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Archive | Conservation

Weeds, pests and diseases

While we have a strong ethos of ‘treading lightly’ when out in the bush, it’s all-too-easy to unwittingly spread weeds and diseases that can kill wildlife and destroy wild places.

Weeds, pests and diseases are major threats to Australia’s native plants and animals. They can hitch a ride on muddy hiking boots, in wet fishing gear or even hidden on the dirty rims of your car.

So what are these weeds, pests and diseases affecting NSW?

Here are the main ones we are looking out for, and they can be contained and prevented from spreading by all of us doing our part. Tread lightly!

– Chytrid is a fungal disease blamed for frog extinctions here and overseas. It is transmitted between frogs or through contact with contaminated water.

– Phytophthora is a root rot that destroys native plants. It is spread in mud and soil on walker’s boots, bikes and vehicles.

– Didymo, also known as ‘rock snot’, has yet made it to Australia but can be transported on wet fishing gear. It has devastated riverbed habitats in New Zealand.

– Myrtle Rust is a fungal disease which affects new growth in eucalyptus, melaleucas, bottlebrush and other Myrtaceae plants. The yellow/orange spores are easily spread on clothing, gear and vehicles.

– Weeds radically alter ecosystems, smothering and outcompeting native plants and robbing wildlife of food and shelter.

– Intestinal bugs picked up travelling don’t always show symptoms in some people but can spread by poor toileting near creeks and severely affect other people and wildlife.

 

Bushwalking NSW has just endorsed the latest version of the “Keep your gear clean in the wild” brochure by the Invasive Species Council. Stay up to date on the invasive species that are threatening our favourite bushwalking tracks by checking out their website www.invasives.org.au.

Frogs and Sunscreen

 

If you’d like to enjoy a swim on your bushwalk, come prepared to keep the water clean for our frog-life by having your skin free of insect repellent, sunscreens, soap and fragrances.

This summer, many of our walks will involve swimming holes, creek crossings, canyoning, kayaking and lilo trips, so we’re bound to come close to our froggy friends, although you might not spot them.

They’re also very sensitive, and absorb chemicals through their skin to their own detriment.  The Fleay’s Barred Frog are one example of a frog species threatened almost to extinction attributed to sunscreen and insect repellent.

Amphibian skin is unique, being physiologically active and able to absorb air, water and electrolytes. We don’t hear much about frogs – experts are still puzzling over their unique anatomy.

Chytridiomycosis is one example of a disease that affects amphibians worldwide, but how it does so, and its true impact of frog populations is not certain. Some species of frogs seem unaffected by such pollution while other species have been declared extinct.

Before we take on the outdoors, we can think about the skin products we intend to use. Even skin products and cosmetics that are biodegradable with natural ingredients, while certainly a good thing, are not environmentally friendly to our frogs.

Instead, we can take care of our skin and the environment by using a wide-brimmed hat, or a cap with a neck flap. Take a long-sleeve rash guard if you’re susceptible to sunburn while swimming.

Also, look at alternative technologies for keeping mosquitos, ticks and leeches at bay such as doubling up on socks, use of gaiters and long-sleeve, loose fitting shirts.

Insect-repellent clothing

Insect-repellent clothing does not provide complete protection on its own, and begs the question – will it affect our environment? This technology uses a pesticide called Permethrin, which has been known to come out in water. Tests have shown the pesticide rapidly breaks down (rather than clump together like other chemicals), and is biodegradable in 1-16 weeks – but it is highly toxic to insects and fish.

Before we get lost down the rabbit hole, it seems the main thing is we be mindful with the ‘slop’ part of ‘slip, slop, slap’. Think twice about sunscreens or insect repellent before you dive into the water this summer, and choose your walks wisely!!

 

Sources:

http://www.alertdiver.com/Sunscreens-Coral-Bleaching

http://www.wildswimmingaustralia.com/sustainable-wild-swimming/

http://emag.bushwalk.com/BWA201612.pdf

https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/0cc789ea-5551-4d6f-ace3-5952c9cd0a5f/files/tsd06fleay-barred-frog.pdf

http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/279bf387-09e0-433f-8973-3e18158febb6/files/c-disease_1.pdf

http://healthcenter.indiana.edu/answers/insect-precautions.shtml

https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/repellent-treated-clothing

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=10537

Save Western Sydney Bushland

Dear nature conscious bushwalkers,

Keep in Touch

Is your club doing something to protect your local environment or some place further away? Perhaps you are concerned about a nature protection issue near you and would like to spark discussion about it or see if BNSW can help take action on it. Send me an email in this case. I love receiving mail. I’ll endeavour to respond to you quickly. My email is conservation@bushwalkingnsw.org.au. Please get in touch.

Save Western Sydney Bushland

Do you enjoy a refreshing green patch in Western Sydney once in a while? Would you like to in the future? The NSW government is warning us that future opportunities may be limited due to housing expansion and development prospects in this area. Read ahead to find out more about what’s going on and how you can ensure that important areas are saved.

The Total Environment Centre (TEC), powered by the wonderful Corinne Fisher and her dedicated volunteers and associates, keeps the world up to date on the state of development around Sydney and its surrounding area. Today, TEC has a warning that will make a bushwalker’s blood boil:

The NSW Department of Planning is right now developing a strategic ‘sustainability’ plan for 7 chosen areas in Western Sydney. This will determine which bushland areas will be developed and which will be saved. The Local Government areas to be affected are: Campbelltown, Camden, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Liverpool, Penrith and Wollondilly.

As a keen bushwalker, I have certainly been walking in these areas and I suspect many of our clubs run trips around there two. There are some stunning adventures to be had, and furthermore some ecosystems that are clearly brimming with life, flora, fauna and fungus that does not deserve to be bulldozed to oblivion.

Please HELP.

TEC and Bushwalking NSW invite you to take a stand and give a voice to these voiceless ecosystems at their forum on Thursday, November 16th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at the Western Sydney Leagues Club in Leumeah (details below), however here are a couple of suggestions.

  1. PLEASE RSVP at this link, on the TEC website. They need to know how many people will be coming because there is limited space in the venue.
  2. Why not bring a contingent from your club along by making it a club event?
  3. Maybe you could bring some of your conservation minded friends or an open-minded family member.

Event details:

When

November 16, 2017 at 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where

Western Sydney Leagues Club (Gardenia Room)
10 Old Leumeah Rd
Leumeah, NSW 2560
Australia
Google map and directions

TEC Contact Person

Corinne Fisher
cfisher@tec.org.au
02-92115022

 

Post by Sierra Classen, Bushwalking NSW Conservation Officer

Are you a Biosecure Walker? Part 3: Teaching Others

This post follows a 3 part series beginning with Part 1: The Risks, where we looked at weeds, fungus or bugs in the bush, and terms like Biosecurity. In Part 2: The Solutions we looked at awareness, the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, our responsibility for our environment as well as actions we can take now. In this article, we look at the club level and teaching others.

 

So is every bushwalker scrubbing their car tires, or picking seeds from their clothing and depositing them in a ziplock bag? Probably not, so how can we influence our walkers to be biosecure?

Luckily, not every walk requires every solution we have mentioned. One thing Sarah discusses is bushwalkers being ‘in sync’ with the area we are walking in.

This means knowing your walk – something our club leaders are experts on already.

“Educating yourself on the potential environmental impacts you might have within a park and discussing the issues and the ways you can moderate your impact helps to make minimum impact bushwalking strategies more commonplace.”

Some interesting tips include:

  • A leader’s box in the car – one with a diluted metho spray bottle and a brush – that can be pulled out before or after a walk will ensure that every walker understands what is best practice.
  • When emailing and organising the walk, include any biosecurity risks and solutions you would like walkers to be aware about.
  • Discuss signage board alerts during the walk. Identify and report possible pests or species by taking a photo and GPS co-ordinates.
  • Identify potential risks and walker gear in your group such as open weave cotton t-shirts.

Luckily, brushing down your boots is a very effective way of stopping weeds spreading! We are hoping to cultivate a practice of brushing down boots to remove soil and seeds before entering a walking trail and when exiting a trail. Our end objective is to install brush-down bays at trailheads, starting with key trails in Kosciuszko NP.”

Lastly, we can get involved. As clubs, we can have our say on Minimum Impact and Biosecurity, engage in weed eradication volunteering, and discuss tips and tricks to make cleaning easy.

Some ideas to facilitate discussion are:

  • Include Biosecurity in Information Nights and Basic Skills Workshops
  • Review the club’s Minimum Impact or Bushwalker’s Code and strategies
  • Add a section on the proposals, walk programs and walk submissions guidelines to include Biosecurity measures
  • Have an information night to raise awareness, using Sarah Fulcher’s power point presentation.

“Discuss some of the issues raised in this article – what people wear, how they collect and dispose of seeds from their socks or tent, boot cleaning and personal hygiene with a view to making small changes in behavior. A walk’s leader with a ‘clean box’ who is mindful about the area being walked in can have a major influence on the behavior of a group.”

Read “Are you a Biosecure Bushwalker?” for further information, links and articles.

Use this presentation for your club: Sharon Fulcher: How can we ‘Leave no Trace’ when bushwalking?

See Arrive Clean, Leave Clean for identifying biosecurity threats, cleaning guides, hygiene checklists and kits.

Learn more about invasive species.

Notes, slides and content courtesy of Sharon Fulcher.

Photos under Creative Commons Licence on Pexel

Hand photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

Are You a Biosecure Bushwalker? Part 2 – The Solutions

Are You a Biosecure Bushwalker? Part 2: The Solutions

This post follows after our post Part 1: The Risks based on Sharon Fulcher’s Are you a ‘Biosecure Bushwalker’? presentation.

 

What are the solutions to reduce the many biosecurity risks and protect the bush for our future generations? Sharon breaks it down for us into three points:


  1. Being aware of the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015

Becoming better informed as bushwalkers is Sharon’s first point. If you can have a look at The Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015,  you’ll notice we are required to be aware of the biosecurity risks we are causing when we walk, and to proactively take measures to prevent, minimise and eliminate them as reasonably practicable.

 

  1. Understanding that it is our responsibility

The responsibility of biosecurity risk is a shared one among the community as well as industry and government. Sharon says “There are very few references in Minimum Impact Codes and Leave No Trace about Biosecurity issues as it is a developing area requiring review by all outdoor clubs. The first step to prevention is awareness raising, reviewing the Minimum Impact Code and how it relates to Biosecurity measures.”

 

  1. Look at things that can help us be ‘Biosecure’

Finally we need to act. Here are Sharon’s suggestions around choice of Clothing, Gear, and Actions Out In the Bush are below – stay tuned for more information on this in next month’s article.

Clothing

  • Choose ‘no weave’ or ‘close weave’ clothing
  • Wear knee length gaiters or long pants and sock protectors
  • Carry a small brush/toothbrush for daily removal of seeds and mud
  • Carry a zip lock bag to dispose of seeds picked off clothing and socks and carry it out. Dispose in the ‘red bin’
  • Make sure pockets are closed
  • Ensure your boots have been scrubbed clean and sprayed with a solution of 70% metho to 30% water.

 

 

Gear

Ensure you have washed or sprayed your tent pegs, walking poles, bottom of gaiters, and bottoms of packs

Ensure your vehicle is clean, including floor mats and there is no old mud sticking to the vehicle.

 

 

 

When you are out in the bush

  • Use a boot cleaning station if available (or use a spray kept in your car)
  • Keep a spray bottle in the car of 70% metho to water and a brush to clean tyres, canopies etc before you leave a site, especially if travelling to another site.
  • Keep to walking tracks if you can to avoid spreading diseases/seeds into untracked areas, especially on wet ground.
  • Empty tent of debris where you are camped – don’t carry the seeds many kms from one area to another
  • Thoroughly clean and remove all dirt and plant material on backpacks, boots, socks and other gear before you leave a site and check before going to another site especially in wet conditions. Carry a small brush.
  • When parking your car, avoid weedy areas near carparks
  • Ensure your toileting practices involve good burial, being downstream and well away from any water source

In Part 3 we’ll cover Sharon Fulchers’ suggestions on how our clubs and leaders can help others follow and maintain biosecurity measures on a walk.

Read the “Are you a Biosecure Bushwalker?” presentation.

Notes, slides and content courtesy of Sharon Fulcher.

Photos by Jaimey Foti

Are You a Biosecure Bushwalker? Part 1 – The Risks

Are you a biosecure bushwalker?

In her recent presentation for Bushwalking NSW, Sharon Fulcher explained: “You may ask what Biosecurity has to do with bushwalkers? Biosecurity is probably a term more familiar to us as ‘quarantine’ – something we have to ‘pass’ when returning from an overseas trip or when travelling domestically to places in Tasmania or northern Australia where certain items are prohibited entry. And yes, this too is a part of Biosecurity. However bushwalkers can also inadvertently spread weeds, fungus or intestinal bugs into our favourite walking areas with disastrous results without even knowing it.”

Spreading seeds and weeds is easier than you might think. Have you ever considered that you might be spreading harmful weeds when brushing seeds or plants off your clothes?

Weeds are commonly spread by bushwalkers in the following ways:

  • Seeds can be picked up on footwear, socks, laces and trousers and open weave cotton T-shirts and sections of backpacks
  • On velcro fastenings on jackets and gaiter
  • In open pockets
  • Seeds caught in muddy boots
  • Picked up by vehicles in ‘weedy’ carparks or on car mats
  • Emptied out of tents and picked off socks
  • From around huts, especially in alpine areas
  • From interstate, overseas or from another national park

Like seeds, bushwalkers can easily damage vegetation by spreading funal infections between plants or contaminating waterways. Some of the risks include:

  • Bringing weed seeds, insect pests, or aquatic pests like waterweeds into new areas on their shoes, gear, canoes, boats or vehicles
  • Damaging vegetation and soil, exposing new ground where  weeds can establis
  • Damaging native wildlife habitat and creating conditions that encourage non – native specie
  • Transporting fungus spores, plant diseases or wildlife diseases into previously un-affected natural areas or adjacent farmland
  • Spreading water-borne parasites through poor hygiene practice

So how can we reduce these risks and protect our bushland? In Part 2 we’ll cover the ways you can help and leave no trace while you’re out in the bush.

Read the full “Are you a Biosecure Bushwalker?” presentation.

Notes, slides and content courtesy of Sharon Fulcher.
Photos by Yidan Saladine.

CSIRO Conducts an Ecological Change Project and You Can Help

A national online survey is being conducted by the CSIRO and the Department of the Environment and Energy.

The survey will help them to understand how Australia’s bushland and biodiversity has been changing in recent years, and whether the 1°C increase in surface temperature experienced over the past century may have contributed to these changes.

If you have a strong, long-term relationship with the land and are passionate about the future of Australia’s special plants and animals then the CSIRO would love to hear from you. The survey will collect first hand observations, insights and stories about places that are changing and places that aren’t changing. For example, you may have observed new species appearing, plants flowering at unusual times, or trees dying in your area. This will provide a unique and important historical record for Australia and the CSIRO would love for you to participate.

To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. Note that they are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed.

The survey would take about 30 minutes. If this has sparked your interest, additional information about the full project can be found here.

The History and Future of Kedumba Hut

Over 150 years ago, the Kedumba Valley in Blue Mountains National Park was first settled.

In 1832, Thomas Maxwell, an Irish convict, arrived in Sydney and married fellow convict, Elizabeth Osborne, soon after. The couple gave birth to twin boys, one of whom was named William James Maxwell. Born on April 27th 1832, William Maxwell later moved out to the Burragorang area (in modern times home to Warragamba Dam) where he met and married Mary Thompson in 1855. In the 1860s, Maxwell worked as a stockman and ran his own cattle farm to earn a living.

Whether Maxwell first applied for a land grant in Kedumba Valley in 1859 or 1889 is not entirely clear, but the family left a particularly lasting legacy in the form of Kedumba Hut. Three generations of the Maxwell family lived in Kedumba Valley until 1992. During these years, the family constructed five different timber slab huts, as well as other utility buildings. Of the huts, only one is still standing today, and this ‘Kedumba Hut’ has become a place of historical significance.

Built in 1925, Kedumba Hut is an outstanding example of Australian pastoral life removed from larger settlements. According to National Parks & Wildlife Services (NPWS), the hut is an “excellent example of vernacular bush craft” with “timber detailing… of exceptionally high technical… and archaeological potential.” The site is also a prime research target to learn more about vernacular buildings from the 1890s to the 1920s in New South Wales. Very few buildings of its type and age have survived, giving it significance as a “rare and endangered species.”

Kedumba Hut with Mt Solitary behind.  Photo: NPWS

In 2001, a report into the heritage value of the hut was commissioned. The results suggested that Kedumba Hut had considerable state, and possibly even national, significance. The report also detailed that the hut needed urgent stabilisation work or it was at risk of collapsing further. Maintenance to stall the hut’s fall into disrepair was completed in 2004. Over a decade later, a second report was commissioned, this time to determine if the hut could be re-used and better preserved. In order to achieve both ends, the report suggested that the best strategy was to fully restore the site to the condition and function it had in 1925.

With the above in mind, NPWS has put together a plan to restore and refurbish Kedumba Hut to ensure it remains for generations to come. Working with a number of partners, NPWS plans to raise $350,000 for restoration as well as ongoing maintenance. Upon completion, the site will be heritage listed and its preservation guaranteed. Keduma Hut will also be made available as free overnight accommodation for bushwalking groups that can be booked on request. NPWS propose to ensure the hut is weather-tight and hold simple camp-style beds. Water, gas and electricity will not be provided.

Kedumba Hut.  Photo: NPWS

Once the hut has been restored, it could be the perfect opportunity for bushwalkers to take a rest, enjoy the beauty of Kedumba Valley and reflect on what life might have been like for the Maxwell family over 150 years ago.

You can visit Kedumba Hut in the Blue Mountains National Park on the 19km Kedumba Valley Loop track.

Sources

Jack, Ian. ‘Of the hut I builded’: the Maxwells’ slab structures in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Australian Historical Archaeology 27, 2009. Pp 55-66.

Blue Mountains Community. “Maxwell’s Slab Hut” Kedumba Valley: Restoration & Re-use overview. 2016.

Thanks to guest writer: Andrew Barker

Save the Trees and Animals Rally and March this Sunday 4 December

 

www.savethetreesandanimalscampaign.com

www.savethetreesandanimalscampaign.com

Save the Trees and Animals Network is running a Rally and March this Sunday 4 December 2-4pm Belmore Park, then 5-8pm Hyde Park North in the city. The objective is to gather community support for and raise awareness of trees and animals in Sydney in light of urban development plans. There will be stalls on the day and speeches – John would like to invite you to hold a stall (card table and flyers) or speak.

Dedicated to actively saving trees & animals