A burning issue

To: L&L Knight <>
Subject: A burning issue
From: Denise Goodfellow <>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2014 20:20:55 +0930
When I was researching Gouldian Finch habitat for Billiton back in the late 
1980s some scientists were blaming mining and cattle.    I doubt it was quite 
that simple.  For example numbers of Gouldian Finches appeared to fluctuate 
depending on rainfall.  In dry years greater numbers descended on more 
permanent water.  

Too frequent burning such as that which has held sway in Kakadu for decades, is 
a threat, especially, I imagine, when combined with feral cats.  Also such 
fires appear to have encouraged the spread of annual speargrass at the expense 
of a diversity of grasses, and  the seeds of that species aren’t available 
during the early Wet, a hard time for granivores.

Destructive fires fuelled by Gamba and Mission Grass also constitute a threat 
to Gouldian Finch habitat, and those grasses are out of control right down to 
Katherine.  Now there may be another threat - Rats-tail Grass, Sporobolus 
jaquemontii.  This aggressive and hardy species takes over native grassland, 
rapidly decreasing diversity, and because it resembles other native grasses 
it’s hard to detect until it’s actually seeding.   Rats-tail, like Mission 
Grass, was apparently introduced as a contaminant in imported cattle pasture. 

By the way Paul Newman spotted Gouldian Finches not far from our Darwin River 
property not long ago, and since then I’ve seen two, possibly attracted by the 
diversity of native grasses that still exists in this area.

Denise Lawungkurr  Goodfellow
PO Box 71
Darwin River, NT, Australia 0841

PhD candidate, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Founding Member: Ecotourism Australia
Founding Member: Australian Federation of Graduate Women Northern Territory
043 8650 835

On 10 Dec 2014, at 5:19 pm, Laurie Knight <> wrote:

> Sarah Legge has found that inappropriate fire regimes are a key factor in the 
> decline of Gouldian Finches in the wild
> .
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