Question and answer: How does the listing of gamba grass and four other grasses as a key threatening process affect me?
Product code: BIO036.0909
What is a key threatening process?
A key threatening process is something that impacts negatively on the environment by threatening the survival or evolution of a native species or ecological community.
What grasses have been listed as a key threatening process?
Five grasses which impact on the environment in northern Australia have been listed as a key threatening process. They are gamba grass (Andropogon gayanus), para grass (Urochloa mutica), olive hymenachne (Hymenachne amplexicaulis), mission grass (Pennisetum polystachion), and annual mission grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum).
How is it decided what should be listed?
Members of the public can nominate a key threatening process, species or ecological community to be looked at by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC). The minister then takes the TSSC’s scientific advice about what are the highest priority nominations and decides on a priority assessment list. The TSSC then conducts a thorough scientific assessment of the species, ecological communities and key threatening processes on the priority list. The committee provides their scientific findings to the minister, and the minister then decides which species, ecological communities and key threatening processes should be listed under national environment law.
Why has gamba grass been listed?
Gamba grass, like the other four grasses listed above, has been introduced to northern Australia from overseas. These grasses are invasive, and research has found that they compete with native grasses and increase the frequency and intensity of late dry season wildfires which has a detrimental effect on the biodiversity and ecosystems of northern Australia. It is likely that this competition and increased frequency of wildfires also adversely affects at least four nationally listed threatened species, and threatens another native species which may now be eligible for listing. The presence of these grasses has also led to ecosystem degradation, habitat loss and species decline.
Some of these grasses are now considered weeds in my state, what does this mean?
Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have listed some of these grasses as weeds. The implications of this are different in each state or territory, but in general, weeds can not be bought or sold and landholders must control or eradicate it on their land. For information it is best to contact your state or territory environment department.
What does it mean if I have gamba grass or other listed grasses on my property?
Under national environment law, it is not illegal to have these grasses on your property. The listing of this process does not change your responsibilities under national environment law. You may still require approval to plant these grasses if planting them may have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance. Once a threat abatement plan is in place there will be clear guidance about how to manage these grasses on your property. You should also check whether state and territory laws affect you if you have these grasses on your property.
What does a threat abatement plan mean?
A threat abatement plan is a management plan that provides guidelines on how to best minimise a key threatening process from impacting on the environment. It allows for a national approach for the research and management of a key threatening process to help reduce the impact on native species and ecological communities. The federal government will work with the state and territories, farmers, seed producers, scientists and the general community to develop a threat abatement plan which provides practical ways to reduce the impact of these grasses on native species and ecological communities. Once a threat abatement plan is in place, some farmers may be eligible for federal government assistance to manage the impacts of these grasses on their property.
Where can I get more information from?
The department has an environment liaison officer located with the National Farmers' Federation who is available to provide free information about national environment law and its impact on farming activities. The liaison officer can also provide assistance with referrals if required and can be contacted on freecall 1800 704 520 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.environment.gov.au/farming for more information.
It is important to remember that state and federal laws are different, and laws may be different between states and territories. Information is also available by contacting your relevant state or territory environment department. You are encouraged to speak to both state and federal representatives when obtaining information in order to be fully informed.
- More Grasslands and woodlands question and answer fact sheets
- Invasion of northern Australia by Gamba Grass and other introduced grasses - listed as a key threatening process, SPRAT