Mary Cairncross BioBlitz - Exploring rainforest skyscrapers
  • Last updated:
  • 29 May 2019

In March 2019, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve hosted its first ever BioBlitz. Five majestic strangler figs (Ficus watkinsiana and Ficus obliqua), each upwards of 45 metres tall, were selected for the rare vertically-oriented study.

This unique research event aimed at studying and celebrating biodiversity in the reserve by cataloguing as much life as possible from dripline to rooftop canopy in each of these five trees.

Professional tree-climbers helped give scientists and artists vertical access to the living skyscrapers. The Survey Team consisted of 14 scientists, eight artists, nine First Nations representatives, six arborists, and 56 volunteers, and over 250 members of the public took part in the public programs.

Findings from the event will progressively be unveiled in the Rainforest Discovery Centre, however, an initial overview of findings showed the following:

  • 12 species of dung beetle were caught in the vertical traps and light trap (Entomological Society of Queensland).
  • 13 species of epiphytes were recorded across the five trees, including the orange blossom orchid (sarcochilus falcatus) on all survey sites (University of Tasmania).
  • 80-87 different botanical species under each canopy, with a range of 514 – 1,136 individual specimens growing within the dripline of the five specimen trees (Ann Moran).
  • Fungi-canopy leaf samples and ecto-mycorrhizal root samples have been sent for analysis (Qld Plant Pathology Herbarium), various species of macro-fungi growing on each tree, including unidentified specimens are also awaiting verification (Queensland Mycological Society).
  • 10 cameras were installed in three strangler figs to understand the vertical distribution and array of arboreal vertebrates that inhabit these trees (University of the Sunshine Coast). The cameras will be coming down in the next few weeks.
  • As yet uncounted specimens of moss, hornwort and liverwort have been accessioned to the QLD Herbarium (Oberonia Botanical Services).
  • Song meters designed to record bats were installed on three trees and the analysis of the recordings will be completed in the coming month. Mist netting surveys were conducted over two nights during which an Eastern blossom bat, apreviously unrecorded species for the reserve, was captured (Queensland University of Technology).

There are still some cameras and microphones active at the top of the forest. You can listen to the LIVE sounds of the canopy through the Listen Up project accessible through this link.

Over the next few months, participating scientists will be returning to Mary Cairncross to reveal and discuss their findings in our Cairncross Conversations Program. To find out more and register for upcoming talks please visit council’s website.