(KI) Management

MAINTAINENCE OF BIODIVERSITY.

According to Lange (1979) the large number of endemic plant species on Kangaroo Island and their relationships with the mainland vegetation pose many intriguing puzzles. Most of these are connected with prehistoric plant migrations across the southern margins of mainland Australia, with which the island was connected until only a few thousand years ago.

The list of plant species suggest significant diversity. The understorey is dense with a wide range of shrubs, herbs, grasses, sedges and orchids, especially in areas which have been burnt in recent years, less so in areas that have not been burnt for many years. The land supports diverse vegetation communities in excellent condition and with significant conservation status. These provide important habitat for a diverse range of animal species.

Thick tailed gecko (photo JS)

The Resource Management branch of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs (now Department of Environment, water and Natural Resources) has sampled vegetationat five sites on the land and two of these were also surveyed for vertebrates.reptiles included five species of skink, two geckos, and the Heath Goanna. mammals observed included the Tammar Wallaby and Western Grey Kangaroo. The DEHAA survey found 22 species of birds, including the rare Western Whipbird.

THE ENIGMA MOTH

Dr Richard Glatz, an entomologist who lives on KI, recently discovered a new moth. This tiny insect was found in Callitris trees on our property near mouth flat. In 2015 it was recognised as belonging to a new family (Aenigmatineidae) and named Aenigmatinea glatzella.

The Enigma Moth on Callitris gracilis

Article from The Australian Newspaper March 4 2015

Science tags tiny moth a true ‘living dinosaur Michael Owen

They are tiny- less than 10mm long and with wings outstretched about the size of a 5c piece- but the enigma moth is causing a big stir.

Discovered in 2009 by local scientist Richard Glatz as he surveyed insects on Kangaroo Island off SOuth Australia’s coast, the moth has the official name of Aenigmatinea glatzella.and has been confirmed as a ‘living dinosaur’ that represents a new family of primitive moths.

Scientists say it is the first time since the 1970s a new family of primitive moths has been identified anywhere in the world.

it is to be unveiled today at the launch of a foundation to support research into Australian moths and butterflies, including those in the CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra.

The moth is striking with its iridescent gold and purple wings, covered in scales, with feathery fringes. Scientists say that, unlike most moths and butterflies, it has a small tongue and its pairs of wings are not hooked together as they fly.

CSIRO researchers played a key role in identifying the moth and helping to unlock what it says are ‘dramatic insights’ into the evolution of moths and their butterfly cousins.

Dr Glatz found the moths on southern cypress pine trees in a remote river valley among dunes facing the Southern Ocean. He sent specimens to the CSIRO, leading honorary fellow Ted Edwards to consult expert Niels Peder Kristensen from the University of Copenhagen.

Specimens were collected in 2012 and 2013 by a team of researchers and enthusiasts and scientists say the moth has been found in only one location. Dr Edwards said by studying and analysing the moths DNA the team has revealed the evolution of moths and butterflies is more complex than thought . ‘It also suggests that tongues evolved in moths and butterflies more than once, Dr Edwards said.

The research is published in the latest edition of Systematic Entomology

The conservation significance of this large area of land is immeasurable. It is in excellent condition and supports a large range of diverse plant and animal communities at a time when similar communities in South Australia are under severe threat from many factors such as clearance, grazing and land degradation. To protectthe biodiversity of this system management of it must incorporate three major strategies:

  • minimise threats to the integrity of the ecosystems
  • repair the damage of any significant impacts upon it wherever possible
  • take steps to prevent any such damage to it in the future.

LAND DEGRADATION AND REVEGETATION

The approximately 20 ha of bare sand mentioned is the only major area where erosion has occurred. It seems unlikely that active intervention in this area is warranted as natural regeneration has stabilised this area in the the intervening years. similarly the area of degradation forming where people access the coast should be monitored and may require repair and/or protection works in the future.

” Pigface on KI”

The threat to vegetation posed by fire should be considered. The prolific and diverse nature of natural revegetation which has occurred after wildfire indicates the valuable role which fire can play in maintaining biodiversity within a natural system. However it is accepted that to maintain this balance and maximise biodiversity, fires cannot be too extensive or too frequent in nature. A high fire frequency challenges the ecosystems ability to recover and reproduce itself, while extensive tracts of burnt land preclude or inhibit effective re-colonisation by vegetation and fauna. Extensive and frequent burning of this system would pose a significant threat to it.

PEST PLANTS AND ANIMALS

The most significant problem is bridal creeper (Myrsiphyllum asparagoides (L.) Willd. is more recently known as Asparagus asparagoides (L.) Druce) which occurs in scattered small outbreaks at the Western end.

Bridal creeper (photo wikipedia)

The Wilson River Valley is the likely source of infestation. It has dense stands of Bridal Creeper and re-infestation with seed carried by birds is an ongoing problem. The extent and frequency of these outbreaks is likely to increase as more areas of the Dudley Peninsula become heavily infested and provide seed sources. Regular control by spot spraying with Roundup* or Ally* has been carried out but it is difficult to locate small plants in the dense understory. An annual control program will continue and be funded by the company if necessary but in recent years the rust fungus Puccinia myrsiphylli has proved very effective in controlling the spread of Bridal Creeper.

Another introduced plant sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias) is causing some concern nationally. It occurs at the mouth of the Wilson river and along the sandy beaches. There are few other problem weeds. A large Boxthorn was found in November 1996 growing on the coastal cliffs. It was removed in 1998 but it is possible that other plants could establish from seed spread by birds.

Euphorbia paralias photo wikipedia

Feral cats occur in the area . A ‘community- driven, Australian government ‘program of cat control was trialled in 2017 with possible plans to fence off Dudley Peninsula and remove all cats, this is continuing and the long-term plan is to make KI cat free (see http://www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/kangarooisland/plants-and-animals/pest-animals/Kangaroo-Island-feral-cat-eradication-project). Currently Dr James Smith is leading the Dudley Feral Cat eradication program. (see under research section) .

The introduced Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus has not yet been reported on our land.

The soil borne fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi is considered a threat to natural systems in SA. It causes disease and often death to many of our native plants and can grow in areas where the rainfall is above 500mm and soils are acid to neutral. It has been found in the Mt Lofty ranges, the Fleurieu Peninsula and on Kangaroo Island. The fungus causes root rot, stem rot and sometimes death to infected plants with some species being more susceptible than others (Xanthorrhoea and Banksia spp are very suspectible). Infestations can often be recognised by the occurrence of many dead plants in a localised area. The main means of introduction to new sites is through the transport of microscopic mycelia from infested sites which can remain dormant in soils under s wide range of conditions. The best way to control it is to prevent its dispersal through infected soil or plant material. The following guidelines will help stop its dispersal and help stop its introduction to Bushland Conservation Pty Ltd holdings.

  • Avoid driving and walking in areas when soils are wet and sticky.
  • Stay on formed roads or tracks to avoid transfer to uninfested areas.
  • Heed warning signs when roads and tracks are closed.
  • Clean vehicles, boots and camping gear before and after each trip to an area (brushing soil of tent floor,cleaning tent pegs, boot, toilet trowel etc before leaving campsite).
  • use wash-down stations when they are provided.
  • report any unusual plant death suspected to be caused by Phytophthora

BEE KEEPING AND BEE AGISTMENT

There is evidence that in some circumstances domestic or commercial beekeeping competes strongly with native birds and insects for nectar and pollen and may affect the successful pollination rates of some plant species (David Paton pers comm.). In the interests of biodiversity no approval will be given for bees to be agisted on the land.

ACCESS

Vehicle access is only possible from two or three points. Generally the tracks leading to the south coast are more suitable for 4 WD vehicles. There is no intention to improve access. Recreational fishers use the access tracks to get to the beaches fro salmon fishing and surfers use them for access to surf. Although the land is privately owned it is believed that limited access should continue and that if current access is blocked those wishing to get to the coast would create alternative access with consequent damage.

Campsite on KI.

The company has erected signage which indicates that the land is private conservation land and asking that those wishing to gain access should contact a company representative on KI for permission to enter.

Since 2009 there have been a couple of attempts to have the track which gives access to the three properties surrounded by our land upgraded to enable building improvements to be carried out by landowners. This presented a problem as most of the existing track is on our land rather than on the road reserve as the initial track users followed the line of least resistance. After much negotiation, we though we had a solution whereby the track as it exists would become the gazetted road and the road reserve become part of our property. This was not to be however and this track remains a contentious issue which must one day be solved.

FIRE MANAGEMENT

The land has a long history of fires since European settlement. Until 50 years ago fire was used regularly to increase grazing capacity, but since then only wild fires have occurred.

Whilst Kangaroo Island has had major wildfires (in 2007 when 22 % of the land was burnt and 2019/2020 when about 50% of the island was burnt), on the Bushland property the most recent wildfires, all caused by burning off operations on neighbouring land, were in 1981, 1986 and 1994. considerably more than half the land has been burnt in the last 30 years and some of it has been burnt two or three times in this period.

Because of the relative inaccessibility of the land, firefighting is extremely difficult. During the 1994 fires, bulldozers were used to make extensive firebreaks, causing considerable damage to the native vegetation, and leaving large mounts of soil and plant material along the line of the firebreaks. the damage was most severe where breaks were bulldozed on exposed calcrete areas near the coast. It is strongly believed that such areas should not be subject to earth moving and clearing activities during fire control or backburning operations.

Closer liason with the local CFS personnel may help overcome such problems in the future. Strategic or controlled burninn is not seen as an option on such a large area of scrubland. Preventing the occurrence of an unnaturally high freqency of fires caused by human negligence may be a more appropriate option. The proximity of a large area of crown land, now a conservation park on the northern boundary is another relevant factor as this area will be subject to fire mitigation plans.

In February 2017 the Boards met with Aidan Galpin and Anthea Howard , who outlined how DEWNR is working with the KI fire Management Plans and invited Bushland to join. A major advantage would be that if we decide to carry out fire mitigation procedures such as controlled burns we would automatically have Native Vegetation Clearance approval. At this stage the Board has declined the invitation but has established good contacts and will be kept informed of progress. Little can be done to prevent wildfires entering the property from outside but appropriate measures can be taken to prevent fires starting from within. Campfires are prohibited during the peak fire danger season, 1 December – 15 April. At other times campfires should meet the usual precautionary requirements. Our property coordinator Deb Sleeman is the first point of contact if fires occur on the property.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Local community support is vital to the successful promotion of the company’s philospohy and objectives. Whenever possible any opportunity to promote the company’s approach will be taken such as

  • inviting the community to visit the land when shareholder meetings and campouts are being held.
  • allowing controlled access to the land by relevant community groups such as natural history groups and bush walkers.
  • encouraging neighbours to visit the land with members and join the company if they wish.
  • making available observations of flora and fauna on the land through distribution of species lists, revegetation records etc.
  • offering full cooperation in local pest control programs.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

The whole of the land is now under a heritage agreement. The company therefore receives rates refunds from the state government and contributions towards fencing costs. It is company policy to place any land acquired under a heritage agreement as soon as possible. A grant towards the cost of this management plan was made by the Native Vegetation Council in 1996.

No items of cultural heritage value are known on the land and not provision is made for passive tourism.

The Resource Management Branch of DEHAA has two monitoring sites. in addition records of plants , birds and other fauna observed during visits are kept by various shareholders and are available to anyone requesting such information.

The land when purchased was within the Kangaroo Island Soil Conservation District which identified native vegetation decline as a significant problem especially where degradation is continuing through grazing, burning, fragmentation and invasion of weed and pasture species. The district plan emphasised the need to protect remnant vegetation from grazing and to control pest plants and animals. the company has these objectives firmly fixed in its charter.

Whale bone on KI

Discussions were held with DEHAA during 1996 regarding the possibility of the land being designated a wilderness area under the wilderness protection Act in conjunction with the adjoining crown land. Company directors did not consider it to be an appropriate time for such an irrevocable move. Many issues must be resolved before such a decision could be further considered, for example access for share holders in the company, possible increase in visitation by the public and long term commitment by the government to maintenance of the area.