Thursday, January 31, 2008

Weed mapping technology in Queensland

Queensland scientists are using satellite technology to help manage one of Australia's most damaging weeds.

Officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the Department of Natural Resources and Water are using remote sensing mapping to chart lantana outbreaks along the east coast of Australia.

Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries, Tim Mulherin, said the project was a "world first".

"The three-year, $450,000 project has reached its half-way point and already identified extensive lantana outbreaks at several centres, including Mackay, Rockhampton and as far west as Emerald," Mr Mulherin said.

"This is an innovative project that will benefit landholders across the country. No-one has ever attempted to map weeds using remote sensing technology on such a large scale before. By mapping all lantana infestations instead of solely relying on landholder reports, we can identify high-priority areas in which to target our resources," Mr Mulherin said

DPI&F based national weeds awareness coordinator, Andrew Clark, said lantana was regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts.

"It forms dense, impenetrable thickets that take over native bushland," Mr Clark said. "Infested areas often become completely inaccessible, limiting the success of ground observations."

Scientist, Andy Stewart, from NRW's Natural Resource Sciences centre, said his team used images from NASA's Landsat satellites integrated with Geographic Information System (GIS) data on climate and disturbance to map lantana.

Mr Clark said previous estimates have identified more than four million hectares across eastern Australia affected by lantana infestations. "This project will help to plan more effective control programs for lantana.

"We've found infestations along most of the east coast and adjacent inland areas, from the tip of Cape York down to Eden, near the NSW/Victorian border."

Lantana is one of 20 weeds of national significance. It is said to rob pastures and forestry plantations of essential nutrients, and reduce their productivity. "It adds fuel to fires, and is toxic to stock, so this project between NRW and DPI&F to map lantana is a big step forward in managing this weed," Mr Clark said.
SOURCE: Queensland Government and Queensland Country Life.

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