Following are links that have some relationship to the aims of FOGGs.
Membership of FOGG entitles you to:
- Receive a newsletter 4 times a year keeping you up to date with FOGG activities and developments in the Park.
- Join in a wide range of activities, including:
- Field days to improve your knowledge of the park – its flora, fauna, geology, indigenous culture, history etc.
- Guided Nature walks
- Assist with research in the Park
- Meetings with Park Management
- Information evenings to improve your understanding of the park
- Monitoring endangered species in the park
- Social get-togethers
- Monitoring of and removal of weeds in the park
- Track maintenance and development.
Friends of Grampians Gariwerd
C/O Brambuk – The National Park & Cultural Centre
PO Box 18, Halls Gap, VIC, 3381
Ph (03) 5361 4000
The Grampians National Park is situated in Western Victoria, about 3½ hours drive from Melbourne. It is 100 km’s from North to South and 50 km’s from East to West. It contains three mountain ranges which rise majestically from broad plains: Mount Difficult Range, Sierra Range and Victoria Range.Within the Park can be found the largest collection of Aboriginal Art Sites in Victoria, an abundance of native animals and birds, and amazing wildflowers.
Halls Gap is the busiest tourist town with accommodation also available in Pomonal, Dunkeld and Wartook.
The major local towns are Stawell, Hamilton and Horsham.
The Friends Of Grampians Gariwerd has around 80 members. Of these members, there are about 20 locals with the remaining members coming from other parts of Victoria and some from interstate.
We work in close co-operation with the local staff of Parks Victoria. FOGGs came into existence in 1984, the same year as the Grampians was declared a National Park. Over the years we have created many joint projects we can look back on with pride.
As Friends of Grampians Gariwerd (FOGG) we aim to:
* Promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Grampians National Park;
* Increase the community’s involvement, knowledge and enjoyment of the Grampians National Park;
* Assist with projects selected by FOGG and Grampians National Park; and,
* Provide a community voice in support of the Grampians National Park.
We put out a newsletter four times a year so that all our members can find out what is happening in the park.
We keep our membership fee low, at $10 to encourage membership, and we encourage donations to give us some disposable income.
*…you study it, we will report it.*
Study of our ecology in Australia began in the fifties.
The Grampians was declared a National Park in 1984, and what we don’t know about the area would fill several encyclopaedias. What we don’t know about we cannot manage or protect. So it is very, extremely, HUGELY, important that we develop a database of information on what is there, what should be there, what needs protecting, and how.
We will endeavour to promote this by publicising in Nat Notes what ecologocial studies have been completed, what are currently being done, and what should be done. It is aimed at you, the interested reader, and also we hope as an exchange medium between people working in the field, who often work very hard in remote areas, and who may benefit from reading what is going on elsewhere.
When (not IF) we miss something, or get it wrong, please help us to make this section as comprehensive and accurate as possible by letting us know!
h4. THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN THE GROUND LAYER AND THE OVERSTOREY?
Alan L. Yen, Museum of Victoria, GPO Box 666E, Melbourne, Vic 3001
Invertebrates are the animals without backbones – they range in size from microscopic mites to giant spiders, snails and crustaceans that have body weights greater than some species of mammals and birds, yet most are lumped into the category of ‘bugs.’ The involvement of these ‘bugs’ in a diverse range of essential ecological functions does raise the question of what would happen to biological systems if the invertebrates ceased to function.
In Australia, there are some 6,000 species of vertebrates, nearly 100,000 species of described non-marine species of invertebrates, and an estimated further 200,000 undescribed species of non-marine invertebrates (Yen & Butcher 1997). These invertebrates are involved in key ecological functions such as (Yen & Butcher 1997; Majer & Nichols 1998):
* Soil aeration and drainage (eg. ants, termites, earthworms). ). In semi-arid Western Australia, ants have the capacity to make the soil texture profile more uniform by their burrowing and nests. They could affect the whole soil surface in 100 years (Lobry de Bruyn & Conacher 1994). These burrows also aid water infiltration into the soil.
* Leaf litter and woody debris decomposition & nutrient cycling (e.g. springtails, mites, millipedes, oecophorid moths).
* Decomposition of animal remains and products (silphid beetles, dung beetles).
* Pollination (eg. wasps, flies, beetles).
* Seed dispersal and survival (eg. ants, lygaeid bugs). ). While insects can be major predators of some seeds, Berg (1975) estimated that at least 1500 species of Australian plants have food bodies (elaiosomes) on their seeds to attract seed predators in order to assist the dispersal of these seeds away from the parent plant.
* Plant predation (eg. moth larvae, beetles, sap-sucking bugs).
* Maintenance of densities of other animals (eg. spiders, predatory beetles, parasitic wasps).
* Scavengers (eg. ants, fungal feeders).
* Vertebrate food
Habitat complexity can be viewed at several levels. In relation to plants, we can look at the individual plants and its components, or we can consider plants at the community level along with the complex of soil and litter differences at the ground level.
On plants, invertebrates occur on leaves, flowers, stems, trunks, on or under bark, within the tissues of leaves, stems and in tree hollows. These microhabitats provide invertebrates with shelter and food (Majer et al. 1997).
One of the debates about biological systems is whether more complex systems are more stable. While exceptions can be found, it is logical to assume that greater structural complexity results in:
Greater invertebrate faunal diversity (through more microhabitats).
More checks and balances in the system to control imbalances in invertebrate populations.
Habitat simplification can result in significant changes in the composition of the invertebrate fauna. This is due to altered light and temperature regimes, fewer suitable microhabitats, fewer food resources (food plants, floral resources), and loss of habitat and nutrients through greater runoff.
This complexity is even greater when the understorey is taken into consideration. Australia is unique in that it is the only continent that is dominated by two genera of plants: Eucalyptus and Acacia, and one of the characteristics of many Australian forests and woodlands is an eucalypt overstorey with a wattle understorey (Majer et al. 1997).
*IMPORTANCE OF THE UNDERSTOREY*
So how does the understorey contribute to the complexity and stability of biological systems? Physically, it is an important link between the ground layer and the overstorey – some invertebrates use it as the highway between the ground and the overstorey. Biologically it has elements of both the ground fauna and the overstorey fauna, yet it can also have its own unique faunal elements.
Most plant species, whether they are part of the overstorey, understorey or ground layer, have unique assemblages of invertebrates. These assemblages consist of a range of invertebrates that undertake different ecological functions: some are herbivores, others are pollinators, some are predators, parasitoids, etc. A proportion of the herbivores and pollinators are restricted to feed or use one particular species of plant, while others are able to utilise a range of different, but generally related (such as in the same genus or family) plant species. Herbivores often have parasitoids that have strict host specificity, while predators are often less fussy on the type of invertebrate they feed on.
The result is that there is a diverse arrangement of invertebrate assemblages associated with plants – some invertebrate species are restricted to one or a narrow range of plants, while others utilise a wide range. The result is a complex array of invertebrates in the system.
The host plant specificity has important consequences for eucalypt forests and woodlands. Most eucalypt associations consist of several eucalypt species, each with its own assemblage of plant feeders. The level of insect feeding on eucalypts is naturally high (often an average of 20-40% leaf area loss). In some cases, the loss is even greater, resulting in high mortality of trees. Yet in many forests and woodlands, the damage is not uniform across eucalypt species – some species sustain more damage than others. Hence a diversity of eucalypt host species results in a greater diversity of associated invertebrates, and possibly greater stability in the system (Burdon & Chilvers 1974; Morrow 1977).
The wattles also have a rich and diverse invertebrate fauna – often the same groups of insects at the higher taxonomic level, but species with very different evolutionary histories. For example, psyllid bugs are found on eucalypts and wattles – the ones on eucalypts are more closely related to each other, while those on wattles are more closely related. While eucalypt psyllids do not feed on wattles, and vice versa, they may use wattles occasionally for shelter. More importantly, some of their natural enemies probably feed on both eucalypt and wattle psyllids – there is potential for eucalypt and wattle psyllids to maintain higher levels of natural enemies (Riek 1962; Yen 1980; New 1983). These natural enemies have a wider range of food, and may be able to switch from one food source to another depending upon seasonal and/or annual availability. The same situation applies to a range of other plant species in the understorey. A forest or woodland without an understorey or with a simplified understorey, may have higher levels of insect damage in the overstorey.
There is still a lack of research data to back these ideas. There is evidence at the applied level – in the USA, fruit trees are often planted with wattles. The idea is that the natural enemies that feed on wattle insects breed up and move into the fruit trees.
Several other issues need to be kept in mind:
* The importance of gaps in forests or woodlands. Gaps increase light levels and this affects invertebrate activity.
* A diversity of flowering plants results in a greater range of flowering phenologies for use by insects (Woinarski & Cullen 1984; Yen 1989).
*PRACTICAL INVERTEBRATE ISSUES*
It is important to point out that there are major practical differences when working with invertebrates compared to vertebrates and vascular plants:
* Sheer diversity and abundance. The enormous number and diversity of invertebrate species does scare a lot of land mangers. The solution is to restrict the range of invertebrate species for consideration.
* Small body size. Working with invertebrates is easier if species with larger bodies (the so called meso- and macro-invertebrates) are used. However, allowance still has to be made for the different requirements for working with invertebrates compared to vertebrates and plants. For the latter groups, data collection involves collecting and identifying specimens in the field. With invertebrates, most material requires identification using a microscope. The sorting of bulk samples and identification may require an invertebrate worker spending 80% of their working time in the laboratory.
* Taxonomic impediment. The inability to put scientific names on many invertebrates is sometimes cited as a barrier. This can be overcome by using well known groups or identifying specimens to ‘morphospecies’ – specimens that are thought to be the same species are lumped together and given a reference voucher number. For this system to work, it is essential that reference voucher material is deposited into an accessible and permanent institution such as State museums.
* Different life history stages. The fact that the immature stages of many invertebrates bear little resemblance to the adult stage does cause practical problems. This can be aided by, in most cases, restricting the work to adult stages. The main exceptions are aquatic insects, where the immature stages are often the ones found in water, and better known groups such as the caterpillars of butterflies.
The issues of spatial (species turnover) and temporal (seasonality) scale affect plants, vertebrates and invertebrates. The fact that invertebrates are generally so much smaller in body size and that there are so many more species seems to magnify the issue of scale. With regard to spatial scale, I can only recommend that that land managers to aware of the fact that invertebrate research is generally based on a small scale (plots) and management is based at the larger (landscape) scale. The use of larger, often ecological, units of classification such as trophic levels, guilds, and functional groups, is one way that could be used to overcome large rates of turnover at the species level. Do not expect that plant communities provide an appropriate umbrella for invertebrates (Yen 1987).
*WHAT IS REQUIRED?*
I am speculating that we have underestimated the importance of the understorey for invertebrates as part of the ecology of forests and woodlands. In the management of remnant vegetation and in the restoration of disturbed systems, the importance of the understorey and its associated invertebrate fauna is often forgotten.- yet they are all part of a complex and dynamic system. In order to understand and management this component, we require:
* More information. Surveys to document the invertebrate assemblages on overstorey, understorey and ground layer plants in one or more selected vegetation communities.
* Research on possible interactions between the overstorey, understorey and ground layer invertebrate assemblages in these vegetation communities.
Berg, R.Y. 1975. Myrmecochorous plants in Australia and their dispersal by ants. Australian Journal of Botany 23:475-508.
Burdon, J.J. & Chilvers, G.A. 1974. Fungal and insect parasites contributing to niche differentiation in mixed species stands of eucalypt saplings. Australian Journal of Botany 22:103-114.
Lobry de Bruyn, L.A. & Conacher, A.J. 1994. The bioturbation activity of ants in agricultural and naturally vegetated habitats in semi-arid environments. Australian Journal of Soil Research 32:555-570.
Majer, J.D. & Nichols, O.G. 1998. Long-term recolonization patterns of ants in Western Australian rehabilitated bauxite mines with reference to their use as indicators of restoration success. Journal of Applied Ecology 35:161-182.
Majer, J.D., Recher, H.F., Wellington, A.B., Woinarski, J.C.Z. & Yen, A.L. 1997. Invertebrates of eucalypt formations. In: Williams, J. & Woinarski, J.C.Z. (eds). Eucalypt Ecology: Individuals to Ecosystems. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Pp. 278-302.
Morrow, P.A. 1977. Host specificity of insects in a community of three co-dominant Eucalyptus species. Australian Journal of Ecology 2:89-106.
New, T.R. 1983. Systematics and ecology: reflections from the interface. In: Highley, E. & Taylor, R.W. (Eds). Australian Systematic Entomology: A Bicentenary Perspective. pp. 50-79.
Riek, E.F. 1962. The Australian species of Psyllaephagus (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), parasites of psyllids (Homoptera). Australian Journal of Zoology 10(4):684-757.
Woinarski, J.C.Z. & Cullen, J.M. 1984. Distribution of invertebrates on foliage in forests of south eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 9:207-232.
Yen, A.L. 1980. The Taxonomy and Comparative Ecology of Selected Psyllids (Insecta; Hemiptera; Psylloidea) on Acacia species (Mimosaceae). Unpublished Ph.D thesis, La Trobe University Zoology Department. 465 pp.
Yen, A.L., 1987. A preliminary assessment of the correlation between plant, vertebrate and Coleoptera communities in the Victorian Mallee. Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management Technical Report, pp. 73-88.
Yen, A.L. 1989. Overstorey invertebrates in the Big Desert, Victoria. In: J.C. Noble & R.A. Bradstock (eds). Mediterranean Landscapes in Australia: Mallee Ecosystems and their Management. East Melbourne: CSIRO. pp. 285-299.
Yen, A.L. & Butcher, R.J. 1997. An overview of the conservation of non-marine invertebrates in Australia. Environment Australia: Canberra.
*Small Mammal Survey*
The story so far: Friends Of Grampians-Gariwerd have a grant to involve the public in research, and to educate them as to its importance. We did a substantial survey using the ‘Hair Sampling Tube’ method, and we have written it all up in a set of A3 books, one of which will be on a table in the Visitor Centre and the others will be loaned around to people interested in what we have done as a community research programme.
Our final activity was to invite Hans Brunner up for a public lecture on hair tubing, which was greatly appreciated.
Hans takes three views of any hair samples supplied, (refer pictures above (bandicoot) and below (tiger quoll).
FIRST: a cross section, shown in the upper left of the picture, this is usually the most easily identified.
SECOND, a whole hair view, shown on the far right of the picture, giving a longitudinal view through the hair. This is usually the second most useful view.
THIRD, he makes a cast of the outside of the hair, shown along the bottom, which show the scale pattern of the hair.
Step 1- Threading hair through the slide
Step 2 Position the slide under the microscope
Step 3 Examine or photograph the slide
The result with black wallaby hair
Barbara Triggs lives with her retired husband in an enclave of the Croajingalong National Park on the Mallacoota lakes, about 12 km by water to Mallacoota, about 40 km by gravel road to Genoa. She is the author of ‘Tracks, Scats and Other Traces, A Field Guide to Australian Mammals’, the main resource in that field. Barbara has analysed the hairs we collected this year. A busy person, who received us warmly, fed us coffee, and provided us with much knowledge. She showed us how the analysis is actually done. There are three views which can be made to analyse hairs. (This is the method pioneered by Hans Brunner)
The first one is to get a bunch of hairs, put them on a slide with some glycerine and look at them. The pattern, and the ratio of the medulla, (the dark centre) to the diameter of the whole hair are very characteristic, and according to Barbara are often enough to get to a near certainty.
The next is more laborious, and involves pulling a bunch of hairs through a small hole in an aluminium plate, and then trimming both sides flush with a sharp razor blade. This gives cross sections, which have a very characteristic shape and colour.
The third is to make a cast. To do this you put a thin smear of Aquadhere on a glass slide. Then carefully place one or more hairs in that. When the glue has set enough to become clear, you pull the hairs out, and you have a cast which shows the scale pattern on the outside of the hair. In difficult cases this third view may be the decider, but it is not often required.
We then discussed the future of ‘the book’. How can we do hair analysis without plates to compare our samples with?
Hans Brunner does not want to reprint it, it needs revision, and anyhow the first edition sat on the shelves for a decade or more until interest in the method started to grow, so it is not a publisher’s delight. Barbara is interested in producing a CD version, and a contact of hers is trying to get a grant to get that underway. In the meantime, as an act of trust and generosity she has lent us a set of slides of cross sections of hair of all native animals we are likely to find in the Grampians, which we are allowed to scan on to our computer, and use.
*BLACK (SWAMP) WALLABIES*
Matthew Wood did his PhD study at Deakin University of the Red-Neck and the Black Wallabies in the Grampians. Project Title: Habitat use and potential for competition in sympathetic populations of Red-necked Wallabies and Black Wallabies.
The Black Wallaby, Wallabia bicolor, was first reported in the Grampians in March 1979 and has since established populations to become widespread throughout most of the Park. The presence of the Black Wallaby in the Grampians may have some serious implications for existing populations of Red-necked Wallabies, Macropus rufogriseus, through interspecific competition.
In the Winter 1998 edition of the FOGG Newsletter, readers will recall the article by Matt Wood, Deakin University PhD student, setting out his plans to research the “Habitat use and potential for competition in sympathetic populations of Red-necked and Black Wallabies.” Hard pressed as he was with his project, Matt gave us the following report on his progress.
To date I have caught and attached radio collars to a further six Red-necked Wallabies (3 males & 3 females) and four Black Wallabies (3 males and 1 female). I am still trying to catch another two female Black Wallabies to collar and radio-track for the coming winter and summer.
Over the last 12 months data collection has been conducted on a monthly basis focusing on radio-tracking, vehicle surveys and pellet counts. Seasonal home range locations of radio-tracked wallabies have been recorded for eight Red-necked Wallabies (4 males & 4 females) and six Black Wallabies (3 males & 3 females). These wallabies have recently been caught using a tranquiliser gun so that their collars could be removed and attached to another group of wallabies so that further data can be collected in the forthcoming year.
Hopefully I’ll be lucky next month.
Vehicle surveys have been conducted at least six times per month since July 1998 along a 12.5 km section of road selected to sample the different habitats within the study site. These surveys will continue until May 2000. The data will be analysed to determine the density of wallabies in each habitat.
Lindy Lumsden some years ago came to the conclusion that almost nothing was known about the Australian Bats, and she decided that she would try to do her bit to improve on that. We had the good fortune to be able spend an evening with her while she explained to us about bats, while doing a survey of what bats were present.
We held this evening in the vicinity of a fire dam, some 5 km from Halls Gap. We had about 20 people there, mainly FOGS members, with some visitors who had seen our notices. Lindy uses a number of devices. In the pictures we are watching her assembling a Harp Net, which consists of fine fishing lines stretched vertically over an aluminium frame. This is put up about half a metre above the ground, and when a bat hits the lines it slides down the lines and come to rest in a padded canvas bag, where it sits perfectly quietly until collected to be inspected and have its vital statistics recorded. We also put up a mistnet, but that needs constant supervision, because any bat entangled in the mistnet needs to be released reasonably promptly.
A lot of bats can be identified by their sounds, so we had an idea what we might catch before we looked in the nets. In fact we identified the white striped bat by its noise only as it is a fast high flying bat, it did not come down low enough to be caught.
Time then came to sort our catch. We caught:
* 18 Little Forest Bats (Vespadelus vulturnus) (15 females, 3 males)
* 5 Large Forest Bats (Vespadelus darlingtoni) (all females)
* 3 Lesser Long Eared Bats (Nyctophilus geoffroyi) (1 female, 2 males)
* 2 Gould’s Wattled Bats (Chalinolobus gouldii) (1 male, 1 female)
* White-striped Freetail Bat (Taladira Australis) was heard overhead but not caught.
We then gathered around for a lecture while the bats collected themselves. Lindy has a frequency translator attached to a notebook computer, which collects the bats’ hunting noises, and divides them by 16 (the frequency that is). These are then displayed on the screen, and can be played back through a loudspeaker. As the bats squeak between 20 and 60 kilohertz, we can hear them at the lower frequency. This was an absolutely riveting experience. We could hear the hunting noise of a bat, and as we looked up at the darkling sky, we suddenly saw the silhouette overhead.
We then had a chance to look at our bats. They were beautiful, quite relaxed, and allowed us to have a good look. Lindy had been inoculated against the virus the bats may be carrying; we used gloves when looking at them. The females were all lactating, so would have had young back in the tree hollows. These species only breed once a year, with the young born in late November – early December. I think the bat Lindy is holding here is a Large Forest Bat, but I will have to check with her. Finally we were all equipped in turn with gloves and given a bat to admire and release.