Impacts of Locust Control

Impacts of Locust Control

Kris French Research Area

Locust control is widespread, annual and ongoing and yet its ecological impacts are unknown. Semi-arid areas subject to locust control activities support numerous rare and endangered species that may be impacted by exposure to pesticides and little is known about the ecology of sensitive animals in these regions and how they might respond to pesticide applications. We collaborating with ecotoxicologist, A/Prof Grant Hose (Macquarie University) and Paul Story (APLC) in an ARC Linkage funded project aimed at monitoring the effects of fipronil, a phenyl pyrazole pesticide, and fenitrothion, an organophosphate pesticide, on the behaviour and physiology of non-target small mammals, reptiles, birds and ants. Our previous research determined the effects of fipronil and a fungal biopesticide, Metarhizium acridium (Green Guard) on non-target invertebrates, termites, reptiles and soil processes including litter decomposition rates and microbial function.

Core to our approach are large field-based experiments with replicated spraying treatments. The 9 replicate 70 ha sites approximate the scale of locust control operations. No other study globally has taken this comprehensive approach. Large scale monitoring across a range of trophic levels and ecosystem functions also represents an exciting globally relevant approach that will allow more informed decisions on locust control both in Australia and elsewhere.

Dr Kim Maute at the University of Wollongong has taken a lead role in running this project since February 2012. We are continuing our research at the field site based at Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, near Broken Hill, NSW. Tracking changes in focal animal populations and ecosystem processes at such a large scale involves the help and coordination of many staff and volunteers. Over 50 UOW, UNSW, Macquarie, Flinders and overseas university students have already experienced the joys of volunteer field work. In the coming year, the collaborators are recruiting volunteers and students to participate in our new research.

Current students/staff:

  • Kim Maute, Postdoctoral staff
  • Paul Story, Honorary/Visiting Associate Fellow
  • Isabella Contador-Kelsall, PhD Candidate
  • Adam Bernich, Honours Student