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Brooklyn Sanctuary supports a greater diversity of wildlife (500 vertebrate species) than any other single property in Australia. More than 290 bird species, 86 mammal species and 140 reptiles and frogs make Brooklyn a true “hotspot” for Australia’s wildlife.
The level of species and ecosystem diversity on Brooklyn reflects a broad range of topography and a steep rainfall gradient across the property.
In the east, Brooklyn includes vibrantly luxurious mountain rainforests of the World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics Bioregion, rising to an altitude of 1140 metres and drenched by an average rainfall of over 4000 mm. Around 4,000 hectares of Brooklyn is world heritage listed - the largest area of privately owned world heritage on mainland Australia.
The sanctuary descends from these mountain rainforests through an unbroken canopy of tall eucalypt forests to the wide valley of the perennial Mitchell River, punctuated by a series of granite and metamorphic hills. Flanking the river’s floodplain westward, the ragged hills of the Einasleigh Uplands Bioregion support tall woodlands that grade into low open grassy cover as moisture becomes scarcer. Billabongs, mound springs and lagoons dot the floodplain of the Mitchell River to the sanctuary’s western extremity. Here, down at 300 metres altitude, the annual rainfall is just 900 mm.
Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary is of global significance, with around 40% of all of Australia’s bird species and 30% of Australia’s mammals recorded on this single property. More than 30 animals that are threatened with extinction find refuge on Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s 86 mammal species include many that are restricted to particular rainforest types in the region like the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo, Musky Rat Kangaroo and three species of mountain ringtail possum.
Sheltering in the rugged areas on the mountain slopes and foothills are species that have declined elsewhere, including both the Northern Quoll and Spotted-tailed Quoll, and two species of rock wallaby.
An entirely different suite of mammals inhabit the drier open woodlands including the elusive Spectacled Hare-wallaby and Rufous Bettong, two (possibly three) species of bandicoot, pygmy possums, gliders and several Antechinus species.
Brooklyn’s enormous variety of birds – an exceptional 299 species - includes 14 threatened species, ranging from the Southern Cassowary (Australia’s heaviest bird) to the diminutive Blue-Faced Parrot Finch. Wet tropics endemics (species that are restricted to the Wet Tropics bioregion) include the Golden Bowerbird, Chowchilla, Atherton Scrub Wren and Pied Monarch. The Red Goshawk, Australia’s rarest bird of prey, breeds on the sanctuary.
Reptiles (105 species) and frogs (35 species) are similarly diverse, again reflecting the range of habitats available. Several of the frog species are restricted to the wetter mountains including the Mountain Top Nursery Frog and Hosmer’s Frog. Brooklyn provides refugial habitat for a number of rainforest frogs threatened in high elevation habitats by the introduced chytrid fungus including the Creek Frog and Torrent Tree Frog.
AWC is the only conservation organisation to measure in a robust scientific manner the ecological health of a network of sanctuaries. At Brooklyn, there were more than 2,016 live trap nights, 77 vegetation surveys and at least 2,268 camera trap nights in 2016 - 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 Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is a property of dramatic contrasts where a wall of mountains, at the south-western extremity of the Daintree rainforests, rises dramatically from a broad plain through which the Mitchell River runs a direct course to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Cloud-capped mountains dominate the eastern section of the property, rising to over 1,000 m and trapping moisture which gives life to enshrouding tall rainforest. In turn, this rainforest feeds moisture to streams which progress by gorges, cataracts and waterfalls to the foot of the ranges.
The property is bounded to the north by the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and to the south by the crest of a low but rugged range of lightly wooded hills. Rifle Creek, which forms the extreme southern boundary of the property, cradles in its wide bend a low mountain range topped by the prominent granite spire of Lighthouse Peak.
Rainforest on the mountain heights gives way to tall wet sclerophyll forest down the western slope, and then as rainfall drops quickly, and lower slopes steepen, open woodlands dominate. Tall open woodlands skirt the foothills at the head of the plain and give way to ever varying low open grassy woodlands to the west.
Queensland Government mapping identified 65 different ecosystems on Brooklyn, with 7 being listed as endangered. Subsequent more detailed mapping by AWC botanist Peter Stanton has revealed 137 distinct vegetation types. 1426 species of native plants have been identified (including 45 threatened species), with a further hundred or so likely following further surveys of the higher altitude orchids and ferns.
A mingling of numerous rainforest types occurs on the deeply weathered granite soils flanking Mount Lewis and Mount Fraser. Distinctive among these are areas of vine forest with huge Bunya Pines towering above the canopy. Grading from the rainforest are tall closed eucalypt forests of Rose Gum and Red Stringybark, the latter an important food tree for the threatened Yellow Bellied Glider.
Extending from the closed forests, galleries of tall melaleucas line the tributaries and levees of the Mitchell and McLeod Rivers.
On the plains and hills of the drier country, a diversity of forest types become progressively more open and lower in stature, with Box and Ironbark woodlands predominating.
Andrew Francis, the Sanctuary Manager and his wife Megan live at Brooklyn. 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 (including a lead ecologist with specific responsibilities for Brooklyn), assisted by qualified volunteers.