Herbicide impacts on exotic grasses and a population of the critically endangered herb Calystegia affinis (Convolvulaceae) on Lord Howe Island
Introduced perennial grasses are capable of altering the habitat of native species, causing reductions in population size and vigour, and potentially affecting life-history processes such as survival, pollination and seedling recruitment. We examined the utility of herbicide treatment on two exotic grasses, Pennisetum clandestinum (Kikuyu) and Stenotaphrum secundatum (Buffalo grass) to restore the habitat of Calystegia affinis, a critically endangered species endemic to Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Using two herbicides, Asset (designed to affect only grasses) and Glyphosate (a general herbicide), we compared effectiveness in reducing grass cover on a population of Calystegia affinis. We protected Calystegia plants from the herbicides by ensuring their leaves were covered by plastic bags during herbicide application. Both herbicides were similarly effective in reducing grass cover after four weeks and had no noticeable adverse affect on Calystegia (suggesting the plastic bag protection was effective). After 26 weeks, Glyphosate was more effective in maintaining a reduced grass cover. Plots treated with either herbicide had a greater relative increase in abundance of Calystegia stems compared to untreated controls. The Glyphosate treatment resulted in the greatest relative increase in stem abundance, but this was not significantly greater than in the Asset treatment. We consider that spraying with Glyphosate treatment, with follow-up monitoring and spot-spraying, will assist the recovery of the Calystegia affinis population. Ultimately, the maintenance of a weed-free zone at the forest edge will provide suitable habitat for additional recruitment of this and other native species.