Amongst the many predicted effects of climate change, is the following serious issue.
Scientists from James Cook University and the Australian Tropical Herbarium have found that most of the rare montane plant species, endemic to high altitude cloud forests in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area will likely not be able to survive in their current natural locations past 2080 as their high-altitude climate changes.
They studied 19 plant species * found in these cloud forests, at least 1 000 metres above sea level, and by even conservation assumptions, predict that most of these species will not have a survivable climate by 2080.
Cloud forests are unique ecosystems typically found on mountainous areas in tropical regions, where the plants strip moisture from the moist air. These forests contain a rich diversity of mosses, ferns and rare plants in a typically low tree canopy on peat-rich soils.
Dr Costion said, “The 19 species represent most of the plants that are restricted to that habitat. It’s highly likely they are found only there because of the climate. There are plenty of other similar soil and substrate environments at lower elevations where they could grow, but the climate is unsuitable.”
Co-author Professor Darren Crayn said that without a suitable environment, the survival of the threatened species may depend on them being grown in botanical gardens under controlled conditions.
* Species include Cryptocarya bellendenkerana, Diospyros sp. Mt Spurgeon, Elaeocarpus sp. Mt Misery, Eucryphia wilkiei, Phaleria biflora, Planchonella sp. Mt Lewis, Tasmannia sp. Mt Bellenden Ker, Uromyrtus metrosideros and Zieria alata.
Reference: “Will tropical mountaintop plant species survive climate change? Identifying key knowledge gaps using species distribution modeling in Australia” by C. Costion, Lalita Simpson, Petina Pert, Monica Carlsen, W. John Kress & Darren Crayn (2015). Published in “Biological Conservation”, issue 191 (2015), pages 322 – 330.
Bimblebox Nature Refuge
This almost 8000 hectare property in central Queensland (approximately 30 km N-W of Alpha) was purchased for the express purposes of conservation in 2000 and was signed off by the Qld Gov’t in 2002 to permanently protect the conservation values of the site. It is dominated by semi-arid woodlands with a diverse understorey of native plants, and a very rich diversity of birds and other wildlife. (A small herd of cattle assist on site with control of exotic pasture grasses.) Threatened plant and animal species are listed for the property as well.
Waratah Coal (owned by Clive Palmer) with its Galilee Coal Project was given the green light by the Qld Government and Federal Government in 2013 to develop a huge open cut mine on the property which will be half the size of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge! And the remainder would be an underground mine.
ANPSA (Australian Native Plants Society – Australia) wrote to various politicians requesting that the environmental values of the site be preserved, and that the entire project be reconsidered because of the anticipated negative environmental effects. The issue is ongoing.
This distinctive hill (elevation 72 metres) is part of the cluster of Glass House Mountains volcanic peaks, but is the only one without any conservation protection. Although water and microwave towers dominate the small summit, there are considerable conservation values for the remainder, especially the montane heath flora. A residential area encroaches on the southern side, and currently there are plans before the local council to clear more of the thickly wooded slope for more development.
6 plant species listed as threatened under the Nature Conservation Act (Qld) exist on Rupari Hill, although one (Glass House Mts Oak - Allocasuarina filidens) appears to have disappeared since clearing of the summit for the towers. The other species are – Leucopogon recurvisepalus (Endangered), Plectranthus torrenticola (Endangered), Grevillea hodgei (Vulnerable), Leptospermum luehmannii (Vulnerable) and Eucalyptus curtisii (Near Threatened).
Grevillea hodgei (Glass House Mts Grevillea) is only known from two sites in the world. One site is here on Rupari Hill, and the other is on the adjacent mountain called Coochin Hills, which is part of the Glass House Mts National Park. This Grevillea incidentally was named after Merv Hodge, a founding member of NPQ (SGAP Qld at the time) and well known Grevillea grower and native plant expert.
Along with many local residents and other community groups of the area, NPQ has submitted letters to the Sunshine Coast Regional Council explaining the considerable conservation values of Rupari Hill and we are awaiting some positive news.
This area of forest just S-W of Beenleigh is a combination of Plunkett Regional Park, Wickham National Park and Wickham Timber Reserve, and straddles a sandstone plateau and surrounds with rugged sandstone outcrops and cliffs, with eucalypt forests and heath understorey. It is a well known site for spectacular wildflower displays in late winter and spring, and is home to a number of rare, vulnerable and unique species, as well as many regionally significant plants. It is also the site where Eucalyptus curtisii was first discovered by local naturalist Densil Curtis in 1923.
Plunkett has suffered in recent years from illegal use by 4WDs and motor bikes, causing much erosion and degradation of the once narrow walking track system and fragile ecosystem.
However, Qld Parks and Wildlife Service has initiated a program to rehabilitate and preserve this glorious area to ensure its environmental values are retained for the future. A community group, the Friends of Plunkett has been formed comprising a large group of stakeholders, including NPQ which is represented by the Logan River Branch, and a large number of activities are being co-ordinated to address the issues that have impacted on the area.
For more information, go to http://friendsofplunkett.org.au
Bahrs Scrub is a district just S-W of Beenleigh, comprising rural properties amongst extensive eucalypt forest and remnant areas of sub-tropical rainforest. It is a rich wildlife habitat with koalas quite common.
On some of the eucalypt forest ridges and slopes, there is a variety of rare and threatened plant species, including Eucalyptus curtisii and Marsdenia coronata. In the rainforest remnants there are many threatened species including Macadamia integrifolia, Planchonella eerwah, Fontainea venosa, Croton mamillatus, Solanum mentiens, Symplocos harroldii, Gossia gonoclada, Diploglottis campbellii and Sophora fraseri.
A huge residential development is planned for the area which affects mainly the eucalypt forested areas and many of the rural properties have already been purchased in preparation. While there are no immediate threats to the rainforest remnants, none are under any form of permanent protection such as National Park or Conservation Park.