The Molasses grass grows so thickly and in such dense layers it all but smothers any seedlings of indigenous plants that may attempt to grow through it. This prevents the seed from the remaining adult Melaleucas and Eucalypts present on site from germinating and restoring the forest after a fire or drought. This species is considered to be a transformative species in that by suppressing seedlings of other plants it out-competes all other species and where once there was a multi-species ecosystem it is reduced to a monoculture of only one species. Thankfully there are methods of control and these involve mechanical removal and spraying with a selective herbicide and these will be employed at the site.
For the most part grasses are sun loving species and are shaded out and prevented from becoming dominant where forest canopy cover is present. After we remove the weed grass species from the site mass planting of canopy trees will be undertaken to restore the ecosystem. It will take time for the trees to grow and in that time it will be necessary for regular maintenance to be undertaken to prevent the grass weeds and others from once again dominating.
However as well as the panic native Blady Grass Imperata cylindrica is also present. This is a less smothering grass and more open allowing light to penetrate. In drifts of this grass the team has found native Melaleuca, Eucalypt, fern and sedge seedlings making a start. Whilst it is tedious work the team have been combing through the grass to locate the seedlings tagging them with pink tape and removing the grass from around them. The seedlings now given this encouragement to grow will start to thrive eventually forming a canopy cover and shading out the weed grasses. The Blady grass however is happy to grow in sun and part shade so will remain on the site but no longer become dominant. The discovery of the seedlings is encouraging as it displays the resilience still within the ecosystem on site, requires us to plant less seedlings and as they are endemic with local provenance their chances of survival increase.
All in all it has been a great start to the restoration of this area and the team is performing well even though the heat and humidity of the last couple of weeks has been quite challenging.
Chris Joyce (29th March 2015)