Frugivory and seed dispersal at Araucaria, SEQ


Wompoo Fruitdove eating bangalow palm fruits

Wompoo Fruitdove eating bangalow palm fruits

Animals obviously need plants, but many plants also need animals. If all seeds drop beneath the mother tree, they’ll be competing with their mother and with their siblings for light, water, space and nutrients, and there may be heavy shade under the mother. They are also more easily found by seed-eating animals if they are in a big clump  on the ground. The tree has a better chance of contributing to the next generation if its seeds  are spread through the forest (or other habitat) in the  hope that some of the sites are better for germination and survival. Many trees, shrubs, herbs and vines simply scatter their seeds in the wind, but in the rainforest there’s not so much breeze, and when there is, the seeds are likely to hit a neighbouring tree and thus not travel far.

Frugivory (fruit-eating) is obviously useful for the animals that derive the nutrients, and if they also digest the seed (as parrots and many pigeons do) it’s not much good for the plant. If however they only digest the soft parts and regurgitate or pass the seeds through their digestive tracts unharmed (as some of our pigeons do, and also bowerbirds, honeyeaters and many others) they also provide an unwitting service for the tree, vine or other plant they fed on.

I was attracted to the topic because it involves so many disciplines – conservation biology (we can’t think only in terms of conserving species,but need to consider the relationships between them and others they interact with, and are there particular animals that threatened =plants depend on, and threatened animals that depend on particular fruits, especially in lean seasons?), ecology, evolution, animals behaviour and physiology.

A channel-billed cuckoo eating native  figs

A channel-billed cuckoo eating native figs

I’ve been conducting research on frugivory and seed dispersal, especially local birds that eat rainforest fruits, for some years now. One of the most popular fruit in our region – in terms both of of numbers of individual birds and the numbers of species feeding on the fruits – is a native fig Ficus rubiginosa (formerly regarded as  F. platypoda). So why aren’t there more growing around here?

I’m currently looking at this and other local plant species from three angles: (1) what eats them and how frequently? (mostly looking at birds, but other creatures as well) (2) where do frugivorous birds sit when not feeding (and thus likely to deposit seeds) and (3) what conditions do they need for germination and growth?

I do most of the observations alone, but guests on our tours can also assist on  forest walks by helping to find birds that are either eating fruit ( for 1 above) or  doing other things (for 2 above).

For the third aspect of the study, I’ve been germinating seeds in the brush house, but am now about to embark on some experiment field plots. In the photos below, Darren is heeling set up some of these experimental plots which in the future can be viewed by visitors to the Araucaria property and which I hope will help answer some of my queries.

prepare germination plots  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Frugivores other than birds include fruit bats and other mammals, some lizards (especially the larger skinks and dragons), fish (but not many in Australia) and ants, and we’re planning more observations of these.

Protecting rainforest restoration near a tributary of Running Creek, Scenic Rim

“The best creek in southeast Queensland” the real estate agent called it when we were looking for a property just over 30 years ago.  And we’ve had plant of reason to agree.

Running Creek in flood

Running Creek in flood with part of our rainforest (i.e. on Araucaria property)  in the background

It plunges over a 100m waterfall in the western slopes of Lamington National Park, and never stops flowing.  Even late in the 10-year drought we went through in the late 90’s, we’d be swimming in over 2 metres of water, listening to the water flowing over the rocks just upstream (reduced to a gentle trickle instead of the rapids we usually use as a ‘spa-bath’ by wedging ourselves between the rocks, but still travelling), and thinking ‘hey, this is a drought, isn’t it?’  Most other creeks in the district had dried up altogether or were now a series of disconnected ponds. In major  flood times though it surges like an angry ocean, tossing trees and boulders, demolishing bridges and cutting road access, sometimes for over a week.

The Araucaria property lies at the foot of Mt Chinghee (Bung Bung to the Aboriginals), several kilometres downstream from the Lamington National Park in  the Scenic Rim, Southeast Queensland, with just a few cattle properties in between. Mt Chinghee National Park mostly harbours seasonally dry rainforest (with moister rainforest  – more palms, ferns, mosses etc. – at its summit), and from it two tributaries flow through our property into Running Creek. Much of Mt Chinghee National Patrk has been separated from Running Creek to the south and Christmas Creek to the north by clearing for cattle-grazing, so our property is one of the few where forest continues to the creek, allowing rainforest creatures ready access and thus providing something of a wildlife corridor between the creek and the national park.

tackling the lantana

Darren (swinging the scythe) and one of our WWOOFers (WillingWorkers On Organic Farms) tackling lantana

We had already received a grant from the Scenic Rim Regional Council  to separate the major part of our rainforest regeneration from the horse-grazing area, but one of the tributaries to Running Creek was left out of this. This year we received a dollar-for-dollar grant from Southeast Queensland Catchments to protect this gully. It also allowed us to separate the horse-grazing into several paddocks so horses can be rotated, resting areas that need it and helping to control weeds.

Work included clearing lantana to make way for the fence, hammering in fence posts, stringing the electric fencing (better for the wildlife than barbed wire), installing gates and an extra water tank, and recording baseline observations of fauna and flora along the length of the fencing for future monitoring.

101 posts have been numbered, along Pademelon Path, Wallaby Way and Goanna Gully, and detailed vegetation notes recorded at each of these. We’re hoping to see an increase in rainforest species over the years to come.

new gate

Morgan watches as Denis erects a new gate


towards restoration site

Looking from one of the grazing areas towards the gully with regenerating forest (eucalypts at edge, rainforest trees, shrubs and vines deeper into july). A pile of cleared lantana can be seen in the foreground

numbered post

All 101 of the new posts are numbered so we can monitor fauna and flora changes over the years


Towards Mt Chinghee

Driving through new gate up Pademeon Path on the Araucaria property, Mt Chinghee National Park in background



Wildlife Corridors – report on workshop

This is a reproduction of what will shortly appear on the Scenic Rim Wildlife website

(Scenic Rim Wildlife is the Scenic Rim Branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland)

Wildlife Corridors Workshop

April 2011, Heritage Centre, Tamborine Mountain

The workshop was well attended by a wide range of people from within the Scenic Rim and other regions, and it is hoped the momentum will continue into future action.

The following is from notes taken by the chair, with apologies to presenters if anything important was missed

Introduction – Ronda Green

(Chair Scenic Rim Wildlife)

Ronda spoke briefly on reasons animals need to move (daily, seasonally, after disasters, finding mates and territories etc.), the value of corridors also in allowing genetic exchange and avenues for recolonization after natural or human-indiced disasters,  and the barriers to movements created by increasing human populations. Provision of corridors is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’: we need to understand what is needed by different kinds of wildlife. She stressed the need for information gathering if we are to solve present and future problems – information on where animals are and what they need, and also information on future plans by local, state and federal government and developers so that ecological decisions are not left until the final stages of major plans.

Corridors and roads  international and local – Cathryn Dexter

Cathryn Dexter(SEQ Koala Retrofit & Road Mitigation Project Manager, Applied Road Ecology Group, Environmental Futures Centre and , Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University)

Catherine showed maps of corridors and reserves and pointed out that the decisions on placement of reserves are not always based on what is best for conservation value but frequently for recreational  or political reasons. Effective planning for wildlife movement needs  local, state and national scales.

In a fragmented landscape, the greater the number of fragments, and the closer they are, the more likely dispersal of wildlife will occur between them.

Factors influencing use of corridors:

  • Biology and ecological requirements of particular species
  • Habitat suitability
  • Location of corridors
  • Land use
  • Suitability of habitat in areas surrounding strips
  • The values of the reserves being connected (the large habitat areas that  the corridors lead to)
  • They need to be designed for animals that are vulnerable to extinction: it is not enough for just  the most common species to be using them.

Some consideration of roads, which cut across many animal pathways nowadays and will do so even more in the future –

  • there is a footprint surrounding a road – whether the edges are cleared, lights, noise etc. beyond the area taken up by the road itself
  • mortality of animals crossing roads – very high in some areas
  • roadside habitat enhancement can draw in animals,  for instance mown grass at the edges that will entice wallabies to feed by the roadside, and roadkill produces more roadkill if eagles, quolls and other carrion feeders are attracted
  • public safety – collisions with larger animals can be serious

Strictly migratory animals – as are more common in other continents  –  are easier to cater for than more random movements, because a bridge or tunnel accommodating their usual route will often be used very quickly by the regular migrants.  Our more random and nomadic wildlife are not quite so easy

European approach

European Union  directives

1979 Birds, 1992Habitats Directive  led to Natura 2000 network of sites, with a formal agreement  to abide by the directives or face the EU court

Europe has many more faunal overpasses than Australia does.
If European countries – with all their political differences –  can work together in this way Australian states united by federation and a common culture should be able to similar.

On one road in Spain there are several overpasses of  86-475m –  6 viaducts, 5 tunnels. Total permeability of this road: 47.5%

Compton Road, Brisbane

Glider populations were to be separated by the new road

Land bridges and fauna tunnels, fences, rope ladders for arboreal mammals and glider poles were all planned and ultimately implemented

The overpass has been a great success, and is being used by many kinds of animals – marcopds, gliders, snakes, small bush birds and others.

SEQ Koala Retrofit & Roadkill Mitigation Project
There has been an alarming decline in koalas, mostly due to cars, dog attacks and disease

12745 deaths between 1997 and 2009

Hotspots have been identified

Many koalas are now radio tracked to follow and understand movements – different individual koalas differ in their kinds of movement, challenging some of our our assumptions about corridor placement and habitat suitability.

Some roads are administered by council, some by state – sometimes different policies interfere with overall effectiveness

Green Infrastructure  –  Jaap  Vogel

(Local artist and naturalists, former Tamborine Mountain LandCare president)

Green Infrastructure – a sustainable network of nature, parks and agricultural land, connecting corridors

April 2007 – groups got together to send a message to council about Whole Of Shire Planning

Green infrastructure needs the same kind of process as designing built infrastructure. It supports native wildlife, water management and other ecological phenomena, and involves whole community

The infrastructure consists of hubs, links and sites

We need to establish modelling parameters:  what do we want to achieve – identifying ecological features, then the hubs and linkages, identifying cultural/historical features, selecting trailheads and identifying corridors

AGIC  (Australian Green Infrastructure  Council) – the principle industry catalyst for advancing sustainability – does not mean quite the  same as we do  when speaking of green infrastructure

Example of green infrastructure in USA:

Florida – 700,000 acres, 2,300km of trails, bought 1.7m acres for $3b over 10 years, funding was from government and private sources
They provide linkages for wildlife, protection of drinking water, guards against flooding, purifying of air, and enhancement of  tourism

What we can do about green infrastructure locally

The first step towards a goal of this kind is mapping –  this has already been accomplished on Tamborine Mountain

The former Beaudesert Shire mapped wildlife corridors around some of the the boundaries of the shire, not much else
The Border Ranges map of corridors shows a corridor from Tamborine Mountain to the NSW border, but cut by roads, e.g. at Canungra (and some cleared areas)

There is now a Tamborine Mountain map showing hubs and corridors
The corridor from Thunderbird Park through to Cedar Creek Winery and beyond is a good example of what can be done.  It involves multiple land tenures, 5 private landholders, and 65% is already consolidated with the help of volunteers and landowners.

The Tamborine Creek catchment is another corridor examples,  including Botanic  Garden, McDonald section of Tamborine NP, Contour Rd., old sawmill, Joalah etc. There is a problem of a road just east of the old sawmill with a high priority to creatae a crossing.

GI is however more than just corridors for wildlife, and it  involves the ability for many groups of people to work together to accomplish them.  It is suggested that we form such a coalition of groups for this purpose locally.

Michael Anderson  – Wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim

(Environmental Team Leader, Scenic Rim Regional Council)

The Scenic Rim includes 8 endangered ecosystems (ecosystems with <10%  former area remaining  in Qld), 22 ‘of concern’ (10-30% remaining), 25 least concern (>30% remaining). Despite some large areas of national parks and other reserves, most of this is still on private land. “Least concern” is an unfortunate title, leading to the attitude that it is okay to clear plenty of it.

Corridors can be stepping stones, riparian strips, ridgelines etc.

As vegetation patches reduce in size, they are  less viable ecologically,

A draft map was shown as a tool for deciding priorities for reducing clearing, habitat restoration and for such decisions as where to utilize Vegetation offsets (Energex etc.)

  • An eastern corridor – with some breaks – leads from Lamington to Tamborine Mountain
  • A central one – again with breaks – leads from Mt Barney  through Kooralbyn northwards  – heads to Oxley but then what?
  • A western one runs up the main range

We lack good west-to-east corridors through the main part of the region, and there are many other gaps

Some important gaps are those around Beaudesert, Kooralbyn, Mt Chinghee, Kerry, Bremer & Warrill View area, Rathdowney-Maroon, Boonah-Beaudesert, Mt Lindsay Highway, Cunningham Highway.

Corridior problems include:

  • loss of habitat
  • individual habitat tree removal (e.g. old trees with hollows, big feed-trees)
  • inappropriate fire regimes
  • climate change
  • predation
  • weeds
  • barriers – fences, roads etc
  • state infrastructure – dams, interstate rail, motorbike parks
  • nonregional offset policies – may offset something by purchasing land elsewyere, not heling local area
  • limited vegetation protection


  • Maintain and increase vegetation
  • Provide specific habitat resources for various animal groups
  • Maximize width and function, protection, minimize barriers

Regional programs

  • SEQ fire & biodiversity consortium
  • SEQ biodiversity offsets
  • Health waterways
  • Glossy Black Cockatoo  Conservancy
  • Regional green Energy project
  • Main roads weed treatment
  • Carbon sink project
  • NRM plan – tartgets tp achieve as local government and regional community (big step forward but not yet statutory)
  • Land for Wildlife
  • Macadamia Recovery Project

Concil programs

  • River improvement
  • Environmental grants
  • Property conservation
  • Environmental planning support
  • Reserve management
  • Climate change management
  • Environmental  events
  • Publications
  • Community groups
  • Rivers management (bank rehabilitation, fencing off cattle access)
  • Pest management
  • Education (schools and other)

Fututre programss

  • Expand current base programs
  • Extenal funding
  • Communal Nursery
  • Environmental education centre
  • Expanded community gardens
  • Consolidated offset program
  • Small block wildlife program
  • Expand wildlife corridors projects
  • Koala fodder trees
  • Flora and fauna database
  • Greater arts lnkage
  • Biosphere
  • Ecosystem services
  • Wildlife ambulance

Geoff  Warne – wildlife corridor through Cedar Creek wineries

(Guide, Cedar Creek Estates Winery and Glow Worms)

11 years ago the property mostly had old rhubarb and avocado area, not in good condition. John Pengliss, the managing director of Cedar Creek Estate decided to plant native rainforest trees along Cedar Creek, and this was to become part of a corridor involving other landowners and linking conservation areas (as mentioned in Jaap’s talk previously). The trees and other plants have grown remarkably well since then, providing a closed canopy and general rainforest feeling underneath, and are a good example of what can be accomplished.

Bobucks and platypus were not originally seen on the property but have now moved in. Unfortunately snake-catchers have released too many carpet pythons on the property for the bobuck population to survive.

John Pengliss has put a permanent covenant on  the land to prevent any future clearing

He also offered to build and artificial cave to house glow worms, as the local species were being threatened by the behaviour of many human visitors to their native haunts.  This has also proved very successful. Frog hollow is another initiative soon to open to the public, sowing the frogs native to the Mountain

Lauren Barnaby  –  Wyaralong Dam and wildlife

(General Manager – Environment, Land and Cultural Heritage, Queensland Water Infrastructure Pty Ltd  )

At capacity the dam will hold 103,000ML (10% Wivenhoe) covering  1,230ha

An extensive Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted in 2007, involving 1400 state approval decisions, also commonwealth conditions

75% of the land to be inundated was already cleared

11km of Beaudesert/Boonah Rd was realigned, and this needed faunal underpasses

There are 480 ha of wildlife corridor, including major wildlife N-S movement areas to the extreme Eastern  and Western ends of the dam,  and they are managing existing regeneration by exclusion of grazing, weed removal, and also planting of locally native trees. The Green Army was involved, collecting for an on-site nursery (30,000 seeds collected from existing habitat before clearing)

21 underpasses, 3 for fauna alone, were designed in accordance with the engineering design of the road to meet road standards: topography favoured under- rather than over- passes (high enough for grey kangaroo to move through)

They worked with EPA, looking at height, lighting etc. for different spp, whether dry ledges were required, vegetation at entrance and exits. Post and rails have been constructed for arboreal animals, with some escape posts leading upwards in case of approach by feral dogs etc.

The fauna fencing is now finished. 400 nest boxes of different sizes from Hollow Log Homes have been erected.

There will be 10 years of  montoring and maintenance plan and corrective actions for environmental  corridors, and

25 years of  monitoring and maintenance of fauna underpasses – fauna usage, fatality, types & abundance of fauna

Summary of re-establishing biodiversity –

  • 2 environmentt corridors
  • 220ha revegetation
  • 21 fauna underpasses
  • 400 nest boxes
  • land mngmt initiatives (e.g. cattle exclusion)

Persons interested in commenting on and asking questions on any of the above, volunteering for fauna surveys or telliing us where they have seen various species, ,  please contact or contribute to our Facebook page

Wildlife Corridors Workshop

whiptail wallabies about to cross roadScenic Rim Wildlife (of which I’m chair) is holding a workshop on Saturday 2nd April at the Heritage Centre, Tamborine Mountain, to discuss the provision of wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim (southeast Queensland)

I’ll be speaking briefly on why animals need to move (daily, seasonally, other) and pose some questions about the future of the Scenc Rim

Cathryn Dexter of Griffith University will then be giving us information on wildlife corridors and faunal overpasses in Europe and elsewhere as well as here in southeast Queensland, and Jaap Vogel will fill us in with some details of what has been happening in America.

Michael Anderson (Environmental Management, Scenic Rim Regional Council) will give us an update on what is happening in the Shire and what might be planned for the future, and Lauren Barnaby (Qld Water Infrastructure Pty. Ltd) will tell us about habitat restoration and faunal underpasses at Wyaralong Dam. We will also hear about the wildlife corridor at Cedar Creek Estate winery and neighbouring lands.

An open discussion will follow on what we need to know and to do to assist wildlife movements in the future, and we will be calling for volunteers to join in some fauna surveys over the coning months  with a view to seeing where animals currently are, where ther continued existence could be in jeopardy, and p;aces where they are now absent but might be encouraged back if corridors of different kinds were established.

Free entry. Numbers will be limited by available seating, so bookings are essential – you can book by leaving a comment here

Grant for protecting rainforest restoration on the Araucaria property

Last year we received a grant from the former Beaudesert Shire Council (now part of the Scenic Rim Regional Council) to erect a long electric fence on our property to separate the rainforest regeneration area from the horse-grazing area. Hoofed animals and habitat restoration don’t generally go well together in Australia, and horses (like cows and sheep) eat some plants, trample others, cause erosion on steep slopes and bring in the seeds of weeds.
Our regeneration project will help to protect the edge of the rainfrest of Mt Chinghee National Park and improve the corridor for animals from there to our forest remnant by the creek, as there are only a few parts of the national park which extend down to the water’s edge.

We have isolated 20 plots which we have cleared of weeds alternating with 20 from which we haven’t, and will be noting how soon each starts harbouring new rainforest plant species. We did some baseline bird and butterfly surveys and mammal trapping in early 2008, and this will continue over the next few years or decades to monitor changes in biodiversity and density of populations as the regeneration proceeds. If the movement of pollinators and seed dispersers is enhanced, this should also help to speed the return of our slopes to something approaching their original diversity. Additional habitat for the black-breasted button-quail and other relatively uncommon or threatened species on the property should benefit also.

The grant money helped us to buy the materials and to employ Jason Taylor of Beaudesert to help clear weeds from the experimental plots and from the line through which the fence was to run, and assist with the erection of the fence itself. The electricity is supplied by a photovoltaic cell, so the whole setup is environmentally sustainable, and our only maintenance is the checking of the battery box and clearing any vegetation that threatens to short-circuit the system.

working on the fence to protect our rainforest regeneration

Jason and Darren working on the fence to protect our rainforest regeneration