Flow-on Effects of Saunders Creek Weed Control Help to Conserve Murray River Health

News article |

An ambitious ecological project along Saunders Creek has reduced the spread of declared weeds in the area and helped to secure the health of riparian environments further downstream.

Flow-on Effects of Saunders Creek Weed Control Help to Conserve Murray River Health
Landscape board district officers mapping weeds along side Saunders Creek.

In 2023, the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board worked with landholders to identify and control African boxthorn and Opuntia species on land alongside Saunders Creek, a major tributary of the Murray River.

Weed control focused on steep banks and gullies which are typically hard for landholders to spray. Significant outbreaks of African boxthorn and Opuntia species including wheel cactus were found and with the potential for plant material and seeds to end up in the Saunders River, work was required to reduce the risk.

In winter and spring 2023, contractors and landscape board staff worked to spot spray African boxthorn and control Opuntia through stem injection, and efforts were followed up to control any missed plants.

Bec Gould, a District Manager with the landscape board, said that there were a number of beneficial outcomes from the collaborative project.

“Controlling declared weeds really helped to break the back of significant infestations on private land, making future weed control easier for landholders,” she said.

“Under the Landscape South Australia Act, landholders are obligated to control declared weeds so tackling these outbreaks supports them to meet their long-term land management obligations”.

Flow-on Effects of Saunders Creek Weed Control Help to Conserve Murray River Health
Wheel cactus was one of the species controlled through the project.

Ms Gould said that the benefits of weed control would spread past Saunders Creek, helping to protect surrounding riverside ecosystems as well as agricultural lands further afield.

“Significant unmanaged infestations have been found downstream of Saunders Creek and these are thought to have been caused from plant material transported by water. Seeds, fruit and plant material is also spread by birds and foxes, so getting on top of these weeds helps to reduce the impact on local farmers”.

Landholder involvement in the project has also developed the skills of participants to undertake targeted weed control.

“Landholders were showed how to control pest cacti species with biocontrol agents, and many have continued to use this method to control Opuntia on other parts of their property.”

The project was a component of a larger program – Weed Warriors of our Waterways – a 3-year $800,000 program designed to eradicate priority weed species along the Murray River and its wetlands, creeks and tributaries.

Nineteen landholders participated in the project, representing a total of 34 parcels of land adjoining Saunders Creek.

The Weed Warriors of our Waterways project is funded by the Landscape SA Landscape Priority Fund and Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through landscape levies.

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