It is vital that we start to gain better hard data on K’Gari’s natural resources, particularly its wildlife, to have a better picture of its natural health. This is the underlying rationale for FIDO’s initiative in sponsoring the BioBlitz based at Dilli Village from 28 November to 4 December.
John Sinclair has been visiting Fraser Island (Kgari) for more than 60 years. During that time, based on his observations, he is convinced that the populations of many once common species have declined: fish, black swans, pied oystercatchers, pipits, honeyeaters, and many other birds have declined; seeing ghost crabs is now a rarity; snake populations have plummeted; as have frogs as their place is usurped by cane toads. There is firm evidence of the decline of dugongs and the extirpation of some wildlife, such as quolls.
Evidence of the decline is in the photo taken in the McKenzies Jetty area about 1920, showing the evening exodus of flying foxes heading off in the evening to forage for food. There has been no explanation of what happened to those flying foxes although their habitat on the island remained largely intact. Goodness knows how many other species have declined from their pre-contact populations or even if these were noted or recorded. This surviving photo is the only record.
For 25 years, John made annual safaris to Australia’s most iconic World Heritage areas including the much better funded Kakadu and Uluru-Kata-Tjutta National Parks as well as the Great Barrier Reef. These three World Heritage sites all fall within the administration of the Commonwealth Government and are held up globally as models of good management. Yet despite this, the loss of more than 50% of the Great Barrier Reef corals, an alarming decline of Kakadu’s wildlife and the reduction of mammal species in the Uluru region from 46 to 21 has shown up in the well-resourced annual audits of wildlife in these parks.
“The decline in wildlife in our most precious and best-protected natural areas just goes to show that humans have to do more to save our wildlife than just relying on establishing national and marine parks. It demonstrates that we need to address the organic reasons our wildlife is disappearing during our watch,” said John. Some of it is unquestionably due to climate change; other reasons include the introduction of foreign and pest plants and animals, inappropriate fire regimes, pollution is also taking a toll by poisoning and transforming the purity of our planet’s air and water; overharvesting, and habitat modification, fragmentation and destruction are exacerbating the situation.
50 km of clearly defined tracks intersect the 50 km2 defined Dilli Village BioBlitz study area. During this most ambitious exercise in citizen science, those tracks will be traversed by botanists, mycologists, zoologists, ornithologists, herpetologists, soil ecologists, limnologists, arachnologists, and a range of other specialists, both amateur and professional, to discover what might cross those tracks. This should establish a set of data that can be used as a basis for comparison when those same tracks are walked again with a similar set of expert eyes in the future.
The elongated study area from the beach to Lake Birrabeen, stretches north from Dilli Village to Eurong and inland to Lake Birrabeen, 5 kilometres due west of Eurong, samples every major ecosystem on K’Gari from rainforest to heath (except for the estuarine environment). It incorporates some fens and even the Wungul sandblow. It includes all six dune systems as defined by a CSIRO soil studies team back in the 1970s and one of that CSIRO team will be joining the 2016 BioBlitz. It will provide the baseline study that can be replicated in the future so that we know much more about any ecological changes occurring on K’Gari and provide invaluable knowledge for the island’s land managers.
John Sinclair (AO), FIDO