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Urgent call to help wipe out weed

GYMPIE Landcare needs you to help battle cat's claw.

The weed has "expanded considerably" since last mapped in 2003.

Gympie MRCCC Catchment officer and Landcare board member Steve Burgess said he hoped people would help Gympie Landcare complete a comprehensive map of where cat's claw was growing in the Gympie region.

Speaking at Landcare's bug farm, Mr Burgess said the cat's claw creeper was the most serious threat to forest and stream-side vegetation in the region.

"Cat's claw is spreading rapidly in dry rain forests south of Gympie," he said.

For just over four years Gympie Landcare has been breeding tiny tingid bugs to help control the weed, which kills vegetation and food sources for many animals.

It is the second biological control measure that has been trialled.

The first was a vicious caterpillar that ate its way through the weed, but it would not breed successfully in the wild.

Now Landcare volunteers are hoping tingid bugs can help their efforts to eradicate the forest killer.

"This is no silver bullet, there is no silver bullet," Mr Burgess said.

"Cat's claw is the major environmental threat to riparian rainforests and vine forests and it is starting to have a financial impact on farm forestry."

In the latest efforts to combat Cat's claw, plants infested with tingid bugs will be planted near existing infestations in the hope that the bugs will spread and start to kill the weeds.

"We've been working with the tingid for a while now."

Landcare studies show the bugs go through a boom and bust cycle.

The project had initially collapsed when state funding stopped, but volunteers with the help of Gympie Council got the scheme up and running again.

Landcare project officer Michael Lowe said cat's claw was "everywhere at the moment".

Mr Burgess said the only way to get on top of the weed was for everyone to work together.

He called on land holders to work on their properties and with neighbours, using chemical, mechanical and biological controls.

There is now hope a new creepy crawly will be more effective than the tingid.

"There's a new bug, the jewel beetle that we want the federal environment minister to sign approval for release in the wild. When they are available we will raise them," Mr Burgess said.

Studies show the jewel beetle may be better at controlling the weed than previous biological methods, but Mr Burgess said he did not know how that would translate in the wild.

"It's critically important we get as much help as possible."

Landcare is calling on neighbours to take action and help rescue forests and streams from the "ecological disaster" which originated in central and southern America.

Mr Burgess said the impact of cat's claw on native forest vegetation can be catastrophic.

"Cat's claw carpets the ground and under-story layer which prevents regeneration of young native plants. It also smothers and kills canopy vegetation, changing the entire structure of a forest.

"The loss of mature breeding trees and seed sources along with all the environmental services that those trees provide - shelter, shade, stream bank stability, habitat - is the end result of a cat's claw infestation."

He is encouraging the formation of local neighbourhood groups to collectively tackle the weed in their own areas.

Technical assistance and biocontrol agents are available from Gympie Landcare, thanks to a state community action grant and Gympie Council funding.

Get the facts

Email catsclaw-action @gympielandcare.org.au to give co-ordinates of where you have seen cat's claw, for information or to start an action group.

Visit mrccc.org.au for information on using the tingid bugs.

Call Gympie Landcare on 5483 8866

Topics:  bugs cats claw environment gardens weeds

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