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Issues in Tropical Forest Landscapes Series

This series of papers concentrates on critical issues faced in the management and conservation of tropical forest regions today and has proved invaluable for delivering up-to-date, relevant information to research users on specific matters of concern. The Centre worked closely with its research users in identifying these important issues

For each issue, the series examined the current state of scientific knowledge, research achievements, critical gaps in knowledge, priorites for action and management options. You can download issues from the series in PDF format directly below.

Issue 5, June 2006
Ecology and Management of Flying Fox Camps in an Urbanising Region

Flying foxes are important pollinators and seed dispersers of many plant species. They play important roles in the reproduction, regeneration and dispersal of plants within rainforests, eucalypt forests, woodlands and wetlands. During the day, flying foxes roost in communal camps, which provide them with a protected environment and a place to socialise and safely rear their young. 'Traditional' campsites can be used for decades. In some cases, cities and towns have been built near the sites of traditional flying fox camps, while in other cases flying foxes have moved into urban areas and formed new camps. Within urban areas, flying fox camps can pose a nuisance for nearby residents.

To help manage flying fox camps in urban areas, the factors that influence the location of camps were studied in southeast Queensland, the fastest growing urban area within Australia. This study found that most flying fox camps in southeast Queensland are located close to waterways in the coastal lowlands - the same zone that is intensively used for urban development. Even within this zone, flying foxes show a preference for locating their camps within patches of suitable vegetation surrounded by urban areas, rather than in extensive forest. Flying fox campsites occur in a range of vegetation types, but most comprise tall trees with a dense understorey, or are located in swamps or mangroves. At the local scale, there may be some potential for managing vegetation to alter its use by flying foxes, either to deter them from occupying certain areas or to provide new areas of suitable habitat.

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Issue 4, September 2005
A New Role for Weeds in Rainforest Restoration?

Rainforest cover has been removed from many landscapes with adverse consequences for biodiversity, climate, land condition and water quality. Rapid, large-scale reforestation is required to restore biodiversity and ecosystem health in extensively and heavily cleared areas. While tree planting can re-establish a diverse rainforest on cleared land, the practice is expensive and only small areas of land have been reforested to date.

Sometimes, forest cover can return to cleared land through natural processes. Most rainforest plants have fleshy fruits that are attractive to fruit-eating birds. As the birds move between remnant rainforest and regrowth patches they disperse the seeds of rainforest plants. These processes have the potential to cost-effectively restore forest cover to large areas of cleared land.

In areas that have been cleared for long periods of time, regrowth may be dominated by introduced weedy plants. For example, regrowth dominated by camphor laurel trees covers extensive areas of cleared rainforest land in Australia. However, camphor laurel patches attract fruit-eating birds that disperse the seeds of rainforest plants. Many seedlings of rainforest plants have recruited to camphor laurel patches and, in the long-term, may come to dominate the regrowth. This process could be hastened by careful and strategic management interventions, but this requires a change in current attitudes towards the role of weeds in ecosystem restoration.

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Issue 3, April 2004
Native Fish Stocking and Translocation

Recreational fishing of rivers and dams in the Wet Tropics region of Queensland is a popular activity among locals and tourists alike. Thousands of people engage in recreational fishing each year, and demand is increasing as regional population and tourism industries continue to grow. Fish stocking of popular recreational fisheries has been undertaken to cater for increased demand. However, recent research has shown that, within the Wet Tropics alone, up to thirty-six native fish species have been stocked or translocated outside their natural range. The streams of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area contain some of the highest biodiversity in Australia. The ecology of these waterways and impoundments may have been compromised by such organised fish stocking or illegal translocations of native fish species. Many invertebrates, fish and other aquatic fauna in Wet Tropics streams are not adapted to coexist with the predatory stocked and translocated fishes to which they are now subjected. For some resident fauna species, this can be just as destructive as habitat or water quality degradation.

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Issue 2, August 2003
Global Warming in the Wet Tropics

Humans are rapidly changing the nature of our planet in profound ways. Global changes include alterations to the vegetation cover of the land, the chemical composition of the earth's atmosphere, global climate and climate variability, and the rapid and extensive introduction of exotic species.

Australia's Wet Tropics are dominated by mountain ranges giving extremes of altitude from sea level to around 1,600 metres. Most remaining rainforest in the Wet Tropics is above 300 metres and almost all species unique to this region are adapted to these cooler uplands. Temperature rises due to global warming would mean massive changes to these cool uplands, leading to loss of habitat. Consequently, the biological diversity and endemic species that are the keystone of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area are under severe threat.

Ecosystem processes and the provision of ecosystem services could also be severely affected by climate change, indicating how imperative it is to understand the processes that shape large scale regional ecological patterns over time. Only then can predictive tools be developed to enable realistic conservation planning for the unique ecosystems of the Wet Tropics and other rainforests in Queensland.

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Issue 1, June 2003
Feral Pig Impacts and Control

Feral pigs pose ecological, economic and disease threats to around forty percent of the Australian mainland, with population estimates ranging from 3.5 to 23.7 million. In the Wet Tropics bioregion, population density ranges from 3.1 pigs per square kilometre in the World Heritage Area to two per square kilometre outside the listed Area. These feral pigs are a possible host for foot and mouth disease - a potential disaster for Australia's $14 billion agricultural industry. It is estimated that an outbreak would have an immediate $6 billion impact and cost $8 million a day. It may be extremely difficult to eradicate this disease if it were to establish in a feral pig population, particularly in inaccessible terrain. This paper looks at the current state of knowledge of feral pigs, principally in the Wet Tropics bioregion, the effectiveness of current control methods, management problems and the possibilities of emerging biotechnology solutions.

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