Significant Species and Habitats of Greater Lockerbie Scrub: Cape York Peninsula, Queensland

Fell, D.G., Lifu, M., McIntyre-Tamwoy, S., Roberts, C., Lynch, A.J.J., Leung, L., Charlie, B., and Lifu, T. (2009) Significant Species and Habitats of Greater Lockerbie Scrub: Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. Report. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

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The Lockerbie Scrub and the surrounding landscapes referred to as the ‘greater Lockerbie Scrub’ are located within the Gudang people’s homelands at the far northern extent of Cape York Peninsula, northern Queensland. The area supports the most northern rainforest on mainland Australia and has a range of environmental values,including high species and ecosystem diversity. These values are influenced by environmental factors such as the local climate, geology, soils, topography, drainage, fire regimes, and historical and contemporary land uses.

There has been considerable interest in the Lockerbie area in terms of its biological diversity, conservation and management. The recognition of the region’s biological significance relates to the high diversity of rainforest types, sclerophyll (eucalypt-dominated) vegetation types, and significant plant and animal species. The biota have strong biogeographic links with rainforests in Papua New Guinea and northern Australia, while numerous plants, animals and invertebrates (e.g. insects, spiders, worms) are of national, state, regional and local significance. The Greater Lockerbie Scrub supports a total known flora of 1097 species. This comprises 1 000 native species and 98 species (9%) which are naturalised and doubtfully naturalised. Rainforest/vine thicket taxa account for 47% of the flora (520 species). Forty species are listed as rare or threatened on state legislation and eight species are also listed on national legislation. Four species are considered likely to occur based on known distribution and available habitat. Threatened species represent 26% of the listed species in Cape York Peninsula documented by Landsberg and Clarkson (2004); 4% of the known flora of the Greater Lockerbie Scrub; and 1% of the regional Cape York flora.

Assessment of culturally significant species is preliminary, but 135 species (12% of the total estimated flora) have been recognised as having some form of traditional or contemporary use and are widespread through the ecosystems of the Lockerbie area. Further ethno-botanical research is warranted within traditional knowledge protocols of the Apudthama Land Trust to allow more detailed assessment. Formal initiatives to protect the regional nature conservation values began in 1976 with a proposal for its declaration as a national park (Stanton 1976). The Lockerbie Scrub was later nominated for the Register of the National Estate (RNE) (Monteith and Joyce 1999) and listed on 21/10/1980 (place ID 101745). These initiatives were based on the biological significance of the area, but the RNE nomination also recognised the importance of the local European cultural heritage. Both documents identified that the region’s values were vulnerable to competing land and resource use pressures. The RNE has not yet been transferred to the National List nor to the State Heritage Register is of concern because items on the RNE will no longer have any statutory protection unless they are transferred to other heritage lists such as the National List or the State Heirtage Register. Other assessments (e.g. Roberts 1994) have recognised that the biological values of the Lockerbie Scrub are enmeshed within a traditional, historical and contemporary cultural landscape and a complexity of socio-cultural and economic values, land tenures and uses, and management issues. These extend across the natural, cultural, and political landscape of northern Cape York.

In the face of regionally unprecedented pressures, including from highly invasive weeds, changed fire regimes, and increasing levels of resource development and tourism, the need and opportunity for coordinated management and appropriate resourcing to achieve the conservation and management of the greater Lockerbie Scrub area has become urgent and critical. For example, despite ongoing management efforts by regional and local bodies, the invasive weed Gamba grass is widespread and infestations are rapidly increasing in size and abundance within and around the townships of Bamaga, Umagico, Siesia, New Mapoon and Injinoo. Gamba grass infestations occur beside the majority of local roads and tracks, and are being spread by activities such as routine roadworks and local traffic, as well as through wind dispersal. There is increasing evidence of the impact of Gamba grass on fire regimes and the integrity of vine forest and swamp forest margins, savannah woodlands, and populations of nationally threatened species. Various other weeds are also impacting threatened and culturally significant species and habitats, including lions tail (Leonotis nepetifolia), brazilian joyweed (Alternanthera brasiliensis), lantana (Lantana camara), sicklepod (Senna obtusifolia), and pond apple (Annona glabra). Management of such highly invasive weeds and of other pressures is achievable but needs to be undertaken immediately to protect the significant natural and cultural values for which the Lockerbie Scrub region is nationally and internationally renowned. Management actions also need to be coordinated and to address the underlying activities causing the spread of weeds, for example road maintenance and widening activities. Increased operational and planning investments are needed to support a coordinated and consistent local commitment to on-ground control measures.

A sound foundation of locally relevant natural resource management information within an accessible, locally managed framework is vital to support the land-use planning needs of Traditional Owners and their agents in local government. More detailed and comprehensive mapping of vegetation, habitat and ecosystem condition and values, as well as of the locations of species and habitats of environmental or management significance is required to support future planning and management activities. Furthermore, improved resourcing and capacity building of local government and Traditional Owners is necessary to ensure the effective ongoing conservation of environmental values and the socio-cultural integrity, health and selfdetermination of the local communities. Such measures are essential to support local landholder and land-manager aspirations and to comply with environmental assessment guidelines and protocols at the local government level which is responsible for regulating land development within Commonwealth and State legislation and planning policies. Further investigation of tools such as reserve designation or instruments under the Cultural Heritage Act 2003 may be warranted to formalise protection of areas of the greater Lockerbie Scrub and to ensure that the natural and cultural resources remain available for the benefit of present and future generations. Regional environmental, land use and pest management plans are needed for strategic purposes to ensure coordinated, efficient environmental planning, conservation and natural resource management. The prospect of an Indigenous Protected Area over the greater Lockerbie Scrub may be an additional mechanism that is worth exploration with the Traditional Owners. It is clear that whatever strategities are employed they must be carried out in partnership with Traditional Owneres and involve their full and informed consent if they are to be effective.

Item ID: 8141
Item Type: Report (Report)
Keywords: Lockerbie scrub, Cape York, significant species, significant habitat
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This publication does not have an abstract. The Executive Summary of this Report is displayed as the abstract.

Funders: Australian Government Caring for Our Country grant through the
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2010 03:17
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950305 Conserving Natural Heritage @ 35%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950302 Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage @ 35%
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