Friday morning we had saved the closest site until last, so we only had to walk a few hundred metres into the forest to start surveying. That completed, we headed back to Platypus Bushcamp, ate breakfast and headed into Finch Hatton to spend an hour or two with the students at Finch Hatton State School. Since presenting some of my work to the students at Coen State School on Cape York (stay tuned for a future account of that work), I had been increasingly interested in the potential combining my research with a bit of environmental education and community outreach. Bird research has the advantage that the study species are highly visible and readily recognisable. This is especially true when talking with young children, (who if anything tend to be more curious and observant about the world around them). The students at Finch Hatton where no exception, and we spent a happy half hour with each of three age-groups talking about Carbon Footprints, Antartic ecology (Thanks Tiffanie!) and rainforest birds. We did some colouring-in of some simple line-drawings of local species, and learning about the local endemic Eungella Honeyeater, (endemic meaning “found nowhere else”) and its vulnerability to climate change.
Put simply, montane rainforest support many secies which are specilaised for life in the cool, moist “islands” of habitat. If predictions are accurate, the increases in temperature that could result form global warming may make the lower slopes of their habitats too warm for their comfort. If the trends continue, we may find that global warming drastically reduces the area of suitable habitat for these and other species. Some may go extinct altogether for lack of a cool refuge from global warming. For example, the Golden Bowerbird, also endemic to the wet tropics, may be threatened with such a fate if cannot reign-in our carbon emissions. To find out more see these papers:
Williams, S.E., Bolitho, E.E., and Fox, S. 2003. Climate change in Australian tropical rainforests: an impending environmental catastrophe: http://cms.jcu.edu.au/biodiversityandclimatechange/jcudev_015913