Much of the effort of K’gari custodians and managers is dedicated to controlling the damage of invasive species that have established in the past, including myrtle rust, foxes, cats, and bitou bush.
A new project, supported by the Australian Government’s Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO) through the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, will develop tools and strategies for minimising the risks of new priority pests, weeds and pathogens running amok at K’gari. The CEBO anticipates making outcomes available to managers of other conservation properties in Australia so that they too can better guard against unwanted pests, weeds and pathogens.
There are many factors to consider in coming up with a good biosecurity plan. What pests pose a risk to K’gari? By what pathways could they reach the island (e.g. freight and supplies, visitors, vehicles, as well as natural pathways)? How do they vary in the likelihood they’ll establish and spread on the island? What can we do to limit the chances of them arriving, and how effective might these actions be?
It’s important to get these considerations right because in the context of escalating risks posed by climate change (over which we have limited influence), effective management of the risks we can control, such as biosecurity and threats to our unique biodiversity, becomes a greater imperative.
The biosecurity requirements for some of our high-value conservation areas are already very strong, such as for the subantarctic islands of Australia or Barrow Island in Western Australia. Although elements of these existing approaches may have merit for K’gari, we need to think about trade-offs relating to tourism, cultural values, and the costs of implementing biosecurity actions, alongside the risks of new invasive pests, weeds and pathogens becoming established on the island.
The project will run to March next year (2021) and involve key stakeholders and managers, whose views on risks, pay-offs and trade-offs will guide the development of a strategy that will be collectively owned and implemented.
More information on the CEBO and the interim Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests, Weeds and Diseases is available here.
Contributed by Terry Walshe and Kelly de Bie, University of Melbourne and Elyse Herrald-Woods, Environmental Biosecurity Office, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment