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Evaluation of Chemicals used in the Integrated Vegetation Management Program in Brisbane

Highlights: Collaboration with a consulting company and field workers on chemical regulation and the environmental impacts of chemicals (herbicides and insecticides).


Dr Vuong conducted this work at Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) whilst completing an industrial placement internship as part of his Master of Environmental Management study in 2019.

Safe operation of Brisbane Airport requires the vegetation to be properly managed. Keeping the vegetation within certain desired parameters is needed for visibility reasons as well as to manage the wildlife that is present in the vegetation. Wildlife management is critical at many airports around the world to prevent bird strikes. Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) is a term used to describe the synergistic application of complementary methods for vegetation management including mechanical methods (slashing, mowing), strategic application of plant management products (plant growth inhibitors and selective herbicides), insect control products (insecticides). The IVM Group was engaged by BAC to develop and run an IVM Program for the management of the mown vegetation at Brisbane Airport. Whilst the IMV Program had already commenced at Brisbane Airport (since July 2019) it was still important to be better aware of the long-term environmental consequences of the use of these chemicals at the airport. The best application practices were to be adhered to at the airport. In the longer term, if the program is proven to be successful, BAC would like to have information on other more environmentally friendly alternatives that could be used. BAC also would like to know if any of the chemical products which are currently used are to be banned in the future and possible alternatives to prevent the disruption to vegetation management.

This work was conducted in a stagewise fashion: (i) Viewing available reports and consultation with relevant personnel to improve understanding of the program; (ii) Reviewing of chemicals used in the programs with a particular focus on their ecological impacts. This part involved reviewing the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) from the manufacturers as well as from the ChemAlert database of the herbicides, insecticides, and plant growth inhibitors. Identification the components particularly active components in these commercial products and viewing their SDSs. Consultation with the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, the regulator in Australia), and REACH (Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals) database of the European Chemical Agency to identify significant environmental impacts, or if any chemicals are on high-risk list; (iii) Reports on potential environmental risks of these IVM chemicals; recommendations on the application of these chemicals and suggestions of alternative products.

The output of this project was a comprehensive register of chemicals used in Integrated Vegetation Management Program and findings of their environmental impacts, bioaccumulation, and biodegradability. The document also contained recommendations for use and alternative products. This document provided a template for BAC to improve its environmental management of chemicals and hence is very valuable to the BAC and particularly the Environment and Sustainability Department.

Acknowledgments: K.V would like to thank Ms. Rebecca Malhomme, Mr. John Corfield, Mr. Jackson Ring of BAC and Dr Sheldon Navie (IVM group) for their assistance during the project.

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