Off-road enthusiasts urged to respect saltmarshes

News article |

Four-wheel drivers, motor bike riders, and Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board staff have united in a community call to action for more responsible off-road recreation around coastal saltmarsh areas.

22 June 2021

Saltmarshes are one of our region’s most valuable and environmentally sensitive ecosystems. They protect our shorelines, act as blue-carbon sinks, and are important fish nurseries and bird habitat.

Temperate coastal saltmarshes are listed as a nationally Threatened Ecological Community with damage caused by off-road vehicles posing the biggest threat to saltmarshes after climate change.

Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board Landscape Officer, Barbara Murphy, says the main issues are caused by cars and motorbikes not sticking to tracks, people making deliberate modifications to the environment, vehicles getting bogged in marsh areas, and leaving behind rubbish.

“Vehicles driving over saltmarsh damages the vegetation and algal mat, while compaction and wheel rutting alters tidal flows over the saltmarsh which decreases its habitat value and ability to sequester blue carbon,” Ms Murphy says.

“Mangrove-saltmarsh ecosystems are right up there with tropical forests in terms of their importance to the environment and being critical in the fight against global warming - they actually have the ability to sequester a whopping 50 times the amount of carbon in their soil per hectare, as a tropical forest does.”

Works are being undertaken by the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board to remediate damage caused by vehicles including rationalising tracks, ripping, revegetation works, as well as removing tonnes of rubbish. This work is part of the Saltmarsh Threat Abatement and Recovery (STAR) project, supported by the Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board through funding from the National Landcare Program.

Representatives from the Whyalla and Districts 4WD Club and the Whyalla Motor Cycle Club urge drivers and riders to take better care of coastal saltmarshes to help support the remediation work being done in these areas and prevent further damage.

President of the Whyalla and District 4WD Club, Wayne Dyer, encourages people to join the club and take part in four-wheel-driving in a way that’s safe for the environment and their vehicles.

“We want people to go out and enjoy the outdoors, and we teach them how to do that without damaging the environment and without damaging their own vehicles as well,” Mr Dyer says.

Senior rider with the Whyalla Motor Cycle Club, Daniel Smith, says there are many benefits of being a member of the club, including open track days, access to events and a supportive peer environment.

As part of the push to get drivers of off-road vehicles to take care of the Eyre Peninsula environment, the EP Landscape Board has made a video, urging those who use the coastal environment for recreation to follow these steps:

  • Be respectful of residents and the environment;
  • Keep to existing tracks and stay off vegetation;
  • Keep engine noise to a minimum near houses; and
  • Take your rubbish with you.

Whyalla motorbike rider, Joel Varcin says he is taking this message on-board while enjoying getting outdoors and spending time with his boys, and urges others to do the same.

“Just get out and explore what’s here and do it responsibly so everyone gets the opportunity to keep enjoying it,” Mr Varcin said.

The Keeping to the Tracksvideo can be found on the EP Landscape Board’s YouTube channel.

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