As cavers we visit some beautiful and unique environments, we are all aware of the devastating effect of WNS in some countries. However, this is just one invasive species that could affect the environments we visit. Below are some known examples of invasive species cavers could potentially spread between caving regions if we are not vigilant in cleaning our camping and walking equipment. For information and advice on cleaning and decontamination procedures see the WNS page.
The Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service is commited to keeping out and/or controlling invasive or introduced diseases, pests and weeds. Tas Parks has an excellent handout outlining these threats. Probably the most important for cavers to be aware of are the following:
Phytophthora (or Root Rot) is present and widespread throughout Tasmania although there are significant disease-free areas that require protection. Please ensure that you clean all camping gear (particularly boots) before coming to Tassie and on your return home.
A fungus which infects the skin of frogs, causing frog extinctions worldwide. It is present both in Tasmania and on the mainland. Chytrid is spread by muddy bushwalking and camping gear (particularly boots), and vehicle tyres.
Didymo, or rock snot, is made up of millions of
microscopic cells that can’t be seen until a large colony
has formed – by which stage it’s almost impossible to
eradicate. It is widespread in the northern hemisphere and
has been present as a pest in New Zealand since 2004
where it has wreaked havoc choking streams and river
systems. The thick, brown, slimy sludge spreads rapidly,
attaching to rocks and submerged plants. Significantly
impacts water quality, aquatic invertebrates and fish
stocks. Hazardous for hydroelectric generation, the agricultural industry (including irrigation) and recreational pursuits.
This has not been detected in Tasmania to date, but quarantine services are on highest alert, particularly checking ports of entry from NZ. A single cell in a drop of water is enough for the algae to spread and is primarily spread via contaminated aquatic and fishing equipment.
What you can do
- When moving from different caving areas it is important that all gear is washed thoroughly.
- To prevent fungal transfer it is also vital to ensure all gear is thoroughly dry after washing.