K’gari (Fraser Island) is the largest sand island in the world. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 as an outstanding example of ongoing biological, hydrological and geomorphological processes. The island features complex dune systems that are still evolving, and an array of rare and unique features including dune lakes and tall rainforests. Parts of the western boundary of the K’gari World Heritage property including patterned fens, wallum swamp, saltmarsh and intertidal and subtidal areas, intersect with the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar wetland. These habitats, along with the migratory shorebirds, acid frogs, honey blue-eye and Oxleyan pygmy perch fish and other species they support, constitute the ecological character of the Ramsar site, listed in 1999.
The bushfires of 2019–20 significantly impacted parts of the island encompassing wetland habitats. Very little is known about how the fires have impacted the island’s wetlands and their dependent species of fauna and flora.
It is important to establish a baseline for monitoring and assessing impacts of future fire events in this unique environment. The first step is assessing the impacts of recent bushfires on the Outstanding Universal Value of K’gari (Fraser Island) and ecological character of a range of wetlands including the globally unique patterned fens at Bogimbah, also part of the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar site.
Comprehensive data will be collected on the impacts of fire on the aquatic-dependant fauna, flora and ecosystems including the receiving water quality in the freshwater wetlands with a view to establishing a baseline for monitoring and assessing impacts of future fire events. The project will focus on wetland fauna (freshwater fish, acid frogs, crayfish, shrimps) and flora (aquatic macrophytes).
The objectives of the project are to:
- establish a baseline understanding of aquatic ecosystems, species (wetland flora and fauna) and threats on K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar site
- identify the direct and indirect impacts of the fires on species of freshwater wetlands (flora, fauna) and ecosystems and their processes (water purification, runoff of ash deposits, sedimentation, deoxygenation)
- identify sites, indicators, and procedures for long-term monitoring of the impacts of fire and associated climate change on the ecological character of the Ramsar site and the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property
- develop a protocol to assess short-term post-fire impacts and monitor long-term recovery of wetlands, threatened species, and threatened ecological communities on K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar site.
The project outcomes will help prioritise potential future management interventions and improve the resilience of this area.
- Griffith University
- Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee
- Butchulla aboriginal Corporation
- Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
- Department of Environment and Science
- Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment (Heritage Branch)
This project is funded by the Australian Government.