THE Invasive Species Council Australia (ISC) recently honoured Dr
Samantha Setterfield and Dr Michael Douglas of Darwin with its
annual Froggatt award. The pair won the prize for their research on
the severe impacts of tropical grassy weeds in northern Australia,
and advocacy for a strong response from government.
Michael and Sam have shown that the impacts of gamba grass, and
other invasive grasses, can cause significant change to the
structure and function of some parts of the tropical savannas, a
vitally important Australian ecosystem made up of native grasses in
an open woodland.
This grass, which was initially released as a pasture for the
pastoral industry can be problematic once it escapes into lands not
used for cattle production. It builds up fuel to a level that
encourages much hotter fires, killing native trees, and
transforming diverse savanna ecosystem into landscapes dominated by
the African grass.
The Tropical Savannas CRC current research program on exotic grass
species in northern Australia is led by Sam and Michael, and John
Clarkson from the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service.