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 is drawing on existing information about the impacts of land clearing, weed invasion and changes to fire patterns on the natural landscape. Researchers are collecting additional data and use collated information to model the likely scenarios of changes in ecosystem function over the next 30 years in the Darwin and Daly regions. This understanding 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.
Shendryk, Y., Rossiter-Rachor. N.A.,Setterfield. S.A., & Levick. S.R. 2020. Leveraging high-resolution satellite imagery and gradient boosting for invasive weed mapping. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. DOI https://doi.org/10.1109/JSTARS.2020.3013663
Invasive gamba grass is transforming Australia’s northern savannas, replacing native species with a dense stand of highly flammable grass that burns up to eight times the intensity of native grasses. NESP research is helping the rangers at Mary River National Park in the Northern Territory turn this invasion around.
Setterfield, S., Clifton, P., Hutley, L., Rossiter-Rachor, N., & Douglas, M. (2018). Exotic grass invasion alters microsite conditions limiting woody recruitment potential in an Australian savanna. Scientific Reports, 8(1), Scientific Reports, 12/2018, Vol.8(1).
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 with assistance from Dr Shaun Levick from CSIRO. The project team is working with Bushfires NT.
This project is due for completion in June 2021.
Natalie Rossiter-Rachor, Charles Darwin University
(08) 8946 6469