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Spinifex Rangers: Keeping the Great Victoria Desert buffel grass-free

Buffel grass, an invasive weed spreading across Central Australia, is one of the worst threats to biodiversity in the Outback, but the work of the Spinifex Rangers is demonstrating how intensive management can stop its spread. 

The Great Victoria Desert region is now Australia’s best opportunity to protect a large intact arid ecosystem free of invasive buffel grass, and the Spinifex Rangers are the first and last line of defence for keeping buffel grass out of the pristine Great Victoria Desert.

The invasive buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is widely recognised as, “arguably the single greatest invasive species threat to biodiversity across the entire Australian arid zone” (Biosecurity SA, 2012). Buffel grass is a “transformer species” that alters natural environments. It out-competes native plants, increases fire intensity, degrades habitat for native wildlife and can outcompete bush tucker food plants for Indigenous people (CRC Weed Management, 2008). To control widespread invasive species, strategic management is required, to ensure that the best “bang for buck” is delivered using available resources. 

Spinifex Rangers plan to completely remove isolated, but spreading, patches of buffel grass across 95,000 km2 in the Great Victoria Desert – one of the last remaining areas where buffel grass can still be eradicated. They have mapped all infestations along thousands of kilometres of tracks and have begun strategically spraying the weed.

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Spinifex Ranger Delwyn Franks spraying buffel grass with grass selective residual herbicide on Spinifex country.

Spinifex Rangers' determination is limited only by resources. Like Indigenous rangers across Australia, the Spinifex Rangers need more support to keep natural areas free of invasive plants and animals.

Spinifex Rangers are protecting the Great Victoria Desert by:

  • Setting a target to eradicate all buffel grass across their region in the Great Victoria Desert within 10 years;
  • Mapping buffel grass infestations along more than 2,000 kms of tracks and around community areas;
  • Beginning the process of strategically removing buffel grass infestations.

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The Spinifex Rangers work across 95,000 square kilometres – an area the size of 40% of Victoria – in western South Australia and adjacent Western Australia. As part of their Healthy Country Plan, the Spinifex Rangers have adopted the goal to totally eradicate buffel grass from their lands within 10 years. To achieve this goal strategically across such a large area, the Spinifex Rangers have mapped, and plan to strategically control, all known infestations of buffel grass.

 

Header image: Spinifex Rangers Bernard Nixon and Scott Baird  spraying buffel grass with grass selective residual herbicide near Tjuntjuntjara community.