Gary Schoer, OFF member and extensive Polar traveller joined us once again in November to share his photos and assessment of the beauties of and threats to the Arctic. Gary took us with him on a Aurora Expedition small group expedition to the Svalbard Archipaelego which includes its biggest Island, Spitzbergen, in between Northern Norway and Greenland.
While Gary was fortunate to see and capture some great images of seabirds such as puffins, Northern Fulmars, Ivory Gulls and Guillemonts to name a few, he gave additional insights into their conservation status and particular threats which are causing many populations to plummet in the last 20 years or so.
The smoking gun seems to be especially the rapid increase in average air temperatures, reduction in amount of sea ice especially thicker multi-year ice. In some areas average temperatures have increased by as much as 10 degrees celsius, causing the frozen soil of the tundra to melt and even creating additional pine forests where once there were no trees over many parts of the Arctic.
Gary had to travel to 81 degrees North to see 6 of 7 polar bears sighted on the journey on sea ice, which was virtually absent further south…a big change over as little as 15 years since OFFS members Julian and Annette Sheen were there. One other bear was sighted on a small glacial moraine island where it may have had to swim quite a distance to get access to Arctic tern eggs…a pressure on a bird that has flown 15 000 km from Antarctica to breed there.
So, as Gary emphasised, everything is connected. The changesd size of populations and average body length of the important bird-food fish may be contributing to sea bird losses.
While we in Australia and more temperate worlds argue about how to effect behavioural and fuel use changes to keep average world temperatures below 2 degrees above recent historical levels, the animals, plants and indigenous people who live there are well past that target, and we can only hope that sensible and strong political efforts will stope what we are seeing in the Arctic creating a tipping point that will affect ecosystems well beyond the poles.
Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society (OFF) volunteers have been helping ANU PhD candidate Ross Crates with his research into the ecology of the Regent Honeyeater, one of the most endangered birds in the country.There may be as few as 600 individuals remaining in the wild.
25 Flora and Fauna Society members and friends helped to make 80 Regent Honeyeater and Friar Bird nests over a two week period in August. Ross will use these artificial nests (with false eggs) in Capertee National Park to ascertain which birds and mammals predate on the Regent Honeyeater eggs and young. The nests are now in place with cameras to track predators.
Ross’s research is aiming to identify the major threats to the survival of the Regent Honeyeater in its woodland habitats. Reducing threats such as nest predation and loss of woodland habitat can contribute to the Regent Honeyeater’s long term survival in the wild.
This work follows on from his fieldwork into their habitat when he used motion sensor cameras, including one donated by Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society. Ross will present his findings at one of OFF’s regular monthly talks in 2017.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM
The NSW Government has drafted legislation that will weaken protection for biodiversity in our state. The titles of the legislation – Biodiversity Conservation Bill and Local Land Services Amendment Bill are misleading and obscure their true purpose.
The bills will actually allow increased damage to the natural environment through less-regulated land-clearing. The bills will remove a legal requirement that land clearing should “maintain or improve” biodiversity and will facilitate widespread destruction of native vegetation in both country and urban areas. Nature will pay the bill for this ill-conceived legislation.
In 2014 the 10/50 Clearing Code of Practice was introduced to allow residents to remove vegetation to protect their homes from bushfires. It was so widely abused by landholders clearing vegetation for other purposes that the code had to be modified only two months later. Government data shows the state’s farmers have lopped paddock trees at an accelerating rate in the past 18 months even before a new land-clearing law eases controls further.
One of the key changes in the draft bills is the expansion of the use of self-assesable codes – these will allow land-holders to clear trees more freely, with less supervision. Often these paddock trees will include old trees with hollows that provide shelter and nest sites essential to birds such as owls and parrots, and many other animals. They are nature’s boarding houses. “The Offset” plantings proposed in the bills won’t provide hollows for many, many years.
Our Society does not want to see another vegetation-clearing fiasco in our leafy neighbourhood, or in the rest of the state. We have taken a symbolic slice of wood (salvaged from a tree removed under the 10/50 Code) to Oatley MP Mark Coure’s office to express our concern. Written on the wood (pictured) was the message. “We ask that you urgently withdraw the draft NSW Biodiversity legislation & act to ensure strong laws to protect our wildlife, amenity, soils & climate. Gymea Biodiversity Review Community”
Concerned residents throughout Sydney have been have been contacting their local Members of Parliament. OFF members also attended attended a protest on 24 June outside Premier Mike Baird’s office in Manly.
For more information, sign petition or help to make submission see Stand Up For Nature Website Submissions are due 28 June 2016.
At the October meeting of Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society, Dr Ian Wright from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) presented startling evidence of environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region. Dr Wright worked as a scientific officer with Sydney Water investigating the impact of human activities on creeks and rivers in the Sydney basin before taking up a research fellowship at UWS in freshwater ecology and water pollution.
Ian is now a full-time lecturer teaching students in water quality and management, environmental planning and environmental regulation areas. Conducting his research on a limited budget and often faced with a hostile reception from mining interests in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, Dr Wright and his students have persevered, comparing water samples taken upstream of mining activity with those down stream. They have found significant deterioration in water quality attributable to waste water discharge from mining operations. Toxic levels of salt, bicarbonate, zinc, nickel and other minerals have impacted on aquatic life and degraded the waters flowing through prized wilderness areas and World Heritage sites.
Long-wall mining, in particular, is responsible for subsidence in the bedrock of some creeks and streams feeding into Sydney’s water catchments. Dr Wright showed photographic evidence of streams simply disappearing into cracks, only to re-emerge further ‘downstream’ polluted by mining waste. Dr Wright was critical of the Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for regulating the discharge of wastewater from mines. Pollution licence conditions need to be tightened requiring mining companies to meet higher standards, although he conceded the regulator had lifted its game recently but only under pressure from the community and, in turn, government.
Asked how Oatley Flora & Fauna Conservation Society members could help to stop mining companies from causing environmental damage, Dr Wright suggested the best way would be to keep the pressure on our politicians to introduce more stringent rules on mining activities. Dr Wright gave an undertaking to keep the Society informed of future developments in the regulation of the coal industry.
Impact of a coal mine waste discharge on water quality and aquatic ecosystems in the Blue Mountains World Heritage area.
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE DR WRIGHT’S PUBLICATIONS CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT UPLAND SWAMPS
15 NOVEMBER 2015 – LEADER ARTICLE “Coal Mining Risk revealed at Conservation Society meeting”
10 people boarded the OFF bus at Oatley station at 09.30 on a beautiful sunny Autumn morning. We travelled out to the SITA Resource Recovery Park at Kemps Creek where the 11th person joined us. The Education Officer, Kristal Dilucchio gave a very interesting presentation, and fielded MANY question from us, before kitting us out in high –vis vests, hard hats, and safety goggles. We then boarded the bus for the trip to the other side of the resource park, where, after fitting bright pink ear plugs, we entered the SAWT Facility.
The rubbish is processed in 2 different lines, one for green organics and kitchen waste ( green bin) from Penrith council, and one for general waste along with kitchen waste ( red bin ) from Liverpool Council.
Most of the processing occurs under cover in a huge hangar like building. The red bin waste has several stages of processing and sorting, by large magnet, a process to take out the aluminium, and manually, at this stage. The green bin waste doesn’t need these steps. There are 14 tunnels that the rubbish is stored in, for the first 3-4 weeks ( where it can have air and water put in) where the decomposition is initially started. The material is then sifted and processed again before being put outside in long lines, in various stages of decomposition, mostly covered with tarps ( especially in the cold weather, to speed up the decomposition).
The whole process takes from 14-16 weeks. Both end products are very rich in organic nutrients, but the red bin waste is contaminated with some metal and glass fragments, and is only used for mine reclamation, while the green bin waste produces a very high grade compost for all general purpose landscaping uses. It was evident that plastic bags are a significant problem for the managers of our waste, as are old VHS tapes.
We resolved to lobby our respective councils to include kitchen waste for recycling (either the red bin system or the green bin system) as it cuts down the amount of waste going to landfill by about 60%. CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS
After leaving SITA, we visited a nearby coffee shop, for delicious liquid refreshment, before the return journey.
Report by excursion leader Alison Gilroy
Interesting follow up information on our visit to Liverpool Water Recycling Plant in regard to the so-called flushable wet wipes has been provided by our tour organiser Kim Wagstaff.