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Fraser Island Fauna Survey

Since departing Fraser Island 16 years ago, it was great to get back there earlier this year to renew acquaintanceships with old friends and make some new ones. I was over to assist a good friend and retired herpetologist, Harald Ehmann, to look for the endangered Fraser Island endemic, the Fraser Island Sand Skink Coggeria naufragus. I was on the island from the 8-13 February this year and Harald three days longer.


New Research Alert!

The Journal of Coastal Research recently featured two articles that might be of interest to readers of this newsletter. If the summaries below whet your appetite for more information, pdfs of these papers are provided below.

A review of coastal dunefield evolution in southeastern Queensland

Graziela Miot de Silva and James Shulmeister

This paper summarises existing research on dunefield progression on the southern coast of Queensland. The aim is to identify the possible controlling factors in the dunefields’ evolution. Gaining an understanding of dunefield progression in southern Queensland, and the relative contributions of sea level change and climate to phases of activity, is made especially interesting by the length of this system’s records of Quaternary dunefield evolution. At the same time, however, the chronological sequence of these phases is largely unknown. This study pieces together what is known and assumed about the progression of these phases and the triggers that may have initiated them, as an important step towards more thoroughly understanding this system and what it has to say about the relative thresholds of sea level change and climate in dunefield progression and what might cause one factor or the other to dominate in dune emplacement phases.

This paper can be downloaded in PDF format, from: MiotdaSilvaShulmeister

Ground penetrating radar observations of present and former coastal environments, Great Sandy National Park, Queensland, Australia – Focus on Moon Point, Fraser Island

Allen M. Gontz, Adrian B. McCallum, Patrick T. Moss, and James Shulmeister

This paper reports on a subset of data collected from a larger study to investigate past shoreline complexes of Fraser Island and the northern end of the Cooloola Sand Mass. In this paper, the focus of discussion is information gathered from 10 reconnaissance-level ground penetrating radar lines in the Moon Point area of Fraser Island during July 2014. Using the radar data, the authors characterise the site and its units, discuss some aspects of its likely development, and draw initial conclusions about its age. Building on this important first step in understanding the dynamics and evolution of this system, future work will focus on developing chronologies associated with the GPR stratigraphy, extract climate proxies from preserved coastal systems and reconstruct the paleogeography.

This paper can be downloaded in PDF format, from: Gontzetal-2016-jcr

A third study of interest, led by USC student Marion Howard, was recently published in PLOSOne. 

Patterns of phylogenetic diversity of subtropical rainforest of the Great Sandy Region, Australia indicate long term climatic refugia

Marion G. Howard, William J. F. McDonald, Paul I. Forster, W. John Kress, David Erickson, Daniel P. Faith, Alison Shapcott

This study tests the patterns of rainforest diversity and relatedness in the Great Sandy Region at a fine scale to investigate why this region exhibits greater phylogenetic evenness compared with rainforests on white sands in other parts of the world. From the findings, Fraser Island and Cooloola show evidence of having been rainforest refugia, and the Great Sandy Region’s significance for the conservation of phylogenetic variability is emphasised.

This paper can be downloaded in PDF format, from: PlosoneHowardetal 2016

Finally, Linda Behrendorff (QPWS) and colleagues have a new paper out through Nature.

Insects for breakfast and whales for dinner: the diet and body condition of dingoes on Fraser Island (K’gari)

Linda Behrendorff, Luke K.-P. Leung, Allan McKinnon, Jon Hanger, Grant Belonje, Jenna Tapply, Darryl Jones & Benjamin L. Allen

This paper represents the first published study characterising the diet of the Fraser Island (K’gari) dingo population, and discusses the body condition and health of this population relative to other dingo populations. According to the results, the K’gari dingo population is capable of exploiting a wide variety of food sources, from insects to whales. Thus, far from supporting the anecdotal contention that the K’gari dingos are ‘starving’ or in ‘poor condition’, these findings reveal the K’gari dingo population to be in good to excellent physical condition and health.

This paper can be viewed online, at: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep23469

A BioBlitz for Fraser Island

A BioBlitz on Fraser Island (K’gari) has moved a few steps closer to reality with FIDO setting the proposed dates for the Blitz as 28 November – 4 December 2016. However, before FIDO can launch the promotion for the BioBlitz, which is supported by FINIA, the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, supplementary funding is required to engage a coordinator to liaise with scientists and other participants and retrieve the vital data collected. At this stage, FIDO is only issuing advance warning to alert people to the proposed BioBlitz event: Beach to Boomanjin and Birrabeen.

Details of Beach to Boomanjin and Birrabeen

Fraser Island (K’Gari) is inscribed on the World Heritage list because of its biological, geomorphological and aesthetic values; however, much more biological research is needed to know the extent of K’gari’s natural resources, with a BioBlitz of a discrete part of Fraser Island standing to add greatly to the ecological understanding of this site.

The BioBlitz, which is to be based at Dilli Village, aims to bring together teams of entomologists, botanists, ornithologists, zoologists, herpetologists and other specialist groups (fishes, fungi, etc.) to scour the study area.  Each team will develop its own program and modus operandi.  It is expected that the team leader will be responsible for compiling a report of the team’s findings to add to the existing data banks being built at USC.

FIDO is seeking to appoint a coordinator before this project can proceed.  The coordinator will recruit specialist scientists from a range of disciplines to study the defined research area, which covers a diversity of habitats, to develop an inventory of the natural resources and species within that area.  FIDO will also recruit volunteers as necessary to assist scientists and specialists logistically.

The study area includes samples of all six dune systems, including Dune System 4 east of Lake Birrabeen and Dune Systems 5 and 6 in the vicinity of the Boomanjin airstrip. In addition, the area includes three large perched dune lakes, two creeks and a number of old swamps, as well as various forest types.  It will be a broad transect of a wide range of ecotypes, from the beach through the foredunes and the freshwater aquatic environments of Govi and Gerrawea Creeks.  It will also enable comparison between mined and unmined areas in both the foredune and hind dune areas.  It will include the large peat swamp, with its flarks and fens, never before studied in detail.

BioBlitz study area

The proposed study area will include a diverse range of ecotypes, including all 6 dune system types

Dilli Village has accommodation for up to 60 people, as well as a large camping area and 24-hour 240V power, which may be needed for some equipment. It also has a large meeting area.  There will be opportunities at Dilli Village each night for the various teams to compare notes and share observations of their field work.

John Sinclair (AO), FIDO

Weak Links Push Migratory Birds towards Extinction

University of Queensland scientists are calling for greater international collaboration to save the world’s migratory birds, with research finding more than 90 per cent of species are inadequately protected due to poorly coordinated conservation efforts.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) research team found many species of migratory bird were at risk of extinction due to habitat loss along their flight paths.

Far Eastern Curlew_credit DS Hovorka (002)

The Far Eastern Curlew are suffering rapid declines from loss of habitat along their flight path between Siberia and Australia. Photo: Dirk Hovorka.

Dr Claire Runge, from UQ’s School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, said more than half of all migratory bird species travelling the world’s main flyways has suffered serious population declines in the past 30 years. “This is due mainly to unequal and ineffective protection across their migratory range and the places they stop to refuel along their routes,” she said.

The research found huge gaps in conservation efforts to protect migratory birds, particularly across China, India and parts of Africa and South America.

Dr Runge said a typical migratory bird relied on many different geographic locations for food, rest and breeding. “So even if we protect most of their breeding grounds, it’s still not enough. Threats somewhere else can affect the entire population,” she said. “The chain can be broken at any link.”

Dr Runge said birds undertook remarkable journeys, navigating across land and sea to find refuge as the seasons changed. “This ranges from by bar-tailed godwit endurance flights exceeding 10,000 kilometres to the annual relay of Arctic terns, which fly the equivalent distance to the moon and back three times during their lives.”

The study found that 1324 of 1451 migratory bird species had inadequate protection for at least one part of their migration pathway, while 18 species had no protection in their breeding areas and two species had no protection at all along their entire route.


Roosting bar-tailed gotwit. Photo: Drik Hovorka.

The team examined more than 8200 important bird and biodiversity areas internationally recognised as significant locations for migratory bird populations, finding that just 22 per cent were completely protected, and 41 per cent only partially overlapped with protected areas.

Research team member and BirdLife International Head of Science Dr Stuart Butchart said establishing new reserves to protect unprotected sites — and more effectively managing all protected areas for migratory species — was critical to ensure the survival of these species.

UQ School of Biological Sciences Associate Professor Richard Fuller said the study highlighted an urgent need to coordinate protected area designation along the birds’ full migration route. “It won’t matter what we do in Australia or in Europe if these birds are losing their habitat somewhere else, as they will still perish,” he said. “We need to work together far more effectively around the world if we want our migratory birds to survive into the future.”

The study, Protected areas and global conservation of migratory birds, is published in Science.

Reproduced, with thanks, from UQ News, https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2015/12/weak-links-push-migratory-birds-toward-extinction

Tracking collars fitted to ‘high-risk’ Fraser Island dingoes in an effort to monitor their movements

dingo collarThe Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has commenced a trial to track dingoes (that have shown aggressive behaviour) through the use of tracking and high visibility collars.

It is anticipated that the information derived from the tracking collars will provide a better understanding of specific dingoes’ movements, which will better inform which risk intervention measures are most suitable for specific circumstances.

The collars are a lightweight design for wildlife management and do not impede the dingo in any way. They can be released automatically from the animal at any time and can also be programmed to release after a selected period of time. Both the tracking and high-visibility collars will also allow people to more easily recognise high-risk animals.

Movement patterns of a dingo fitted with a satellite tracking collar over a four-day period.

Movement patterns of a dingo fitted with a satellite tracking collar over a four-day period.

Managing dingo conservation and visitor safety on the island includes a range of intervention techniques, with the use of tracking and high-visibility collars enhancing the current program. Their introduction is anticipated to reduce risk to human safety and boost dingo welfare by assisting in preventing the animals’ behaviour escalating to the point that humane destruction is a necessary management option.

Submitted by QPWS

AJEM Special Issue, ‘Future of an icon’, now available!

In our last FINIA newsletter, we introduced a new paper on Fraser Island, published by the Australian Journal of Environmental Management (AJEM). This paper was one of eight comprising a then-forthcoming special issue: Future of an Icon: K’gari-Fraser Island, climate change and social expectations. This special issue is now out! (more…)

Future of an Icon: K’gari-Fraser Island, Climate Change and Social Expectations

Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, Special Issue, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2015.


One of the papers in this Special Issue has been short-listed and two additional papers were longlisted for the annual best paper award.

Angela Wardell-Johnson, Guest Editor.


“GUEST EDITORIAL Future of an icon: K’gari-Fraser Island, climate change and social expectations”: FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/49ERURYi7RBCxUMnnuuQ/full.

K’gari-Fraser Island is under pressure in a changing global environment. The unique hydrologic and vegetation environments of K’gari-Fraser Island were driven by succession, fire and climatic change during the accumulated evolution of a series of 100-thousand-year cycles. The future of K’gari-Fraser Island is subject to significant changes in the way it is valued as a result of World Heritage listing, and increasingly as a tourism resource rather than a conservation asset. These global social and environmental changes have implications for the way in which planning for policy and management must emerge.

International obligations under the World Heritage Convention can only be met if the island is protected from destructive influences. Current state-based resourcing and policy meets state government policy priorities. However, it is federal obligations for Australia’s responsibilities under the global Convention that will protect the World Heritage values. Changes in the legal basis for management are needed to reflect the importance of World Heritage listing.

Recommendations for protecting the diverse World Heritage values for K’gari-Fraser Island in this special issue include:

  • systematic changes in Australia’s legislative system to improve potential to meet Australia’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention;
  • review of World Heritage listing to include values based on cultural multiplicity and diversity of Butchulla people, with improved mechanisms for economic benefit beyond involvement in management;
  • cultural recognition of intrinsic value of nature to engender context-sensitive behaviours and visitor awareness through dedicated visitor centres with coherent interpretative material that clearly differentiate the World Heritage values of K’gari-Fraser Island; and
  • clear articulation of the values and purposes of World Heritage listing for management and monitoring to reduce the impact of people by applying robust and defensible measurements of the extent, severity and duration of environmental harm caused to species, ecosystems and physical values by human activities.

The quality of WH landscapes has important consequences for the health of people, communities, and in turn, for the natural environment. WH listed sites, such as K’gari-Fraser Island, provide unique cross-cultural and global connections between people and landscapes, and Australia’s economic and social stability guarantees the kind of governance that affords responsibility for WH values.


B.L. Allen, K. Higginbottom, J.H. Bracks, N. Davies & G.S. Baxter

“Balancing dingo conservation with human safety on Fraser Island: the numerical and demographic effects of humane destruction of dingoes”: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14486563.2014.999134

FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/wVm4jJ2Bb8zpKNYdKXMp/full


Australian dingoes are threatened by interbreeding with domestic dogs. As a refuge from further interbreeding, the conservation significance of dingoes on Fraser Island is unquestioned. However, some dingoes presenting genuine human safety risks are humanely destroyed. In this study, we explore the potential effects of this on the sustainability of the island’s dingo population. Dingo abundance was 76–171 adult individuals during the mating (pre-whelping) season of 2012. A total of 110 dingoes were destroyed between 2001 and 2013. Approximately 66% of known-age dingoes destroyed were <18 months old and 65% of known-gender dingoes destroyed were male. In any given year, no more than four female dingoes of any age were destroyed during dingoes’ annual mating and whelping seasons. On only one occasion was an adult (and subordinate) female dingo destroyed during this period. Available data therefore indicate that the spatially and temporally variable removal of so few female and/or adult animals from a population of this size is highly unlikely to have adverse effects on dingo population growth rates or breeding success. Adverse effects of humane destructions might be expected to increase if a substantially greater proportion of adult and/or female dingoes are targeted for destruction in the future.

Clare Archer-Lean, Angela Wardell-Johnson, Gabriel Conroy & Jen Carter

“Representations of the dingo: contextualising iconicity”: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2014.985268.

FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/jDPcUKcNQyFrN5rs2n3R/full


Iconic species can present particular political and management imperatives and often shape national identities, and are shaped by them. More importantly, in the case of K’gari-Fraser Island and the dingo, shape the perceptions of iconicity in that landscape. Iconic species are used to represent diverse human valuing such as commercial, recreational, national, conservation and cultural. The dingo is contested as an introduced species in social evolution, is identified as a pest animal in contemporary land management, raises ancient human fears of predation and is, at the same time, the iconic representative of a World Heritage Listed landscape, due partly to the alleged genetic purity of K’gari-Fraser Island dingoes. Iconic species are viewed differently depending on epistemological biases and disciplinary frameworks, but these multiple constructions are rarely acknowledged or articulated. This paper searches for commonalities in constructions of the dingo across three literatures: scientific, anthropological/cultural analyses and tourism geographies. We find that each of these disciplinary literatures is divided. Within this contestation the dingo remains a liminal being in human perception defined by a predominantly anthropocentric vision. But there are two participants in any gaze, and future research might seek to understand how the dingo looks back at humans.

S. Brown, C. Baldwin & L. Chandler *long-listed for annual best paper award

“Representation of Butchulla cultural heritage values in communication of K’gari (Fraser Island) as a tourism destination”: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2014.985266#abstract.

FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/RWINX3C4eQIuZ98E7xnW/full


K’gari is a popular international tourism destination, having gained World Heritage (WH) status for its natural values. In spite of the local indigenous population, the Butchulla, having clear aspirations for its management, indigenous cultural heritage values have yet to be recognised in the listing. This project examined the degree to which indigenous values are visible in the promotion of K’gari as a tourism destination, through content and image analysis. The study found a lack of representation of indigenous culture in tourism marketing material. This acts to marginalise indigenous values and misses the opportunity to share a rich history, makes indigenous perspectives visible for visitors and provides a different perspective to the values for which WH status is nominated. The research provides recommendations about promoting indigenous cultural values in tourism and a future review of K’gari’s WH status, as well as recommendations for further research.

R.W. (Bill) Carter, Neil Tindale, Peter Brooks & Daryle Sullivan *long-listed for annual best paper award

“Impact of camping on ground and beach flow water quality on the eastern beach of K’gari-Fraser Island: a preliminary study” link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2014.985269


Concern for the maintenance of water quality of the lakes on K’gari-Fraser Island has attracted research attention but the impact of beach camping on beach freshwater has been poorly considered. The assumption has been that the natural assimilative capacity of the foredune ecosystem is sufficient to dissipate any negative environmental impact. An exploratory study of nutrients, faecal coliforms and faecal sterols in the watertable and beach flows associated with camping and non-camping zones reveals concerning differences between sample sites. The study suggests nutrient levels in the watertable are enriched in camping zones and that, in some areas, faecal coliforms persist in beach flows. The link to a human cause is supported by the presence of strong faecal sterol signals in soil samples from the watertable interface. The risk implications for human health are significant although the biological impact implications remain unexplored.

A.M. Gontz, P.T. Moss, C.R. Sloss, L.M. Petherick, A. McCallum & F. Shapland

“Understanding past climate variation and environmental change for the future of an iconic landscape – K’gari Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia” http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2014.1002120#abstract

FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/q4mXQcyRnG7GjmBJtrCX/full


The unique combination of landscapes and processes that are present and operate on Fraser Island (K’gari) create a dynamic setting that is capable of recording past environmental events, climate variations and former landscapes. Likewise, its geographic position makes Fraser Island sensitive to those events and processes. Based on optically stimulated luminescence dating, the records archived within the world’s largest sand island span a period that has the potential to exceed 750 ka and contain specific records that are of extremely high resolution over the past 40,000 years. This is due to the geographic position of Fraser Island, which lies in the coastal subtropical region of Queensland Australia. Fraser Island is exposed to the open ocean currents of the Coral Sea on the east coast and the waters of Hervey Bay on its western margin and is positioned to receive moisture from the Indo-Australian monsoon, southeast trade winds and experiences occasional tropical and ex-tropical cyclones. We review literature that presents the current level of understanding of sea level change, ecological variation and environmental change on Fraser Island. The previous works illustrate the importance of Fraser Island and may link processes, environments and climates on Fraser Island with global records.

Sanjeev Kumar Srivastava

“Availability and uses of spatial databases for research and management of K’gari-Fraser Island”: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14486563.2015.1028108

FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/vzVpiM2PnSfPJPns3ifb/full


K’gari-Fraser Island is a dynamic ecosystem influenced by natural and anthropogenic processes such as forest fires, tropical cyclones, pests and recreation activities. Being a unique sandy island, the ecosystem of this world heritage area is relatively more dynamic and sensitive than other parts of the world, especially under climate-change scenarios. For monitoring and managing this dynamic ecosystem, a huge archive of spatial information in diverse forms is available from various agencies, mostly in digital form. For example, the temporal coverage of the area with images can document and monitor the changing components across multiple scales. Moreover, the modern user-friendly technological component of geographical information systems facilitates the integration of diverse spatial data sets that originate from miscellaneous sources such as remote sensing, surveying, census, digitisation and crowd-sourcing. However, since these data sets are meant for various map-scales and themes, their integration often leads to inappropriate uses. This article discusses the availability of the archive of spatial data sets for the Island, their practical application, limitations and advantages. Finally, the article provides a theoretical model for the effective, efficient and judicious selection of data sets for their subsequent utilisation to provide insights into the sensitive ecosystem for effective research and management.

E.V.C. Vivian & T.A. Schlacher

“Intrinsic and utilitarian valuing on K’gari-Fraser Island: a philosophical exploration of the modern disjunction between ecological and cultural valuing”: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2014.990936


In this article, we address a problem found in both ecology and philosophy of culture. In ecology, it appears as the problem of environmental advocacy, within the cultural domain, of geocentric values; and in philosophy of culture, it becomes the question of whether an intrinsic value of nature can attain cultural recognition in late modernity. The concurrence of these two problems becomes apparent when the geocentric valuing of late modern ecology is considered in light of the philosophy of modern culture of Louis Dupré (Passage to Modernity): ecological valuing can be seen to reflect a recognition of an intrinsic value in nature which remains unrecognised in the broader cultural domain. This disjunction between ecological and cultural valuing has a negative impact on advocacy to protect the natural environment of K’gari-Fraser Island. We aim to clarify underlying cultural causes of this disjunction in order to contribute toward more successful advocacy of ecological values in the cultural arena. To this end, we apply our adaptation of the Principle of Double Effect to the problem of environmentally destructive use of motor vehicles on K’gari-Fraser Island.

G. Wardell-Johnson, D. Schoeman, T. Schlacher, A. Wardell-Johnson, M.A. Weston, Y. Shimizu & G. Conroy *short-listed for annual best paper award

“Re-framing values for a World Heritage future: what type of icon will K’gari-Fraser Island become?”: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14486563.2014.985267

FREE DOWNLOAD: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/6AfRsSFmiewqrUHQ8432/full


K’gari-Fraser Island, the world’s largest barrier sand island, is at the crossroads of World Heritage status, due to destructive environmental use in concert with climate change. Will K’gari-Fraser Island exemplify innovative, adaptive management or become just another degraded recreational facility? We synthesize the likely impact of human pressures and predicted consequences on the values of this island. World-renown natural beauty and ongoing biological and geological processes in coastal, wetland, heathland and rainforest environments, all contribute to its World Heritage status. The impact of hundreds of thousands of annual visitors is increasing on the island’s biodiversity, cultural connections, ecological functions and environmental values. Maintaining World Heritage values will necessitate the re-framing of values to integrate socioeconomic factors in management and reduce extractive forms of tourism. Environmentally sound, systematic conservation planning that achieves social equity is urgently needed to rectify historical mistakes and update current management practices. Characterizing and sustaining biological refugia will be important to retain biodiversity in areas that are less visited. The development of a coherent approach to interpretation concerning history, access and values is required to encourage a more sympathetic use of this World Heritage environment. Alternatively, ongoing attrition of the island’s values by increased levels of destructive use is inevitable.

Research into Human-Dingo Interactions

A small, multidisciplinary project in the disciplines of environmental humanities, environmental sociology, communication, geography and geo-spatial science has just been funded by DSTIA.

The project, entitled ‘The Iconic Dingo: valuing their future on K’gari-Fraser Island’ aims to interpret existing K’Gari-Fraser Island visitor and human-dingo interaction data provided by QPWS partners as a guide to gathering new data on the way various stakeholders and interests value and expect to interact with dingoes. (more…)

Reframing Values for Fraser Island’s Future

In a new paper just published by the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management (AJEM), Grant Wardell-Johnson, David Shoeman, Thomas Schlacher, Angela Wardell-Johnson, Mike Weston, Yoko Shimuzu and Gabriel Conroy examine the future of Fraser Island as an icon. (more…)