This summer dozens of volunteer ‘adventure weeders’ will head to remote parts of southwest Tasmania in an effort to rid the wilderness coastline of invasive weeds. SPRATS (Sea Spurge Remote Area Teams), a volunteer group affiliated with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, is working to a ten year plan to eradicate weeds from the wilderness coastline of southwest Tasmania. Now in its fourth season, this ambitious environmental project is already showing signs of success.
“In the past three summers we have removed nearly 1 million sea spurge plants from 500 plus sites between Macquarie Harbour in the west and Cockle Creek in the far south,” says SPRATS President Geoff Luscombe.
“This summer we will be focussing on follow up surveys of sites weeded in previous years to make sure they are free of sea spurge, and also tackling the largest patches of spurge near Cape Sorell,” says Geoff Luscombe.
While sea spurge is the main weed problem, the volunteers are also targeting marram grass. Both weeds form huge colonies which displace native sand dune vegetation and also blanket flat sandy areas used for nesting by beach birds, including rare and endangered species such as the Little Tern.
“Marram grass and sea spurge are aggressive colonisers of beaches and are already firmly established along most of Tasmania’s coast,” says SPRATS volunteer Nick Fitzgerald. “Fortunately in the southwest these invasive weeds only have a toehold and our work has shown it is not too late to remove them from this wilderness area.”
Most of the SPRATS volunteers will be travelling to Strahan on New Year’s Day prior to being deployed by boat or helicopter to different parts of the west coast on 2nd January. Other teams will start at later dates throughout January and into February, spending up to 20 days walking remote and rugged coastline. In total this years effort will exceed 800 volunteer days.
“In January and February we will have eight teams totalling 43 volunteers to walk the 600km of coastline in the southwest. This follows a lengthy planning process including data analysis from previous SPRATS trips and complex logistics,” says SPRATS volunteer Nick Fitzgerald.
The southwest coast presents a number of challenges including inaccessibility, rugged terrain, wild weather and thick scrub. These challenges are part of the attraction for SPRATS volunteers, who are experienced bushwalkers.
“The remote and challenging environment of the southwest is an attraction for bushwalkers and so the opportunity to visit this area and to participate in protecting its wilderness values is a key motivation for SPRATS volunteers. It is great to be part of a community organisation that is committed to solving a major environmental problem and one that would have got out of control. The work is satisfying and can be a whole lot of fun”, says SPRATS president Geoff Luscombe.
Following a trial weeding program and site surveys in 2006/07, SPRATS was formed in 2007 to tackle coastal weeds in the southwest before it was too late. They have secured funding support from the Federal Government through Envirofund and Caring for our Country grants. SPRATS received the 2009 Tasmanian Award for Environmental Excellence in the Community section.
Picture: SPRATS volunteers (from L to R): Adam Leavesley, Duncan Cross, Geoff Luscombe and Jon Marsden-Smedley prepare to embark on the weeding expedition to south-west Tasmania.
SPRATS President Geoff Luscombe.