Buffel Grass

Buffel grass (Cenchrus cillaris)

The costs and benefits of buffel grass and its management

CSIRO scientists are working with agencies, regional groups and individuals to document the environmental, social and economic benefits and costs of buffel grass.

  • 25 March 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011

Background

Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is the most widespread introduced pasture species in arid and semi-arid northern Australia.

Many pastoralists regard it highly because in many situations it greatly increases pasture productivity for cattle.

However, it is also widely seen as having negative environmental impacts through competition with native species and changes to fire regimes.

The development of broad policy relating to the management of buffel grass has not advanced to the extent it might have given the controversy surrounding the species.

It is also hard to devise cost-effective management techniques which would be widely accepted. Resolving conflicting interests involves negotiating social and cultural attitudes as well as economic considerations.     

Addressing the issues

Our approach to improving the management of buffel grass is to consider the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits from all perspectives.

If we can understand the range of concerns and values surrounding buffel grass, we can develop recommendations that can help maximise the benefits from buffel grass but minimise any negative impacts, and contribute to policy development.

Project objectives

The project's key objectives are to:

  • document the environmental, social and economic benefits and costs of buffel grass invasion to both conservation and pastoral sectors
  • identify and describe current and potential management objectives, strategies and operational methods and their relative benefits and costs
  • determine the perceptions of key stakeholders to different objectives, strategies and operational methods for dealing with buffel grass
  • identify the potential for change in perceptions, attitudes and values and determine pathways for disseminating information about buffel grass and its management or control
  • develop specific recommendations, based on our findings, on how to improve the management of buffel grass, and disseminate them as effectively as possible
  • provide a general approach to improve management of contentious weed issues that considers both costs and benefits and the sociological barriers to change.

Research activities

The research project includes important input from:

  • agriculture and natural resource agencies
  • conservation and industry groups
  • landholders
  • local government
  • natural resource management bodies.
    The perspectives of property managers are important because they are the ones who will be most directly affected by any proposed changes to management practices.

with work taking place in:

  • the Fitzroy Natural Resource Management region (Queensland)
  • the Pilbara (Western Australia)
  • the South Australian Arid Lands region
  • central Australia.

There are four elements of the research, which are:

  • a desktop review of literature to collate all available information about environmental, social and economic benefits and costs of buffel grass and its control or management
  • workshops in the four case study regions to engage organisational stakeholders in a discussion of buffel grass in their region to elucidate the costs and benefits and to document perceptions, values and attitudes of each organisation
  • surveys of individual pastoralists in each of the case-study regions to ascertain their assessment of the costs and benefits of buffel grass
  • a synthesis of the study results so that researchers, the community and organisations can appreciate the complexity of the buffel grass issue and choose the most appropriate pathway toward more effective management.

The perspectives of property managers are of particular importance because they are the ones who will be most directly affected by any proposed changes to management practices.

Perspectives of people at the industry, institutional and regional levels are also important because of their roles in formulating and implementing policy and because they will be affected by the ways in which managers of enterprises and other management units deal with the problem locally.

The project team is planning to deliver its outcomes by mid-2008.

Acknowledgements

Land and Water Australia provide funding support for this research.

Extensive in-kind support is also provided by workshop participants and others who contribute their time and resources to assist.

Learn more about: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems Alice Springs