York was the venue for a workshop to inform the Avon community of the threats from the spread of weeds of national significance and encourage participation in strategies to control them.

The workshop organized by Wheatbelt Natural Resource Management (NRM) in Northam was held on April 27 in the York town hall and attracted more than 80 participants from places including Beverley, Northam Toodyay and York.

Wheatbelt NRM biodiversity officer, Rachael Major, gave a snapshot of the impact of weeds along 150 kilometres of the Avon River. "There are 2,500 weeds of national significance identified in Australia and 32 of these occur along the Avon River," she said.

These weeds are invasive, spread with ease, impact on the environment and water quality and adversely affect primary production. Some were imported as garden plants and escaped. Alarmingly WoNS are being sold and exchanged online through social media. Two of the most invasive and common along the Avon are tamarisk and bridal creeper. "Everyone needs to do their bit to stop weeds spreading," she said.

President of the Toodyay Friends of the River and long time 'weed warrior' Greg Warburton, said damage by the Avon River training scheme in the 1950's and 60's which involved the bulldozing of natural vegetation from the river had exacerbated the spread of weeds.

It had caused erosion and allowed the invasion by a range of weeds including annual grasses that resulted in damaging fires. "Weeds are a big threat to biodiversity. "We work with community groups to bring them under control. "There isn't the luxury of funds to employ contractors," he said.

Professor Lyn Abbott from UWA outlined methods of monitoring soil biodiversity and the impact of weeds on soil health. "Soil is alive and all the things living in it interact to recycle organic matter. "New technology has made it possible more than ever, to measure the diversity of life below the surface," she said.

Environmental scientist and ABC TV presenter, Josh Byrne, was guest speaker and delivered an animated talk on sustainable gardening. He emphasised the opportunities in garden design to create a sustainable environment. The key was recycling of materials in construction and of all household and garden waste. For more information see or call 9670 3100.

Lindsay McNeill

TOP: Participants in the Weed Wars workshop (L-R) Mick Davis from Wheatbelt NRM in Northam; local aboriginal elder, Boyd Kickett; environmental scientist and ABC TV presenter, Josh Byrne; president of the Toodyay Friends of the River, Greg Warburton and Wheatbelt NRM biodiversity officer, Rachael Major from York.