Thesis finished!

Salmon gum woodland poster

Hard copy in hand!

I finally have a hard copy of my thesis in my hand, one year after submission.
It is now available through Curtin University University’s institutional research repository online from espace@Curtin – Curtin:
http://espace.library.curtin.edu.au/R?func=dbin-jump-full&local_base=gen01-era02&object_id=225818

I presented a poster (JH Salmon Gum Wdl Poster) at the International Vegetation Associations Conference held in Perth September 2014 and a talk Ecological Society conference in Alice Springs in October. I have also presented to the Wildflower Society of WA, WA Naturalist Club and Department of Parks and Wildlife.

My analysis revealed two main communities whose composition was influenced by climate and to a lesser extent soils. A community dominated by species from the Scrophulariaceae and Fabaceae families occurred on sandier soils in higher (mainly winter) rainfall area to the south-west of the study area. To the north east where the rainfall gets down to 200 mm (but occurs throughout the year) the community, dominated by Chenopodiaceae species occur on soils higher in clay. show t main groups; chenopods and non chenopods

Species ordination showing two main groups; chenopods and non chenopods

The more fire prone nature of the former community means that the long-term survival of old-growth woodlands requires protection from wildfires. Conversely, the chenopod dominated salmon gum community is less susceptible to fire and therefore needs a different set of fire management objectives. The impact of historical timber cutting and the low levels of grazing do not appear to have and influence on the floristic composition of the salmon gum communities and would require further study to confirm this.
When data from previous surveys in the Wheatbelt were incorporated with the GWW data the florisitc patterns over the whole of the distribution of salmon gum revealed that some communities in the Wheatbelt are different from those in the GWW and that there appears to be a community dominated by an understorey of Melaleuca pauperiflora that traverses both regions. This will inform the current nomination that all Wheatbelt Eucalypt woodlands be classified as a Threatened Ecological Community (at the Federal level).

Thanks to all who gave financial, physical and psychological support.

Now to prepare a paper for publication, lodge my plant specimens in the Perth Herbarium and data in state and national databases and notify the land managers what I found on their patch(s). (Not to go on and do a PhD!)

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Field Work Summary

THE PEOPLE 

Thanks to all my wonderful volunteers

Thanks to all my wonderful volunteers

 THE TRIPS

Salmon Gum Field trips in the GWW

 

Trip Date Destinations no. of sites Accompanied by no. of people No of Days

1

24 – 31 Aug 2011 Holland track

5

David Harvey, Gil Craig, Rick Pepper, Denise Follet, Phil Boggins

5

8

2

3-7 Sept Westonia and Bullfinch

1

Laco Mucina, 2 students

3

4

3

3-10 Oct Woddgiemoolta

18

Members of the Wildflower Society of WA

14

11

4

22- 29 Oct Kalgoolie

8

Suzanne Prober

1

8

5

22nd – 29th May Mt Jackson, Kollyanobbing, Helen and Auroura Ra, Hunt Ra and Jaurdi

13

Brian Moyle, Andrew Mitchell, Rosey Jasper

1

8

6

Sat 1st -Thursday 6th Credo, Daveyhurst, Orabanda, north Coolgardie

12

Members of the Wildflower Society of WA

9

6

6

Thurs 6th -10th Sept Jaurdi

12

Members of the Wildflower Society of WA  

6

7

Fri 14th – Fri 21 Sept Peak Charles, Salmon Gums, LakeJohnson, Bremer Ra, and Lake King Norseman Rd

11

Anne Rick

1

7

8

29th Sept – 9th October Norseman to Transline via Proposed Woodline Nature Reserve, Madoonia Downs and Mt Monger Stn and Majestic TR

9

David Harvey, Nina McLaren and Ian Johnson  

10

9

22 – 29 October Kalgoorlie north east to Pinjin Stn, east to Zanthus and  Randall’s TR

11

Wayne O’Sullivan , Helen Allison, John Kavanagh,

2

8

     

100

 

36

76

 THE SITES

 THANK YOU ALL

 

Spring 2012 Field Trips

Very successful field season achieved the target of 100 plots as we were very lucky with the weather (only a couple of storms hitting us at Credo during one night and after 5 the following day, and a few spots in Norseman were we were undercover at the Railway Hotel)
Heartfelt thanks to all who made this possible

Credo survey team

Credo Survey team

CREDO & JAURDI
 Ten members and friends of the Wildflower Society of WA Survey team, based in accommodation at Credo, surveyed 11 sites from Sat 1st -Thursday 6th Sept. Credo is an ex pastoral station now managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation in 2007 and now the site of the CSIRO Supersite flux tower part of a national system of terrestrial ecosystem research and monitoring network.

JH VP & FK Credo sm

Val, Fran & Judith at SG60 on Credo

Big thanks to Brian Moyle for helping with the pre survey as well as Margaret and Jeff Langley who stuck it out for the whole survey 11 days. Credo team consisted of Anne & Allan Bellman, Fran Kininmonth, Val Preston, sisters Joyce Evans & Phyllis Robertson.

Caretakers at Credo Les Westerlund and Julie were a great help showing us around, picking up Margaret L. from Coolgardie, running a paper making workshop, hosting a BBQ and supplying communication support.

Jaurdie Team

Jaurdie Team

On to Jaurdi fuelled by the Best Sausage Rolls in Coolgardie we were joined) we were joined by Hazel and Bill Dempster, Margaret Larke, Rahima Bannerman and Gilbert Marsh. Here, between Thurs 6th –Monday 10th September we surveyed another 11 sites and enjoyed the flora of the sandplains and cracking clays. Jaurdi is another ex pastoral Station now managed by DEC with numerous mining interests and a campsite with kitchen and several rooms.
It was great to share stories around the campfire and we were all very relieved when Gilbert found his lost hearing aid which had such a strong magnetic force that it had jumped off his head and stuck inside the rear of his Toyota.

PEAK CHARLES, SALMONGUMS LAKE JOHNSON

Ann Rick at SG60

Anne Rick at SG60 in Frank Hann NP

Later September (in Fri 14th – Fri 21st) I had a very fun filled purely botanical trip with Anne Rick a botanist from Newdegate. We sampled a total of 11 sites spread between, Frank Hann NP, Peak Charles, Salmon Gums town site, Old Hyden-Norseman Road, Lake Johnson and the Bremer Range.
We recommend the hospitable accommodation in the Art Deco Norseman Railway Hotel owned by conservationist Therese Wade and appreciated the road condition advice provided by the Shire of Dundas

Railway Hotel Noresman

We recommend staying at the Railway Hotel Norseman

.

EASTERN WOODLINES
Again accompanied by my husband David and very experienced bush campers and naturalists Nina McLaren and Ian Johnson we headed north-east of Norseman via sites north of Lake Cronin and the picturesque patch of salmon gums at a picnic site east of Lake Johnson on the road from Hyden. Turning north off the Eyre Hwy 62 km east of Norseman we traversed an area of the proposed Woodline Hills Nature Reserve.

woodline camp remains

woodline camp remains

Here there was much evidence of intensive timber cutting, camps and tramlines which had been active in the 1950s. This would be a great place to return to to explore the myriad of tracks, scattered granite outcrops and the hills themselves.

Camp site near Walgernia Rock Phot ny Nina McLaren
Camp site near Walgernia Rock. Photo by Nina McLaren

 On through Madoonia Downs where we met with lessee Ned Shields (and had a shower!), sample 3 more sites and camped in a scenic patch of Goldfields black butt Eucalyptus lesouefii. We headed north east via the old homestead site and through Cowarna Downs (managed by Jones Partners) to the Transline. Most of this area was mapped as E salmonophloia with E. oleosa and spinifex and although the patches of SG were not common dramatic little salt pans, breakaways and bluebush plains broke up the mixed woodlands. On to Mt Monger Stn (Janie and Brendan Jones) which contains several mines and Randall’s and Majestic Timber Reserves. These reserves were not cut over during the woodline exploitation but have been grazed. A total of nine plots were sampled on the trip which ran between 29th September and 11th October 2012.

 

Ian Judith & Nina at SG92

Ian Judith & Nina at SG92

 

 

 

 

 

 

NORTH-EAST KALGOORLIE
On the final trip in late October (22th – 29th) I was joined by Helen Alison, eucalypt expert Wayne O’Sullivan and John Kavanagh from the Goldfield’s Naturalist’s Club. It was great to have John with us as he showed us isolated patches of SG north-east of Kalgoorlie near Kurnalpi on Hampton Downs Station (Burchil Jones), and Pinjin (managed by the Goldfields Land and Sea Council). We travelled south through Yindi and Avoca Downs (1 site) to the Transline. Along the Transline we sampled woodlands near Chifley and Zanthus sidings and south of Coonana. We also sampled sites near Victoria Rock, east of Woolgangie in the Goldfields Woodlands Conservation Park and near Parker Ranges in the west, on our way out and back.

Salmon Gum flats on Yindi Station

Salmon Gum flats on Yindi Station

This final trip clocked up 11 sites and brought to total to 100.

 

 

 

 

SUMMARY: 100 sites, 76 days. 36 volunteers (If they were paid $35 per hour then the cost would have been $64,500 for 246 days (7.5 hr days) and plus over 19,000km equating to $15,000 vehicle running costs ATO .75c/km. Nearly $8000 of this vehicle running costs was donated by Brian and $3,000 by David: thank you. A vehicle was hired from Curtin (NW & NE GWW trips) and the trip with Suzanne Prober was in a CSIRO vehicle and Laco Mucina used his private vehicle on the trip to Westonia and beyond. Thanks also to Dahl Trust for the grant for purchasing equipment, plot markers and contribute to some of running costs.

May 2012 Field trip

 To the northwest area of the Great Western Woodlands to sample more salmon gums woodlands, visit the Helena Aurora Range and see the colours of the woodlands in the autumn. I was joined by Andrew Mitchell (rangeland botanist), Brian Moyle (guide and member of the Wildflower Society) and Rosey Jasper (botanist from Albany).

Day 1 Departed Perth via Great Eastern Hwy to Southern Cross then north through Bullfinch to Enniun Station on the northern shores of Lake Deborah (currently being acquired by DEC as a conservation reserve) where we sampled plot SG34. Then we drove north through Kawana Station and west along the Vermin Proof fence (with Permit) to camp at Eagle Rock.

Day 2 Sampled SG35 near Eagle Rock and SG36 on Kawana Stn then north on Mt Jackson Rd the Mt Jackson homestead (ruin needing some TLC) surrounded by tall salmon gums over a ground cover very impacted by grazing. Camped in better quality woodland about 3 km to the SE with the hum of mining activities from the first stage of J1 (Curragibbin Hill).

Day 3 We drove SE to the Bullfinch-Evanston Rd and then north to the Die Hardy Ranges, sampling a beautiful stand of Salmon Gums with young saplings (SG37) near the Mt Geraldine. We couldn’t see any woodlands north of the ranges so drove west to Pigeon Rock and south past Windarling Mine (soon to be a large flat topped tailings dump rather that 2 iron stone hills). We sampled SG38 a few kilometres north of Mt Jackson homestead and then SG39 near our campsite.

Day 4 Drove south along Bullfinch-Evanston Rd stopping at SG37 to take some soil samples. Here we bumped into colleague Keren Raiter who is doing a PHD on the Cumulative effects of mining in the GWW. Taking a shot cut to Koolyanobbing we found and sampled another nice stand on Carinta Stn (also a DEC reserve). At Koolyanobbing we met up with Cliff’s Environmental Officer Bill Muir, who showed us some SG woodland north of K and help us sample SG 38. WE drove north to camp on the foot slopes of the Bungalbin Hill in the Helena Aurora Ranges. These ranges are essentially the last remaining substantial Banded Iron Formation not yet being mined.
Day 5 We were joined by Bill and DEC flora conservation officer Jennifer Jackson and weeds project officer Megan Muir to sample SG39 south of the Range and SG40 on an extensive area colluvium flats to the west that we found with the help of the geology map and SG41 in the band of Salmon Gums fringing the northern slopes of the Range.

We are getting a feel for what geological substrates support Salmon Gum Woodlands and how it associates with other species such as the Gimlets.

Day 6 We drove up to a saddle in the ranges and walked to the summit. Great views; almost completely natural except for several small mines and a few roads to be seen.

Then we headed north east across long unburnt (unusual) sandplains to the Hunt Ra (SG42) Kurrajong Rock hole than turned south towards ex Jaurdi Stn now DEC Conservation Reserve. It was delightful drive through mixed woodlands glowing in the afternoon light. We camped again under a million stars near track to Mt Dimer and next to SG43.
Day 7 We continued south though more woodlands, criss-crossed with mining exploration activities and gradually into more grazed country to the heart of the ex Jaurdi station marking potential Salmon Gum sites to be sampled in September by the Wildflower Society. We stayed at Jaurdie Nature Stay camp.
Day 8 We woke to a temperature of -1 but it soon warmed up as we explored west Jaurdi selecting more potential sites before driving south 50 Km to re-join Great Eastern Highway at Boorabbin and return to Perth.

A great trip, dry conditions, good company and another 13 samples completed.
Thanks to Andrew Brian and Rosey, Curtin University and Dahl Trust.
Now to add them to the preliminary analysis, complete the GIS stratification, present 2 talks and prepare for 4 trips in September and October.

2012 field season – initial plans

Now that the plants from the 33 sites we sampled last year have been identified (thanks to the wonderful assistance from the Wildflower Society Herbarium Group) and the data has been entered (nearly) its time to plan how to locate and sample the other 67 sites.

I will be carrying out some analysis on data from the 2011 sites, talking to more local experts and undertaking a GIS stratification to work out where to put this years plots.  I am also looking for helping hands and wheels to explore this beautiful region, the Great Western Woodlands.

Plans are underway to visit the following areas:

  • Mt Jackson, Helena Aurora ranges  in May.
  • Credo and Jaurdi in early September with  Wildflower Society of WA
  • South around Salmon Gums town, Peak Charles and southern end of Lake Johnson with Anne Rick in late September
  • Between Norseman and Zanthus including the proposed Woodline nature reserve in the first 2 weeks of October
  • East of Kalgoorlie along trans-Australia railway line sometime

SO LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN COMING ALONG.

Progress so far – 2011 field trips

It is proposed to sample about 100 sites. Thirty three sites were sampled in 2011 (see map on previous page). The selection of sites was based on; a) trying to cover a wide area,b) available access, c) available accommodation for a group of 15 and d) the needs of those who wanted to accompany me.  Equipment such as marker pegs, labels, collecting bags, photo poles and materials to prepare a field Herbarium and some of the fuel and accommodation costs were purchased with a much apreciated grant from the Bjarne K Dahl Trust. The GPS, dissecting kit and measuring tapes, also purchased with be donated to the Wildflower Society of WA on the completion of this project.

The first trip the Holland Track entered the GWW from Hyden and consisted of my husband David and friends from Perth (Denise and Phil) and friends from Ravensthorpe (Gil and Rick). The first site was east of Lake Cronin where the WA Museum has sampled in 1979. We moved north and joined the Holland track at Mt Holland and carried out 3 more samples in SG woodlands along the way. We noted good SG around Victoria Rock and south of Burra Rock (part of the reconnaissance for the third trip) and returned along the Norseman Hyden Road noting sites along the way at the Woodlands picnic area and top of Lake Johnson and completed a sample near McDermoit rock.

The second trip with my supervisor Laco Mucina and his wife Dagma to the north east of Westonia and Mukinbudin was cut short due to Laco being ill.  We managed to sample a woodland 55 km north of Bullfinch and will have to return another day to explore Mt Jackson and Kawana Stations form suitable sites.

On the third trip to Widgiemooltha 40 km south of Kambalda and 90 km north of and 6 others.  The pre survey was carried out the help of Brian and later Geoff and Wendy to slelected 18 sites which were sampled by 3 teams on the flowing 3 days. The sites extended from the Kambalda Timbre Reserve 25 km in the north, Cave Hill and near Burra rock 40 km to the west, Madoonia Downs 40 km east and 77km to the south on the Norseman Road. We stayed in rustic old workers cottages relocated to Widgie by Jim and Andrea.  Rain threatened or fell at night and did not disrupt the survey activity.

Unlike the fourth and final trip for 2011 when I was accompanied by my associate supervisor Suzanne Prober to Kalgoorlie.  We started off well completing a survey of an impressive stand of SG at BS47 a Museum site 5 km south of Boorabbin. Then it started to rain.  The plan was to go to Credo where Suzanne is involved in the TERN Super Site Project  and east along the trans railway line to sites in Majestic Timber Reserve. But rain stopped play. SG occurs on deep red loam and these are the softest boggiest soils in the rain.  In future if the forecast is scattered showers and thunderstorms for 5 days WE DON’T GO.  We were confined to Kalgoorlie and bitumen roads. We did however manage to do 2 plots just east of Kalgoorlie on Lakeside TR and Mt Monger station, 2 north on Broad Arrow Common and adjacent Mt Vetter’s Stn. Then 2 south of Coolgardie on and near Calooli Station. We also sampled 4 sites across the Wheatbelt as I would like to compare the floristic of the GWW sites with the Wheatbelt sites. The issue with this is that they were sampled by different people, often over 2 visits in 1996-7. So I am pleased with one third of my plots done.

Why this topic?

ImageI wanted to find something to do in the Great Western Woodlands which is gaining in recognition through its wealth of biodiversity, minerals and scenic beauty.  Area almost 16Mha or 160K km2. Read more about the area in The Extraordinary Nature of the Great Western Woodlands and the Biodiversity & Cultural Conservation Strategy for the Great Western Woodlands.

It is a unique large intact area of woodlands occuring in a semi arid area with rainfall of between 600 and 300 mm. It is a hot spot for Eucalypts with estimates up to 351 species occurring in the area.  Woodlands make up about 56% of the area based on mapping done by John Beard at a scale of 1:250, 000. The GWW is a focus for mining activities with gold having been mined since 1890 to the present nickel and more recently since iron ore. Over 100 mines are current and many more have been abandoned. Tenements now cover about 70% of the area.  To support the mining activities timber has been cut from the woodlands to build mine structures, provide fuel and rail sleepers.  Pastoral activities (comprising 20.4 % of the area) have been carried out since the late 1800’s stocking predominantly sheep and more recently cattle and hybrid goats.  Much (61%) of the area is vacant crown land and there are 14.5% reserves (including pastoral leases managed by the Department of Environnment and Conservation). Fire is a regular disturbance to parts of the landscape with great range in fire frequency from a high frequency in the shrublands and the old growth woodlands appearing to not have experiences crown fires for several hundred years.

The Salmon Gum is regarded as an iconic Western Australian gum tree with a distribution extending from the western Wheatbelt to Queen Victoria Springs just east of the GWW.  It has been mapped byJ S Beard as occurring in 60% of the woodland associations covering 5.6Mha or 35.25% of the GWW.

Figure 1 Great Western Woodlands showing Salmon Gum and other woodlands

Image

In the 1980 the WA Museum in conjunction with Wildlife Research, National Parks and the Herbarium carries out biological surveys of an area bounded by Laverton to Peak Charles, Hyden to Zanthus. They surveyed 670 plots for vegetation for fauna. In trying to capture the variability of the area they only ended up sampling 8 plots in Salmon Gum communities yet this is such a wide spread community as is often the case the common gets overlooked. More recently in the 1990‘s and 2000’s focused floristic surveys have been carried out on the banded iron stone formations (BIFs) and greenstone ranges which are a centre of attraction for the mining industry.  As part of an application to mine the proponent must carry out botanical surveys, look for rare plants and map the vegetation. Other incidental surveys focussing on plant structure have been carried out to ground truth remote sensed products in order to predict carbon loads (ANU), forest cover (GOLDFOR) and Bird habitat (Peter Lee at ANU)

I am interested in assessing the regional variability of the composition of SG understorey as see it here is any correlation between soil properties, topography or climate. Previous studies of this nature, Gibson et al, Brown, Hopper, Havel (and others) have detected a gradual species turnover across the south west from SW to NE. The aridity of the GWW and the seasonal variably of the rainfall with more summer rain in the SE may disrupt this pattern.  Alternatively the micro topographic and soil properties may play a stronger part in determining the changes in plant composition across the region.  The influence of surface soil physical and chemical composition on the floristic composition of the understorey may not prove to be significant as the roots of these plants extend to more that 10 cm.  The depth to the B horizon may play a more important role but this is not being measures in this survey.