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Category Archives: Science, Surveys & Monitoring

Where has K’gari’s rainfall gone?

Citizen science has an enormous amount to contribute, as recently demonstrated when a Darwin mechanic discovered a new planet.  Similarly, citizen science has a lot to contribute to our understanding of K’gari.  For example, the driest year on record caused my son Keith and I to go poring over rainfall records.  We thought that we would start with doing a detailed examination of Double Island Point, which is the closest place to the island with records going back for more than 100 years.  What we found astonished us; it was a revelation. (more…)

This one’s for the birds…

During the first field trip by the Maryborough and Bundaberg Wildlife Branches to Fraser Island (K’gari) in November 1968, in 24 hours the group positively identified 65 species of birds.  Admittedly, the trip was led by outstanding naturalist and keen birdo, Eric Zillman.

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Ships Ahoy! Research to Focus on Cruise Tourism

Cruise tourism has witnessed unprecedented growth rates amidst greater interest in terms of new destinations and ships with an impressive array of features. There is some agreement within industry that the sector is likely to continue its growth trajectory given that many cruise tourists are sold to the idea of all-inclusive and value-based pricing strategies employed by many operators. (more…)

Monitoring K’gari’s Weather

FIDO has just installed a second online weather station on K’gari at Eurong as part of an ongoing FIDO program to capture weather data from a broader area to assist in environmental monitoring.  Through FIDO’s website, anyone in the world with access to the internet can see the temperature, barometric pressure, wind direction and rainfall at both Happy Valley and Eurong in real time and for the previous 14 days.  FIDO also feeds the data to Weather Underground and the Bureau of Meteorology, where it can also be seen.  They also add FIDO’s weather station input to their permanent storage.

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Mibir (turtle) nesting and hatching on K’gari

Marine turtle season is coming to an end. The adult courting males and nesting females have returned to their home areas from hundreds of kilometres abroad, and hatchlings are emerging from their underground incubation period to embark on their life journey. Only 1 in 1000 make it to maturity, around 35–50 years old.

North Fraser Island (K’gari) has a small turtle rookery with a seasonal night driving curfew, where green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) court and breed, and females deposit their precious cargo of eggs into the dunes before leaving the young to their fate. These eggs (over 70%) also provide seasonal food resources for wildlife, including dingoes.  (more…)

The First K’gari BioBlitz

From 28 November to 4 December 2016, a multidisciplinary team of experienced scientists and enthusiastic amateurs based at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s (USC) Dilli Village Research and Education Centre carried out the first of what are hoped to be regular BioBlitzes to better document the wide range of both plant and animal species on Fraser Island (K’gari).

The BioBlitzes are a kind of ‘natural stocktake’ to develop an inventory of every living thing on K’gari.  They are extremely important on K’gari, because biological values are one of the three natural values for which the island has been inscribed on the World Heritage list.  Criteria (vii) recognises K’gari’s outstanding aesthetic values.  Criteria (viii) recognises the ongoing geological processes which are currently being studied over three years by a team from the University of Queensland.  Criteria (ix) recognises that the island ‘represents an outstanding example of significant ongoing biological processes. These processes, acting on a sand medium, include biological adaptation (such as unusual rainforest succession), and biological evolution (such as the development of rare and biogeographically significant species of plants and animals).   Vegetation associations and succession represented on Fraser Island display an unusual level of complexity, with major changes in floristic and structural composition occurring over very short distances.’  It is this criteria that the BioBlitz was addressing.

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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.

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Fraser Island to be BioBlitzed by Scientists

Led by FIDO, a huge Fraser Island (K’Gari) BioBlitz from 28 November to 4 December will bring together experts from many areas of biology to carry out a stocktake of the natural resources of the World Heritage island.

Based at the Dilli Village Fraser Island Research and Learning Centre, the BioBlitz is being well supported by the University of the Sunshine Coast, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and FINIA.

The study area extends from the ocean beach to Lake Birrabeen, covering all six dune systems and encompassing most ecosystem types from heathlands, tall forests, swamps, fens and perched dune lakes except for the estuarine environments.  It is hoped to achieve more by maintaining a tight and intense focus on this particular study area rather than an island wide hunt.

The study area is very accessible with a number of tracks through it that will allow scientists to easily access representative places of interest.

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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.

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