Parts of northern Australia’s valuable landscape have been transformed by weeds and changed fire patterns. Coupled with land clearing for agricultural development, this has impacted significantly on ecological, social and cultural assets.
One example is the Northern Territory’s greater Darwin region and Daly River catchment, where areas of the tropical savanna have been invaded by weeds that threaten native plants and animals and impede access to parts of the landscape. Some weeds also carry high fuel loads, ultimately leading to more intense fires.
Invasion by grassy weeds and the resulting changes in fire regimes has the ability to significantly alter ecosystem processes and may eventually lead to ecosystem failure. However, our current understanding about the combined impacts of these threats and the action needed to improve ecosystem function is limited.
This project will draw on existing information about the impacts of land clearing, weed invasion and changes to fire patterns on the natural landscape. Researchers will collect additional data where necessary and use this information to model the likely scenarios of changes in ecosystem function over the next 30 years in the Darwin and Daly regions. This information is critical to land use planning and management to predict, and hopefully prevent, ecosystem failure as well as to improve fire safety for people and infrastructure.
The project is being led by Dr Natalie Rossiter-Rachor from Charles Darwin University and Associate Professor Samantha Setterfield from the University of Western Australia. The project team is working with Bushfires NT.