Source: Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries, Australia

Queensland scientists are using satellite technology to help manage one of Australia’s most damaging weeds.

Lantana

The beautiful, but havoc-wrecking, Lantana. Photo credit: Forest & Kim Starr.

“This a world first,’’ Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries Tim Mulherin said today.

“Officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and the Department of Natural Resources and Water are using remote sensing mapping to chart lantana outbreaks along the east coast of Australia.

“The three-year, $450,000 project has reached its half-way point and already identified extensive lantana outbreaks at several centers, including Mackay, Rockhampton and as far west as Emerald.

“This is an innovative project that will benefit landholders across the country.

“No-one has ever attempted to map weeds using remote sensing technology on such a large scale before.

“By mapping all lantana infestations instead of solely relying on landholder reports, we can identify high-priority areas in which to target our resources,’’ Mr Mulherin said

DPI&F based National Weeds Awareness Coordinator, Andrew Clark said lantana was regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts.

“It forms dense, impenetrable thickets that take over native bushland. Infested areas often become completely inaccessible, limiting the success of ground observations,’’ Mr Clark said.

Scientist Andy Stewart, from NRW’s Natural Resource Sciences center, said his team used images from NASA’s Landsat satellites integrated with Geographic Information System (GIS) data on climate and disturbance to map lantana.

“Composite images can be created from satellite data that show variation in vegetation types, as different plants generate different reflections of infra-red and visible light,” Mr Stewart said.

“The project has been in place for 18 months and we are already getting positive results from an extensive field-checking phase of initial mapping. We are well on the way to developing a useful product.”

Mr Clark said previous estimates have identified more than four million hectares across Eastern Australia affected by lantana infestations.

“This project will help to plan more effective control programs for lantana.

“We’ve found infestations along most of the east coast and adjacent inland areas, from the tip of Cape York down to Eden, near the NSW/Victorian border.

“Lantana is one of 20 Weeds of National Significance. It robs pastures and forestry plantations of essential nutrients, which reduces their productivity.

“It adds fuel to fires, and is toxic to stock, so this project between NRW and DPI&F to map lantana is a big step forward in managing this weed.”

Mr Stewart said NRW’s remote sensing team had been recognized internationally for the accuracy of their Landsat data archive dating back to 1980.

“Before analyzing our data, we make corrections to take into account varying conditions, such as sun angle or topography, between different locations,” he said.

“This project wouldn’t be possible without the accuracy of these corrections. Queensland’s standard has been independently reviewed by a science panel, which describes our methods and processes as world’s best practice.”

The project is part of the Defeating the Weeds Menace program, funded by the Australian Government with in-kind support from the Queensland Government.

+ Read Australian press release (external link)
+ More information about Lantana (external link)