TREAT Newsletter Wet Season January - March 2003

SEED COLLECTOR'S DIARY

By Helen McConnell

The unusually dry year has produced massive flowering across the Tableland with the latest fury of colour being from the Blackbean (Castanospermum australe) and Queensland Maple (Flindersia brayleyena). All you photography buffs head to Russell and Topaz Roads to capture the magnificent Queensland Maple and Bull Oak (CardweIlia sublimis) or Bromfield Swamp for more Maple in all their glory.

We are now collecting good amounts of the bronze winged fruits of the Tulip Oaks (Argyrodendron spp) delightfully designed like miniature helicopters ready to spin on the breeze. Interestingly 'Argyro' means 'silver' and 'dendron' translates to tree, apparent in the silvery metallic look in some forest patches. To see these fruits on the forest floor, visit the Malanda Scrub Tulip Oak walk at the Malanda Falls.

We collected over 25 different species of fruits from the family Lauraceae over the past 12 months including Litsea leefeana, Beilschmedia bancrofti, Endiandra insignis and Neolitsea dealbata, reflecting its importance as a family group in our rainforests. The majority of seeds from cassowary pats collected on the coast were also from the laurel family. Good collections from the family Myrtaceae were also made, most noticeable were Bumpy Satinash [Syzygium cormiflorum] with its large white and pink fruits that grow on the trunks.

5b or Mabi forest is doing it tough in the drought with the understorey shrubs (eg. Hodgkinsonia frutescens) showing signs of stress and some trees just up and dying. Driving beside patches of Mabi forest one can see clearly into the forest magnifying the effect of the drought. In Tolga Scrub the Flying Foxes can be seen flapping their wings in the heat in an attempt to cool them and their young. Across other parts of the Tablelands the drought is also affecting epiphytes such as Asplenium australasicum (Crow's Nest) and Platycerium bifurcatum (Elkhorns).

Overall its been a very successful year for seed collection with all the important framework species being collected along with those more unusual species to thrill our plant enthusiasts and add to our diverse plantings.


Inside this issue

Report on the Ecological Society of Australia Conference, Cairns

Nursery News

Fruit of the Month

Bye for Now

TREAT's Christmas Party

Tree Planter's Meeting

Tree Identification and Seed Propagation Workshop

Caring for Country / Helping to Heal Country Program Part 3

First Planting

TREAT Planting Plan for 2003

Kids Page

Invertebrate link to the dinosaurs!


Report on the Ecological Society of Australia Conference, Cairns

By Nigel Tucker

During the week of December 2-6, NigeI Tucker and Tania Simmons attended the Annual Conference of the ESA. This was a very interesting meeting attended by many of Australia's and New Zealand's most talented ecologists. Conference themes included restoration, fragmentation, climate change, frugivorv and dispersal. Tania elegantly presented the results of CTR's small mammal studies at Donaghys Corridor, where genetic analysis revealed 16 long-distance movements through the restored area and confirmed the appearance of four F1 hybrids whose parents had originated at either end of the corridor, (and obviously met in the middle). These results generated much interest and comment.

A very interesting presentation was given by Dr. Amy Jensen, who has been studying bird colonisation at Donaghy's Corridor since 1995, and surveyed the ares again in November this year. Amy has found that more birds only associated with rain forest have begun utilising the corridor in the last 2 years, including the Orange-footed Scrubfowl and the Tooth-billed Bowerbird. Whilst this may be partially attributed to the drought conditions over he past few months, it's great news all the same. The birds at the corridor are now almost identical to the surrounding rain forest, though we still await the arrival of cassowaries, chowchillas and a few others. There were also other presentations dealing with many of TREAT's projects. A dominating theme of the conference for me was the potential havoc that climate change represents, to both natural and human communities. Whilst future predictions must inevitably be based on computer models there is certainly an emerging body of studies showing that climate change has begun and that the direction of change is generally what many models predict, that is the planet is warming up, climates are likely to become more extreme, and many species distributions will change. Dr. Lesley Hughes from Macquarie University summed up a number of recent studies examining the affects of climate change and I have summarised a few aspects of her excellent talk below;

Europe

Spain (1952-2000) Temperature increased 14 degrees In the period. Spring leaves now unfold 16 days earlier, autumn leaves drop 13 days later. Butterflies appear 11 days earlier but migratory birds arrive 15 days later.

The Netherlands (1973-1995) Increasing temperatures led to earlier bud opening in oak trees, and Winter moth larvae populations feeding on these buds now peak in abundance 9 days earlier. Unfortunately, Great Tit populations, whose nestlings rely on the moth larvae, are now declining as they have not synchronised with the earlier moth hatching. Many non-migratory European butterfly species are now found between 35 and 240 kms north of their previous historical distribution.

Australia

Grey-headed Flying Foxes are now found 750kms south of their 1930s distribution, and Black-headed Flying Foxes have moved south into northern NSW by a similar distance, in the same period.

Sea surface temperatures (sst) have increased by 2.6c in the pest century in the southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef and by, 4c in the northern section. The highest ever sst was recorded in 1998 when coral bleaching was worse than at any time between 1903 and 1999.

Sea levels in the Pacific are rising at the rate of 8mm/year and salt tolerant mangroves have now invaded over 4 7,000ha of freshwater wetlands in the Mary River area, Northern Territory.

Local ecologists such as Dr Andrew Krockenberger and Dr. Steve Williams from James Cook University gave challenging presentations dealing with the potential fate awaiting our rain forest possums in a changed climate. It appears that highland and upland rain forest as we know it may completely disappear within the next 30-50 years, resulting in the extinction of most, if not all, of our rain forest possums.


CTR Nursery News December 2002

by Nigel Tucker

As always the spring / summer season is the busiest time of the year and this year is no exception. 2002 has been especially difficult because of the frost losses sustained over winter and the debilitating drought experienced since then. For the first time, CTR has been setting up our irrigation system to water plots established last season, a reflection of the prevailing dry conditions. Interestingly, most of our losses were a result of frost and fewer plants have been lost to the drought.

All sites for the 2003 season have undergone at least 2 rounds of site preparation and will be ready for planting on the dates advised on the information sheet posted to members in early December. If good rainfall isn't forthcoming on the day of planting the irrigation system can be set up until soaking rains arrive. Regular Friday morning plantings are on again, and a number of member properties will get the TREATment. Call Peter Dellow at the Centre if you feel like getting involved.

The new building housing CTR offices and the TREAT Visitor Centre has been completed and CTR staff moved into their new offices during the week of 9 December 2002. The TREAT Visitor Centre display is being worked on - look out for more details in coming newsletters. This new facility will make a big difference to TREAT and CTR staff, enabling all of us to present our joint efforts to a wider audience and to work more efficiently and productively. Our congratulations to Max Bryant Constructions for the design and construction of the facility, one that we hope will be expanded on in years to come.

Steam cleaning to sterilise our pots will be commencing early in the new year. Getting the machine here has proved to be comedy - the first machine arrived damaged and the replacement sent the next day also arrived damaged! Third time lucky?

CTR staff have been undergoing intensive training in a range of new skills over the past few months. Firstly a big congratulations to Claire Cardwell, Helen McConnell, Peter Snodgrass and Peter Dellow for successfully completing their Snake Handling certificates (you know who to call now!). The Two Peters also gained their Fire Fighting certification and with Claire, Ryan Wolfe and Darren Caulfield also completed their Rope Access certificate that will allow them to undertake restoration work on very steep sites such as landslides. Congratulations to all involved.

CTR recently hosted Alexis Bacchati, an American student from the School for International Training. Alexis and Nick Stevens re-censused the vegetation transects at the Petersen Creek corridor, a project commenced by UQ student Bryan Grant and Nigel Tucker in 2001. Considering the frost and drought problems over the past 12 months the number of new plant species colonising the area has increased, as have the numbers of existing species counted last year. In conjunction with the Donaghy's study, and on-going small mammal trapping and bird censuses at Petersen Creek, we are building a comprehensive base of knowledge and data to show quite explicitly the benefits of restoring wildlife corridors. Well done Alexis and Nick.

Another indigenous trainee has recently completed his certificate in Land Conservation and Restoration. Phillip Anning is to be congratulated for his work and he will be joining our staff as a casual employee early in the new year.

Nigel on leave!

Many members will have heard that I will be away for at least the first half of 2003 on Long Service leave.

I have decided to take leave at this time to pursue other interests. Given that I recently commenced my 19th year with the Department this has not been an easy decision, more so because I have been so intimately involved with TREAT since my appointment in late 1984. Back then TREAT had 30 members (now 500 of course) and during 1985 the average number of weekly volunteer hours at our old nursery was 10-15/week, vastly different to the weekly average of 100 hours that we see today. I am sure the momentum we have all established will continue to thrive and prosper whilst Tania and I are on leave.

I look forward to catching up with members on planting days, and wish TREAT and CTR staff all the very best during my absence.


Have a Flutter with the Fruit of the Month

By Tony Irvine

Many of you may remember the flowering of Darlingia darlingiana (Brown Silky Oak), Proteaceae, back in late August and September with its dense sprays of white blossom. The performance of these flowers has now come to fruition in the form of a greeny brown follicle, 45 -70 mm long x 20-30 mm wide which is beginning to split open and shed 2-4 cream to brown seeds 20-30 mm long that are surrounded by a winged membrane. These seeds flutter in the wind and can flutter as far away as about 2.5 times the height of the tree in normal breezes but most of the seed falls within about the height of the tree. If conditions are favourable these seeds will start germinating within 30-40 days or even less time.

The germinated seedlings can be recognised by two green, elongated parallel cotyledons (the first leaf structures of the seedling) which are about as long as the seed and expand to a longer length. The first pair of true leaves are simple and may be entire or lobed. Lobed leaves become more prominent as the seedling advances and the return to mostly entire leaves begins to occur when the trees approach 4-5 metres tall. Adult trees 20-25 m tall mostly have entire leaves but replacement of damaged shoots and branches may produce clusters of lobed leaves.

The tree occurs predominantly in moister rain forests associated with granitic and metamorphic soils, particularly Mesophyll Vine Forest (Type 2) in the lowlands and the notophyll/microphyll vine forests (Types 8 and 9) in the uplands and highlands. It is also present in the drier portions of Type 1b (Mabi Forest - Complex Mesopyll Vine Forest) but is absent from the much drier Mabi forest between Yungaburra and Tolga. It is very common as a pioneer plant in disturbed forest areas but persists in mature forest as a subcanopy tree. If planted in parks and gardens in the former Mabi forest areas (Atherton, Tolga, Kairi and Yungaburra) the tree will grow quite well without tender loving care. In spite of its relatively large individual flowers, the tree does not appear to attract vertebrate pollinators and is predominantly insect pollinated, particularly by bees and flies.

Danny Janggaburra told me that the Yidiny name for the tree is "jagal" and Betty Bunyji said the Ngajon name is "jalagaa". They said that some groups such as the Jirrabalgnan and Girramaygan people of the Murray River-Tully area give the tree a name that is associated with the lobed leaves resembling a cassowary's foot and "jina gundulu gundulu" is their name for it. "Gundulu" is cassowary and "jina" is foot. Sam Mcoy, the timber cutter said that although the wood has quite a good grain in it, he seldom felled the tree as most diameters are below 60 cm.


Bye for Now - from Tania

Tania

On several occasions over the last few years I have taken leave from my work at the nursery to pursue other interests or jobs. Again, its time for me to say farewell for now. I will be on leave for several months into 2003. My departures always bring mixed feelings of sadness at leaving all my friends and colleagues and excitement at what lies ahead.

When I'm away, there is never a Friday morning that goes by that I'm not thinking of TREAT volunteers and the smiles and laughs that go with a good Friday morning of potting up trees and weeding seedlings.

The nursery has and always will be a special place for me, a place where you can see a better future for our environment right at your fingertips, with thousands of young trees destined to grow for many more years than any of us will see.

During my time away, I won't be travelling too far and expect to catch up with many of you at the very busy schedule of tree plantings set for next season. My kindest regards to you all.


TREAT's Christmas Party

TREAT's 2002 Christmas party was a happy, friendly affair attended by more than 70 members. It was also tinged with sadness. Members are now becoming aware that Nigel Tucker and Tania Simmons, while continuing as TREAT members, are going on extended leave from their nursery jobs and are setting up their own consultancy business in rainforest restoration. We gave them our thanks and best wishes for the future.

Barbara Lanskey, our president, hosted the party and introduced the speakers for the topic 'A View of Hallorans Hill.' David Johnson, the geologist, explained vividly with slides and overheads how Hallorans Hill is a very old volcano. The crater on the top is filled with rainforest and the basalt rock of which the Hill and much of the Tableland is made, has broken down to form our fertile basalt soil. The Pinnacles (or Seven Sisters) by contrast, are much younger and are cinder cones without craters.

Tony Irvine, the botanist, followed up by describing the forest which formerly completely covered the Hill. The south-west slope carries eucalypt forest into which rainforest tends to spread if unchecked by periodic fires. The rainforest in and around the crater is Mabi Forest (like the Curtain Fig Tree Forest, Wongabel Forest and Tolga Scrub) with a number of fig trees and prickly vines. He told of the night when, during his research, his torch failed and he took hours of painful struggle to find his way to the rim of the crater and home.

He also told us how, in former times, the indigenous rainforest people prepared food from rainforest seeds, laboriously turning toxic material into edible porridge.

Barb and Col Walsh made a wonderful supper for us which was much enjoyed. Alan Gillanders teased our minds with a quiz based on the names of trees.


Tree planters' meeting

A meeting was recently held to draw together all community groups involved in revegetation projects on the Tablelands. The Malanda Landcare Group, Barron River Catchment Association, Wet Tropics Tree Planting Scheme, North Johnstone Landcare, Eastern Tinaroo Landcare and TREAT met to discuss existing projects and directions for future rehabilitation efforts. The aim of all groups is to work cooperatively to provide a more coordinated, strategic approach to revegetation on the Tablelands.


Tree Identification and Seed Propagation Workshop

By R.Pilmer

The Tree Identification and Seed Propagation workshops held on Nov. 9th and Nov. 23rd at the CTR nursery where again well attended. Tony Irvine, our tree expert, with his never-ending enthusiasm had us uninitiated members studying the 9 most significant rainforest canopy species at the macro level from behind a hand lens. We examined oil dots, glands, stipules, pulvinus, domatia, leaf shape and smell etc to help with identification.

To further assist us were CTR nursery presenters Tania Simmons, Peter Snodgrass and Syb Bresolin to explain and demonstrate the tricks of collection and propagation of the different (fleshy, winged, dust-like, large, hard-shelled etc.) seeds from the rainforest. We also viewed the" Treat Yourself" video, a most informative visual, demonstrating the planning and preparation of a site prior to planting and the maintenance and monitoring which are beneficial for the tree plantings.

A most absorbing workshop giving us confidence, reassurance and encouragement to contribute to the efforts of growing our own trees. Thank you TREAT.


On Caring for Country/ Helping to Heal Country Program - Part III

By Syb Bresolin (Cultural Ranger / Indigenous Trainer)

In April 2002 a Train the Technician workshop was held for Traditional owners from various communities within the northern and southern regions of the Wet Tropics. This was a CRC-Rainforest funded project with CTR, in collaboration with The Caring for Country unit from Cairns TAFE. We produced a 70 page Resource Workbook for this training.

The staff from the nursery all had input, with many hours of writing and formatting to produce this workbook, along with the delivery of the theory side and assisting in the field component of the training. It truly was a team effort to make it all come together to be the success that it was. We have again received funds from CRC to repeat the workshop next year. Having reflected over the last workshop we are now in the position to strengthen our areas of weakness. We participated in CRC - Program 7 Indigenous Voice Conference and also the student summit.

Since the beginning of this program we have also been involved with the Cross-Cultural Awareness Programs. Having a program such as this is a positive way to bring different cultures together, as it becomes a two way learning process. For the indigenous staff, who are also rainforest people, we are able to give a different perspective on rainforest and take the students/participants involved into a journey of how we see country and our connection to it. We also have the opportunity to speak to overseas students and visitors who come to the CTR nursery. Being involved with cross-cultural awareness is very much an ongoing process for us.

Another involvement we have is with TREAT-ON-TAP. This is a very positive direction as the school children are now much more aware than the previous generation of our connection to the rainforest. We have also visited high schools in the districts to give cultural presentations and this is a wonderful way to answer the many questions students ask.

Since this programs' beginning we have journeyed into many different directions, learning and teaching as we go along, walking one step at a time. The future is full of many challenges yet to be taken.


First planting for the year

TREAT's first planting to kick off the 2003 season was held on Saturday 18th January on Helen Carne's and Peter Sullivan's property. Around 50 volunteers were on hand to plant 3000 native seedlings, as part of the Mabi Forest Working Group project.

The area extends the Mabi forest remnant at the Picnic Crossing Reserve. The recent Federal Government listing of Mabi Forest lends even more importance to the work of all the volunteers, landholders, CTR staff and Mabi Forest Working Group members to protect this endangered forest.

This year irrigation has been used in an effort to establish the seedlings quickly and increase early growth rates to help reduce losses from droughts and frost.


TREAT Planting Plan for 2003

Revised 10 January 2003

Planting DateNumber of treesNotes
Mabi Planting, Barron River, Carnes18th January 3000Same Site as 2002 Turn off Pinnacle Pocket Road.
Peterson Creek1st February5000Approach from Byrnes Road. Barbecue.
Guidice's, Barron River15th February4000Same as 2002 At shed off Tognola Road Barbecue.
Peevers/ Adcock, Barron River1st March5000Approach by East Barron Road and Moseley Road.
Cherry Creek, Tinaroo 15th March3700New Site near John Halls farm Barbecue.
Massey Creek 29th March3000Same site as for many years. Turn off at wind farm.
Johnstone River12th April3000Continuation of Johnstone River restoration. Barbecue
Pavan's Ithaca Creek, Tarzali 26th April5000Bank of Ithaca River.

8.00 am Start for all plantings, Refreshments provided.

N.B. Listen for news of plantings on ABC Local Radio between 7am & 8am on the Friday before the planting.

Ring: 4095 3406 Nursery or 4091 3474 Joan Wright.

Bring sun-screen, hat, gloves, water.


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