While we generally prefer to go it alone, we did decide a few days ago, due to access challenges, to book onto an organised tour of Palm Valley. A good tour can work well and this one turned out to be one of the good ones – decent tour guide, uncrowded tour with congenial companions, and a relaxed style.
During the tour, our guide told us – and he came across as pretty knowledgeable though we didn’t ask him for his sources! – that climate change is pretty evident in the Central Australian deserts. He said that, over the last 40 years, there has been significantly more rain, more frequent flooding, and a higher number per annum of high temperature days. Fascinating, eh, that the desert has had more rain while much of the rest of Australia (particularly in the south and southeast) has had much less! It sounds as though there aren’t many climate change sceptics here in the Centre.
Just as, if not more, scary, though, was his discussion of the problem of ferals. We all know about feral cats, foxes, horses, camels etc but he showed us some feral plants, the worst of which seemed to be buffel grass. It gives the desert, to we more naïve visitors, a lovely golden tinge but in fact it is a highly invasive plant which creates a monoculture thereby removing the habitats for many Australian flora and fauna. And, like the cane toad, its march seems inexorable and hard to halt. It was designed by the CSIRO (in the 1930s/40s if I recollect properly) as a hardy dry-country stockfeed grass! He also showed us a Ruby Dock plant which is an efficient water “gatherer” and which as a result leaves less water for native Australian plants to use. It’s a pretty plant though – and I remember proudly photographing some on a previous trip to the Northern Territory only to discover when I got home that it was not a plant to promulgate proudly! Traps for young players!