It is not just native plants and animals that love living in the Wet Tropics. The warm and wet climate that contributes to such incredible biodiversity in the region also creates a haven for invasive species.
The region is vulnerable in other ways too. Our close proximity to neighbouring countries and the constant movement of people as a result of tourism can bring new pests and pose unique risks to this special part of Australia.
Biosecurity is about protecting our landscape and our industries from weeds, pest animals and diseases.
The Wet Tropics Region faces biosecurity challenges on all fronts:
• We have over 500 known species of weeds with many introduced to the region knowingly (e.g. for the purposes of agriculture or landscaping), but luckily not all of these are declared weeds or considered a threat.
• Feral animals such as pigs, dogs, cats, cane toads, rabbits and even deer pose a threat. Introduced freshwater fish such as Tilapia and insects such as Asian Honey Bees and Yellow Crazy Ants are also seen as pests.
• Diseases including rainforest dieback, myrtle rust, papaya ringspot and Panama race 4 are biosecurity risks.
What are the ‘threats’?
Weeds and pest animals (also referred to as invasive species) are a significant threat to regional natural ecosystems, primary production, culturally significant places and World Heritage values.
Pest diseases affect plants, animals and humans and can be devastating for agriculture.
- eat native species
- compete for food and habitat
- degrade habitat by eroding soil and disturbing waterways
- spread diseases and weeds
- change fire regimes
- take over areas where native vegetation should be (e.g. after cyclones)
- reproduce faster than native species and transform the way nature functions
- disrupt primary production and cost farmers and taxpayers millions of dollars a year to manage
- choke waterways and in some cases kill the animals and plants that live in them
Positive pest action
In the Wet Tropics we have strong Local Government-based arrangements in place for working together to prioritise and manage pests and weeds.
We still have the chance to eradicate some invasive species, while others are already too widespread to eradicate but still need to be managed.
With sustained effort, many pests are being kept under control, preventing the extent of their infestation increasing.
However, we need to be constantly on the lookout for new and emerging pest animals, weeds and diseases.
It is predicted that with a changing climate, many ‘sleeper weeds’ such as exotic plants that live seemingly harmlessly in people’s gardens at the moment, will become much more problematic.
Governments and other agencies have a primary role in biosecurity and landholders have specific legal responsibilities.
However, all biosecurity responses start with individuals. A combined and strategic effort to deal with biosecurity threats will have a significantly positive impact on our social, economic and environmental future.
If you think you may have a weed problem that you need to deal with, we have provided links to some very useful identification tools and management fact sheets that can assist you.