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Mount Zero-Taravale, located 80 kilometres north-west of Townsville, protects a remarkable diversity of wildlife: 84 mammal species, 241 birds and over 110 reptiles and amphibians. Rare and threatened species include the endangered Northern Bettong, Sharman’s Rock-wallaby, the Masked Owl and an isolated population of the Glossy Black Cockatoo.
The secret to the exceptional diversity of Mount Zero is its strategic location, straddling the Wet Tropics Bioregion and the Einasleigh Uplands Bioregion, combined with a very steep rainfall gradient and complex topography. In turn, these factors give rise to a rich array of habitats ranging from rainforest and tall wet sclerophyll forests through open eucalypt woodlands to heath and shrublands and spinifex country.
The scenery is spectacular. In the east is the broad alluvial Star River valley, cradled between the converging arms of the Coane and Seaview Ranges. This valley lies in stark contrast to the rugged mountains of the Mount Zero section which wall the valley to the west. Deep gorges regularly penetrate the valley rim. Beyond the escarpment, to the west, is a world of disorganised ranges and hills of granite, where the stark skeleton of the country is often revealed in bare rock pavements and massive granite boulders.
Mount Zero-Taravale provides habitat for 410 species of native vertebrate fauna (not including fish). This is a very high number of species: few national parks outside of north Queensland can boast a fauna list of this size. It emphasises the international significance of the region within which Mount Zero-Taravale is located.
The sanctuary is a hotspot for threatened species, with over 14 threatened animals confirmed or expected to occur on the property. The property is particularly important for Sharman’s Rock-wallaby: over half of the world population occurs on Mount Zero-Taravale. Other threatened species include the Northern Bettong, the Glossy Black Cockatoo, the Masked Owl, the Red Goshawk and the Green Ringtail Possum.
The sanctuary is home to a range of arboreal mammals including one of the highest densities of Greater Gliders in Queensland. Squirrel Gliders, Sugar Gliders and Feathertail Gliders are also found on Mount Zero-Taravale. Macropods (members of the kangaroo family) include the Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Euros, Swamp Wallabies, Agile Wallabies, Whiptail Wallabies, Red-legged Pademelons and Rufous Bettongs, as well as Sharman’s Rock-wallaby and the Northern Bettongs.
Mount Zero-Taravale is also a birdwatchers paradise. The list of 241 species includes everything from birds of paradise to finches!
AWC is the only conservation organisation to measure in a robust scientific manner the ecological health of a network of sanctuaries. At Mount Zero-Taravale, we undertake more than 2,000 live trap nights each year – plus 24 vegetation surveys and at least 1,500 camera trap nights annually - to measure a suite of ecological health indicators including:
Our performance against these indicators provides rigorous scientific data which enables us to track the ecological health of Mount Zero-Taravale.
The focus of the field programs at Mount Zero-Taravale include:
The Mount Zero-Taravale Sanctuary covers a large area of spectacular wilderness adjacent to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in north Queensland. Within the property, there is a range of topography, a steep rainfall gradient and major changes in geology. This generates significant variation in the landforms on the property.
In terms of topography, the property ranges from a high point of 1,050 m in the northeast corner to an elevation of around 350 m in the southwest of the property. The Mount Zero section of the property includes over 60 ‘peaks’. Deep gorges traverse the holding.
The sanctuary stretches over an essentially unbroken continuum of native vegetation. It spans an extraordinary spectrum of rock composition and resulting soils, and encompasses entire catchments of a series of the major tributaries of two rivers.
Extensive broken rocky pavements characterise the centre of the sanctuary. These provide sheltering terrain for a variety of wildlife and present a barrier to wildfire, helping to maintain a tight mosaic of habitats with different fire histories.
Average annual rainfall varies from over 1,300 mm in the north-eastern section of the property to as little as 900 mm in the south.
Strong variations in soil, elevation and rainfall have shaped the scenically spectacular landscape of Mount Zero-Taravale, where AWC ecologists have mapped 73 distinct ecosystems. Towering sclerophyll forests of Rose Gum, Red Stringy Bark and Turpentine mantle the wetter, more elevated terrain which in places is bounded by precipitous ravines and gullies that shelter pockets of rainforest. Hoop Pines emerge from fissures in the rock along ridgelines, boulder slopes and cliff walls where they are protected from fire.
In the Star River valley, a variety of forests and woodlands occupy the various soil types. Melaleucas, Forest Red Gums and Allocasuarina occupy river flats with Bloodwood, White Mahogany and Moreton Bay Ash occurring on the adjacent plains and rises. The distinctively deciduous Poplar Gum, together with broad leaved Melaleuca forms woodlands in clayey areas and Ironbark woodlands occupy better drained slopes.
Richly grassed rolling hills, studded with smooth barked Lemon-Scented Gum occupy deeper soils at the foot of the valley walls.
On the highly dissected granites of the central and western parts of the reserve, a mosaic of iron bark and bloodwood communities reflect subtle changes in soil, which in places is reduced to a thin scatter over rocky pavement, supporting a low open woodland, or, in the western corner of the reserve, a spinifex grassland.
Over 1,000 plant species are expected to occur, many of which are threatened and some of which are found only on Mount Zero-Taravale.
Tim White, the Sanctuary Manager and his wife Bree live at Mount Zero-Taravale. They are assisted by indigenous rangers operating on a casual basis and a land management officer supporting AWC’s north Queensland properties.
The science program is delivered by a team of AWC field ecologists, assisted by interns and qualified volunteers. Dr Eri Mulder is the resident Wildlife Ecologist on sanctuary.