Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Rapid appraisal links feral buffalo with kunkod (Melaleuca spp.) decline in freshwater billabongs of tropical northern Australia

E. J. Ens A D , S. Bentley-Toon A , F. Campion B , S. Campion B , J. Kelly B and G. Towler C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B Djelk Rangers, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, Maningrida, NT 0822, Australia.

C National Herbarium of NSW, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Present address: Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2101, Australia. Email: emilie.ens@mq.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16267
Submitted: 27 July 2016  Accepted: 19 November 2016   Published online: 20 January 2017

Abstract

Freshwater wetlands have great ecological, social, cultural and economic importance and are considered some of the most threatened ecosystems globally, especially in the tropics. In the tropics of northern Australia, much land is owned by Aboriginal people, thus requiring community-based approaches to monitoring and decision making. Herein we present a collaborative community-based rapid appraisal of an observed decline in a culturally and ecologically important tree genus of the freshwater wetlands in northern Australia, locally known as kunkod (Melaleuca spp., Myrtaceae) by Bininj (local Aboriginal people). We conducted collaborative research with the local Aboriginal Djelk Rangers incorporating local and scientific knowledge and preferred research methods. The decline in kunkod was more common in the water zone than in the mud and dry zones of freshwater billabongs in the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area. Kunkod decline and poor regeneration were significantly correlated with high water electrical conductivity, turbidity and ammonium. Feral buffalo activity was also positively correlated with these parameters, suggesting an indirect effect of buffalo on kunkod population health (large and small trees) through reduced water quality rather than direct rubbing on the trees, as was initially expected. Ongoing monitoring will allow assessment of potential recovery of kunkod following planned feral buffalo control.

Additional keywords: Aboriginal land management, community-based research, CyberTracker, invasive species, participatory research.


References

Albrecht, G., McMahon, C. R., Bowman, D. M. J. S., and Bradshaw, C. J. A. (2009). Convergence of culture, ecology, and ethics: management of feral swamp buffalo in northern Australia. Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 22, 361–378.
Convergence of culture, ecology, and ethics: management of feral swamp buffalo in northern Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Altman, J. C. (1987). ‘Hunter–Gatherers Today: An Aboriginal Economy in North Australia.’ (Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra, ACT, Australia.)

Altman, J. C., Buchanan, G. J., and Larsen, L. (2007). ‘The Environmental Significance of the Indigenous Estate: Natural Resource Management as Economic Development in Remote Australia.’ (The Australian National University: Canberra, ACT, Australia.)

Altman, J. C., Jordan, K., Kerins, S., Buchanan, G., Biddle, N., Ens, E., and May, K. (2009). Indigenous interests in land and water. In ‘Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review 2009’. (Ed. P. Stone.) Chapter 7, pp. 1–56. (Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government: Canberra, ACT, Australia.)

Andersen, A., Jacklyn, P., Dawes-Gromadzki, T., and Morris, I. (2005). ‘Termites of Northern Australia.’ (Barker Souvenirs: Alice Springs, NT, Australia.)

Andrew, M. H. (1988). Grazing impact in relation to livestock watering points. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 3, 336–339.
Grazing impact in relation to livestock watering points.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BC3M7gvFektg%3D%3D&md5=b7a481c1a811444583cd48ec46fd91ceCAS | open url image1

Ansell, S., and Koenig, J. (2011). CyberTracker: an integral management tool used by rangers in the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area, central Arnhem Land, Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration 12, 13–25.
CyberTracker: an integral management tool used by rangers in the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area, central Arnhem Land, Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Applegate, R. J. (1999). Saltwater intrusion and the Mary River wetlands of the Northern Territory. In ‘An International Perspective on Wetland Rehabilitation’. (Ed. W Streever.) pp. 113–119. (Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, Netherlands.)

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (2000). Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality. Vol. 1: the guidelines. (ANZECC and ARMCANZ.) Available at https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/53cda9ea-7ec2-49d4-af29-d1dde09e96ef/files/nwqms-guidelines-4-vol1.pdf [Verified 13 January 2017].

Bowman, D. M. J. S., Prior, L. D., and De Little, S. C. (2010). Retreating melaleuca swamp forests in Kakadu National Park: evidence of synergistic effects of climate change and past feral buffalo impacts. Austral Ecology 35, 898–905.
Retreating melaleuca swamp forests in Kakadu National Park: evidence of synergistic effects of climate change and past feral buffalo impacts.CrossRef | open url image1

Braithwaite, R. W., Dudzinski, M. L., Ridpath, M. G., and Parker, B. S. (1984). The impact of water buffalo on the monsoon forest ecosystem in Kakadu National Park. Austral Ecology 9, 309–322.
The impact of water buffalo on the monsoon forest ecosystem in Kakadu National Park.CrossRef | open url image1

Brockwell, S., Levitus, R., Russell-Smith, R., and Forrest, P. (1995). Aboriginal heritage. In ‘Kakadu: Natural and Cultural Heritage and Management’. (Eds T. Press, D. Lea, A. Webb, and A. Graham.) pp. 15– 63. (Australian Nature Conservation Agency: Darwin, NT, Australia.)

Brophy, J. J., Craven, L. A., and Doran, J. C. (2013). ‘Melaleucas: Their Botany, Essential Oils and Uses.’ (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research: Canberra, ACT, Australia.)

Chambers, R. (1994). Participatory rural appraisal (PRA): Challenges, potentials and paradigm. World Development 22, 1437–1454.
Participatory rural appraisal (PRA): Challenges, potentials and paradigm.CrossRef | open url image1

Collier, N., Austin, B., Bradshaw, C. A., and McMahon, C. (2011). Turning pests into profits: introduced buffalo provide multiple benefits to Indigenous people of northern Australia. Human Ecology 39, 155–164.
Turning pests into profits: introduced buffalo provide multiple benefits to Indigenous people of northern Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Cowie, I. D., Short, P. S., and Osterkamp Madsen, M. (2000). ‘Floodplain Flora: A Flora of the Coastal Floodplains of the Northern Territory, Australia.’ (Australian Biological Resources Study and Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory: Darwin, NT, Australia.)

Cresswell, R., Petheram, C., Harrington, G., Buetikoffer, H., Hodgen, M., and Davies, P. (2009). Water resources in northern Australia. In ‘Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review 2009’. (Ed. P. Stone) Chapter 1, pp. 1–40. (Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government: Canberra, ACT, Australia.)

Crowley, G., Garnett, S., and Shephard, S. (2009). Impact of storm-burning on Melaleuca viridiflora invasion of grasslands and grassy woodlands on Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Austral Ecology 34, 196–209.
Impact of storm-burning on Melaleuca viridiflora invasion of grasslands and grassy woodlands on Cape York Peninsula, Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Douglas, M., Jackson, S., Setterfield, S., Pusey, B., Davies, P., Kennard, M., Burrows, D., and Bunn, S. (2011). ‘Aquatic Biodiversity in Northern Australia: Patterns, Threats and Future.’ (CDU Press: Darwin, NT, Australia.)

Ens, E. J. (2012a). Conducting two-way ecological research. In ‘People on Country, Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures’. (Eds J. C. Altman and S. Kerins.) pp. 45–64. (Federation Press: Sydney, NSW, Australia.)

Ens, E. J. (2012b). Monitoring outcomes of environmental service provision in low socio-economic Indigenous Australia using innovative CyberTracker technology. Conservation & Society 10, 42–52.
Monitoring outcomes of environmental service provision in low socio-economic Indigenous Australia using innovative CyberTracker technology.CrossRef | open url image1

Ens, E. J., Cooke, P., Nadjamerrek, R., Namundja, S., Garlngarr, V., and Yibarbuk, D. (2010). Ecological impacts of feral water buffalo on perennial freshwater springs of the Aboriginal owned Arnhem Plateau, Australia. Environmental Management 45, 751–758.
Ecological impacts of feral water buffalo on perennial freshwater springs of the Aboriginal owned Arnhem Plateau, Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Ens, E. J., Towler, G. M., Daniels, C. , Yugul Mangi Rangers, and Manwurrk Rangers (2012a). Looking back to move forward: collaborative ecological monitoring in remote Arnhem Land. Ecological Management & Restoration 13, 26–35.
Looking back to move forward: collaborative ecological monitoring in remote Arnhem Land.CrossRef | open url image1

Ens, E. J., Finlayson, C. M., Preuss, K., Jackson, S., and Holcombe, S. (2012b). Australian approaches for managing ‘Country’ using Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge. Ecological Management & Restoration 13, 100–107.
Australian approaches for managing ‘Country’ using Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge.CrossRef | open url image1

Ens, E. J., Burns, E., Russell-Smith, J., Sparrow, B., and Wardle, G. M. (2014). The cultural imperative: broadening the vision of long-term ecological monitoring to enhance environmental policy and management outcomes. In ‘Biodiversity and Environmental Change: Monitoring, Challenges and Direction’. (Eds D. B. Lindenmayer, E. Burns, N. Thurgate, and A. Lowe.) pp. 85–110. (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne, Vic., Australia.)

Ens, E., Pert, P., Budden, M., Clarke, P. A., Clubb, L., Doran, B., Douras, C., Gaikwad, J., Gott, B., Leonard, S., Locke, J., Packer, J., Turpin, G., Wallace, M., Wallace, P., and Wasson, S. (2015). Indigenous biocultural knowledge in ecosystem science and management: review and insight from Australia. Biological Conservation 181, 133–149.
Indigenous biocultural knowledge in ecosystem science and management: review and insight from Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Ens, E., Daniels, C., Roy, J., Nelson, E., and Dixon, P. (2016). Creating multi-functional landscapes: using exclusion fences to frame feral ungulate management preferences in remote Aboriginal-owned northern Australia. Biological Conservation 197, 235–246.
Creating multi-functional landscapes: using exclusion fences to frame feral ungulate management preferences in remote Aboriginal-owned northern Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Finlayson, C. M., Davidson, N. C., Spiers, A. G., and Stevenson, N. J. (1999). Global wetland inventory; current status and future priorities. Marine and Freshwater Research 50, 717–727.
Global wetland inventory; current status and future priorities.CrossRef | open url image1

Finlayson, C. M., Bellio, M. G., and Lowry, J. B. (2005). A conceptual basis for the wise use of wetlands in northern Australia – linking information needs, integrated analyses, drivers of change and human well-being. Marine and Freshwater Research 56, 269–277.
A conceptual basis for the wise use of wetlands in northern Australia – linking information needs, integrated analyses, drivers of change and human well-being.CrossRef | open url image1

Hill, R., Grant, C., George, M., Robinson, C. J., Jackson, S., and Abel, N. (2012). A typology of Indigenous engagement in Australian environmental management: implications for knowledge integration and social-ecological system sustainability. Ecology and Society 17, art23.
A typology of Indigenous engagement in Australian environmental management: implications for knowledge integration and social-ecological system sustainability.CrossRef | open url image1

Junk, W. J. (2002). Long-term environmental trends and the future of tropical wetlands. Environmental Conservation 29, 414–435.
Long-term environmental trends and the future of tropical wetlands.CrossRef | open url image1

Keddy, P. (2010). ‘Wetland Ecology: Principles and Conservation.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Liebenberg, L. (2003). A new environmental monitoring tool. Available at http://www.cybertracker.org/tracking/discussion-papers/140-a-new-environmental-monitoring-methodology [Verified 13 January 2017].

McIntyre, A. (2008). ‘Participatory Action Research.’ (Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA, USA.)

Moritz, C., Ens, E., Potter, S., and Catullo, R. (2013). The Australian monsoonal tropics: an opportunity to protect unique biodiversity and secure benefits for Aboriginal communities. Pacific Conservation Biology 19, 343–355.
The Australian monsoonal tropics: an opportunity to protect unique biodiversity and secure benefits for Aboriginal communities.CrossRef | open url image1

Motomizu, S., Wakimoto, T., and Toei, K. (1983). Spectrophotometric determination of phosphate in river waters with molybdate and malachite green. Analyst (London) 108, 361–367.
Spectrophotometric determination of phosphate in river waters with molybdate and malachite green.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DyaL3sXitVCjtrw%3D&md5=ed95bd87d8df3f453101c27bdbbfc5e2CAS | open url image1

Mulrennan, M. E., and Woodroffe, C. D. (1998). Saltwater intrusion into the coastal plains of the Lower Mary River, Northern Territory, Australia. Journal of Environmental Management 54, 169–188.
Saltwater intrusion into the coastal plains of the Lower Mary River, Northern Territory, Australia.CrossRef | open url image1

Nelson, D. W. (1983). Determination of ammonium in KCl extracts of soils by the salicylate method. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 14, 1051–1062.
Determination of ammonium in KCl extracts of soils by the salicylate method.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DyaL2cXjtlKrsA%3D%3D&md5=f5fd5f583bfd209595cd9891109e689cCAS | open url image1

Pusey, B., Warfe, D., Townsend, S., Douglas, M., Burrows, D., Kennard, M., and Close, P. (Eds) (2011). ‘Condition, Impacts and Threats to Aquatic Biodiversity. Aquatic Biodiversity on Northern Australia: Patterns, Threats and Future.’ (CDU Press: Darwin, NT, Australia.)

Quinn, G. P., and Keogh, M. J. (2002). ‘Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists.’ (Cambridge University Press: New York, NY, USA.)

Robinson, C. J., Smyth, D., and Whitehead, P. J. (2005). Bush tucker, bush pets, and bush threats: cooperative management of feral animals in Australia’s Kakadu National Park. Conservation Biology 19, 1385–1391.
Bush tucker, bush pets, and bush threats: cooperative management of feral animals in Australia’s Kakadu National Park.CrossRef | open url image1

Roshier, D. A., Whetton, P. H., Allan, R. J., and Robertson, A. I. (2001). Distribution and persistence of temporary wetland habitats in arid Australia in relation to climate. Austral Ecology 26, 371–384.
Distribution and persistence of temporary wetland habitats in arid Australia in relation to climate.CrossRef | open url image1

Rostron, V., Campion, W., Namarnyilk, I., and Fogarty, B. (2012). Countrymen standing together. In ‘People on Country, Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures’. (Eds J. C. Altman and S. Kerins.) pp. 162–173. (Federation Press: Sydney, NSW, Australia.)

Saalfeld, K. (2014). Feral buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) distribution and abundance in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Department of Land Resource Management, Northern Territory, Darwin, NT, Australia.

Saunders, D. L., Meeuwig, J. J., and Vincent, A. C. J. (2002). Freshwater protected areas: strategies for conservation. Conservation Biology 16, 30–41.
Freshwater protected areas: strategies for conservation.CrossRef | open url image1

Skeat, A. J., East, T. J., and Corbett, L. K. (1996). Impact of feral water buffalo. In ‘Landscape and Vegetation Ecology of the Kakadu Region, Northern Australia.’ (Eds C. M. Finlayson and I. Oertzen.) pp. 155–177. (Kluwer Academic: Dordrecht, Netherlands.)

Stocker, G. C. (1971). The effects of water buffalo on paperbark forests in the Northern Territory. Australian Forest Research 5, 29–34. open url image1

Strayer, D. L., and Dudgeon, D. (2010). Freshwater biodiversity conservation: recent progress and future challenges. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29, 344–358.
Freshwater biodiversity conservation: recent progress and future challenges.CrossRef | open url image1

Taschetto, A. S., Ummenhofer, C. C., Sen Gupta, A., and England, M. H. (2009). Effect of anomalous warming in the central Pacific on the Australian monsoon. Geophysical Research Letters 36, L12704.
Effect of anomalous warming in the central Pacific on the Australian monsoon.CrossRef | open url image1

Tulloch, D. G. (1970). Season movement and distribution of the sexes in the water buffalo, Bubalus bubalis, in the Northern Territory. Australian Journal of Zoology 18, 399–414.
Season movement and distribution of the sexes in the water buffalo, Bubalus bubalis, in the Northern Territory.CrossRef | open url image1

van der Moezel, P. G., Pearce-Pinto, G. V. N., and Bell, D. T. (1991). Screening for salt and waterlogging tolerance in eucalyptus and melaleuca species. Forest Ecology and Management 40, 27–37.
Screening for salt and waterlogging tolerance in eucalyptus and melaleuca species.CrossRef | open url image1

Whitehead, P. J., Wilson, B. A., and Bowman, D. M. J. S. (1990). Conservation of coastal wetlands of the Northern Territory of Australia: the Mary River floodplain. Biological Conservation 52, 85–111.
Conservation of coastal wetlands of the Northern Territory of Australia: the Mary River floodplain.CrossRef | open url image1

Williams, A. R. (1984). Changes in melaleuca forest density on the Magela floodplain, Northern Territory, between 1950 and 1975. Australian Journal of Ecology 9, 199–202.
Changes in melaleuca forest density on the Magela floodplain, Northern Territory, between 1950 and 1975.CrossRef | open url image1

Winn, K. O., Saynor, M. J., Eliot, M. J., and Elio, I. (2006). Saltwater intrusion and morphological change at the mouth of the East Alligator River, Northern Territory. Journal of Coastal Research 22, 137–149.
Saltwater intrusion and morphological change at the mouth of the East Alligator River, Northern Territory.CrossRef | open url image1

Woinarski, J. C. Z., Mackey, B., Nix, H., and Traill, B. (2007). ‘The Nature of Northern Australia: Natural Values, Ecological Processes and Future Prospects.’ (ANU E Press: Canberra, ACT, Australia.)



Export Citation

View Altmetrics