Working collaboratively to tackle an emerging wetland weed 

Nestled against coastal swamp in the town of Byron Bay lies The Byron Bay Integrated Water Management Reserve; a series of constructed wetlands and a large area of restored melaleuca swamp. These wetlands serve as both a water treatment operation and as habitat for wildlife and are home to many endangered and vulnerable birds and frogs. In 2022, Australian Wetlands Consulting begun managing the site, and have since been working collaboratively with the Byron Shire Council to provide the best water and ecological outcomes.  

Wetlands are dynamic systems, making them particularly vulnerable to weed invasion through water movement. Weeds can disrupt nutrient and hydrology patterns, displace of native plant species, and change the availability of habitat and resources crucial for native insects, birds, and fish.   

Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) might seem innocuous at first glance with its small, lily-pad-like leaves floating peacefully on the water’s surface. However, the Amazonian weed can quickly dominate bodies of water, reducing available oxygen for fish and aquatic animals. The weed was first detected in NSW in 2015 and has recently been located in several waterways on the North Coast- including at The Byron Bay Integrated Water Management Reserve.  

Environmental scientist and ecologists from the Australian Wetlands Consulting have teamed up with ROUS County Council and bush regenerators from the Byron Shire Council to tackle the emerging threat of Frogbit at the reserve. Decked out in water-proof waders, teams have been methodically surveying the wetland cells for Frogbit infestations. The endeavour is not devoid of challenges, with surveyors required to traverse deep water and negotiate submerged obstacles, like fallen trees. Teams have detected several areas of Frogbit, which have been promptly managed by a combination of hand-removal and wetland-safe herbicides.   

Through this collaborative approach it is hoped that early detection and intervention will reduce the spread of this environmental weed. Minimising large scale efforts in the future. 

If you have seen this weed in waterways yourself, please inform Rous Country Council. Click link for further details on Frogbit and its characteristics for correct identification.