Swings and Roundabouts

Swings and Roundabouts

Lately, I have been working in a bush regeneration role. The hours are long and the work is hard, but at the end of each day, you can see what you’ve achieved. I like being able to see the difference I’ve made – it means all the hours I spent cutting down olive trees, being attacked by lantana, and battling blackberries, achieved something.

However, it’s a necessary part of regen work that you can never clear ALL the weeds – there’s too many, they’re too resilient, and you never have enough time. And then, in some cases, there are other things.

Now, the plant in the picture caught my attention because of its strange features. The blobby structures at the end of the branches don’t appear to be flowers, they don’t open up. However, they do contain sap. And they’re a major food source for the monarch butterfly, also known as the wanderer.

But here’s the thing, the plant itself is a weed. So we should pull it out. But we don’t pull all of them, so there’s still a food source for the butterfly. In particular, we don’t pull those on which you can see caterpillars, like the one shown in this photo.

The environment is often complicated this way. There are never individual issues to tackle, they always overlap with other concerns. I know of an island of built of dumped, contaminated sediments in a river in Queensland, and normally, it would have to be cleaned up as an environmental problem. But because the local population knew the island was contaminated, no one goes there, and the land is undeveloped. And because of that, endangered migrating birds have begun using it as nesting place. As such, it’s protected under Federal Law. One of the more contaminated areas in Queensland is protected as a bird sanctuary. Go figure.

Environmental management is often like this. What you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts. And sometimes, vice versa.

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