Coast's birds fly flag for health of environment
From The Capricorn Coast Mirror
ALAN Briggs, of Birdlife Capricornia, delivered an engaging presentation on birds as indicators of environmental health and a changing environment.
The title of his presentation was a reference to times past, when canaries were used by miners to indicate whether a mine was becoming unsafe.
Alan's current analogy was that changes in bird numbers and movements may be able to give an indication of whether an ecosystem or area is healthy or is becoming unhealthy.
Alan also spoke of how a shift in seasonal weather may push birds "out of sync" with the ecosystems and the communities of which they are a part.
If the birds are unable to adapt to changes in the surrounding ecosystem, it may be detrimental for the bird species and other species within the ecosystem.
He highlighted the considerable global evidence that birds have changed migration patterns, migration timing and, in some cases, stopped migrating altogether.
This was an indication that something was amiss - perhaps it was a response to a change in climate. Another potential problem associated with climate change is that a timing mismatch between predator and prey could also cause a significant decline in species for both.
Because of the delicate complexity of food webs, it is likely more and more problems among species will arise as climate changes worsen.
Byfield identities Bob Black and Lorelle Campbell then spoke about the role of fruit-eating doves and pigeons in maintaining the health of the rainforests of Byfield, on the Capricorn Coast north of Yeppoon.
The Byfield rainforests are an isolated remnant in an otherwise drier bio-region between south-east Queensland rainforests and the rainforests that occur around the Mackay Highlands and Airlie Beach.
Byfield rainforests contain some species from both southern and northern rainforests but more species are common with rainforests to the north.
This may be explained by migrating fruit pigeons and fruit doves coming down from the north each year.
Though all three areas had many plant species in common, they noted that trees bearing large fruit were conspicuously absent from the Byfield rainforest.
Bob and Lorelle said this was due to the absence of large fruit eating animals such as cassowaries.
They further explored the symbiotic partnership between plants and birds.
The Byfield rainforests contains a high diversity and density of Lauraceae species - a genus which has fruit spread by rainforest pigeons.
Bob and Lorelle suggested the birds were responsible for establishment and continued health of the rainforest in the area.
Without the birds, many patches of forest wouldn't have established and, without those patches of forest, there may not be as many fruit pigeons, such as wompoo pigeons and rose-crowned fruit doves, in the area.