St Bees Island

St Bees Island

This is  a summary of what I believe is happening on St Bees.

 

St Bees Island is changing in ways that degrade the environment:

- Land clearing for agricultural purposes and livestock grazing introduced exotic weed species

- Wallaby populations are increasing since National Parks removed feral goats. Wallabies are over browsing the grasslands
and eating eucalyptus seedlings.

- Bloodwood trees are increasing but poplar gums and forest red gums are decreasing (forest red gums makeup 90% of a koala's diet)

- Seeds of gum trees need bare ground to grow and all the bare ground is filling with introduced snake weed.

- Environmental weeds that thrive in over-browsed pastures are taking over and changing grasslands to shrub lands with a lantana
dominated landscape.

- Rainforests are spreading into grasslands due to currawongs dispersing seeds.The rainforest spread is mostly limited to fruit bearing species. Rainforest vines strangle and kill gum trees.

- Currawong numbers are increasing and are forecast to increase faster as more rainforest plants provide more fruit to eat. This then increases rainforest
expansion as even more seeds are spread.

- Climate change is increasing extreme weather events like cyclones and droughts which damage eucalypt forests and gum trees and favour the establishment of
rainforest (which is drought tolerant and a rapid coloniser).

Drivers of this change are:

- Climate change

- Browsers

- Environmental weeds

The result of this is:

- The koala population is decreasing as the suitable habitat shrinks.

- Grassland and Grassy Woodland communities are disappearing.

The recommended Key Values to guide decisions for managing St Bees Island will be delivered to Queensland National Parks Service.

They are as follows:

- Preserve koala habitat to protect the koala population

- Preserve the island's range of ecosystems especially its grassy woodlands and grassland communities to maintain the island's biodiversity

Alistair is concluding his research by making a recommendation to Queensland National Parks on how to reset the clock to an
ideal ecosystem that allows koalas and island grasslands to thrive. This includes:

- Removal of wallabies to control browsing

- Control of lantana by chemical means

- Establishing a burning regime to control rainforest incursion

Day 6

Our last day on the island. This is such a sad thought. I have fallen in love with this captivating space even though I have been left bruised, bitten and bleeding and given litres and litres of sweat. This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my wife since I was 17 years old and the longest time I have spent away from my children since they were born. I imagine it will also be the biggest phone bill I have ever paid. We fly away tomorrow morning to return to our schools on Monday. Back to a normal life, when this week has just been so extraordinary.

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Day 5

What? Day 5 already? NOOOOOO!!! This is so much fun it is like my dream holiday. Some people go on holiday to relax…boring. My favourite holidays are where I experience new things and leave with a sense of achievement where I have done something worthwhile or challenging to complete. This expedition is certainly challenging and extremely worthwhile with many new experiences.

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Day 4

I tried posting my blog in the morning today. Very good views with the sun rising over the islands. The laptops are easier to see at night but there are no bug swarms attacking the monitor in the daylight. I opt to post this blog on the following morning because this gives me time to fish before dinner. No luck, however, as those sneaky fish keep stealing my bait. Fish are finned demons!

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Day 3:

Posting these blogs online is an adventure on an island. We type up our journal, then jump aboard a golf cart which drives along the runway to a road winding up the hill. The golf carts have no headlights, so I have to reach out the side & shine a torch ahead of us as the lead scientist drives. At the top of the hill is the only spot here with reception & at night now often has clusters of teachers on laptops reporting back to the world. They are eerily lit from laptop screens & swat at the bugs this attracts.

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Day 2:

I am awake 20 minutes before my alarm at 5:40. I replay last nights talking in my head trying to understand the problems on this island. I am writing a list of threats to the grasslands that we are investigating to see why they are disappearing and why this plant community and its ecosystem is under threat. Soon it will be gone if nothing is done as an entire habitat system is vanishing.

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