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Zero Chemical Weed Management Project

Over the last two working bees, Fraser Coast Regional Council Community Environment Program volunteers and staff have contributed a total of 199 hours of work in Happy Valley.  (more…)

Twelve years of collaboration

Looking back after over 12 years of FINIA’s operations, we can sometimes forget the achievements of the group and its partners. These were brought home at a recent FINIA partner meeting held on Fraser Island (K’gari) to check field sites in addition to identifying new challenges for the World Heritage property. (more…)

National Standards for Ecological Restoration

SERAThe National Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration in Australia  have just been released by the Society for Ecological Restoration in Australia (SERA) board’s Principles and Standards Reference group in close collaboration with the following partners and advisors:

Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR), Australian Instituteof Landscape Architects (AILA), Australian Network for Plant Conservation, (ANPC) Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP), Bush Heritage Australia (BHA) Gondwana Link, Greening Australia (GA), Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association (IFFA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (Advisor), Trees For Life (TFL), Trust for Nature Vic (TFN Vic) , WetlandCare Australia (WCA).

For anyone in the practice of ecological restoration, The Standards list (i) the principles that underpin current best practice ecological restoration and (ii) the steps required to plan, implement and monitor restoration projects to increase their chance of success. The Standards are applicable to any Australian ecosystem (whether terrestrial or aquatic) and any sector (whether private or public, mandatory or non-mandatory). They can be used by any person or organisation to help develop plans, contracts, consent conditions and closure criteria.

To download a copy of the document for yourself –National Restoration Standards.

Fraser Island to Benefit from Commonwealth Funding for Green Army Projects

The Fraser Island Defenders Organization has been provided with funding as Project Host as a result of Green Army funding for two projects from the Department of Environment and Heritage. The service provider for these projects will be Conservation Volunteers Australia.

The project, Restoring the balance in weed and erosion management on Fraser Island, will commence in late February and again in mid-August and run for 20 weeks. The six participants will range from 17 to 24 years old, and will be provided with training, including Occupational Health and Safety, First Aid, chemical use and the management of small motors. They will gain hands on skills in weed management, erosion control and will be fortunate to have advice and information from the QPWS rangers who will direct the work plan.

The participants will have their training at Hervey Bay and spend four days a week on Fraser Island working on different parts of the island. Other potential work may include:

  • Easter Cassia management around Happy Valley and south to Yidney scrub
  • Jamella – egg raft collection (and wasp release if training were provided), monitoring and leaf stripping
  • Giant Rat’s Tail Grass control
  • Eurong nursery – plant propagation and re-potting, including of Pandanus
  • Great Walk track maintenance
  • Track building
  • Site stabilisation through erosion control and weed management on Indian Head (Takky Wooroo).

The project provides a unique opportunity to have work carried out on Fraser Island over the period of a year that would possibly take many years otherwise.

The team will work with a number of different groups on the island, including the Butchulla people, to learn about the culture and management of the island.

Libby Gardiner, Regional Manager Southern Queensland, CVA

Propagating Natives instead of Weeds

Since Fraser Island’s World Heritage nomination was prepared 25 years ago, the number of identified weeds has grown from 40 to 200.  Most of the additions to the weed list are garden escapees or alien grasses and pasture plants.

Most of these alien grasses and pasture plants have arrived on K’Gari as hitchhiking seeds stuck in the under-bodies of vehicles that haven’t been cleaned adequately before going to the island, or in the luggage and freight brought inside those vehicles by island visitors.  This is evident by the fact that the epicentres for the invasion of almost all of the grasses and pasture plants, such as Green Panic and Siratro, are in the township or camping reserves.  By diligence, we are whittling away at these weeds that arrived essentially as stowaways.

A more difficult challenge is countering the weeds that were deliberately taken to Fraser Island as garden plants.  Landholders sought to establish hardy plants that could thrive on the island with little care or attention when they were absent for long periods.  Thus they came up with a group of plants that were ideal to survive if they got loose in the Fraser Island bush.   Roses and many of the more classic garden plants just can’t survive on Fraser Island.  However, garden plants like Clivias, Coral Creeper, Singapore Daisy, Easter Cassia, Mother-in-Law’s Tongues, Glory Lily, Mother of Millions and Fish-bone Ferns, which looked attractive around the houses and required little care, all escaped their garden enclosures and ran riot on the island.  Because these plants are so hardy they are now very difficult to eradicate.

seed collecting

Coolum-based volunteer, Suzanne Wilson, gathering seed for the Eurong QPWS nursery. These are attractive plants that can be grown by Fraser Island landholders

Landholders are being encouraged to plant and cultivate attractive native plants.  However, sourcing those plants has been a major problem. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has a nursery, but lacks the staff to operate it as a supplier of plants on demand to landholders who are told not to take any plants at all onto the island.

Now, as another FINIA collaboration, FIDO and the Fraser Island Association are building up a stock of plants to entice landholders to opt to grow natives that are grown from seed collected on the island, and which, with a little tender loving care to establish them, can do just as well as the weeds we are working to eliminate.  As well as purchasing pots and other nursery supplies, FIDO has been scrounging cleaned used pots and recruited a very experienced seed collector to help build up the nursery.

The resorts at Eurong and Happy Valley have set the tone by purging their properties of weeds and establishing wonderful rich gardens of natives.   FIDO is prepared to cooperate with other landholders to replace exotic plants with plants from the Eurong Nursery as part of a long-term strategy to reduce weeds on Fraser Island.

John Sinclair (AO), FIDO

The Impact of Sandmining on Fraser Island’s Natural Integrity

The 10th anniversary of FINIA at Dilli Village is also a reminder that sandmining ended on Fraser Island only 39 years ago, after churning up about 200 hectares of dunes.  The six-year long Queensland Titanium Mines project was responsible for mining in the narrow coastal strip between North Spit and Dilli Village, an area comprising half that of the total area mined.  A further 100 hectares was mined by Dillinghams (after which Dilli Village is named), within two kilometres of Dilli Village to the southwest.  This much larger operation, conducted in an area of taller forests and well-developed dunes, lasted one and a half years.

Having spent such a turbulent part of my life working to stop the sandmining, I was keen to take a recent opportunity to see how accurate I was in my assessment made 40 years ago of the impact of mining.  This excursion, made on 27 October, was an interesting one, as it was the first time for a few years that I have ventured into the areas previously mined by Dillinghams.  The reason for my infrequent visits is that the site is unattractive, off the beaten track and difficult to access and move around in, due to the number of dead trees and scratchy branches.

My cursory inspection of this area, mined in January 1976, confirmed what I had predicted in the 1970s and what I had previously observed since mining and rehabilitation ceased in 1978.   I believe that it will take hundreds if not thousands of years for this disturbed land to recover.  First and foremost, the soil has to develop a profile.  Fraser Island (Kgari) is known for its remarkable podzolic soils, the profiles of which develop in complexity over time, as do their corresponding plant communities. Dune System 1 (using Cliff Thompson’s criteria) is characterised by no differentiated A and B horizons. No Eucalypts occur naturally on these soils.  Some Eucalypts, notably Scribbly Gums and Bloodwoods occur in Dune System 2, where definite A and B horizons can be observed. The further development of these horizons corresponds to increasingly large stands of trees.  However, it is usually only on the more established and complex soils, in Dune Systems 3 and 4, that one will find Blackbutts (Eucalyptus pilularis).

Developing a soil profile in the mined area is taking much longer than anticipated. This is surprising because in sandblows the transformation from Dune System 1 occurs with relative speed.  I can nominate a number of areas that were sandblows less than 40 years ago, but where natural plant succession now includes Eucalypts.  However, on the mined areas, the only Eucalypts occurring now were hand planted, and other than wattles, very few plants have volunteered.  Of those plant species that grew in this area before mining, only a fraction are now evident, and of these,  all occur in much lower numbers (e.g., Phebalium).  Wattles seem to dominate, but almost all of the original wattles have succumbed to age and the next generation is much smaller and weaker.  I remain amazed at the lack of biodiversity on the mined site.

The most interesting observation I made during my expedition regards the development of the Blackbutt trials, established by the Queensland Forestry Department back at the end of 1975.  This area adjoins the mined area, but it was not mined.  Before clearing to establish the Blackbutt monoculture, this was a Dune System 2. Therefore, the development of the Blackbutt defies the rule that Blackbutt do not occur except in Dune Systems 3 and 4.  While I suspect that the facilitator of this surprising growth was the application of fertilizer that accompanied the planting, it is nonetheless interesting that the establishment of this Blackbutt monoculture challenges understandings of where Fraser Island (K’gari) plant communities should occur.

The experimental Blackbutt plantation, established by the Queensland Forestry Department in 1975, 40 years later.  The area lies adjacent to a mined area, over the hill.

The experimental Blackbutt plantation, established by the Queensland Forestry Department in 1975, 40 years later. The area lies adjacent to a mined area, over the hill.

Another notable feature of the former Dillingham mine site is the lack of any small understory plants.  This applies equally to the Blackbutt plantation.  This is particularly noteworthy considering that almost any other forested area on Fraser Island now has an uncomfortably thick understory. This could indicate damage caused to the soils in these areas by sandmining, as well as the disruption of the seedbank, which will affect the recovery of the site.  It is fair to say that sandmining had an enormous impact on the integrity of Fraser Island (K’gari)’s soils and plant communities, and that recovery will take significant time and care.

John Sinclair, AO

Tiny Wasp Released to Save Fraser Island’s Pandanus

In an effort to rescue Fraser Island’s pandanus trees from the devastating effects of infestation by Jamella leaf-hopper (Jamella australiae), 26 October saw the long-awaited release around Eurong of a tiny sandfly-sized predatory wasp (Aphanomerus sp.) that is expected to help to check Jamella numbers. (more…)

Strategic Funding for Pest Management

Funding applications for state government pest management projects were recently approved for the Great Sandy National Park.

Ranger Blair O’Connor with recently located Bitou bush

Ranger Blair O’Connor with recently located Bitou bush

The annual funding for 2015 will assist in the control of a number of priority pest species between Cooloola and Fraser Island that threaten coastal dune vegetation along Australia’s east coast. These species can outcompete and in many cases totally replace native flora by invading undisturbed as well as disturbed areas, and in some cases can create a favourable environment for other highly invasive weeds.

Newly funded projects that will add to the work already done by rangers will include a Giant Rat’s-tail Grass Control Program around Central Station, Dundubara and other specific visitor areas, and a Guinea Grass Control Program for the Hook Point Inland road and Cooloola.

Pandanus Jamella infestation near Yidney bypass

Pandanus Jamella infestation near Yidney bypass

Ongoing funding has also been approved for existing priority projects on Fraser Island, such as the:

  • Pandanus Jamella Survey and Control Program
  • Bitou (still the only recorded Class 1 pest on Fraser Island and a Weed of National Significance)
  • Sisal Hemp Control Program for Bogimbah Cultural Heritage area
  • Cassia around Happy Valley (to continue the collaborative control program).

These projects will provide ongoing opportunities for collaboration, as contractors and volunteers will continue to be sought to assist QPWS with this important work.

Submitted by L. Behrendorff RIC NRM, Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service

Treatment of Planthopper on Pandanus

Over 8–11 June, members of the Lower Mary River Land and Catchment Care Group, Don Bradley, Lesley Bradley and Janet Price, treated 160 Pandanus plants at Kingfisher Bay Resort and Beach Front against infestation by Jamella australiae (Pandanus Planthopper). An effort was made to locate all plants at the resort.

Injecting the chemical using the Sidewinder tool

Injecting the chemical using the Sidewinder tool

In addition to the 160 plants treated, 25 plants were found to be infected with Jamella, including three in very poor condition; a further three dead plants were found. Treatment was with 50% Confidor, and involved injecting trunks and low braches, or in the case of smaller plants, spraying leaves and squirting the crowns. Size of tree and type of branching determined the number of injections per tree: trees head high received one injection; taller, single trunk trees received two injections; trees branching up high received three injections; and large trees branching received two injections per branch where branches could be reached. Infected trees were marked with blue paint.

Funding for this project was supplied by a BMRG-Chemical grant, and thanks go to QPWS for supplying the Sidewinder tool and training for the injections, and to Kingfisher Bay Resort for providing barge passes and accommodation.

Lesley Bradley, Lower Mary River Land and Catchment Care Group

FIDO’s Bush Regeneration Program

FIDO held six weeding weeks on Fraser Island in 2015, three working on Eurong bush regeneration and three in Happy Valley with a heavy focus on controlling the Abrus infestation there. This year FIDO is making some transitional changes to its weeding and bush regeneration programs as some of the older players, including John Sinclair and Su Dawson, withdraw to a less active role and pass the leadership on to others. (more…)