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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…)

Fraser Island Native Planting Guide

This handy planting guide has been developed to assist landholders and land managers on Fraser Island in selecting local native plant species for use in gardens and landscaping.


Diary from the FIDO Bush Regeneration & Monitoring Trip 15-21 Sept 2013

Thinking about getting involved on Fraser Island, then why not join one of our organised trips with either FIDO or CVA?  To get a feel of what you might experience during a week long volunteer trip check out John Sinclair’s Diary from his recent trip to Fraser Island. (more…)

Diary for FIDO Fraser Island Bush Regeneration and Monitoring 15-21 September 2103

The group logged up an aggregate of 225 voluntary hour of work made up of : (more…)

Book your place now for September’s Fraser Island Bush Regeneration Trip!

Our journey to Fraser Island took us via Mary River Heads to Wangoolba Creek

Join FIDO for a week of weeding! 
Sunday 15 September to Saturday 21 September.
Cost $200

Click Here to see a gallery from a recent FIDO Bush Regeneration trip.

This project is coordinated by Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO).  It is run on a not for profit basis. All tools, accommodation, food, transport (to and from Brisbane or Sunshine Coast in 4WD vehicle) and island tours are provided.


Bush Regeneration Trip Gallery March 2013

There are many ground orchids found beside this track

Another FIDO organized bush regeneration trip to Eurong 10th to 16th March enabled great progress to be made in advancing the natural integrity of Eurong, Fraser Island’s most visiteds its outside of Kingfisher.