PARK WATCH Article June 2024 |

Advice on keeping our natural places free of unwanted nasties

Let’s talk about outdoor hygiene. No, not how to stop smelly feet after getting hot and sweaty on a strenuous hike. I’m talking about spreading pests.

There’s a bunch of pests we can unknowingly spread from one place to another if we’re not careful. We might have some weed seeds stuck to our shoelaces, like the small seeds of invasive Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum). We might have the spores of introduced fungi like Orange Pore Fungus (Favolaschia calocera) stuck to the bottom of our boots. Or we could have some mud on our shoes or tent contaminated with the plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Pests can be disastrous for natural areas

Weeds can take over and crowd out native plants. They can be very difficult and costly to control, and often impossible to get rid of once established in an area.

Similar to weeds, introduced fungi take up space, leaving less habitat for native fungi. This can have the added effect of also impacting the plants and animals that native fungi have beneficial relationships with.

Phytophthora cinnamomi is a devastating plant pathogen that kills susceptible plants like grass trees and eucalypts. Over 40% of native plants are susceptible. Once it’s introduced to an area, it’s there forever.

What can we do to make sure we don’t spread weeds, seeds and disease?

The good news is, there are some easy steps we can take to help stop the spread!

Here’s a few hygiene tips to help reduce the spread of pests and protect our favourite places:

  • Arrive and leave clean – take a scrubbing brush with you when hiking or camping to clean soil and seeds off camping gear, clothes and shoes.
  • After you’ve removed the soil from your shoes, spray them with a 70 per cent methylated spirits, 30 per cent water mix to kill off Phytophthora cinnamomi and other pathogens.
  • Stick to designated tracks where possible.
  • Obey track closed signs in parks – they might be closed because of a pest infestation.