By Vanessa Elwell-Gavins
As a complete newcomer to Hervey Bay and Queensland (from Tasmania), this trip to Round Island (a follow-up to a weed working bee six weeks earlier) was my first exposure to the task of managing environmental weeds in a sub-tropical environment.
Fortunately, a keen, young and fit CVA team of seven students from assorted US universities (plus their Australian leader) was available to assist the locals (eight of us from the local community, two very knowledgeable Council employees and Kath Nash, a representative from the Burnett Mary Regional Group). Krystal Klear provided sea transport, and strong northerly winds and a bit of a swell across the mouth of Great Sandy Strait meant the skipper needed two goes to get us landed on Round Island, even thought the tide was pretty high.
Don Bradley introduced us to the weeds requiring action, and we fanned out. One group took bags to collect the seed heads off stands of a very tall grass (alarmingly named ‘Green Panic’). Don then sprayed the de-seeded grass before we left. Another group tackled the Vinca (periwinkle) that had been a major focus of the previous trip. This seemed like a good task for a newby, one not requiring too many plant identification skills and where there was probably low risk of exacerbating an existing problem. Some sturdy US students set off to tackle the Broad-leafed Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), which was large enough to require a cut and paste effort. Those with chemical management skills tackled a rather forbidding stand of prickly pear on the north-eastern fringe of the island. I learned that while the biological control provided by Cactoblastus is normally sufficient to keep it in check in the coastal regions, and to provide a nursery for Cactoblastus to parasitise the much larger inland stands, it does not like salt winds so needs mechanical control in exposed coastal sites such as Round Island. We all admired the 50+ Pied Cormorants roosting in a big tree close to the Prickly Pear. They seemed quite unconcerned by this mini-invasion by Homo sapiens.
It was great to see the flowering Beach Bean (Canavalia rosea) emerging from underneath the Vinca, breathing a metaphorical sigh of relief as it went about its business binding the loose sands of the island. I also learned to recognise Wollastonia biflora and an Ipomoea species among the ground-cover ‘goodies’, a pretty Euphorbia species (Coastal Spurge) and the mounded, very tough Octopus Bush (Heliotropium foertherianum),that hugged Round Island’s south-western fringe. I recognised Carpobrotus glaucescens (Pigface), which seems common down the eastern seaboard, including some of my formerly local beaches in Tasmania.
Weedwise, I found myself drawn to the Corky Passionfruit that is on Round Island (and pretty much everywhere else in the Fraser Coast region, it seems), not least because of its superficial similarities to the Beach Bean, with the risk, therefore, that I could inadvertently pull out the wrong thing unless I was particularly observant. Corky Passionfruit has the capacity to smother everything in its path.
Thanks to Lesley Bradley, we were well fed with fruit for morning tea, and a barbecue lunch that she seemed to magic out of nothing. In the relaxed and convivial atmosphere of shared tasks and shared food, conversation and information flowed freely. There was plenty of time for a stroll round the island, which must have more than quadrupled in size as the tide receded, revealing pebbly flats and lots of pieces of a spherical sponge-like coral. After lunch, this stroll was combined with a spot of rubbish collection. This apparently generated much less rubbish than the March trip, which was very heartening.
The last good deed for the day for those among us with strong muscles was pushing Council’s little run-about back down the beach to the low tide line, so our advisers were not forced to wait until the evening high tide to float them off from where they had left the boat on the beach on their arrival.
This follow-up weed day was an important step to returning Round Island to a generally healthier state. We were amply rewarded for doing our bit on our return trip to Boat Harbour by the sight of huge turtles cresting the waves.
Thanks to Burnett Mary Regional Group for funding the day (through the Federal Government’s Caring for our Country program), and to all participants for their efforts and good fellowship.