The University of Arizona

Low density of prickly acacia under sheep grazing in Queensland.

F. Tiver, M. Nicholas, D. Kriticos, J.R. Brown


Populations of an introduced woody weed, prickly acacia (Acacia nilotica (L.) Delile ssp. indica (Benth.) Brenan syn. Acacia arabica (Lam.) Willd. ssp. indica Benth.), were surveyed at 4 sites in central Queensland. There is a significantly lower frequency of plants of < 3 m in height within populations which have been grazed by sheep, indicating that browsing by sheep reduces regeneration. There were higher losses of seedlings at a sheep-grazed site than at cattle-grazed sites. These results support previous assertions that prickly acacia is regenerating more successfully on cattle properties, because cattle both disperse seeds and are less effective herbivores. In regions of low annual rainfall, prickly acacia is capable of forming dense stands (up to 2,700 shrubs ha(-1)) in lowland landscape types. Stands are less dense in upland landscapes (maximum of 718 shrubs ha(-1)). Of most concern is that in regions of high annual rainfall prickly acacia can form extremely dense thickets across most landscape types (up to 3,400 shrubs ha(-1)). We suggest that prickly acacia is most likely to become a management problem on cattle properties, and an extreme problem in high annual rainfall areas. The inclusion of sheep in livestock rotations may be an effective control measure in the Mitchell Grasslands, but this may not always be possible. A high priority is to prevent prickly acacia from expanding its range into equivalent high rainfall areas within Queensland, and also in the Northern Territory, northern New South Wales, and Western Australia. This could be achieved by quarantining livestock which have come from infested properties until seeds have passed through the digestive tract, after about 6 days. Management strategies at the property level should aim to prevent further spread of prickly acacia by controlling cattle movements between paddocks during periods when cattle are ingesting pods and seeds.



regeneration;weeds;quarantine;Queensland;seed dispersal;highlands;rain;seedlings;pastures;selective grazing;woody plants;rotational grazing;sheep;plant density;introduced species;browsing;grazing;plant height

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