News

Round Island Weeding Update

Round Island is managed by Fraser Coast Regional Council.  Because of the island’s close proximity to the mainland, it is frequently visited by both locals and tourists.

Two trips (26 July & 23 September 2016) have been made to Round Island this year, the first by two council officers, twelve Lower Mary River Landcare (LMRL) members and community volunteers and a group of twelve from Conservation Volunteers Australia. The second trip included council officers and volunteers with chemical spray certificates (AC/DC) as the trip targeted weeds that required chemical treatment.

These one-day weeding efforts, conducted over the last 4 years, have resulted in a highly significant benefit to this very small, coral sand island of dunal system environment. With the assistance of Juliet Musgrave, her skills and knowledge, the identification of some of the native plants (e.g. Octopus Bush) on Round Island demonstrates that this area is the overlap of vegetation zones on the coast between sub-tropical and tropical. To date, more than 30 native plants have been identified and registered, and the list grows each visit the group makes.

prickly-pear

Prickly Pear removal is always a challenge

Both short boat trips this year were held in ideal weather. As the vessel the team generally uses was not available, a boat was hired from the Boat Club, which kindly donated the fuel used. Volunteers were accompanied by two Fraser Coast Regional Council environmental officers, Juliet and Terry, who travelled to the island in the council’s vessel.

All participants, including the CVA team, were instructed on weed plant removal or control.  Seeds were carefully collected and bagged and most of the plants were pulled and left on the ground to decompose as mulch. The weed coverage on the Island had prevented the growth of native plants especially grasses, but thankfully, with the intensive effort by all volunteers, massive amounts of weeds have been removed and the natural regeneration is more than encouraging.

The removal of the insidious Prickly Pear is proving to be challenging with different methods of chemical treatment being trialled.  Removal of woody shrubs such as Broad-Leaf Pepper and Lantana have also been quite successful.

Finally, marine debris was collected and removed from the island. The intention is to lead another trip, later this year, for more details, please contact Lesley.

Lesley Bradley, Lower Mary River Landcare

Happy Valley Weeding Update

This trip the focus was again on the invasive weed Abrus precatorius subspecies Africanus (Common name – crab’s eye). The control program began in March 2014, with four trips a year since then. The population was extensively established on the Northern, Western and Southern sides of the village, as well as throughout the village area. It has not been detected East of the village. The plant is a creeper/climber, and in many areas, had occupied up to 70% to 80% ground cover and extended into the canopies of trees. It seeds in all areas where it grows, and profusely when it gets high levels of sunlight exposure, such as on the dingo fence and especially where it extends into the canopy of trees.

After trialling physical removal, including attempts to dig the roots out, and cut and paste with roundup, it became very clear these methods were ineffective and, given the extent of the infestation, were completely impractical. Foliage spray was trialled with glyphosphate and starane. Both chemicals resulted in good knock down of foliage, but with starane, plants regrew from the roots. Glyphosphate (1.5% Roundup) applied with a wetting agent and a dye is the mix we now use. It is extremely effective.

abrus

Abrus in March 2016 – west of Happy Valley village

The volunteer teams collect seeds every trip. The seeds persist on the plants for long periods, often well in excess of a year, so minimising seed set is a high priority.   Although there is no information in the literature about the seed’s viability, given the hard seed coat, it may remain viable in the soil for a considerable time.  A germination trial commenced in March 2016, with 1000 seeds to better understand the viability of seed. The trial is not irrigated receiving only natural rainfall. Seedlings are counted and removed at the end of every month. By the end of April 14.9% had germinated. By the end of August, this had increased to 18.9%.  So, 80.1% remain in the soil, either infertile or fertile and waiting to germinate.  The trial is ongoing.

FIDO’s original aim was to work at the extremities of the infestation and contract it back to the village area. The team believes they have identified the extremities and imposed a very high level of control throughout the population. High priority has been given to eliminating mature plants and preventing further seeding. Most targeted areas are now all but Abrus free. The population is below 5% of that at the start of the program, probably below 1%, and seed set this season will be well below 1% of that in previous seasons. However, since there is a large load of seed in the soil, follow up inspections will be essential.

The area between Yidney Rocks Bypass Road and the beach is the last area of major concern. The area contains some very steep dunes and is heavily infested with Lantana and Easter Cassia making access extremely difficult.  For the next trip, plans are to start work on eradicating these two invasive species from this area. This will also assist with locating and eradicating the remaining Abrus.

Peter Shooter, FIDO Project Officer (Happy Valley)

In Search of the Elusive Ground Parrot

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers on K’gari (Fraser Island) recently deployed five Bio-acoustic remote listening posts purchased by FIDO (Fraser Island Defenders organisation) in swamp/heath areas across the island. These devices allow for scheduled activation times, making surveys for species with distinct calls, such as frogs and birds, easier.

listening-for-ground-parrot

Sound recorder listening for the elusive Ground Parrot (photo Linda Behrendorff)

One of the current objectives for these devices is to assess the presence/absence of the elusive Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus), endemic to Australia, with the eastern subspecies found in coastal southeastern and eastern Australia (Higgins 1999). In this localised area of Queensland, the vulnerably listed parrot is restricted to the southeast coastal regions of Cooloola, Fraser Island and some adjoining mainland habitat near Maryborough. It occurs mostly in coastal heathland or sedgeland with thick dense cover making it a very difficult species to observe in the field. These highly sensitive recorders produce excellent sound quality enabling detection of species without spending days in the field or risking disturbance to the sensitive areas and fauna. Not to mention reducing the observers time in mozzie and sand-fly infested areas.

The first deployment of around two months will include areas within the up and coming K’gari Bioblitz survey area between Eurong and Dilli Village to assist with overall species presence (birds, frogs and invertebrates). They are scheduled to record for 5 minutes every hour as well as an extended period (15-20 minutes) at dawn and dusk to ‘capture’ calling frog, bird and invertebrate species. All recordings collected will be filed for analyses and future research and will hopefully fill some of the knowledge gaps regarding species present at these sites.

A huge thank you to Harry Hines (Senior Conservation Officer) for assistance with purchase, set-up, deployment and mozzie repellent.

Article and images contributed by Linda Behrendorff
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Great Sandy National Park

Central Station Small Mammal Survey

sedgefrogs

Cooloola sedgefrogs (Litoria cooloolensis) image taken by Harry Hines ©

During the recent acoustic recorder deployment on K’gari, fellow colleague, amphibian expert and all round authority on Queensland’s plants and animals, Harry Hines joined Linda Behrendorff and Queensland Parks and Wildlife staff in an opportunity to do some small mammal capture and release in the Central Station area. They were rewarded with a good number of captures that included the usual visitors, Fawn-footed melomys (M. Cervinipes), Bush rat (R. fuscipes) and Yellow-footed antechinus (A. Flavipes). Both antechinus females had pouches indicating recent young.

The team also took the opportunity to pull the rarely used harp trap out of its hiding hole in the NRM shed, recording two Eastern long-eared micro bats (Nyctophilus bifax). This was followed up by a Wangoolba boardwalk survey sighting melomys and rattus species, long finned eels, cat fish and a short-eared possum (Trichosurus caninus) that casually walked the banister. 

wallum-rocket-frog

Wallum rocket frogs (Litoria freycineti) image taken by Harry Hines ©

During a night trip to Basin Lake for Harry’s frog-fix and opportunity to use his recording and photographic equipment, we encountered numerous Cooloola sedgefrogs (Litoria cooloolensis), wallum rocketfrogs (L. freycineti), and an emerald spotted treefrog (L. peronii). An owlet night jar and White-striped Mastif bat (Tadarida australis) were recorded calling.   Disappointingly, there was one juvenile cane toad (Rhinella marina) collected.

Thank you to the staff and managers for their support.

Article contributed by Linda Behrendorff and images contributed by Harry Hines
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Great Sandy National Park

Fraser Island (Kgari)’s Wildlife Status

It is vital that we start to gain better hard data on K’Gari’s natural resources, particularly its wildlife, to have a better picture of its natural health.  This is the underlying rationale for FIDO’s initiative in sponsoring the BioBlitz based at Dilli Village from 28 November to 4 December.

John Sinclair has been visiting Fraser Island (Kgari) for more than 60 years.  During that time, based on his observations, he is convinced that the populations of many once common species have declined: fish, black swans, pied oystercatchers, pipits, honeyeaters, and many other birds have declined; seeing ghost crabs is now a rarity; snake populations have plummeted; as have frogs as their place is usurped by cane toads.  There is firm evidence of the decline of dugongs and the extirpation of some wildlife, such as quolls.

Evidence of the decline is in the photo taken in the McKenzies Jetty area about 1920, showing the evening exodus of flying foxes heading off in the evening to forage for food.  There has been no explanation of what happened to those flying foxes although their habitat on the island remained largely intact.   Goodness knows how many other species have declined from their pre-contact populations or even if these were noted or recorded.  This surviving photo is the only record.

flying-foxes

Flying Foxes over Great Sandy Strait near McKenzies Jetty C1920

For 25 years, John made annual safaris to Australia’s most iconic World Heritage areas including the much better funded Kakadu and Uluru-Kata-Tjutta National Parks as well as the Great Barrier Reef.  These three World Heritage sites all fall within the administration of the Commonwealth Government and are held up globally as models of good management.  Yet despite this, the loss of more than 50% of the Great Barrier Reef corals, an alarming decline of Kakadu’s wildlife and the reduction of mammal species in the Uluru region from 46 to 21 has shown up in the well-resourced annual audits of wildlife in these parks.

“The decline in wildlife in our most precious and best-protected natural areas just goes to show that humans have to do more to save our wildlife than just relying on establishing national and marine parks.  It demonstrates that we need to address the organic reasons our wildlife is disappearing during our watch,” said John.  Some of it is unquestionably due to climate change; other reasons include the introduction of foreign and pest plants and animals, inappropriate fire regimes, pollution is also taking a toll by poisoning and transforming the purity of our planet’s air and water; overharvesting, and habitat modification, fragmentation and destruction are exacerbating the situation.

50 km of clearly defined tracks intersect the 50 km2 defined Dilli Village BioBlitz study area.  During this most ambitious exercise in citizen science, those tracks will be traversed by botanists, mycologists, zoologists, ornithologists, herpetologists, soil ecologists, limnologists, arachnologists, and a range of other specialists, both amateur and professional, to discover what might cross those tracks.  This should establish a set of data that can be used as a basis for comparison when those same tracks are walked again with a similar set of expert eyes in the future.

The elongated study area from the beach to Lake Birrabeen, stretches north from Dilli Village to Eurong and inland to Lake Birrabeen, 5 kilometres due west of Eurong, samples every major ecosystem on K’Gari from rainforest to heath (except for the estuarine environment).  It incorporates some fens and even the Wungul sandblow.  It includes all six dune systems as defined by a CSIRO soil studies team back in the 1970s and one of that CSIRO team will be joining the 2016 BioBlitz.    It will provide the baseline study that can be replicated in the future so that we know much more about any ecological changes occurring on K’Gari and provide invaluable knowledge for the island’s land managers.

 John Sinclair (AO), FIDO

Collaboration in Action

The collaboration between the University of the Sunshine Coast and the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) developed further recently when FIDO made a $100,000 donation to the USC on 1 September to fund research into minimising the impact of vehicle traffic on the fragile natural environment of Fraser Island. The collaboration has grown over recent years from the USC sponsorship of the biennial Fraser Island conferences organized by FIDO and the forthcoming BioBlitz, to assisting the development of the Fraser Island Repository at Sippy Downs and other projects.

Scholarship

The Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) has funded a PhD scholarship at USC following a generous bequest from passionate environmentalist Barbara Winkley.  The Barbara Winkley-FIDO Fraser Island PhD Scholarship will see a research student investigate the environmental damage caused by vehicle traffic and develop sustainable transport solutions for the iconic island.

USC Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering, Dr Adrian McCallum, said the scholarship recipient would work closely with FIDO to ensure future generations of visitors could enjoy Fraser Island’s natural setting and wildlife.

“There’s been concern for many years about the effects of traffic on the island,” he said.

“Four-wheel drives and tour buses cause masses of sand to be dislodged, and there are parts of the island where the road surface is now many metres below where it was.

“There’s a potential that visitors could be loving the place to death. We want to sensibly examine current practices around access to the island, the road system, and the impacts that vehicles could be having.

“Ultimately, this research will benefit the island’s incredible environment and also enable the tourist industry on the island to be sustainable.”

FIDO’s benefactor Barbara Winkley was originally from New South Wales, but worked and travelled extensively around Australia, Asia and in her adopted home of Alaska, where she studied a degree in Natural Resource Management.

 

Ms Winkley died in 2013 and left her $1.5 million estate to be shared between the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, and FIDO to continue her passion for wilderness preservation.  FIDO Honorary Project Officer John Sinclair said the PhD project could make a significant difference in conserving the World Heritage-listed island’s fragile ecology.

“We’ve invested this money in the University of the Sunshine Coast to provide some sustainable solutions to what is a very serious and urgent problem on Fraser Island.  FIDO has been collaborating with USC for some time, so it was a logical place to fund a scholarship, and we’re confident it will go a long way to preserving Barbara’s legacy,” John Sinclair said.

The scholarship recipient will be named in December this year, with the project to begin in early 2017.

scholarship

FIDO President Colleen Enchelmaier with the $100,000 cheque to be presented to USC Vice-Chancellor, Prof Greg Hill (centre) to establish the Barbara Winkley Scholarship

Conferences

FIDO has been holding Fraser Island conferences in collaboration with the USC since 2006 but the USC support for these biennial events has grown in recent years as the USC’s research capacity has increased at its Dilli Village Research and Educational Centre..  The next Conference “Time Tide and Tourism” will be held at the Innovations Centre Sippy Downs  on Wednesday 16th August.  The Conference will be complementary to the USC’s Fraser Island Symposium that will follow over the following two days.

BioBlitz

The only free meal that participants in the Beach to Birrabeen Bioblitz that FIDO is organizing 28 November to 4 December will be a barbeque at the conclusion of the event provided courtesy of the USC Vice Chancellor Prof Greg Hill.  It is one of the many contributions that the USC is making to as part of this collaborative project to establish some baseline biological data for the World Heritage area that is inscribed to recognize its biological as well as its aesthetic and geomorphic values

“The collaboration between FIDO and the USC, which is now internationally rated amongst the top 200 universities in the world has been mutually beneficial and very productive for both organizations,” John Sinclair concluded.

John Sinclair (AO), FIDO

Conservation Versus Visitation

National parks were established in Queensland to protect the state’s natural heritage. This ethos continues to be at the heart of why protected area estates are established and managed around the world. For the past several decades in Australia, new areas for national parks have been identified and gazetted affording protection to threatened species and ecosystems. As the protected area estate in Queensland grows, so do the pressures and threats putting these unique areas at risk. In parallel, visitors in some parks are increasing, placing further pressure on park staff and infrastructure. This article explores why national parks are protected – for conservation or for visitors to enjoy?

Springbrook National Park.jpg

Springbrook National Park, Twin Falls Circuit, Source: Kirsty Leckie

Why were protected areas established?

Globally protected areas were established for a wide array of reasons. Australia is no exception. NSW’s Royal National Park, gazetted in 1879 was originally established to provide a place to picnic and see wildlife from around the world. Belair National Park (1891) in South Australia was established for recreation and included a tennis court.

Queensland’s first national park, Barron Falls, was set aside in 1900. The first national park declared under Queensland’s innovative State Forests and National Park Act 1906 – Witches Falls (now part of Tamborine National Park) was established to protect the area from clearing.

As the environmental movement gained momentum during the 1960s and 70s, conservation issues began to come to the fore. New parks were established to build Queensland’s protected area estate. As the estate grew, so did questions regarding the purpose of establishing national parks. Does conserving the native species and ecosystems in these areas equate to preserving wilderness with no interaction with humans? The debate continues today as tourism thrives around many protected areas.

In a controversial paper published in Nature (2005) Hugh Possingham suggested ‘there were too many parks in Australia of little value’ and that research needed to be done to understand if national parks are the best way of protecting an area.

Conservation in national parks – conflicts with visitors

Since the inception of the first national parks, there have been competing land uses. From clearing of vegetation to introduction of pest species, managing national parks for conservation is difficult. National Parks in Queensland cover vast tracts of the state, often in remote areas. Maintenance and upkeep on infrastructure within the parks is ongoing and costly.  In parallel, infrastructure to support tourism (camping, day trips etc) is expensive and also requires ongoing maintenance.

Impacts of visitors on protected areas

The impacts to national parks from visitors varies depending on the sensitivity of the environment, the nature of the tourism activity and the behaviour of the individuals. Litter, pollution from detergents, fire, noise, artificial light, can all take a toll on protected areas. Catihog-Sinha (2008) goes further noting that if the relationship between tourism and protected areas is not managed properly, both the tourism and biodiversity can suffer.

In New South Wales, researchers studied the impact visitation had on abundance and diversity of bird populations (Densmore and French 2005). The results were mixed. Whilst a greater density of birds was observed in all of the recreation areas in the study, a lower species richness was also observed.

undara-caves

Undara Caves, Source: NPAQ

In Western Australia, researchers found that even at low use levels (informal campsites etc), recreation lead to changes in resource conditions in natural areas (Smith and Newsome 2002). Catibog-Sinha, C. (2008) went on further adding that species richness or biodiversity in protected areas attracts people (visitors). Siikamakj et al (2015) found that the most visited sites were found to overlap with areas of high habitat and species richness. This is likely explained by considering that visitors find a heterogeneous and diverse habitat more attractive and interesting that a monotonous one.

Visitors can however have a positive impact connecting protected areas with the local community in a truly sustainable way. In the United States, Zion National Park built a shuttle system to transport visitors into the park to ease the demand for parking within the park’s boundaries. In the process of developing a transport plan (the shuttle system, signage and corridors), the parks service also built a strong relationship with the local community (McCool and Spenceley, 2014).

Monitoring for successful management

In trying to understand the impacts of visitation on national parks, park managers need to move beyond anecdotal and observational information. Gaining access to environmental, social and economic information can facilitate a better understanding of levels and patterns of visitation. In parallel natural and physical science datasets can also be analysed.

Monitoring strategies can assist park managers in developing a proactive approach and mitigating measures to address any adverse impacts identified.  Catibog-Sinha (2008) highlight the importance of well-designed monitoring frameworks to ensure conflicts between recreational impacts and biodiversity conservation are resolved early on.

Conclusion

As the protected area estate grows in Queensland, perhaps it is time to look for innovative ways of finding and funding a balance between visitation and conservation. As Smith and Newsome (2002) highlight, managers of protected areas are now confronted with a complex challenge. Contemporary management of protected areas entails providing both protection of natural values and desirable recreation experiences for visitors.

References

Bodin, M. (2014). National Parks: Too Much Love or Not the Right Kind? Planning, 80(7), 10-17.

Catibog-Sinha, C. (2008). Visitor Impact and Biodiversity: A Monitoring Framework for Protected Areas in Southern Highlands, New South Wales, Australia. Asia Pacific

Journal of Tourism Research, 13(3), 245-263.

Densmore, P., & French, K. (2005). Effects of recreation areas on avian communities in coastal New South Wales’ parks. Ecological Management & Restoration, 6(3), 182-189. Doi: 10.1111/j.

McCool, S. F., & Spenceley, A. (2014). Tourism and protected areas: A growing nexus of challenge and opportunity.

Koedoe: African Protected Area Conservation & Science, 56(2), 1-2.

Possingham, H., P. and Wilson, K., A (2005). Turning up the heat on hotspots. Nature, 436 (7053), 919-20.

Siikamakj, P., Kangas, K., Paasivaara, A. and Schroderus, S. (2015) Biodiversity attracts visitors to national parks. Biodiversity and Conservation. September 2015, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 2521-2534.

Smith, A. J. and Newsome, D. (2002) An Integrated Approach to Assessing, Managing and Monitoring Campsite Impacts in Warren National Park, Western Australia. Jnl. of Sustainable Tourism. Vol. 10, Iss. 4.

Staiff, R., Bushell, R., and Kennedy, P. (2002) Interpretation in National Parks: Some Critical Questions. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. Vol. 10, Iss. 2.

This article, by Kirsty Leckie, Conservation Principal, NPAQ, has been reproduced with kind permission from Protected, the magazine of the National Parks Association of Queensland.  Issue 9 June – July 2016

Find a Frog in February!

find-a-frog

Community assistance is needed to find out where our frogs are living from Burrum Heads south to Peregian and west to Conondale Range, Kilkivan and Mt Walsh. Frogs are a vital component of ecosystems and can be good indicators of environmental health. But they are in trouble world-wide due to habitat loss, pollution and disease and we need to know more about where they are.fff-map

Can you help? We want to improve our knowledge in the Mary, Noosa, Burrum River catchments and coastal region in between.

Information gathered will help to improve the plight of frogs through awareness and thoughtful management.

All records will be stored in the WildNet database (Queensland Government) where is can be accessed by researchers, planners and anyone who is interested.

Jump into being a frog searcher this February. You don’t need to be able to identify frogs, just record your observations, take photos and/or record their calls. We will do the identification.

A copy of the Queensland Museum pocket guide; ‘Frogs of South-east Queensland’ is available to the first 200 frog finders.

Record sheets are available through the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee or from the Find a Frog in February website.

http://mrccc.org.au/find-a-frog-in-february-citizen-science/

25 Stewart Terrace, Gympie,
Phone 5482 4766
Email admin@mrccc.org.au

 

 

Firebreak Upgrades – a Critical Interface Zone

A state-wide ‘I-zone’ initiative for the protection of ‘at risk’ private infrastructure on boundary interfaces with QPWS tenure provided funding for a review of the current firebreaks on Fraser Island (K’gari). This provided an opportunity to upgrade the main firebreaks used for protection of critical community infrastructure, life and property within the urban interfaces around townships, residential areas, resorts, QPWS bases and high population visitor nodes.

(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…)