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A collaborative journey blending satellite imagery and community knowledge for regional weed mapping
7 Apr 2009

SEQ Catchments is leading a concerted attack on the woody weed camphor laurel, a serious agricultural and environmental pest in south east Queensland and northern New South Wales.

A native of China, Japan and Taiwan, camphor laurel was introduced to Australia in the 1822 and distributed for schoolyard shade trees by a travelling school inspector and has been promoted as an ornamental. The seed is naturally distributed by birds and water, one tree producing up to 100,000 seeds. Since introduction it has spread along the east coast of Australia from the Atherton Tableland to Victoria.

Camphor laurel has become a major pest in Northern NSW and Southern Qld for agricultural, environmental and urban reasons. It can invade and smother pastures, its control causing a constant expense for many graziers. Trees tend to germinate most frequently under fences and powerlines (wherever birds rest and deposit the seed), pushing over fences and disrupting power facilities.

Camphor laurel is particularly invasive to streambanks, reducing light and crowding out native species. The distinctive aromatic oil, camphor, possibly causes death of fi sh and invertebrates. Along the waterways of SEQ camphor laurels are replacing the native blue gums, one of the favourite food trees of the koala and further reducing the koala population

A collaborative project is underway to map the distribution of camphor laurels on the Sunshine Coast and compile a database of relevant information. The initial trial study sites are the Mooloolah and Maroochy River catchments.

Co-ordinated by SEQ Catchments, the project has become an exciting pilot, combining satellite imagery and aerial photography with local ground-truthing by community members, to develop an accurate and holistic picture of this invasive woody weed. The project provides the opportunity to explore together applications for the newly acquired SPOT5 satellite imagery.

With the support and involvement of many local organisations, including Landcare and Waterwatch groups, Spatial 3i Pty Ltd, the Sunshine Coast Camphor Laurel Timber Initiative Ltd, Burnett Mary Regional Group and local councils, the project brings local people together to create positive outcomes for camphor laurel management. By mapping the trees and their characteristics, a strategic and collective approach to milling or other removal with follow-up revegetation can be developed.

The project organisers are asking locals to get involved by ground-truthing information from satellite imagery and aerial photography to identify camphor laurel stands or individual trees, as well as assessing whether the trees could be removed or milled.

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