New research highlights nature’s role in limiting weeds after cyclones 03 Mar 2011

With the clean up continuing across North Queensland following Cyclone Yasi, new research published by RIRDC has emphasised the role Mother Nature plays limiting weed growth in rainforests following cyclones.

A review of weeds activity in rainforest areas around Innisfail following Cyclone Larry in 2006 found that an increased amount of forest litter and debris on the ground helped to minimise the spread of weeds. 

The review also found the natural regenerative powers of the rainforests helped keep weeds to a minimum, with many native species regenerating quickly which suppressed extensive weed regrowth.

“The report shows that in many cases, Mother Nature may be a more effective and efficient way of dealing with weeds, as opposed to human intervention,” RIRDC National Weeds and Productivity Research Program Senior Research Manager Ken Moore said. 

“With further cyclone activity predicted in Queensland over coming months, this new piece of research could act as a useful tool for environmental land managers.”

The review was undertaken by a team of scientists from the CSIRO, who monitored a number of rainforest areas damaged by high winds from Cyclone Larry in March 2006.

They found that the variety of weed species and the size of their populations increased sharply after rainforest canopies were stripped bare by cyclonic winds.

The rainforests proved remarkably resilient in recovering and choking out the many herbaceous weed species which followed Cyclone Larry. However, the impact of infestations of larger woody shrubs and invasive vines will be felt for years to come.

“This research will assist land managers in cyclone prone areas understand more about the regenerative abilities of rain forests, how this can affect weeds growth and the type of weeds that should be targeted in post-cyclone land management activities,” Mr Moore said. 

“Whilst on the surface it may appear that cyclone damaged areas provide the ideal breeding ground for weeds, the increased amount of forest debris and litter, coupled with fast-growing native species, often act as a barrier to weed establishment.” 

Weed response to cyclones in the wet tropics rainforests was supported by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry as part of the National Weeds and Productivity Research Program which is managed by RIRDC.

The report is available for free download or purchase from the RIRDC website