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Technology leading the fight against invasive rubber vine

Date: 18-Mar-19
Author: Liam Taylor

The flowers of the rubber vine may be pretty but this is one of the most devastating invasive species in Australia.

The flowers of the rubber vine may be pretty but this is one of the most devastating invasive species in Australia.

The rubber vine has been described as one of the most destructive invasive species in Australia, but a group of people in the Kimberley region are using innovative technology to arrest its advance.

The Aquila project began eight years ago when fishing tackle distributor John Szymanski fell in love with one of the last pristine river systems in the region, the Fitzoy river. After seeing the devastation caused by the rubber vine in areas of central and northern Queensland, Mr Szymanski made it his mission to eradicate the weed from the area.

He initially had little choice but to work with local Indigenous contractors to map the weed’s infestation on foot - an intensive process that involved walking up to 30 kilometres per day through the bush for weeks on end.

Since then, and with funding from the Western Australian Government, the project has begun to take on greater degrees of sophistication. Today, the project involves a custom-made helicopter mapping system and remote cameras that provide up-to-date aerial images of the 270-square-kilometre area.

These images are then sent to volunteers around the country who analyse them from home in order to pinpoint the location of individual plants based on the distinctive white flowers. Once they have done so, the information is provided to teams on the ground who eradicate those plants by hand.

The project has been an overwhelming success, with the most recent data suggesting there are now fewer than 150 rubber vine plants remaining in the river’s vicinity. The hope is that once the Fitzroy river has been cleared of the vine the same process can be applied to other areas under threat.


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Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.

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