Natural Asset Management - September 2013

By: Natural Asset Management Coordinator, Travis Sydes...

Salvinia - a needle in a haystack

A dedicated group of weed managers from Lakeland Downs has received state-wide recognition for pulling off the remarkable feat of removing Salvinia, one of Australia's worst weeds, from more than 240 hectares of water supply and nine kilometres of waterway in southern Cape York. The group's efforts will protect the economically important irrigation water supply of Honey Dam.  It has also almost certainly saved Lakefield (Rinyirru), one of our most iconic wetland National Parks and a favourite barra fishing haunt for thousands, from this noxious floating pest.

For their efforts South Cape York Catchments were awarded the prestigious George N. Batianoff Award for Team Excellence in weed management. The biennial award hosted by the Weed Society of Queensland acknowledges teams delivering exceptional results in the world of weed management. Sue Marsh of SCYC was present at the 12th Queensland Weeds Symposium to receive the award and was typically humble in her acceptance on behalf of the landholders, school children and colleagues who delivered the project which has been in train since 2008.  If successful (and all indications are this is the case but you cannot be complacent with weeds) this is possibly the largest infestation of Salvinia ever eradicated in Australia.

Salvinia is a floating water weed (a fern actually) which many townies would be familiar with as it is widespread in many east coast catchments. It regularly flares up in water impoundments, smothering native vegetation, blocking creeks and choking out fish and other wildlife. It reproduces by dividing into smaller plants. The remarkable feat of removing hundreds of thousands of individual plants was brought about by a combination of herbicide, bio-control using weevils, manual removal and above all, hawk-eyed vigilance from a dedicated team.

Not one to rest on their laurels, no one is yet claiming absolute victory on Salvinia in Honey Dam just yet and SCYC will be actively monitoring the expansive site and keeping an eye on the rest on of the Cape for years to come.  We wish them all the very best and applaud their effort.

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Salvinia weevils (left) were just one of the many tools SCYC used to move Salvinia (right) on from Honey Dam

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

No it's a UAV actually!  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) have been widely adopted in military and scientific circles for over a decade.  Following the evolution of most technologies UAV have now burst into the civilian and industrial market in a spectacular way. Affordability and accessibility, which had been two of the major limiting factors restricting the uptake by common folk (including local governments) are now a thing of the past with highly capable and easy to operate platforms now well within our reach. The two functions of UAV's which will be of most interest to local governments are aerial inspection/survey and weed management.  In terms of cost benefit two factors weigh heavily in favour of unmanned versus manned helicopters/light aircraft. First is the cost per hour of airtime (two hours in a four seater helicopter will buy you your own remote imaging UAV); and second is staff safety both by reducing the amount of time staff spend in helicopters and having the ability to conduct detailed site inspections prior to sending in ground troops.

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From the big to the small... UAV equipped with herbicide spray (image Yamaha Motor Co) and a hexacopter with remote imaging capability have real time and immediate application to natural asset and infrastructure management.

In terms of real application for local government the flexibility and rapid response UAV's can provide in disaster recovery operations, infrastructure inspections and collation of tailored aerial imagery address two key constraints we currently face; access to remote/inaccessible sites and independent collection of detailed information in a timescale suited to our operations.

We are planning a UAV field day as part of the next FNQ Pest Advisory Forum to demonstrate the capabilty of range of vehicles currently in this space to find out more.

Upcoming dates:

Next FNQPAF & NAMAC - Location to be confirmed, November 21 & 22

More information on pest animals and weeds or want to sign up for meeting notices?

Go to the region's very own resource at the Far North Queensland Pest Advisory Forum Website