Over the past century, average land surface temperatures have risen by almost 1° C across the Australian continent. Models suggest this may have already had significant impacts on Australia’s ecosystems and biodiversity in some areas, but these impacts have not been systematically investigated.
CSIRO Land and Water and the Department of the Environment and Energy are undertaking an exciting project to collect stories and anecdotes that will help build a national picture of ecological change (or lack there-of) that has been observed in the past 10-20 years or more. We are looking for people with strong links to Australian environments (e.g. farmers, natural resource managers, ecologists, naturalists) to share their stories for an area they know well, including perceptions of the presence or absence of different types of recent ecological change.
To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. Note that we are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed.
The survey will take about 30 minutes – please click here to undertake the survey.
This research may be of interest to Bushcare Groups that have worked their patch for over 10 years.
See details below on how to participate: The Department of the Environment and Energy, together with the CSIRO are undertaking an investigation to understand how Australia’s biodiversity has been changing in recent years. As a part of this investigation we are seeking to understand how the 1°C increase in surface temperature experienced over the past century may have contributed to recent changes in biodiversity across the Australian landscape.
To this end we are very interested in hearing about the experiences and observations of people who are familiar with different parts of Australia. We hope that their insights and stories will provide us with a unique view of how things are changing. To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. Note that we are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed. The survey can be found here<https://csirolandandwater.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dcjRc0gqVUMKeiN> and is made up of a series of observational questions and an open section for people to tell us their stories. It would take about 30 minutes. Additional information about the project can be found here<https://research.csiro.au/biodiversity-knowledge/projects/recent-history-climate-driven-ecological-change-australia/>”.
A Blue Mountains Swamp near the airfield at Medlow Bath — in its flowering glory — attracted an enthusiastic group of Swampcare volunteers to a field day in January 2017. The field day was part of a 10 year project to protect swamps, called “Swamped By Threats” whose partners include Central West Local Land Services, Blue Mountains City Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The volunteers enjoyed a morning packed with information and good food topped off by a sighting of Blue Mountains Water Skinks – a well deserved reward for all their work during 2016! Unfortunately, the hoped for Giant Dragonfly did not make an appearance … this was not a good year for their emergence.
Two eminent swamp experts were on hand to generously share their knowledge deepen our understanding of swamp plants and animals and their dependence on groundwater. Doug Benson is a highly respected plant ecologist and Honorary Research Associate with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. He has studied swamps of the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau for more than 40 years, satisfying his curiosity about how and when they developed. Ian Baird drew on more than 13 years of research on the threatened Giant Dragonfly and swamps generally, to share his extensive knowledge of the fauna that dwell in them.
Our current swamps formed up to 15,000 years ago as the land warmed up and became wetter after the last Ice Age. How the unique swamp plants formed and where they were during these cold and dry periods are particular questions of interest.
Flowering shrubs such as the rare Acacia ptychoclada and Grevillea acanthifolia were admired along with sedges such as Empodisma minus and Xyris ustulata. Two of the shrubs present in swamps, Banksia ericifolia and Hakea teretifolia, are killed by fire because they do not resprout from a lignotuber and do not store seed in the soil. Individual plants can take up to 8-10 years to flower and fruit and even more years are needed between fires to establish a seed bank to ensure the continuation of viable populations of this species in this location.
Plants adapted to sandstone areas only drop seeds close to the parent plant, which is in contrast with northern hemisphere plants where seed moves much greater distances due to reliance on wind dispersal. The presence of Mallee eucalypts in swamps may be understood in terms of opportunities to thrive without the competition of larger trees. Adapted to wetter conditions and fire, some of these Mallees have lignotubers at least 50-100 years old.
Using a 1.8m steel soil probe, Ian demonstrated the significant differences in the depth of soft peaty soil over the swamp and the patches of drier sandy loam. These soil differences are reflected in the plants, and determine where Giant Dragonflies can reproduce.
Ian identified patches suitable as breeding habitat and those which were not, and discussed the importance of damp or saturated peaty soil with a high water table for egg-laying and larval establishment. It is believed that they then spend at least 6 years in their larval burrow. The deepest larval burrow Ian has found, also the deepest recorded, was 75cm.
A very young Blue Mountains Water Skink, plus two adults were sighted. One adult water skink sat still on top of the grass watching the group for some time. Genetic studies indicate that this species has been in swamps in the Blue Mountains for at least 2 million years, but where were they during the ice ages which have occurred over that time? They are currently solely dependant on peat swamps in the mid-to upper Blue Mountains for their survival.
Blue Mountains Water Skink
Ian gave some insights into the range of less appreciated fauna found in swamps which also need groundwater for survival, from the small invertebrates and skinks which may survive fire under patches of wet litter, to the Common Eastern Froglets, burrowing crayfish and swamp rats. Blue Mountains Water Skinks can sometimes use these burrows, and those of Giant Dragonflies, for protection from fire and predators. Crayfish burrows are found in areas with groundwater seepage or a high water table which they can access in their burrows. Swamp rat tunnels may also be abundant; one of which was inspected (these are more horizontal).
Both Doug and Ian explained how Blue Mountains Swamps are important for holding and filtering water. The conservation of swamps is a key concern of those present and an interesting debate on fire, sedimentation and climate change followed. The predicted hotter, drier conditions and more frequent fires will threaten the swamps’ survival.
This event was organised by Blue Mountains City Council Bushcare and assisted by the New South Wales Government Environmental Trust Fund, NSW Local Land Services and NPWS
Arion ater, the European Black Slug. Photo by Peter Ardill
A single sample of this invasive European slug was recently found at the South Lawson Park Bushcare site, and the suspected identity was confirmed by Michael Shea at the Australian Museum. Unfortunately, it would seem that this slug is widespread in some, but not all parts of the upper Blue Mountains (and at selected sites in Victoria and SA) and may be spreading into the middle mountains area.
The adult form of this slug is deep black, with some minor individual variations (white, dark brown). It has no shell, and numerous tubercles, similar to raised mini spines, are clearly visible on its back. The slug is 10-15 cms long. According to the Australian Museum, there are no confusing native species. The black colour makes it quite distinctive. They have no known natural predators in Australia.
Collection and disposal by bushcare volunteers may be effective in slowing and perhaps stopping their spread into unaffected areas, and doing this can slow down their overall acclimatisation process. The impact of this slug on native fauna is unknown, so limiting their numbers and spread may minimise any adverse impacts whilst research into this aspect of the problem is being conducted and can be applied.
The mucus of this slug is particularly thick and unpleasant so the use of gloves is recommended. Please try to dispatch them in a humane manner, such as in a lidded container with a small amount of beer, or by freezing. Snail bait placed in the open can harm native wildlife.
Peter Ridgeway at Greater Sydney Local Land Services is aware of their presence in the Blue Mountains and hopes to engage in an education program with local nurseries. Museum Victoria at https://www.museumvictoria.com.au can also help with further information.
Thanks for considering this issue. Peter Ardill, South Lawson Park Bushcare.
Arion ater: the European Black Slug found at South Lawson Park. Photo by Peter Ardill
A yellow-tailed black cockatoo in Sydney’s Centennial Park. Photo: Peter Rae
Is there anyone who doesn’t appreciate the sight of a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (YTBC) flying overhead ? It seems that very little is really known about them and you can help to change that and potentially influence planning for their conservation.
Jessica Rooke is an Advanced Science (Biological Sciences) student at the University of New South Wales. She is currently undertaking Honours in Ecology with the Centre for Ecosystem Science, supervised by Professor Richard Kingsford, Dr John Martin and Dr Kate Brandis.
Jessica’s project focuses on the well known Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo. However, not many people know that this iconic species has been largely understudied, and is in significant decline. The project’s objectives are to investigate the species habitat, foraging and breeding ecology, with an overall aim of creating a management plan to help conserve the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.
If you have any further information, questions or queries, particularly regarding locations of breeding/nesting sites, please contact Jessica: email@example.com
Banksia Park Bushcare volunteers recently observed some Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos boring into Tea trees, apparently to extract wood-boring invertebrates. The group had intentionally planted Hakeas and Banksias to provide a food source for them so we were pleasantly surprised that the Tea trees planted alongside were also providing food for the iconic species! Jessica advises that literature suggests that Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos increase this behaviour during breeding time, and when juveniles are fledging (around June-July, although this is based on limited studies, and is said to change across their range). If your groups has any similar observation, please take the time to record them and upload the data to the easy to use survey. The more we can contribute to these Citizen Science type projects, the more chances we’ll have to help protect the habitat of the species being studied.
Beautiful creeks and waterways are a wonderful part of our City – but how healthy are they?
From July this year, it will be easier to find out, with the release of Council’s Blue Mountains Waterway Health Report – a user-friendly brochure showing the results of Council’s Water Quality Monitoring Program.
Since 1998, Council has regularly tested waterway health at up to 50 waterways across the City. As a result, we now have one of the richest water quality data sets in Australia, and Council uses this data to inform its catchment improvement programs.
Council regularly tests the health of our waterways at over 40 sites across the city. the diversity of waterbugs such as crayfish is an indicator of creek health.
While detailed water quality reports have been published on Council’s website since 2006, the new brochure aims to make this information readily accessible to everyone in the community. It is hoped people will be prompted to think about local waterway health and what they can do to help.
The report card shows each sample waterway in the Blue Mountains, the catchment within which it flows, and its state of ecological health (rated Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor). In the 2016 report, 53% of tested waterways are in good condition or better.
Our city is lucky to have some of Australia’s best waterways, but they are also vulnerable to pollution – especially due to stormwater runoff from urban areas.
Urban runoff is consistently identified as the number one environmental threat to our World Heritage listing and presents challenges for local drinking water catchments, Endangered Ecological Communities, threatened species and the City’s tourism reputation.
Everything that goes into our gutters and streets ends up in our creeks
Try these few simple actions to help protect our waterways from urban runoff:
Keep pollutants out of drains (litter, soil and sand, fertilisers and pesticides, detergents, oil, animal droppings and garden waste).
Install a rainwater tank to capture rainwater from your roof and use it regularly.
Design your garden to allow stormwater to soak into the ground.
Control invasive weeds on your property.
Don’t dump fish or plants in waterways.
The Report Card will be sent to all ratepayers with Council’s newsletter from July.
There are currently five active Streamwatch groups in the Blue Mountains: Fitzgerald Creek, Gordon Falls Creek, Leura Falls Creek, Popes Glen and South Lawson Bushcare Group.
Streamwatch is coordinated by the Australian Museum. Members of Streamwatch register with the Museum and are provided with training, water testing kits and support. The Museum also does a visit to a newly proposed site. Streamwatch groups commit to doing water testing at a regular time once a month and uploading the data onto the Streamwatch website. Groups are also encouraged to take part in the Autumn Waterbugs Watch and Spring Waterbugs Watch run by the Museum.
BMCC Bushcare Officers have done the Streamwatch training.
If your Bushcare group is keen to get involved in setting up streamwatch at or near your site please let us know. You can contact your Bushcare officer or Jenny Hill email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (GBMWHA) comprises eight reserves: Blue Mountains, Gardens of Stone, Kanangra-Boyd, Nattai, Thirlmere Lakes, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks and Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. The area was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000 because its natural values, including the diversity of its fauna, were considered to be outstanding at international level.
In 1998, when the nomination of the Greater Blue Mountains Area for inscription on the World Heritage List was prepared, it was well known that the area provided habitat for a wide variety of fauna. However, details of the vertebrate fauna were sketchy. Over the last year, in an attempt to gain a clearer understanding of the fauna, we have been preparing annotated checklists of the native frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals in the GBMWHA.
The checklists indicate the species we consider to have been reliably recorded in each of the eight constituent reserves together with their conservation status at national and state level, and details of their distribution, habitat and relative abundance in the WHA. The project has been supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Community Heritage and Icons Grants Programme.
Out of interest, over 60 of the vertebrate fauna species are considered threatened at national and/or state level and at least 422 native species: 66 mammal, 250 bird (including at least 29 honeyeater species), 71 reptile and 35 frog species have been recorded in the area since European settlement, truly an outstanding diversity.
If you would like a copy of the checklists please contact us. Additional records or comments on the checklists would be most welcome. As the fauna is by no means completely known, nor is it static, we are hoping that the checklists will be regularly updated. We can be contacted at: email@example.com
The first of the three Bushcare Boosters training sessions was at South Lawson Bushcare Site. Twelve people attended and it was a mix of presentation inside and a site visit.
The idea of these workshops is to give a big picture of planning and assessing your sites. The next workshop will be held at on Sunday the 5th of June and we will be looking at Fauna considerations on your site. Stay tuned to the events page to find out more.
The key take home from this session is;
Everyone who is at Bushcare every month has something to contribute to the planning sessions and work plans for your Bushcare Group. Every group has a work plan ask your Bushcare Officer to talk you through yours.