19 – Zach R.

Hi I’m Zach and I am a freshman from Naperville, Illinois. It is a large suburb in the Chicagoland area. I am currently majoring in Biosystems Engineering. In my free time I love playing hockey, playing the guitar, cooking, fishing, and doing just about anything at my family’s lake house in Michigan. While in Australia, I can’t wait to try the food, visit different agriculture sites, and see the Great Barrier Reef. I am really excited to learn more about the various agricultural systems in Australia. I also hope to have a better understanding of some of the issues surrounding the indigenous communities in Australia.

While in Australia I plan to research habitat alteration and its effects on biodiversity within various ecosystems in Australia.  Australia is one of the leading developed nations regarding habitat loss globally. Often times land is cleared for urbanization, agricultural uses, or for other commodities such as lumber (Watson, Mcdonald-Madden, Allan, Jones, Marco, Fuller, 2018).  This rate of habitat loss has lead to further complications from climate change.

However, aside from habitat degradation and fragmentation, the threat of invasive species has resulted in a further decline in Australia’s biodiversity.  Past legislation protecting various habitats has been shown to be successful. Yet with current trends as they are, resources have been shown to be fairly limited (Cresswell & Murphy, 2017).  While abroad in Australia, I hope to witness firsthand the effects of habitat alteration on diverse ecosystems within Australia and to have a better understanding regarding successful methods for recovering lost habitats.

By approaching agriculture with regenerative practices, biodiversity can be retained in the soil.  When there’s a greater level of biodiversity in the soil it retains more moisture and is healthier.  There’s a greater amount of bacteria and fungi which also help to promote the overall health of the farm due to the role they play in the given ecosystem.  

A great example of using regenerative methods to grow produce was the ecoganic banana plantation the group visited in Queensland.  Biodiversity was highly valued in the soil since it indicated the overall health of the system. Bananas were also dipped in a biodegradable red wax to show it was ecoganic.  Various methods such as placing a pile of bananas on the ground amidst the banana trees on the plantation was utilized to promote and enhance worm activity (Pacific Coast Bananas, F., 2019).  Another visit that provided a great example of regenerative agriculture in action was during a lecture to the group given by Eddy, general manager of Rainforest Bounty, a company located in the Atherton Tablelands.  Vegetation native to the region is grown through a mixed crop system that is utilized to avoid a monoculture crop. The company attempts to mimic the rainforest, and in the process, this helps to somewhat recover the rainforest.  Some of the wildlife even returns, including various species of bird (General Manager of Rainforest Bounty, E., 2019).

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan allows water to be allocated to farmers.  Each farm is allocated a certain amount of water annually. From this a water allocation market has begun operating. Along with this plan, the Hattah Lakes Project dictates that a portion of water must be sent back into the environment.  This process is an attempt to mimic natural flooding processes that have been gravely weakened due to over irrigation of the nearby river system. As a result enough vegetation has returned that it is noticeable in satellite images taken in space.  The biodiversity of the region has also been positively affected as a result of this (Sheahan, 2019).

Invasive species management is a crucial part of restoring some of Australia’s biodiversity lost from habitat alteration.  For example, many species of smaller marsupials are extinct on mainland Australia due to predation from invasive species such as foxes and feral cats.  Rabbits are also another huge issue given that they dig up and destroy much of the native vegetation. Various methods have been undertaken. One method utilized by the Mt. Rothwell conservation centre has involved the utilization of a predator free habitat in which brush-tail rock-wallaby can live void of unnatural predators such as foxes and feral cats.  An important thing to note here is that the brush-tail rock-wallaby is extinct in mainland Australia (Mt. Rothwell Conservation Centre, 2019).  

Other methods such as poisoning baits have been utilized, despite the use of 1080 being very controversial among experts.  At the conservation centre at Calperum Station, rangers will head out and round up feral goats which are also invasive to protect native vegetation.  They will remove invasive vegetation with machinery or by poisoning the roots of the vegetation (Kale, 2019). 

Regarding the health of biodiversity in the Great Barrier Reef, various issues affect the region.  These issues include poor water quality, run-off from agriculture, and the invasive Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS). 

Poor water quality has been caused by ocean acidification due to rising temperatures caused by Climate Change, along with pollution.  Run-off from agriculture is another issue which can be combated through the construction of artificial wetlands which can also act as filtration systems (Carmody, 2019).

The Crown of Thorns Starfish is an invasive species which attacks coral in the reef. Although it doesn’t kill the coral, after the starfish moves on from one coral if algae are able to get to it they will kill the coral.  Different methods have been utilized to manage the Crown of Thorns Starfish (Carmody 2019).

A pile of bananas such as these are placed in a field to decompose to help nurture and promote nutrient rich biodiversity in the soil at the Pacific Coast Banana Plantation

A sunset viewed during the group’s stay at Calperum Station in South Australia

Links

Eco Tourism and the Great Barrier Reef

https://www.ecotourism.org.au/membership/members-of-ecotourism-australia/protected-area-managers-members/the-great-barrier-reef-marine-park-authority/

Hattah Lakes Project

http://www.malleecma.vic.gov.au/about-us/programs/rivers-and-wetlands/hattah-lakes.html

Mt. Rothwell Conservation Centre

https://www.mtrothwell.com.au

Murray-Darling Basin Plan

https://www.mdba.gov.au/basin-plan/plan-murray-darling-basin

Pacific Coast Eco Bananas

Rainforest Bounty

https://www.rainforestbounty.com.au

References

A. (2019, May 17). Mt. Rothwell Biodiversity Centre Presentation and Talk. Speech presented at Mt. Rothwell Biodiversity Centre in Melbourne, Victoria.

Carmody, J., Ph.D. (2019, May 30). Julie Carmody Talk. Lecture presented by Julie Carmody at Cairns Queenslander in Cairns, Queensland.

Cox, L. (2018, March 5). Australia has 1,800 threatened species but has not listed critical habitat in 10 years. The Guardian. Retrieved May 6, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/06/australia-has-1800-threatened-species-but-has-not-listed-critical-habitat-in-10-years

Cresswell, I., Dr., & Murphy, H., Dr. (n.d.). Biodiversity – Australia State of the Environment. Retrieved May 6, 2019, from https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/biodiversity

F. (2019, June 3). Pacific Coast Bananas Visit. Speech presented at Pacific Coast Bananas in Yungaburra, Queensland.

General Manager of Rainforest Bounty, E. (2019, June 4). Rainforest Bounty: Native Rainforest Fruits, Nutritional Facts & Health Benefits. Lecture presented by Rainforest Bounty for the group in Yungaburra, Queensland.

Grahame, P. (2019, May 24). Rural Co. Water. Speech presented at Rural Co. Water Visit in Mildura, Victoria.

Kale, P. (2019, May 26). Talk with Ecologist Peter Kale. Lecture presented at Calperum Environmental Station in South Australia.

Sheahan, N. (2019, May 23). Hattah Lakes Project. Lecture presented at Hattah Lakes Visitor Centre in Mildura, Victoria.

Watson, J., McDonald-Madden, E., Allan, J., Jones, K., Marco, M. D., & Fuller, R. (2018, December 06). Half the world’s ecosystems at risk from habitat loss, and Australia is one of the worst. Retrieved May 6, 2019, from http://theconversation.com/half-the-worlds-ecosystems-at-risk-from-habitat-loss-and-australia-is-one-of-the-worst-64663


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