Maatsuyker Island, located 10 km off the south-west coast of Tasmania in the World Heritage Area, is mostly vegetated by native flora. However, due to the history of the lightstation era, there have been areas where weeds, including blackberry, Montbretia and Hebe elliptica, had become established. These infestations had taken over vast areas of native vegetation and encroached on seabird breeding areas.
Across the 2015/2016 summer, Friends of Maatsuyker Island (FOMI) volunteers conducted two working bees with a focus on secondary follow-up and survey of known weed areas. FOMI have led working bees annually since 2004 and, over this time, have recorded a reduction in number and coverage area of weeds. In conjunction, FOMI conducts a monitoring program of the short-tailed shearwater burrow occupancy and breeding success. This program demonstrates the importance of the weeding program with signs of seabirds returning to breed in areas previously infested with weeds.
After an in-depth briefing and completing all biosecurity protocols, volunteers arrive at Maatsuyker Island and step out of the helicopter ready for action. Over a 10-day period, volunteers traipse up and down the island along GPS bearings attached to a string hip line. During the 2015/2016 summer working bees, they methodically searched for weeds over an area of approximately 20 hectares. This is no easy feat as maintaining a regimented survey line through dense vegetation proves difficult. By night, volunteers share quarters in a historic lightstation house, sharing the cooking and relaying stories of the day.
The latest working bee in March 2015 was exciting for FOMI as they trialed new technology to manage their weed data. This “fulcrum” data capture program was used to help plan areas to be surveyed, record weeds found, and give volunteers easy access to information so that they no longer needed to carry bulky paper records into the field. Thanks to Phil Wyatt, Wildcare’s Friends of GIS, for transferring all those reams of data to an easy-to-use application and providing training for the FOMI volunteers in its use.
The 2015/2016 working bees were made possible by funding through an NRM South ‘Naturally Inspired’ grant, via the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. FOMI also acknowledge the support provided by Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and Wildcare’s Internal Grant program. The working bees are a huge success because of the passion and hard work of the dedicated volunteers that step off that helicopter.
Article edited from a FOMI Working Bee Coordinators update, photos by Marina Campbell.