Granite coastline Albany region south-west Western Australia comprises of cliffs and boulders, impressive both in scale and in their protracted war they wage against a restless, pounding, Southern Ocean.
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The windswept coastal heath above these rocky shores consists of highly specialised plants, adapted to survive in harsh conditions. Salt residue from sea spray coats their leaves, their root systems barely grasp these slopes made tenuous by shallow soil, and the lack of protective soil contributes to the plant’s thermal and water stress. The harshness of the conditions is often masked by the heath’s varied display of plants and wildflowers, set against the grandeur of a rugged and isolated coastline. This isolation and ruggedness combined with other recreational pursuits draw people to the coast. But we are in danger of loving it to death.
Four wheel driving on our fragile coast
Four-wheel drive tracks along sensitive areas of coastline are increasing in number and severity of their condition. Frequent use of tracks by vehicles quickly leads to erosion, which is further aided by water runoff, cutting deep channels along the wheel paths and making them unusable in parts. The drivers’ solution is to create new tracks around difficult sections, thereby creating an ever-widening excoriation of the coastal heath, leading to further damage to the plants that stabilise the topsoil.
The worst examples of damaging 4WD are actually rather short in distance. Usually, it begins radiating from a more established track. They are generally short, useless, tracks heading directly down to cliff tops. These ill-thought, short tracks become large visible scars cutting directly down the slopes.
Erosion from rainfall is at its maximum potential with the orientation of these “tracks”. The remoteness of many of these locations means this damage is often proceeding unchecked. If it’s out of sight it’s out of mind.
Prevention would seem a better and cheaper option all round.