In mid August this year, Paul Gregory, Ceduna-based Project Officer with Natural Resources Alinytjara Wilurara (NR AW) and Dennis Hocking from the West Mallee Protection Group (WMPG) set off on a four-day expedition along the East West rail corridor and through the Yellabinna and Yumbarra parks.
In this remote region, the distances between areas that need to be monitored and maintained means that returning to Ceduna each night is not a practical option.
Setting off early from Ceduna, Paul and Dennis’ first job was to monitor and treat Buffel grass along the East West rail corridor and assess if spraying was needed in response to winter rains. Trains travelling through areas where Buffel grass is growing, inadvertently spread the seed across the pristine AW landscapes.For this reason, the tracks need to be constantly checked and outbreaks destroyed before the Buffel grass becomes unmanageable and causes irreversible ecological damage.
Monitoring along the rail corridor from Ooldea to Malbooma revealed three areas that required treatment and a single plant that had sprung up near the Barton siding.
“There was hardly any healthy mature Buffel grass compared to past inspections at this time of year. It’s really great to see that our treatment programs using residual chemicals and granules have been so effective” said Paul.
On completion of the Buffel grass monitoring work, Paul and Denis travelled to Mount Finke to assess how effectively the access and campsite management work, undertaken earlier in the year, had been at decreasing erosion and destruction of fragile vegetation caused by visitors.
“It was rewarding to find that all the access management work carried out at Mount Finke appeared to have been respected by visitors to the area. Instances of driving off track and informal camping had decreased significantly since we undertook the access management work” said Paul, who had been part of the original work team.
Next they travelled to Googs Lake which is a very popular visitor site for both locals and distance travellers.
“Over the past few years, groups of volunteers joined NR AW staff in establishing campsites, disguising unnecessary tracks and clearly identify access routes around the region. The local farmers and Traditional Owners who camped out with NR AW staff for 5 days in 2014 and again in 2015 did an incredible job of transforming this area. Their help was invaluable.
“We were disappointed to find however that approximately 300m of track leading to a revegetated area that had previously been closed off appeared to have opened up and used with some frequency. Without any heavy equipment on hand, we dug a deep trench across it to deter visitors from continuing to use this route and from destroying the 200ha of revegetation work.
“Sadly, on this occasion we found that the area around the Googs Lake memorials was heavily littered by an assortment of beer cans, bottles and other rubbish.“Goog” and his son were the first to forge a vehicle track to the lake. We collected over 20kg of rubbish from around the camping area and the memorials, and were left to wonder what sort of people could visit this beautiful place and go off and leave such a mess behind.” said Paul.
In 2013, 600 native trees were planted to promote re-vegetation in the Googs Lake area. The tree guards installed around each of the young plants were now starting to dislodge and be scattered by the wind. These were collected and taken back to Ceduna to be disposed of.
“Given the harshness of the conditions and the failure of some visitors to respect the revegetation areas, it was pleasing to find that about 20% of the trees planted had survived. ”
Paul and Denis then carried out repeat photography at long established photopoints within the Googs Lake access management area. These would be used to compare with previous records and note changes in the landscape including to vegetation and soil erosion.
The team then visited areas around Nalara and Lois granite out-crops where they mapped existing tracks and noted their condition. This would be used to inform plans for future access management work and environmental preservation.
To find out more about the Alinytjara Wilurara region (north-west SA) visit our website at www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/alinytjara-wilurara/home or our Facebook page