Scientists warn of dangerous invader gamba grass

Scientists warn of dangerous invader gamba grass

07 March 2012

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Australia — Scientists from Charles Darwin University have warned an invasive species of grass that could cause catastrophic bushfires is spreading across the Top End.

An African import known as gamba grass can grow up to four metres in height.

Scientists say it is one of the fastest moving plant invasions recorded in northern Australia.

Research fellow Aaron Petty says the core infestation of the grass in the Batchelor area, 100 kilometres south of Darwin, is spreading uncontrollably.

“The main thing is its impact on fire regimes,” he said.

“It has about five to seven times the fuel load of native grasses and so it greatly increases fire intensity.

“We have monitored it and it has resulted in 50 per cent declines in canopy cover.”

Dr Petty says the spread of gamba grass is probably one of the greatest environmental threats facing Australia.

“The thing is, the savannas of north Australia are relatively pristine,” he said.

“The rate at which it (gamba grass) moves and its impact on the ecology of the region is so severe that it would have to rank as one of the biggest threats.”

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