Weed out dead wood

Weed out dead wood

Drive around the Commonage area in Quindalup and it is not hard to notice thick scrub full of dead trees and woody weeds.

Happs Winery owner Ros Happ has lived in Quindalup for more than 40 years and said the area had become less desirable to walk around as unmanaged regrowth grew thicker then died.

Ms Happ said this was due to a change of land use and management style.

She is now on a crusade to educate rural residential owners about weeding out dead and invasive plants from their properties to reduce the risk of bushfires.

"I have learnt from experience how this works. I was a biology teacher, so noticing how plants grow and die and how introduced species take over is natural for me," she said.

"For example, the introduced wattle species, which I call woody weeds.

"The City of Busselton has woken up to their menace to a small degree and has been sending a tree lopping and mulching team to destroy them.

"But, how useful is just doing the roadside wattles really?

"I am suggesting that we seriously begin an education program which is not just talk but involves step by step actions."

When Ms Happ first moved to her property they were surrounded by natural bush.

"Then the 'bush subdivisions started' and these two or three hectare blocks became more and more overgrown with introduced species, including watsonia," she said.

"Once you have touched the bush, it needs managing. So subdivisions mostly become quite messy, compared to how they were before the subdivision.

"Non native grasses blow in and take hold strangling the natives.

"There is a huge difference in the way people look after their properties around here. There are some who rake the bush to within an inch of its life, they have many small burning piles and burn them regularly.

"There are many though who sweep their fire breaks onto the bush where the amount of flammable sticks and leaves is massive.

"We are not doing enough. We need to get all the appropriate people together and learn from each other so a program of doing things properly can be developed. We have to start somewhere."

The City of Busselton has been working with stakeholders, including property owners, to prepare an Environmental Weed Action Plan.

The city has also undertaken weed mapping and raised awareness through workshops and training.

It is also developing pamphlets to promote the planting of local native species and so residents can identify weed species and control methods.

City of Busselton director of planning and development services Paul Needham said the plan would prioritise weed species for management and areas to be protected.

"While the focus is on city reserves, part of the work will also identify problematic weed species on private land," he said.

"For example the Eastern States wattle species that have been extensively planted in some residential and rural residential areas and, are being spread into nearby bushland reserves by birds.

"Many woody weed species are highly invasive and affect our natural bushland by out competing native plants, chocking our waterways and increasing fire risk.

"The dominance of many wood weeds can contribute to the demise of habitat and local biodiversity.

"A key outcome of the Environmental Weed Action Plan is to encourage all land owners to participate in the management of weeds to protect high priority bushland areas.

"Some ornamental garden plants have the potential to spread into our natural bush land areas and many woody weeds are escaped garden ornamental plants.

"They can grow fast and almost anywhere, have few predators and are able to reproduce and spread rapidly."

Geographe Community Landcare Nursery coordinator Rod Cary said natural habitats were far more diverse than gardens.

"Most gardens have expansive lawns usually occupied by a single plant species and are often fringed by beds of shrubs, with a few clumpy plants or ground covers," he said.

"Usually several of the plant strata found in natural ecosystems are absent such as large trees, small shrubs and climbers.

"Bushland will often have many different species of native reeds, rushes, sedges and grasses which cover the soil surface, as well as herbaceous native plants and small shrubs.

"Each plant species has its own set of organisms all of which are codependant. This includes birds, mammals and reptiles but also frogs, insects, spiders, fungi, bacteria and other microbes.

"Every single group of plants is its own microcosm and the multiplier effect of: the number of plant species, along with the number of interdependent organisms and the number of layers of plants of different could result in a staggering amount of biodiversity.

"It's a simple equation more diversity equals more critters."