Keep your eyes peeled for buffel grass

Kimberley Solly - Thursday, October 22, 2015


The Buffel Busters are a volunteer group that have worked tirelessly over the past three years to eradicate buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) from the Roxby Downs region. Buffel grass is the most invasive weed that arid Australia has experienced. It grows quickly to form a dense monoculture, which is far more fire-loving and flammable than native plant species in the arid zone. Buffel grass can outcompete all native understorey plants and invasion of an ecosystem can significantly increase the frequency and intensity of fires, which can eliminate fire sensitive plants such as the long-lived Western Myall, Mulga and native pine trees which you see around Roxby downs. The long term efforts of Buffel Buster volunteers such as Reece Pedler means that the Roxby region has a fighting chance to nip buffel grass in the bud.

 

“We’re trying to protect our long-lived trees, and other plants and animals that are vulnerable to intense fires” said Reece Pedler.

 

We’ve talked about buffel grass before on the Arid Recovery blog (here and here), but we haven’t focussed on what you can do at home to identify buffel grass and make sure you’re not harbouring this declared weed in your garden. We've made a handy poster to help you identify buffel grass at home! Check it out now. 

Buffel grass has two key defining features which separate it from other grass species.

 

First defining feature: Remove an individual seed from the fluffy seed head. If the seed has 9 or more bristles coming from the base of the seed, it is buffel grass.

 


Many bristles come from the base of the individual seed. Credit: Cara Edwards



Second defining feature: After seeds are removed from the stem the stem is rough and wiggly.




The stem is rough and wiggly once seeds are removed. Credit: Kimberley Solly


Other features important for identifying buffel grass include one seed head per stem and the fluffy purple-straw coloured seed head. Some grass species which may be confused with buffel grass do not have the rough and wiggly stem and have less bristles that usually come from the middle or top of the seed burr.


It is particularly important to look out for buffel grass after rain events. Small infestations can be removed by digging out plants, ensuring the deep, tough root system is removed. If you would like more information or would like to join the Buffel Busters on their next working bee please contact Arid Recovery on (08) 8671 2402 or like us on Facebook!


Written By Kimberley Solly, Scientific and Education Officer

Quoll scat-venger hunts!

Kimberley Solly - Monday, October 12, 2015

I’m sure you’ve all been waiting in anticipation for our next blog after the introduction of our newest members of the Arid Recovery family, two female Western Quolls called Sepia and Koombana. We left you hanging, pondering what it is that Sepia and Koombana have been eating.

In the Flinders Ranges quolls are preying on adult rabbits and sheltering in their warrens, however in the feral free Northern Expansion at Arid Recovery, there aren’t any rabbits to feed on. While Koombana and Sepia are living in bettong warrens, it is not yet known if they are eating Burrowing Bettongs, or other native mammals. Koombana and Sepia’s dietary composition is being monitored by collecting and analysing their scats. Just two scats have been found while on scat scavenger hunts surrounding Koombana and Sepia’s nesting sites, so The ARC’s Project Officer Bec West has given the girls a helping hand by creating a public toilet for them to use. Quoll scats donated by the Flinders Ranges population are placed on toothpicks to replicate a latrine, which would be used by quolls in the wild. One of the quolls visited the latrine, had a scout around, but did not leave us a scat treasure!

Quolls are carnivorous marsupials- can you see mammal fur in this scat?

Remote cameras captured one of the inquisitive quolls investigating the human-made latrine site. Western Quoll scats (collected from the Flinders Ranges) are mounted on toothpicks along the top of the log. Credit: Bec West


Discovering quoll scats across the 30 km2 fenced expansion is proving to be much like finding a needle in a haystack. Although named after shipwrecks like the other females released into the Flinders Ranges, Koombana is proving herself to be an exceptional explorer for which the male quolls are named after. Females in the Flinders Ranges have an average home range size of 4 km2 and should have core home ranges with very little overlap with other females. Elsewhere, males released into Francois Peron National Park in Shark Bay moved 30-40 km, some moved more than 100 km from the release site. Bec West had to resort to using a plane to radio-track the pair of quolls from the air in the first few weeks after release as their high mobility and lack of high points on the sand dunes made it very difficult to keep up with them on foot. 


Shelter locations for each of the female quolls since release on 06/05/15. Red point displays the first location (release pen) for each quoll and the dotted line indicates locations in date order from that point until 25/08/15. Credit: Bec West

Finding the quolls is difficult enough, so you can imagine trying to find their scats is even harder. Koombana and Sepia were originally fitted with a VHF radio transmitting collar, which is commonly used to radio track the quolls to den sites during the day. We search high and low around these den sites, but still have only found two scats! Western Quolls move swiftly along the ground with their greatest activity through the night. Radio tracking the quolls at night with just a VHF collar is near impossible, but knowing the whereabouts of Koombana and Sepia between their daylight den sites would be of great benefit. Sepia’s collar has been swapped to a VHF collar with GPS so that fixed coordinates of her position at 9 pm, 12 am and 3 am can be downloaded. After two weeks the collar will be swapped to Koombana so that we can piece together a pattern of nocturnal foraging activity which can be used to narrow our scat search area! 

Written by Kimberley Solly, Scientific and Education Officer


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