Savanna Explorer > Darwin-Kakadu > Weeds > Weed Risk Assessment

Decision tools help to manage weed risk

A NEW decision support tool—a Weed Risk Management (WRM) system—is being developed in the Northern Territory to assess and respond to the risks posed by exotic plants. The system is being developed for the Northern Territory by Charles Darwin University and the NT Government.

High intensity gamba fire
Some exotic plants, such as gamba, cause devastating changes to fire regimes
Photo: Sam Setterfield

CDU researcher Dr Samantha Setterfield said the development of the system was being guided by the National Post-Border Weed Risk Management Protocol as well as through working with weed experts from around the country.

“Weeds are recognised as a key threat to biodiversity conservation, industry and in some instances human health,” she said. “However, recognising the problem is only the first step, we then need to establish which weeds are priorities and then how to respond to the threat.”

The system will assess the relative risk posed by exotic plants and how best to respond to these risks. It takes into account the characteristics of the plant, its current and potential impacts, and how feasible it is to control.
“The WRM process will provide a standard, transparent, and scientifically based assessment of both potential and current weed species,” said Samantha. “We are currently customising the system to suit the NT and some of the unique problems we face, such as weeds changing fire regimes.”

The development of the WRM system was overseen by a Technical Committee, which comprises scientists from CDU and a range of government departments (Natural Resources Environment and the Arts, Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines, and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service).

However stakeholder involvement was recognised as a key element in developing the system.
Dr Keith Ferdinands, Weed Risk Manager for NT NRETA, said that to ensure input from key stakeholders a Weed Risk Management Reference Group was formed.
The group has government and non-government industry representatives—which include the NT Cattleman’s association, NT Garden and Nursery Association, World Wildlife Fund Australia and the Central Land Council. Workshops also ensured that stakeholders in the Northern Territory were involved in planning and implementing the strategy.

“To ensure transparency and accountability, a detailed species assessment document is prepared for each WRM candidate,” explained Keith.  “When the WRM development is completed and the Technical Committee recommends a weed risk and feasibility of control score, the species assessment documents will be available for all interested parties to scrutinise for support or appeal, and to provide additional information.”

To date, 80 WRM candidate species have been assessed, and a preliminary weed risk and feasibility of control score has determined for each species. A report on these candidate species and suggested management recommendations will be presented to the NT Government by the end of 2007.


Mr Keith Ferdinands
Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator
NT DNRETA, Conservation & Natural Resources Group
Tel: 08 8999 4426

Fax: 08 8999 4445

PO Box 30

Dr Samantha Setterfield
Lecturer, Environmental Management & Ecology
Charles Darwin University
Tel: 08 8946 6756

Fax: 08 8946 6847

Faculty of SITE, Bldg 42