Gamba Grass

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Gamba Grass
From: Denise Goodfellow <>
Date: Mon, 27 May 2013 23:35:34 +0930
Reading of various threats to birds often posted on the chatline I wonder
why Gamba Grass, "Andropogon gayanus", has not been mentioned.

This clumping African grass grows to 4 m high and 2.5 m. in diameter (per
clump).  It kills off other species, either by smothering or through the hot
fires it encourages ( Top End vegetation is fire-tolerant rather than
fire-encouraging and most plants simply cannot survive gamba grass fires)
Within a short period  Gamba grass can transform savannah woodland and open
forest to a monoculture.  I have heard that in Queensland some graziers sow
this species and then burn it to clear 'scrub'.

We've just moved to Darwin River, 80 kms sw of Darwin, and am now living
among the problem. 

The NT Government has given up trying to eradicate this species and it is
now out of control from Darwin to Katherine and into Kakadu National Park.
Indeed, all woodland habitats across northern Australia are under threat, as
are the fauna that reside within such habitats, species such as Gouldian
Finch and Partridge Pigeon.

We're eradicating Gamba Grass from our 20 acres - I'm cutting it with hand
shears.  Others burn, slash, or poison it.  By hand removal I'm preserving
what native plants are left in the hope that the woodland will once again
become fire-tolerant and our resident Partridge Pigeon population will be
safe.  However, Gamba grass is rampant on neighbouring properties - it's
like living with a time bomb.

That graziers can produce up to 40% more beef on this grass meant a long
delay in the NT Government declaring the species a weed.  Some pastoralists
I've spoken to are not happy that the grass has been outlawed and in light
of the pressures on the industry I wouldn't be surprised if many were still
sowing the grass. 

Amazing that so much time and energy has been spent on dealing with cane
toads, while all the while this transformer species has been doing just
that, transforming habitats across the Top End from diverse woodland and
forest to monocultures.
Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
PO Box 71, NT 0841
043 8650 835

PhD candidate, SCU
Vice-chair, Wildlife Tourism Australia
Nominated for the Condé Nast international ecotourism award, 2004 by the
renowned American website, Earthfoot.
Wildlife Adviser, BBC¹s ?Deadly 60¹



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