An assessment of the impact of a managed buffalo population on woody vegetation in a tropical wetland area

  • Jan Elizabeth Riley

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    Landscape change and change in vegetation density in particular, is a topic of enormous interest in Northern Australia and around the world. Varied factors can cause change including the density of feral animals and changed grazing patterns. Kakadu National Park is a World Heritage area situated in Australia 's Northern Territory. Between 1825 and 1843 Bubulus bubalis, the Asian water buffalo, was introduced to the Northern Territory. Peak numbers of buffalo occurred in the Park in the early to mid 1970's. They were almost total eliminated by the early 1990's. A buffalo farm was formed in Kakadu National Park in 1989 and is still operating today. The establishment of this farm provides a unique scientific opportunity to explore both the effects of a low density buffalo population on the floodplain landscape and the ability of a buffalo degenerated landscape to regenerate with a managed buffalo population present.

    A GIS was used to analyse the study site. A point grid was created to sample a 15 meter area from every 50 metres over the study site. Attributes of forest, scrub, plain and channel were allocated to each point in the floodplain grid over the colour photograph coverage years of 1984, 1991 , and 2004 and also the black and white coverage's of 1964 and 1975. Spatial subsets reflecting different farm management history and the different study areas outside the farm were used to assist in the identification of different processes or drivers of change.

    There has been significant increase in woody vegetation over the entire study site in the 40 years from 1964 to 2004. This increase appears to reflect the density of buffalo population at any point in time and can certainly be linked to the removal of feral buffalo from the area. The paddock areas have increased woody vegetation at a substantially lower rate than the subsets external to the buffalo farm . It would appear that there is sufficient evidence that buffalo have had some effect on the regeneration of the floodplain. This effect is limited to a retardation of the regeneration and is not degrading the floodplain . It would then appear that with effective management it is possible to graze buffalo on floodplain areas without incurring degradation to the land.
    Date of AwardJun 2005
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGuy Stuart Boggs (Supervisor) & Jeremy Scott Freeman (Supervisor)

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