Cairns International Airport fauna surveys

Kutt, A., and Burrows, D. (1999) Cairns International Airport fauna surveys. Report. James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia.

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[Extract] Mangroves and intertidal habitats represent the interface between aquatic and terrestrial environments (Macnae 1966). Characteristic assemblages of vertebrate fauna derived from both these sources utilise a wide variety of different habitats within these coastal areas, though few species become specialised to the use any one terrestrial environment (e.g. mangroves) as primary habitat (Hutchings and Saenger 1987). Though mangroves are a notable and prominent habitat type in northern tropical coastal zones, mosaics of mudflats, seagrasses, salt-marsh, beach dunes, woodlands and closed forest habitats generally the norm. As a consequence, diverse fauna communities representing terrestrial and aquatic life-histories are supported in these environments, representing a variety of vertebrate fauna taxa (Hutchings and Saenger 1987; Kutt 1997). Given the general significance of mangal mosaics as a coastal habitat in Australia (Galloway 1982) and the biological interest in these communities (see Clough 1882 and Field and Dartnell 1987), examination of the vertebrate fauna of these habitats is very poor (Hutchings and Recher 1982), with the exception of sea and shore-birds (Hutchings and Saenger 1987).

In Australia there is estimated to be approximately 11,600 km2 of mangroves; second only to Indonesia in southeast Asia/Australasia (Galloway 1982). Australian mangrove ecosystems are, according to Davie (1987) "very significant because, with minor and localised exceptions, they are not being destructively exploited". Australian mangroves have their greatest plant species richness in north-eastern Queensland, with about 25 mangrove species in the Hinchinbrook to Cairns area, and 28 species north of the Daintree River (Davie 1987; Hutchings and Saenger 1987; Lovelock 1993). The diversity and extent of mangroves in northern Australia is not surprising given the belief that mangroves are thought to have evolved and originated in northern or western Australia (Mepham 1983).

The basic driving force behind estuarine ecosystems is the primary productivity contributed by riparian, wetland, salt marsh, mangroves and seagrasses communities. This productivity, based on plant detritus and benthic microflora and intertidal crustaceans, provides the cornerstone of energy pathways or food webs that support the vertebrate fauna assemblages at higher trophic levels (TIMP 1992). There are two stages where productivity enters an ecosystems: from a primary source, where photosynthesis converts radiant energy into plant material, and from a secondary source, where the plant material is converted by chains of organisms to higher trophic levels in the food web (TIMP 1992). The majority of productivity in estuarine wetlands is contributed by mangroves, seagrass beds and saltmarshes (Hutchings and Saenger 1987). The remainder is provided by phytoplankton, benthic diatoms and benthic and epithetic algae within the estuarine and nearshore waters (Hutchings and Saenger 1987). It has also been suggested that chemotrophs, active in the anaerobic high organic content muds fringing mangrove and seagrass areas, enrich the productivity of these environments. Terrestrial sources, such as beach dune shrublands and woodlands, would also ontribute plant and detritus (Hutchings and Saenger 1987).

Estuarine energy systems follow a general pattern: particulate organic matter (mangrove litter, microflora, phytoplankton, seagrasses, epiphytic algae) is consumed by microbes (bacteria), vertebrates (dugongs, green turtles, fish) and macro and microinvertebrates (polychaetes, gastropods, crustaceans, larvae), which in turn are consumed by predatory animals at higher trophic levels (polychaetes, crabs, fish, wading birds, crocodiles). Primary and secondary productivity or energy can be exported out of the estuarine systems by migration of animals and tidal flushing (Hutchings and Saenger 1987).

Item ID: 36925
Item Type: Report (Report)
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Prepared for the Cairns Port Authority. Report No. 99/16

Funders: Cairns Port Authority (CPA)
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2016 00:17
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 100%
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