With the onset of the hot, dry weather this summer, on-ground work in the Wetlands and People project has focused on wrapping up spring weed control projects, getting stuck into feral animal control and ramping up planning for the next round of weed work while the hot weather continues. Dealing with weeds and feral animals isn’t the most glamorous work but the rewards make it worthwhile!
Following exceptional rains in winter and spring last year, weeds and feral animals have flourished across the Peel-Yalgorup wetlands and surrounding bushland. Our recent focus has therefore been on rolling out weed control works on conservation lands and adjoining properties to deal with this ever-present threat. One of these projects, targeted Watsonia, Cape Tulip and Pink Gladiolus along the south-western shores of the Harvey Estuary, as follow up from previous years. In recent years, Watsonia has been reduced from an expansive monoculture stretching for several kilometres, choking out most native vegetation, to a string of small patches along the shoreline. This recent follow-up work promises to bring eradication one step closer.
Over on the shores of Lake Preston, contractors have covered large areas cutting, spraying and hand-pulling patches of Cotton Bush as the soft muddy terrain slowly dried out. Much of this work builds on the extensive work carried out under the Wetlands and People project over the previous two years with the aim of reducing the Cotton Bush menace even further.
At Lake Clifton, on a property adjoining Yalgorup National Park, the last major infestation of Brazilian Pepper and Wild Fig in the local area was cut down and treated by contractors with specialised machinery to support extensive eradication work previously carried out in the local area by PHCC and the Lake Clifton Herron Landcare Group. The thickets formed dense impenetrable stands up to four metres high. Removal was a huge job with contractors regularly having to stop and untangle old fencing and debris. The work has been very successful with very little regrowth and is big step forward in dealing with this serious threat to the adjoining Ramsar wetlands.
Planning is now cranking up for more work on Cotton Bush and Spiny Rush (often referred to by its scientific name Juncus acutus) at Lake Preston and bushland east of Lake Preston in the Yalgorup National Park in the months of Boonaroo (February-March). Infestations of both species are dotted along the shorelines of the lake but we have made a big dent in their original extent through our work during the first three years of the Wetlands and People project. As always, follow-up work is critical, and needs to continue for several years. It is hoped that this next program of works at Lake Preston will make more impact on Cotton Bush and Spiny Rush than ever, reducing levels to a point where management is far more practical for land managers to deal with.
Unfortunately, weeds aren’t the only invasive species to benefit from the good rains; wild pigs, feral cats, foxes and rabbits have also been thriving in the fertile conditions. Pigs disperse widely and are difficult to manage in wet conditions. As the hot, dry weather sets in, they begin to concentrate into the remaining damp areas and take cover in dense vegetation, allowing for more effective control. Fresh pig diggings and activity were reported from parts of Yalgorup National Park last winter and spring, so following discussions with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, PHCC engaged a professional feral animal contractor to investigate as the area dried out. The result was removal of 13 Feral Pigs, four foxes and 15 rabbits! It is hoped that this will give some “breathing space” for orchids and other native plants and various marsupials.
Further feral animal work was recently carried out in a large area of bushland close to Lake Mealup, south of Mandurah. Lake Mealup and the neighbouring Lake McLarty are “jewels” in the Ramsar Wetlands “crown”, providing refuge and rich feeding grounds for many shorebirds, waterfowl and other wildlife. Unfortunately, the area is also known to be a feeding ground for foxes! A professional contractor was appointed and searched the extensive bushland for feral species, and after several nights, removed six foxes. Happily, not a single cat or rabbit was seen during this time. This was just the latest of a series of fox control measures carried out on the property and should alleviate one of the biggest threats to the water birds and local fauna. More feral animal work is planned for the site in autumn.
The Ramsar 482 Peel Yalgorup Wetland System is a beautiful and unique natural area with rich biodiversity, but it is fragile and demands on-going vigilance and care to address the many threats. In teaming up and working with various land managers, we hope that these completed works, on-going and planned works give the unique flora and fauna of the area a better chance to survive, reproduce and thrive and keep contributing to the magic of the wetlands.
The Wetlands and People project is funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program