Survey identifies five threatened species on Lot 85 and Lot 167

A flora survey in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest has identified five Threatened plant species on the next two properties to be purchased for conservation - Lot 85 Cape Tribulation Road and Lot 167 Buchanan Creek Road. 

Before making a commitment to the purchase of land in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest we undertake a survey to confirm the natural values. The vegetation survey was undertaken on Lot 85 Cape Tribulation Road, Diwan, and Lot 167 Buchanan Creek Road, Cow Bay by ecologist Kristopher Kupsch on the 9th and 10th of March 2021.

We've provided an outline of the report below including descriptions of the Threatened and endemic plant species found on the property.

Lot 85 Cape Tribulation Road, Diwan, Queensland. 

Location: Cape Tribulation Road at Diwan in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

Lot and registered plan number: Lot 85 RP 738676

Area: 7.99 hectares / 19.74372 acres

Bioregion: Wet Tropics

Ecosystem: Tropical Rainforest

Species of importance: Five plants are listed on the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Regional Ecosystem: Three Regional Ecosystems – see report below.

Results of the survey.

A vegetation survey was undertaken of Lot 85 Cape Tribulation Road, Cow Bay on the 9th of September 2021 by ecologist Kristopher Kupsch.

The vegetation on Lot 85 Cape Tribulation road is well developed lowland rainforest occurring on poorly drained alluvial soil dominated by Fan Palms (Licuala ramsayi) with much surface water. In areas with slightly better drainage a more complex forest assemblage with tall buttressed trees, many vines and more understorey species is found. Within this vegetation a common element is Salwood (Acacia celsa) suggesting periodic cyclone damage. Along the creek which dissects the property, additional species such as the rare Mulgrave Satinash (Syzygium xerampelinum) occurs. A common canopy species is Northern Silky Oak (Cardwellia sublimis) and Spur Mahogany (Dysoxylum pettigrewianum). The Mahogany family (Meliaceae) is well represented with 10 species as well as the Laurel family (Lauraceae) with 12 species and the Palm family (Arecaceae) with 8 species.

A significant forest of Fan Palm (Licuala ramsayi) occurs on Lot 85. This species is a characteristic species of the Wet Tropics bioregion and the majestic primordial forests of them on Lot 85 should be protected in perpetuity. They provide habitat for flying mammals, frogs, and insects whilst producing copious red fruit for birds.

Kelvin Davies with Fan Palms of Lot 85 Cape Tribulation Road

A total of 235 native species and 8 exotic plant species were identified from the site.

The vegetation Regional Ecosystem (RE) mapping by The Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Herbarium is consistent with the site appraisal.

There are three vegetation types on Lot 85 which reflect differences in soil hydrology.

Much of the vegetation on Lot 85 is classified as RE 7.3.10a: Mesophyll vine forest of moderately to poorly-drained alluvial plains, of moderate fertility within the lowlands of the very wet and wet zone.

Forest type RE 7.3.10a is listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

The Queensland government indicates a pre-clearing amount of 60,000 ha existed with 14,000 ha hectares remaining in 2017.

The Queensland government specifically states that this vegetation type has “Special Values” being:

Small areas on the very wet lowlands, especially between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation, harbour plant species which are extremely restricted and uncommon. Many areas of this ecosystem are considered refugial in nature and are local centres of endemism. Many representatives of primitive families of flowering plants are present, including the monotypic family Idiospermaceae. The ecosystem is the habitat for many threatened plant species.”

The second vegetation type occurring on Lot 85 is RE 7.3.4. Mesophyll vine forest with Licuala ramsayi on poorly drained alluvial plains and alluvial areas of uplands.

This forest type RE 7.3.4 is also listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

The Queensland government indicates a pre-clearing amount of 3,000 ha existed with 1,000 ha hectares remaining in 2017.  

The Queensland government specifically states that this vegetation type has “Special Values” being:

Potential habitat for NCA listed species: Austromuellera trinervia, Dendrobium nindii, Endiandra cooperana, Freycinetia marginata and Phlegmariurus phlegmarioides.

A third vegetation type occurs in the far Northeast corner of Lot 85, being RE 7.3.10c Mesophyll vine forest with scattered Archontophoenix alexandrae (feather palm) in the sub-canopy. Seasonally inundated lowland alluvial plains.

Forest type RE 7.3.10c is listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

Kelvin Davies at Lot 85 Cape Tribulation Road

This property has been identified as essential habitat for the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii. The Southern Cassowary is listed as endangered under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth) and ‘threatened’ by the Queensland Government (NC Act, 1992). Protection and conservation management of the habitat of these species is important for their survival in the wild.

Five (5) species of plant found on Lot 85 are listed on the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Table 2).

Significant species found during survey:

  1. Beilschmiedia castrisinensis NCA 1992: Near Threatened

The China Camp Laurel only grows in the Daintree Rainforests between the Daintree River and the Bloomfield River where it is locally common. This species has large fruits the size of tennis balls that are only dispersed by the Southern Cassowary and thus a symbiotic relationship (+/+) has evolved in which they rely on each other.

The species was identified as several seedlings beneath a mature canopy specimen with recently fallen fruit littering the ground.

The species name ‘castrisinensis’ refers to China (sinensis) Camp (castris), a location to the west of Cape Tribulation where the species was first found.

    2. Endiandra grayi NCA: Vulnerable

Gray’s Walnut is a large growing Laurel tree only found between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation in lowland rainforest below 40m asl. Its large seeds are dispersed solely by the Southern Cassowary. A small number of juvenile saplings were identified on Lot 85. It has a large leaf with a distinctive glaucous whitish underside.

 

Gray’s Walnut

   3. Endiandra microneura NCA: Near Threatened

Noah’s Walnut is only found within the Daintree rainforests predominately north of the Daintree River and south of Cape Tribulation. It is commonly found on Lot 85 and once again its large yellow oblong shaped fruits are dispersed by the Southern Cassowary. This tree is noticeable in the forest as it produces a vibrant display of limp red new leaves.

Noah’s Walnut

   4. Freycinetia percostata NCA: Vulnerable

The Climbing Pandanus is abundant in many areas of Lot 85 associated with Licuala Fan Palm swamp. It climbs high into the canopy using adventitious roots attached to the trunks of trees.

It is restricted mainly to the Daintree and again on Cape York at Iron Range and overseas in Papua New Guinea. This species is common within the Cow Bay and the greater Daintree lowlands especially in wet swampy places. This climbing grass-like plant possesses unique leaves that trap water and thus provide habitat for invertebrates and frogs. These microhabitats are termed Phytotelms and add to the habitat diversity within a rainforest.

Kelvin Davies with Climbing Pandanus

   5. Ryparosa kurrangii NCA: Near Threatened

The Daintree Ryparosa is a small sized tree that occurs in shady sites of the more refugial parts of the Daintree. On Lot 85 a single mature tree was found. This species produces flowers and fruits directly from its trunk, a feature known as cauliflory. This is a benefit to such plants in a leafy rainforest as it allows animals to easily pollinate the flowers as well as find and consume the fruit without the leaves obstructing. This tree is only found in the Daintree lowlands with its closest relatives in New Guinea. There is evidence to suggest this tree has specialised symbiotic relationships with Ants. It produces food rewards from its leaves and branches that are presumably so the Ants protect the tree from leaf eating herbivorous insects and also help reduce leaf covering mosses, a tactic to preserve valuable leaves in a habitat which the limiting resource is light (energy) as this species is slow growing in these gloomy conditions.

Daintree Ryparosa

Other significant Daintree endemics that occur on Lot 85:

  1. Cleistanthus myrianthus

The Daintree Cleistanthus is a small tree only found between the Bloomfield and Daintree rivers in lowland rainforest and again overseas in Southeast Asia. Its seeds are dispersed by gravity which allows independence from an animal vector however the trade-off is limited dispersal from the parent tree and poses the question how the species also occurs many thousands of kilometres in Asia.

The species name Cleist-anthus refers to Cleist meaning closed and that the flower bud doesn’t entirely open and thus pollination occurs without the need of an insect/animal. Additionally, myri-anthus means many, derived from the word Myriad and Anthers referring to the male flowers which the tree produces in great numbers. This otherwise nondescript tree is common on Lot 85 and is another great wonder of the Daintree rainforests not found in other regions of the Wet Tropics. This suggests the Daintree is a refugial region from previously wetter times when subequatorial rainforest was more widespread on Cape York Peninsula connecting the forests of Papua New Guinea with Asia.

Kelvin Davies with Daintree Cleistanthus

   2. Jagera madida

A small number of Daintree Foambark’s are present on Lot 85. This species only occurs in the lowland rainforests between Julatten - Bloomfield and has its closest relatives in SE Asia being quite distinct to that of the other Australian Foambark species in being slenderer, often a single trunk with a handful of branches. Until recently this tree was considered to be a species that also occurs in Java however closer analysis of its flowers, fruits and leaf characteristics has shown it is an Australian endemic restricted to the Daintree where it is relatively common. The species name madida refers to the species fern-like foliage.

Daintree Foambark

   3. Polyalthia xanthocarpa

The Cooper Creek Haplostichanthus (Polyalthia xanthocarpa) is locally abundant on Lot 85. This is an understorey shrub to 3m in height and is restricted to the rainforests of the Daintree lowlands, albeit found as far south as the Daintree village, the large majority of records comes from the vicinity of the Cow Bay - Cape Tribulation area. It is a recently described species formally recognised in 2007 as Haplostichanthus ramiflorus and then redescribed as Polyalthia xanthocarpa in 2012. It is common where it occurs but has a very restricted occurrence.

Kelvin Davies with Cooper Creek Haplostichanthus

   4. Syzygium monospermum

The Daintree Satinash is only found in lowland rainforests between Cape Tribulation and Julatten. The tree provides food for the Endangered Southern Cassowary and owing to the size of its large white fruit that it produces straight from the trunk, few other animals other than possibly Fruit bats would disperse it. The locally common Daintree Satinash is a unique tree that has Ants which inhabit its trunk. Little is known of the reason why Ants colonise this trees trunk however it is known that the internal structure of the tree is a purpose-built network of tunnels which allow Ants to undertake their entire life cycle, what the tree benefits from this is little known and currently remains unstudied. This tree was only botanically named in 2003 and is relatively common on Lot 85.

Daintree Satinash

Other values of Lot 85:

Several specimens of Hopes Cycad (Lepidozamia hopei) occur on Lot 85. This species of Cycad is the largest growing in the world and was once utilised by Aboriginal people as a food source. It has evolutionary links dating back some 200 million years and along with other ancient species form some of the reason why the Wet Tropics World Heritage area has been afforded protection within the National Parks estate.

Hopes Cycad (self portrait by Stecven Nowakowski)

Lot 165 Buchanan Creek Road, Cow Bay, Queensland.

Location: Buchanan Creek Road at Cow Bay in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

Lot and registered plan number: Lot 167 RP 737400

Area: 1.0022 hectares / 2.4764 acres

Bioregion: Wet Tropics

Ecosystem: Tropical Rainforest

Species of importance: One plant listed on the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Regional Ecosystem: One Regional Ecosystem – see report below.

Results of the survey.

A vegetation survey was undertaken on Lot 167 Buchanan creek Road, Cow Bay on the 10th of March 2021 by ecologist Kristopher Kupsch.

The vegetation on Lot 167 Buchanan Creek Road is remnant with 143 native species and 4 exotic plant species identified. The vegetation is within a transition between a forest which experienced fire events more often to one which is becoming denser as rainforest species colonise the understorey.

The canopy and emergents are Acacias, Bloodwoods, Eucalypts and Swampbox whilst the lower layers comprises rainforest species presumably due to a change in the lands fire management.

The vegetation Regional Ecosystem (RE) mapping by The Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Herbarium is consistent with the site appraisal.

The vegetation on Lot 167 is classified as RE 7.3.20a: Eucalyptus pellita, Corymbia intermedia, C. tessellaris, open forest often with Acacia celsa, A. cincinnata, A. mangium and A. flavescens. Includes small areas dominated by A. crassicarpa. Alluvial fans of the very wet and wet rainfall zones, of the lowlands and foothills.

Forest type RE 7.3.20a is listed as “Of Concern” under the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

The Queensland government indicates a pre-clearing amount of 11,000 ha existed with 7,000 ha hectares remaining in 2017.

The Queensland government specifically states that this vegetation type has “Special Values” being:

“Potential habitat for NCA listed species: Calochilus psednus, Drosera adelae, Oldenlandia polyclada”.

Significant species found during survey:

The preservation of Lot 167 is important to assist in the continued prosperity of Noah’s Walnut (Endiandra microneura).

  1. Endiandra microneura NCA: Near Threatened

Noah’s Walnut is found on Lot 167 as a single specimen 8m tall. The seeds are dispersed by the Endangered Southern Cassowary. This tree is noticeable in the forest as it produces a vibrant display of limp red new leaves. Noah’s Walnut is only found within the Daintree lowland rainforests predominately north of the Daintree River and south of Cape Tribulation.

 Kelvin Davies with Noah’s Walnut

Other values of Lot 167:

The main value of Lot 167 is the connectivity this parcel provides in linking large regions of the Cow Bay ranges in the south to the coastal mangroves to the north. Acquisition of this property would prevent housing development and further fragmentation of the rainforest.

Evidence of Cassowaries being present and utilising this Lot for habitat was identified in the form of seedlings growing from droppings containing local native rainforest seeds. The site is transitioning to a rainforest assemblage and overtime fleshy fruited Cassowary food plants are colonising.

Southern Cassowary in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

A number of prominent Rusty Figs (Ficus destruens) occur on Lot 167 which are potential food for the Vulnerable Macleay’s Fig Parrot.

Rusty Figs 

Daintree Stringybark (Eucalyptus pellita)

Weeds:

Lot 167 has minimal exotic weeds. Those present are associated with roadways and there are basically no exotic plants occurring within the forest on the Lot. This would markedly change if disturbance of any kind takes place.

 

Daintree Rainforest land sales have rapidly escalated due to Covid-19 and we urgently need to increase our buyback of land to directly compete with those that would develop the world's oldest rainforest. As we are witnessing an increase in clearing for housing development we must act now.

Please, make a donation now to help purchase and protect Lot 85 and Lot 167 in the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. Each $25 raised will help purchase and protect ten sqm of the Lowland Daintree Rainforest.  

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  • Kelvin Davies
    published this page in Latest News 2021-04-03 10:54:49 +1100