Top End in Australia Ramps Up war On Invasive Grass
CANBERRA, Australia — The Northern Territory of Australia is ramping up its battle against an invasive African grass ahead of the upcoming Top End bushfire season.
Gamba grass burns ten times hotter than native grass species and can grow up to six meters tall, creating uncontrollable fires if it catches alight.
“Gamba is a major issue for the Top End,” Environment Minister Eva Lawler told reporters on April 7.
“It has spread right across the Territory. It’s a terrible weed, and it needs to be managed because when it burns ferociously.”
For northern Australia, the peak bushfire period is during the dry season, generally throughout winter and spring.
Introduced in the 1930s as cattle feed, the grass flourishes in the northern Australian wet season. It could infest areas from Broome to Cairns.
It has invaded rural properties, crown land, backyards, and parks in the Northern Territory, including about 25 percent of Litchfield National Park.
“We can find up to 80 percent coverage at some rural properties. We found one specimen that was about six meters tall, and it’s quite thick,” environmental management consultant Geoff Niere said.
“So managing that from a fire risk and environmental perspective is paramount.”
The Northern Territory government has tasked Niere’s land management team with clearing Gamba grass from vulnerable and elderly Territorians’ homes on Darwin’s outskirts.
“They’re really in need of some support out there in the community,” he said.
The program is part of a broader attack on the grass that includes the Gamba Army and a seasonal workforce focused on controlling the weed instead of eliminating it.
“We know that Gamba cannot be eradicated across the Top End, but we do need to manage it,” Lawler said.
About 1.5 million hectares of land in the Darwin area have already been overrun with new infestations discovered throughout the savanna region from remote Arnhem land to Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The grass is also spreading south through Batchelor and Katherine, including into the Nitmiluk National Park.
Environmental group Gamba Grass Roots says the NT government needs to do more to stop the spread of toxic grass, which can take over whole ecosystems in as little as five years, as per a recent study.
“If we lose Litchfield to Gamba, we’ll lose a tourism icon and natural jewel,” said NT manager Mitch Hart.
“The government needs to commit enough money to fix this problem. We need more people paid to be out spraying, burning, and slashing the grass.”
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra.)