Extreme mangroves

mangrove creek

Mangroves line Screw Creek where it enters Anderson’s Inlet

I grew up with mangroves as a normal feature of my coastal landscape but never really understood how abnormal that was for a Victorian, which is what I was at the time, until very recently.

It was pure luck, really. I grew up in and near a South Gippsland town half-way between Melbourne and Wilson’s Promontory and our nearest beach was Inverloch, on Anderson’s Inlet; and we stopped at Tooradin, on the northern edge of Westernport Bay, every time we went to Melbourne. I never knew that mangroves were only found along 2% of the Victorian coastline or that the mangroves in Corner Inlet near Wilson’s Prom were the world’s highest-latitude mangroves, at 38 deg. 45′ South. MangroveWatch Australia has all the details if you want more, but there isn’t a lot more to tell: there is only one Victorian species, Avicennia marina, known locally as the White Mangrove (and elsewhere as the Grey Mangrove; be wary of common names!), and even that one struggles to survive except in sheltered spots or to get to any height greater than a metre.

mangroves

Looking across Sawtell’s Inlet, Tooradin, to the mangroves

leaves and yellow berries

Foliage and fruit of the White Mangrove at Tooradin

Fast forward to 1990 and my arrival in Townsville … mangroves all over the place, and again I took them from granted – because I had grown up with them, of course! But where Victoria had one species and a total area of a mere 60 km2, Queensland has 39 and 4000 km2. They are not all stunted little things, either – some reach 25 metres; once again, MangroveWatch has all the information but this time there is far more of it.

I have often written about them on Green Path, though usually as a background to the wildlife (big or little) they support – butterflies at Cape Hillsborough or Ross Creek, Rainbow Bee-eaters in the city, and so on. This link will take you to all references to them.

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Was that me?

brownish spider on leaf

Jumping spider and exuviae

Spiders, like other creatures with exoskeletons, can’t just grow steadily bigger as we do. Instead, they have to moult: they grow a new (but still soft) ‘skin’ under their old one, then burst open the old one to step out of it and wait (preferably somewhere safe) for their new skin to harden.

The cast-off exoskeleton (technically called the exuvia or exuviae) is sometimes eaten – it is valuable protein, after all – by its previous inhabitant or a passing predator. Some insects’ exuviae are typically left untouched, however, and may remain for months; cicadas’ and dragonflies’ exuviae are often seen hanging on a twig or grass stem like this.

My photo here shows an attractive little jumping spider, Cytaea plumbeiventris, on a leaf beside a cast-off skin of the same species. I didn’t see it emerge but my guess is that the skin was its own. (If you click on the photo to see it at full size you may be able to see the green of the leaf through the eye-lenses of the exuviae.)

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White Beech – the Rainforest Years

white-beech-coverGermaine Greer: White Beech – the Rainforest Years, Bloomsbury, 2014

Germaine Greer made her name in 1970 with The Female Eunuch and for me, as for most people of my generation, her name instantly evokes thoughts of radical feminism and a brilliant, often abrasive, mind. Her subsequent career was that of a very public intellectual but as she approached 60 she began to look for a wilderness home here in Australia. Her initial impulse was to live in the inland desert but, to her own surprise, she ended up with 60 hectares of degraded dairying land in the Gold Coast hinterland, tucked away between the Lamington and Springbrook National Parks.

Her motivation from the outset was to rehabilitate the rainforest which had been logged and cleared a century ago, and to do that she had to learn about it, no mean task in a poorly-understood area of incredibly high biodiversity. Time and again she and her scientifically-trained friends and helpers were forced to the conclusion that a plant they were trying to identify did not match any officially described species and had to be a new one.

White Beech is a history of both the discovery and the beginnings of the restoration, and at times Greer’s passion to understand and explain leads to paragraphs as dense as the rainforest itself. Fortunately, she is always lucid and generally entertaining, while her deft sketches of plants and wildlife continually return the focus to what really matters.

Restoring a rainforest is not a one-person task, nor even a one-lifetime task, so Greer called the property the “Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme” from the beginning and, later, transferred ownership to a charitable trust, Friends of Gondwana Rainforest; their website will be useful to anyone interested in rainforest conservation.

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Are we ready to vote?

amcs_scorecard
Only one more sleep to election day … are we ready for it?

As I said before, environmental groups may potentially make all the difference this time, especially up here where the Reef is so important to local people. GetUp!, NQCC, Fight for the Reef and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (whose scorecard is above) have been campaigning strongly, and others including the Australian Solar Council have done their bit as well.

The political parties have been working hard, too, of course, and they have been flooding our letterboxes with … I can’t call it literature, can I? Some of it is unintentionally amusing, like the “personal letter” from David Crisafulli featuring the handwriting of three different people in the address, salutation and signature; or Clive Palmer’s amazing weight-loss regimen (he just has to stand in front of a camera); or … no, that’s enough.

Now all we’ve got to do is get out there and make our votes count. Remember that a (1) vote for a minor party is going to be wasted unless we also put a (2) against the major party of our choice. (Hey, I’m allowed to say that – even Gail Hamilton has said it in public.)

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Green-ant mating flight

Exactly three years ago I posted an article about the queen green-ants I saw on Magnetic Island the day before. They were the first I had seen, and I hadn’t seen any since then until I fished three or four of them out of my swimming pool this morning. They weren’t at their best after their swim so you will have to visit this page for photos.

I looked around my garden for living queens but failed to find any, so all I know of this emergence is that it happened some time in the last 24 hours. I would be interested to hear from readers who have seen more.

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