Members Weekend 19th—21st June 2020
New Members write up by Kay and David
As new members of the Friends of FRNP, we planned to attend the winter gathering at Twertup Hut where we had a friendly welcome. We had visited Twertup once before, finding the gate open and were delighted to find the beautiful building and impressive herbarium.
Having visited FRNP for many years mostly camping at Pt Ann, exploring its botanical diversity, fishing and doing Birdlife surveys, we wanted to get more involved in this iconic biosphere park.
We were keen to join the planned walk on the Saturday. A cross- country venture to the ridge east of the valley of the Twertup River. With other members including a cacophony of botanists we headed into the wild, first on a clear track, then an indistinct track then into the bush. This walk was diligently and enthusiastically led by Libby with map and GPS on hand steering the group through dense mallet woodland with fallen timber abundant from the 2008 fire. Gorgeous stands of trees and impressive views back to Twertup Hut across the valley from the top of the breakaway were our reward on a mild blue sky day. An epic day out but not for the faint hearted.
It was great to meet like- minded members and through conversation realise we had many mutual friends.
Dinner by the fire, drinking shared mead wine with the group was a treat after our 14.6 km 6 hour cross country trek. A clear, starry night followed a cold and clear dawn with the Twertup valley filled with morning fog and an extensive covering of ice over the camps. We look forward to meeting again and contributing to projects in the Park.
Historical photos show impact of fires in the Park
The Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) are seeking early photos of vegetation in this park which clearly show the density of obvious plants such as Royal Hakea (Hakea victoria) and banksias from identifiable locations. We will then try to relocate the same view to obtain a sequence of images over time to help determine the effect of fire on particular species.
An example is shown of Royal Hakeas along the No Tree Hill walk trail. The first photo (left) was taken in the 1980s prior to a wildfire started by lightning in 1989. The second photo (right), taken of the same scene in 2019, shows a considerable decline in density of Royal Hakea. This is attributed to an intervening prescribed burn in 2003, which meant that the hakeas were only 14 years old when they were burnt again, without an adequate seed bank for full recovery.
The FRNP is recognised as having a high conservation value and the Friends are concerned that the frequency of prescribed burns and escapes are causing short fire-return intervals. The most recent occurred in June 2019 when a burn for “bushfire risk management, biodiversity management” in the wilderness area escaped and burnt the Thumb Peak range, resulting in a fire interval of only 21 years. The impact on the Threatened Ecological Communities and Threatened species that occur there is currently unknown.
Most of the vegetation in the park is now less than 30 years old (see map overleaf). Although the park’s management plan specifically refers to the establishment of a Research and Monitoring Group to inform fire management, the executives of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) are against its formation. The Friends are pleased however, that following a workshop initiated by the Friends, the DBCA have funded $35,876 for their research scientists to develop a model for defining ecologically acceptable fire-return intervals for 18 susceptible plant species in the South Coast region.
The Friends are also pursuing their intent of providing a travel scholarship to post-graduate student to study the population ecology of Royal Hakea in the park.
If you have any photos, preferably pre-2000 of iconic plants in the FRNP with known location and approximate date of capture, please email them at low resolution to email@example.com or post prints/ transparencies to:
Friends of the FRNP
PO Box 199
Please provide your return address as these will be scanned and sent back to you.