team have set up a series of pilot projects to assist adoption of the WESI process and tools. The pilots provide an opportunity to test and refine the tools in the field with real-life scenarios.

The WESI project is resourced by DELWP’s Weeds and Pests on Public Land Program and complements Statewide biosecurity protection of agricultural assets and eradication at a Statewide scale.

About WESI

Increasingly around the world, the benefits of preventing and ‘nipping new weeds in the bud’ before they become widespread are being appreciated. The Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) Project was created to promote these benefits and enable DELWP and Parks Victoria public land managers to adopt this approach.

WESI project focus

The focus of the WESI project is enabling the early intervention and localised eradication of high risk invasive weed species that threaten biodiversity when they are at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria at any scale. It aims to support, enable and build the capabilities of DELWP and Parks Victoria staff.

Working within a framework

The WESI project has developed a decision making framework that guides public land managers through the process of dealing with early invaders (Figure 1).

PPQ31-1-Blood-Fig-1

WESI tools

The WESI project has developed six guides that draw on research and experience to assist public land managers, whether they work in the field, design or authorise the delivery of the work.

By using all of the guides in this series, public land managers can improve their decision making regarding the highest risk weeds, how to search for and identify them, determine where the infestation boundaries are, decide which
management approach is best and, where feasible, respond with local eradication.

The guide series provides step-by-step guides to plan and undertake the following work:

  • Search and detect;
  • Name and notify;
  • Assess the risk;
  • Delimit the invasion (comprising all infestations present);
  • Decide the management response; and
  • Implement eradication (if appropriate).

The guides are available at www.delwp.vic.gov.au/early-invaders

The WESI project has created the Victorian environmental weed risk database that contains risk ratings from Victorian Weed Risk Assessments and the Victorian environmental weed advisory lists.

When weeds do not have a risk rating, an environmental weed risk screen (Panetta 2016) can be carried out. The weed risk screen includes a score sheet that can be completed by the land manager to recommend if the weed should be monitored or if a delimiting survey should be carried out to determine the extent of the infestation. The weed risk database is available at www.delwp.vic.gov.au/weed-risk-ratings

Weed management including eradication

Weed activities fall into four broad categories: prevention, eradication, containment and asset-based protection. By better understanding these different management approaches, public land managers can make better decisions, invest resources more wisely, and have better biodiversity outcomes.

Eradication is the elimination of every single individual (including propagules e.g. seeds and buds) of a species from a defined area in which recolonisation is unlikely to occur (Panetta 2016).

There is no denying that eradication is hard to achieve, that it can take a long time and should only be undertaken for candidates that have a good probability of success. Using the guides will help to make better decisions.

Weed management should not simply be dismissed as ‘too hard’, but, through some careful planning and a continued and sustained response, can achieve great benefits for biodiversity.

What is ‘in the early stage of invasion’?

There is ongoing debate about what area and number of infestations could be classified as eradicable. In reality, the answer depends on the weed and the situation because of the wide variation in the biology and ecology of weeds and the many different environments in which they grow. As a consequence, the relationship between the infestation area and the effort needed to achieve eradication will also vary (Panetta and Timmins 2004).

Throughout the guide series, we refer to ‘weeds at or in the early stage of invasion’. The shortened term is ‘early invaders’.

Early invaders are species that have naturalised and have started to spread. We define naturalised plants as non-indigenous species that sustain self-replacing populations for several life cycles without direct intervention by people, or despite human intervention (Richardson et al. 2000, Panetta 2016). When spread has just begun, such plants are generally encountered only by chance, unless specifically targeted by search efforts. Co-ordinated management intervention, i.e. eradication or containment, is at its most feasible for plants at this stage of invasion, owing to their highly restricted distributions (Panetta 2016).

Pilot projects

The project team have set up a series of pilot projects to assist adoption of the WESI process and tools by local public land managers. It also provides an opportunity to test and refine the tools in the field under real-life scenarios. Pilot projects have been set up within established landscape scale weed projects such as: Central Highlands Eden; Otways Eden; and Glenelg Eden. Other pilot projects include the Tarago Reservoir and Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris L.) in the Mallee. An evaluation of the pilots is currently underway.

Other guides in this series 

Adair, R., James, R. and Blood, K. (2016). Managing weeds: eradication response guide. A guide for planning and undertaking an eradication response to weeds at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-010-4 (print); ISBN 978-1-76047-011-1 (pdf/online).

Blood, K. and James, R. (2016). Looking for weeds: name and notify guide. A guide for identifying weeds at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-002-9 (print); ISBN 978-1-76047-003-6 (pdf/online).

Blood, K. and James, R. (2016). Managing weeds: decide the response guide. A guide for determining the appropriate response to weeds at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-008-1 (Print); ISBN 978-1-76047-009-8 (pdf/online).

Blood, K., James, R. and Panetta, F.D. (2016). Managing weeds: assess the risk guide. A guide for assessing the risk for weeds at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-004-3 (print); ISBN 978-1-76047-005-0 (pdf/online).

James, R. and Blood, K. (2016). Looking for weeds: delimiting survey guide. A guide for planning and undertaking delimiting surveys for weeds at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-006-7 (print); ISBN 978-1-76047-007-4 (pdf/online).

Sheehan, M., James, R. and Blood, K. (2016). Looking for weeds: search and detect guide. A guide for searching and detecting weeds at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-000-5 (print); ISBN 978-1-76047-001-2 (pdf/online).

References

Panetta, F.D. (2016). Environmental weed risk screen for Victoria: Background and development. A report prepared for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria. ISBN 978-1-76047-017-3 (print); ISBN 978-1-76047-018-0 (pdf/online).

Panetta, F.D. and Timmins, S.M. (2004). Evaluating the feasibility of eradication for terrestrial weed incursions. Plant Protection Quarterly 19(1), 5-11.

Richardson, D.M., Pysek, P., Rejmanek, M., Barbour, M.G., Panetta, F.D. and West, C.J. (2000). Naturalization and invasion of alien plants: concepts and definitions. Diversity and Distributions 6, 93-107.

First published online: July 8, 2016