Home » Science (Page 2)

Category Archives: Science

FINIA position on polluting the Great Sandy Strait

The Great Sandy Strait Ramsar Wetland is integral to the health of the Fraser Island (K’gari) World Heritage Area.  FINIA is opposed to any sources of pollution to the Great Sandy Strait based on the implications for habitat for critically endangered fauna such as shorebirds and turtles that are also known to feed and breed in the area. (more…)

What to do if you get stung by an Irukandji?

Recently it was confirmed that an Irukandji jellyfish has been found off the west coast of K’gari. There have also been other suspected stings further down the coast. People visiting this area and across the broader marine environment should be extra vigilant about their personal safety. This extra care is particularly important for those operating vessels, diving or snorkelling. (more…)

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…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(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.

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.

berdez

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

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…)