The trip participants included: members of the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation (with Director, Jade Gould, and her brother Kaile Clarke, welcoming the group onto Country), Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers, Fraser Island Association, Fraser Island Defenders Organisation, Fraser Coast Regional Council, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Sandy Cape Lighthouse Conservation Association and the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Site visits included the Eurong Nursery, where Suzanne Wilson from FIDO reported that the nursery was operating well and welcomed an offer from the Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers to do ‘watering checks’ where possible. There was also a short discussion on partnering opportunities to broaden seed/fruit currently collected beyond the townships.
Corey Currie from the Butchulla Land and Sea Ranger talked about the labour-intensive Pandanus leaf-stripping, suggesting it would be great to welcome additional volunteers for that activity. Leaf stripping helps reduce the moisture in the crown of the plant. It is used to help heavily infested trees recover. It requires the leaves to be moved away from the infected plant so that juvenile or adult planthoppers cannot be blown or fly away on route (although any parasitic wasps will quickly fly back to the infected tree), which makes it labour intensive. Leaf stripping is used in conjunction with chemical control (Confidor injections) and biological control (using the planthoppers parasitic predator, the native wasp, Aphanomerus sp.). As a North-Queensland species, the wasp becomes inactive during the cooler months, so leaf stripping helps to reduce infection rates.
At Happy Valley, the group walked through the township, where FINIA members were shown the site where two broad-leafed pepper trees successfully removed last week. The team were provided with an overview of the recent Easter Cassia blitz. This was the second blitz event, and the FIDO team were congratulated with the progress made at the site with the assistance of the Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers, BAC Community Volunteers and David Anderson from the Fraser Island Association. Ongoing work is needed to continue to reduce the seed bank and reduce seeds transported from adjacent areas.
Members were then shown an area where the introduced African weed, crab’s eye creeper or Abrus, was well established in the township, with the plant and visible seed clumps extending up into the canopy 4-5 metres. This is of particular concern, as the seeds are thought to be dispersed by birds, leading to a continuous seed source of the weed into the adjacent USL and National Park. Finally, FINIA members were shown two sites which have been brought into control for Easter Cassia and Abrus, noting that this success relied on ongoing efforts to remove the seed bank, as well as tackling lower priority weeds such as lantana and corky passion vine.
At Residential Valley, David Anderson demonstrated the ongoing weed management work undertaken by the small group of community volunteers and the need for constant vigilance – particularly related to the disposal of garden waste. Fourteen years on from the formation of FINIA, this is still an issue and ongoing source of weed escapees.
Back at Dilli Village, on the Deck, Don and Lesley Bradley provided their insights into the marine turtle work conducted at Sandy Cape – not least the distances covered by the volunteers as they monitor the entire cape area on a nightly basis. The turtle team rely heavily on several predator-proof cages around Sandy Cape to relocate eggs that are laid too low on the beach where they may become inundated or wash away and protect them from predation. This has proven to be a successful method of hatchling conservation, although it is highly labour intensive and relies on the team’s highly trained and committed Queensland Turtle Research Program volunteers.
On Day 2 of the meeting, FINIA members participated in two activities. The first of these – for male members of the group only – was a walk to the Dilli Village water hole (Di’bing) with Senior Butchulla Land and Sea Ranger, Corey Currie, to discuss the traditional use of the site (by men). Female members of the group took the road route to the beach, where Gabriel Conroy then provided an overview of the ongoing study that has been conducted by USC students of the Dillingham mine rehabilitation area (with a comparison or control site ~1.5Km up the beach where mining has not taken place). Gabes pointed out differences in dune topography, vegetation cover and type, and biodiversity at the two sites.
Participants left the island, as usual, with lots of great ideas and a strong focus on the future.
Special thanks were extended to Sealink Fraser Island, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for their sponsorship of the event, assisting with barge transfers, accommodation and facilities and vehicle exemptions.
Article submitted by Sue Sargent, FINIA