Wildlife Matters

Charnley River–Artesian Range project profiles

14 Nov. 2022
Brad Leue/AWC

Kimberley Fire Program

Recent decades have seen a transformation of fire management in the fire-prone savanna landscapes of northern Australia, with an intensification of the delivery of extensive prescribed burning in the early dry season (EDS) to prevent the frequency and extent of high-intensity wildfires under extreme fire weather conditions in the late dry season (LDS). Effective fire management is a primary focus of Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) conservation land management operations, and is aimed at promoting biodiversity conservation, by: (1) reducing the extent of LDS wildfires; and (2) increasing the extent of unburnt vegetation, particularly long unburnt (≥3 years) vegetation. In the Kimberley, AWC undertakes fire management at a landscape scale primarily via EDS prescribed burning on sanctuaries, in partnership with Traditional Owners on their lands (via representative Aboriginal Corporation governance) and on several neighbouring pastoral lease properties. Effective fire management at Charnley has seen a 62% reduction in the area burnt by LDS fire, compared with pre-AWC levels.

Brad Leue/AWC
Charnley River–Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary serves as the hub for AWC’s north-west fire management program, that is delivering a dramatic reduction in the frequency and intensity of late dry season wildfires across 6.1 million hectares of the Kimberley.

Northern Quoll Conservation

Northern Quolls are one of several threatened species AWC is working to conserve at Charnley. Northern Quolls have declined drastically across northern Australia, due to the invasion of poisonous cane toads (preyed upon by quolls), and exacerbated by introduced predators, wildfire regimes and other threats. Toads were first detected on Charnley in 2018 and have since infiltrated the entire sanctuary. A key component of the Charnley science program is quoll population monitoring. This includes camera arrays which assess quoll numbers in central Charnley, and the Artesian Range – a major stronghold for the Northern Quoll and a region for which AWC has comprehensive pre-toad baseline data. Local population declines have been detected in recent years, but as of 2022 quolls persist. It is important that AWC continues to assess the viability of remnant populations, with the data informing further interventions if required. This work forms part of AWC’s Northern Quoll Conservation Management Plan, with Charnley playing a central role.

Brad Leue/AWC
Charnley River–Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary plays a central role in AWC’s Northern Quoll Conservation Management Plan.

Carnivorous Plant Research

Curtin University PhD candidate and botanist, Thilo Krueger, and his academic co-supervisor Dr Andreas Fleischmann, are studying plant–insect interactions at Charnley. The project focuses on carnivorous plants and one of the specific research areas is the overlap between prey insects and pollinator insects. Australia is home to more carnivorous plants than anywhere else in the world and Charnley supports numerous different habitat types, many with a specific array of carnivorous plant species. These plants can be particularly abundant in spring-fed sandseep environments and, using this information, AWC Wildlife Ecologist Dr Tom Sayers found ‘Sundew Spring’ – a site hosting millions of sundews, including many undescribed species.

Tom Sayers/AWC
A fly becomes entangled in the sticky tentacles of Drosera aurantiaca (a species of sundew only found at Charnley River–Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary and in adjacent areas).

 

 

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