Our Latest News

Celebrating the achievements of landcarers

04/12/2017

The Tamar Island Wetland Cares Volunteer Group has been recognised in the 2017 Landcare Tasmania Awards.More

Horsetail Falls walk now open

15/11/2017

Visitors to the West Coast are in for some spectacular views on the new Horsetail Falls walk near Queenstown.More

Bruny Island Neck lookout re-opens

10/11/2017

The walkways and lookout at the Bruny Island Neck will re-open to the public today, following the completion of a new, larger car park that will provide improved access to the popular lookout.More

An 'impossible' challenge accomplished by wilderness weed warriors

12/03/2015

An estimated 14 million sea spurge plants and thousands of marram grass clumps have been removed from 600 kilometres of Tasmania's World Heritage listed coastline, the result of a nine year partnership between volunteers and the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS).


The partnership between the Wildcare Inc volunteer group, Sea Spurge Remote Area Teams (SPRATS), and the PWS, has accomplished a task that would have been nigh on impossible had it relied only on staff. Their aim has been to control, and in the near future, to eradicate, the invasive coastal weed sea spurge from the Tasmania’s remote southwest coast.


It’s a task PWS general manager Peter Mooney says is a perfect example of citizen science, and is the way of the future for community conservation.


“This group of dedicated volunteers has gotten together in a structured way that clearly contributes to biodiversity conservation,” Peter said.


“It’s an example of likeminded people from all walks of life coming together for a common cause that has clear outcomes. They pay serious money in travel (to Tasmania) and food, as well as investing personal holiday time, to be involved.”


“The sheer volume of removing some 14 million plants, which has been done mostly by hand, in an extremely remote area, has delivered an outcome that retains the magnificent southwest coast landscape.”


One of the group’s coordinators, Jon Marsden-Smedley, said the area targeted, from Macquarie Harbour to Cockle Creek, was largely weed-free, with the exception of sea spurge and marram grass.


“It’s the Tasmanian stronghold for several shore-nesting birds, such as the hooded plover, pied oystercatcher and sooty oystercatcher, which are being adversely affected elsewhere in Australia. The critically endangered orange-bellied parrot also feeds in this area during its migration to and from the Australian mainland.


“These species were at risk from sea spurge due to its ability to transform the coastline, making areas unsuitable for breeding by crowding out native plants and transforming the coastline’s structure.”


A unique feature of the SPRATS work program is the science underpinning the program. The volunteers collect detailed information on site location, the weeds removed, time taken to weed sites, and have undertaken research into the most effective treatment method. This research indicates that, on the west and south coasts of Tasmania, sea spurge plants normally take about a year to mature and typically carry very little seed before February. This means effective weeding can be performed once per year and the plants simply pulled and dropped. Where plants do carry seed, the plants can be pulled and dumped under scrub where any seedlings that do germinate will not survive.


At the start of each weeding season, detailed maps are prepared showing all recorded weeding sites, recommended campsites and walking routes. GPS units are also programmed with this information. This makes the work performed by the volunteers much easier and more efficient.


Another feature of the program is the emphasis placed by the volunteers of having an enjoyable time. Nearly half of the volunteers come from the mainland to assist with the program and each season, over two-thirds of volunteers have previously completed a SPRATS season and so do not require training in the weed removal techniques used. Each year, SPRATS offers a range of weeding options. These sectors vary from little walking but lots of weeding, through to extended walking sectors with little weeding. The length of time put in by each volunteer varies between about 10 and 22 days, with most people putting in about 14 days.


As the program has evolved, SPRATS too, has evolved in the way it approaches the task. A few years ago the emphasis was on having several groups conducting intensive weeding from a base camp, while now, SPRATS only has one base camp group, while all other groups move through their sector, weeding what are now, much smaller sites. This change in the weeding strategy has also resulted in a change in the number of volunteers required. A few years ago SPRATS had more than 70 volunteers working along the coast, while this summer the number of volunteers was 34, and the estimate for next summer is that about 25 volunteers will be needed.


The SPRATS group summarises its philosophy as: “we concentrate on getting the work done, but work hard at having fun”.


Photos courtesy of Jon Marsden-Smedley.


 

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The magnificent southwest coast landscape at Cox Bight.

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The beauty of Mulcahy Bay.

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Volunteer Carol Isaacs pulling a sea spurge plant near Jones Creek.

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Graeme Marshall spraying marram grass north of the Neilson River.

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The rocks tell the story - it's a large clump of marram grass. Volunteer Graeme Marshall, at left in the clump, shows just how large is the patch of marram grass.