Australian Institute of Alpine Studies

Newsletters

No. 5 August 1999

Apology I must apologise for the lateness of this newsletter. It seems that the summer field season became the autumn field season without a break. Additionally I have lost the able assistance of Lorraine Oliver in putting it together, we've had a changeover in computers and lost the template etc etc. So, here goes.

Contents


Summer 98/99 in the Snowy Mountains

Get Together

No response to global threats

Hybridisation in Australian alpine Ranunculus: Species maintenance through habitat selection

"Inclemency" Wragge and His Observatory

Mountain Forum

The Royal Geographical Society-IBG Conference January 2000. Sussex University.

Global Warming

International Year of Mountains

Task Manager Report 1992-97

Snowy Mountains field tour in November


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Summer 98/99 in the Snowy Mountains

Another Summer's fieldwork has finished in the Snowy Mountains, but luckily this one was not interrupted by bushfires to the same extent as the hectic summer of 97/98. The summer had a lot of activity on all fronts:

Animals.
Monitoring of Corroboree Frogs continued in the ACT and NSW with Environment ACT, University of Canberra (UCAN) and NPWS staff involved. Few Northern Corroboree Frog tadpoles survived from the drought-affected breeding season of 97/98 except at the highest elevations and the Southern species also showed poor success but adult Southern and Northern Corroboree Frog numbers showed a slight improvement with the wet summer. Dave Hunter (UCAN) continued his Masters study on the demographics of Corroboree Frogs. A joint program between Will Osborne and Dave Hunter (UCAN) and Ken Green (NPWS) examined the impacts of UV-B on Alpine Tree Frog eggs and tadpoles in natural ponds,comparing enclosures where they were exposed to ambient levels or protected by a Mylar filter (blocking 100% of UV). Interesting results were obtained so watch this space. This work was also associated with the relocation of Alpine Tree Frogs back into their previous higher altitude sites (KG). The monitoring of Mountain Pygmy Possum (Linda Broome and KG) and Broad-toothed Rat (KG) numbers continued and the survey of their ranges continues along with characterisation of Mountain Pygmy Possum habitat (Michelle Walters). An Honours project (NPWS and Charles Sturt University) began in February examining the impact of tracks on small mammal movements in the mountains. Glenn Sanecki (CSU) will continue this work through into the winter. The field component of a study of the diet of foxes at alpine and subalpine altitudes (KG) was completed in December at the end of three years of monthly fox scat (droppings) collections. Scat numbers on the subalpine transect will now be monitored once a year as an indication of fox numbers. Michelle Walters began a PH.D. study of Brumbies (which are now appearing as high as Wilkinsons Valley on the Main Range).

Plants.
Tristan Armstrong (ANU) continued his research on hybridisation and speciation in alpine Ranunculus species. A two year field habitat selection experiment, using hybrid and parental individuals transplanted into the field, was monitored. The growth and survival of hybrids versus parental species revealed strong patterns supporting the hypothesis that habitat selection plays the major role in species distribution and genetic integrity in the group (See article further on in this newsletter). Hazel Rath (UNE) is continuing work on locating populations of Ranunculus anemoneus and identifying factors influencing their survival and conservation. Catherine Pickering and students (Griffiths University) continued research on the pollination biology of Craspedia species in relation to altitude . They are also looking at reproductive allocation and dioecy in the stabilised weed species Acetocella vulgaris (formerly Rumex acetocella). Field surveys were undertaken for the threatened species Rutidosis leiolepis (Gen Wright), Euchiton nitidulus (Keith McDougall and GW), Eucalyptus saxatilis (GW), Discaria nitida (GW, John Briggs), Calotis glandulosa (GW, JB). More locations for all of these species were recorded this season Frances Johnston has commenced a Ph.D. looking at, Millfoil, the major plant pest species in Victoria and New South Wales. She will be looking at factors causing its range expansion and management methods for both the plant and the disturbed ground which is its favoured habitat. An Honours project was begun by Jenny Jill on Rutidosis leiolepis examining the clonality of species. The fire response of threatened species was examined (GW, JB) there was 50% mortality of those Discaria nitida plants that were burnt. There is no sign of any seedling establishment yet. Fire monitoring after wildfire and hazard reduction burns in subalpine / montane vegetation (GW, Dave Woods, Jo Caldwell) continued. In two years fine fuels at one Sawpit Creek site were back to pre-burn levels. The Alpine Range Transects which includes sites near Kosciuszko and Gungartan were remeasured this year by Dane Wimbush and Gen Wright, it was 40 years since they were first measured. This is the start of a project to revisit some of the alpine and subalpine transects that were set up by Dane Wimbush and Alec Costin after removal of grazing and burning in the high country.

Revegetation and Soils.
With the help of a large contingent of student volunteers from a number of Universities (although primarily ANU), a large revegetation trial was established on Mt Twynam. This trial has been set up to look for solutions to the broad-scale erosion problems occurring in the more exposed areas of the Main Range. Students also helped with the revegetation associated with the upgrade of the track in the summit area, concentrating on the Mt. Kosciuszko area and the Snowy River Pinch Pit, planting over 25,000 plants over the summer. An Honours project carried out by Katrina Cousins (ANU) on the assessment of soil disturbance in the Perisher and Betts Creek catchments has just been completed and a Graduate Diploma student, Andrew Growcock(ANU), has been working on the changes to hydrology in the same two catchments and should be finished by the end of winter 1999. Alec Costin and Dane Wimbush returned to the mountains this year to pass on a wealth of knowledge to the lucky staff members who got to spend the week with them. Alec and Dane also passed on some of their former study sites to members of the NPWS so that they can continue to be monitored into the next millennium.

Visitor Monitoring
Again with the help of a large contingent of student volunteers a comprehensive visitor monitoring and survey program was carried out for the alpine area of Kosciuszko National Park. Thirty three days of monitoring took place over the summer and autumn period so as to understand visitors usage, demands and impacts on this fragile and unique environment. This program of monitoring is intended to continue over the next couple of years so that trends and problem areas can be identified and a comprehensive management plan for the area be produced.

A summary of fieldwork in the Victorian Alps and Tasmanian Alpine areas would be welcomed for the next edition of the newsletter.

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Get Together

Catherine Pickering has suggested a pre-summer field season get together for all interested researchers in the Snowy Mountains (and elsewhere if people are interested), probably in late November/early December as soon as the Universities break up for the summer. This would be largely informal with researchers putting up a couple of overheads and giving a brief overview of their intended work for the season. This would enable some cross-fertilisation of ideas and the session would end with a meal together before people disperse to their various research plots.

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No response to global threats

Three projects arising from the workshops at the Global Threats to the Australian Snow Country conference last year were submitted to the Australian Alps Liaison Committee. These projects covered areas of alpine climate modelling, biological indicators of shifting climate and monitoring UV-B levels. None was recommended for funding.

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Hybridisation in Australian alpine Ranunculus: Species maintenance through habitat selection

Eight species of Ranunculus hybridise extensively in the alpine region of mainland Australia, representing one of the worlds best examples of complex fine scale hybridisation. Hybrids are found only in narrow ecotonal areas between the different microhabitats occupied by each species. These ecotones are rarely more than a metre wide, making them also the narrowest documented hybrid zones in the plant kingdom.

The species are morphologically very distinct, with hybrids exhibiting intermediacy in all characters examined. Each species can be characterised by diagnostic genetic markers, and it has been shown that narrow clines in the frequency of these markers correspond with narrow clines in morphology across hybrid zones, confirming the inference that these areas of morphological transition are indeed zones of hybridisation between distinct gene pools.

The group is entirely interfertile, as revealed by artificial crossing, with F1 and F2 interspecific hybrids and backcrossed individuals viable and fully fertile. It is interesting to note that natural interspecific pollen transfer results in substantial hybrid seed production within parental populations, where mature hybrid plants are absent.

It is hypothesised that hybridisation is restricted purely by habitat specialisation and intense disruptive selection against hybrids within parental habitats. The survival and growth of parental and hybrid seedlings planted into various habitats strongly supports this hypothesis. Parental species were most successful in their own habitat, with hybrid performance intermediate to that of the two parental species in each parental habitat. Hybrids out-performed parental species in most hybrid zones, suggesting that they may be adaptively superior under certain conditions.

Nuclear and Chloroplast DNA sequence data supports a model of recent (Pleistocene) dispersal of Ranunculus from alpine New Guinea/East Asia and a subsequent rapid radiation within the Australian alpine zone. The absence of geographical barriers within this very small and isolated alpine area suggests that speciation may be associated with strong environmental selection rather than allopatric divergence in this monophyletic group.

Certain conservation and management issues are raised by this research. Firstly, the genetic integrity of the recognised species of Ranunculus is dependant on the stability and integrity of the habitats to which they belong. Because there are no intrinsic barriers preventing gene flow between the species, widespread hybridisation could potentially lead to the disappearance of recognised forms through introgression. There is some evidence that in the past, habitat change brought about by cattle grazing in the alpine zone promoted hybridisation in this group, and indeed led to the local disappearance of certain recognisable species.

Although cattle grazing has now ceased in this region, other land use practices, including direct and secondary effects of tourism, have the potential to alter alpine microhabitats in many ways over the long term. The consequences of anthropogenic habitat change on the status and integrity of these species is difficult to predict, but must be considered in management decisions.

Tristan Armstrong, Division of Botany, Australian National University, Canberra 0200 Australia

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"Inclemency" Wragge and His Observatory

The meteorologist, Clement Lindley Wragge established an observatory on the summit of Mt Kosciuszko in 1897. This was before Federation and he was Government Meteorologist for the Colony of Queensland at this time. Prior to this, Wragge had done meteorological work in England and had erected observatories on Ben Nevis in Scotland, where he made a daily ascent for 8 months, and on Mount Wellington in Tasmania in 1895.

The summit of Mt Kosciuszko was chosen as being a high altitude location in the track of significant weather events and disturbances. Despite approval of the project by the International Meteorological conference held in Paris in 1896 and its subsequent approval by the government of New South Wales, no funds were forthcoming. Instead, an appeal for private subscriptions and a donation from Adelaide raised £150.

The party left Brisbane on November 28, 1897; departing Jindabyne on December 2. They reached the summit of Mt Kosciuszko on December 4 and had the observatory fully functioning by December 10. At this time Wragge left to set up a low altitude station at Merimbula on the far south coast of New South Wales. Wragge's son Clement Junior was given charge of this station which was in operation by January 1, 1898.

Original members of the party led by Clement Wragge were Captain Iliff of Cape Morton, Bernard Ingleby of Adelaide and B. de Burgh Newth of Candelo. Ingleby's St Bernard dog, Zoroaster also accompanied the party. During the winter Captain Iliff returned to Queensland and H.I. Jensen, a young Dane, joined the group. Both he and Ingleby left at the end of 1898 and R.L. Burcher joined. Clement Wragge Junior, who had been stationed at the Merimbula observatory took Burcher's place in 1899.

During that first summer the observers were accommodated in an arctic pyramid tent and sleeping bags of tanned sheepskin. This period was not without incident, and a severe storm which carried away the tent on February 13 enforced a return to Jindabyne. Despite appalling conditions the instruments and records were secured before their departure and they returned a few days later to shelter among the rocks while the tent was retrieved and mended.

The first snows fell in March of 1898 and it immediately became clear that their accommodation would have to be improved. An urgent appeal to the Premier of NSW gained $ £400 in timely assistance. A two room weatherboard hut measuring about 8 x 3m was erected by Arthur Mawson, a builder from Cooma, and "winter clothing, special waterproofs, gum boots, snow shoes and Norwegian 'skies', with other necessaries of a like nature, were also provided".

Four-hourly observations continued successfully throughout the winter. During blizzards, the observer held on to a rope attached to the door and crawled on his stomach out to the instruments. One or two members of the group undertook the arduous and hazardous journey to Jindabyne every 4 to 6 weeks to post the records to the Chief Bureau? at Brisbane. While returning to the summit in August, 1898, Jensen was overtaken by the 'snow-sleep' (hypothermia) and nearly lost his life.

The existence of the observatory was widely reported in the newspapers and this prompted the first 'tourist trips' to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko. Treks organised by local graziers included the provision of riding and pack horses, tent, food and the services of a guide at the cost £ 1 per person per day. Additionally, members of the observatory team were the first to ski to Blue Lake and Mt Townsend.

The Mt Kosciuszko observatory operated until the winter of 1900. Later the hut was maintained by the Tourist Bureau until it was burnt to the ground in 1914 after being struck by lightening.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has been able to obtain a copy of the data from 1898 which were originally published in the Queensland Government Papers of 1902. However, the later data are believed to be irretrievably lost, following a fire at Wragge's home. If by some miracle anyone knows the location of a copy, could they let us know? It seems a great shame to lose this important historical data which was only obtained with such dedicated and courageous effort.

Mary Green Snowy Region Visitor Centre, PO Box 2228, Jindabyne, NSW, 2627

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Mountain Forum

This is a reminder of the currently active e-mail lists within the Mountain Forum network. If you would like to subscribe to any of them, please send a message to mfmod@mtnforum.org, or subscribe via their web site at: http://www2.mtnforum.org/mtnforum/survey/survey.htm

Mtn-Forum@mtnforum.org (573 subscribers)(approximately 10 postings each week) This is the common area of the Mountain Forum. The focus is on discussion and news in mountain environments, communities and sustainable mountain development worldwide. New subscribers are asked to introduce themselves to the group.

MF-Summary@mtnforum.org (387 subscribers)(One posting every two weeks) A bi-weekly read-only summary of the topics discussed in all of the Mountain Forum discussion lists. This summary is a list made up of the subject line of each posting, and a repeat posting of important announcements and information newly available on-line. As additional discussion lists are opened within the Mountain Forum, this bi-weekly summary will help indicate when and where the active discussion is taking place. For those subscribers who do not wish to receive the full traffic of the open lists, this summary provides a concise way to stay in touch with what's happening in the Mountain Forum.

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The Royal Geographical Society-IBG Conference January 2000. Sussex University.

Papers are currently being called for this conference which will include a day session under the theme Mountain Research: Retrospect and Prospect which was decided by the Mountain Research Group Committee. It is expected to consist of two sessions:

a) Mountain Research and Natural Disaster Reduction 1990-1999
In the morning, papers examining the contribution of research in mountains to the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (1990-1999) will be presented. This would embrace particularly, but not exclusively, physical geography. Dr. David Petley will convene this session.

b)Research Directions towards the International Year of the Mountains 2002

In the afternoon papers will look forward to the International Year of the Mountains 2002 and look at the likely directions of future research and implications for policy initiatives. Dr Don Funnell will convene this session.

Please get in touch with convenors if you are interested in presenting a paper at one of these sessions.

Extra
The Royal Geographical Society -IBG Mountain Research Group now has a website, which includes an internet-searchable research database. This database should become a valuable tool for scientists working in the mountains to identify others with similar interests, working in similar areas, or even living in the same part of the world. So visit the website at http://www.sci.port.ac.uk/geology/rgsmrg/rgsmrg.htm and add details about yourself and your research!

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Global Warming

A recent issue of Nature (Pounds et al. 1999) has an article about climate change in the highland cloud forests at Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Apparently recent warming has caused changes in species distribution and abundance. Twenty of 50 species of frogs and toads in a 30-km2 study area have disappeared. These population crashes are part of a range of demographic changes that have altered communities of birds, reptiles and amphibians, and are linked to recent warming and patterns of dry-season mist frequency. The biological and climatic patterns suggest that atmospheric warming has raised the average altitude of the cloud bank.

J. Alan Pounds, Michael P. L. Fogden & John H. Campbell (1999) Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain Nature 398, 611 - 615.

A summary of this article can be read if you register (free) with "Nature". The summary is on the web at: http://www.nature.com/server-java/Propub/nature/398608A0.abs_frameset

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International Year of Mountains

The Mountain Forum has established a new section of their Web Page dedicated to the International Year of Mountains 2002.

The International Year of Mountains 2002 will pass us by in Australia unless we start getting programs in place now and raise Government awareness. This web page will be a good place to get ideas onto an International level so send any contributions/ideas to the Mountain Forum Moderator .

Mountain Geography
The Mountain Forum is also offering a new e-mail list which will focus on Mountain Geography.

The new list is a joint project between the Mountain Forum and the Association of American Geographers' newly formed Mountain Geography Specialty Group. The list will be administrated by the Mountain Forum Moderator for an introductory period, and will later be moderated by the Mountain Geography Specialty Group. If you would like to subscribe, just send a message to majordomo@igc.or with the words "subscribe mf-geography "as the first line of your message.

International Year of the Mountains
FAO has been invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to be the Lead Agency in the UN System responsible for coordinating efforts to observe the International Year of the Mountains. FAO's Council the executive organ of the organisation's governing body at its last meeting in November, accepted the invitation for FAO to take on this new responsibility. An important first step in preparing the IYM was to convene the Fifth ad hoc Inter-Agency Meeting on Chapter 13, which was held in Rome 10-12 March 1999. The meeting provided an opportunity for members to report on progress made in implementing Chapter 13 since the last gathering of the group in October 1996, but the main focus was on preparing for the International Year of the Mountains. The meeting was well attended and was considered by participants to be a good start in launching the process.

21st Session of the EFC Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds
The 21st Session of the European Forestry Commission's Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds was held in Marienbad, Czech Republic from 6 to 11 October. The session brought together representatives of member countries of the working party to discuss the theme of Integrated Watershed Management. The final report of this meeting is available in English, Spanish and French through the web sites of both FAO and the Mountain Forum.

UNASYLVA Issue on Mountains
Unasylva, FAO's international journal of forestry and forest industries, has devoted a recent issue (195) entirely to mountains, focusing on the challenges facing mountain development in the twenty-first century. The subsequent issue (196) also contains several articles on related mountain themes. The journal is available in electronic format on FAO's internet site and hotlinked through the Mountain Forum site. Hard copy versions are also available in English, Spanish and French by contacting FAO directly.

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Task Manager Report 1992-97

After some delays in the publication process, a five-year review of Chapter 13 implementation is now available. The review, entitled "Chapter 13 in action 1992-97: A task manager's report", was carried out by Martin Price of the Mountain Regions Program in the Environmental Change Unit at the University of Oxford. This useful report provides a stock-taking of global and regional activities and initiatives, covers major issues identified in the various consultations held, looks at how successful implementation has been and progress in several areas related to Chapter 13. The report will be available very shortly both electronically and in hard copy.

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Snowy Mountains field tour in November

The NSW Branch of the Soil Science Society in conjunction with Stuart Johnston (NPWS) and Richard Greene (ANU) has organised a field tour of the Snowy Mountains area from 29 November to 1 December 1999. The tour will be over three days and will start in Canberra with an examination of dryland salinity issues and then move on to some of the severe land degradation problems in the Bredbo area. It will stay two nights in Jindabyne looking at various aspects of the alpine region including alpine soils, revegetation in alpine areas and soil water movement, water allocations to the Snowy River and soil/forestry issues before returning to Canberra. The tour will proceed by bus from Canberra to Jindabyne and the field sites, and then return by bus to Canberra. If you intend to travel to Canberra by car to attend the field tour then cars may be parked in Canberra while you attend the tour. Tour costs are $140.00 for students, $190.00 for ASSSI members, and $240.00 for others. Costs include transport and lunches on tour and the field tour dinner but does not include accommodation. A variety of different styles of accommodation at Jindabyne (ranging in price upwards from $25.00 per night) is available. For more details contact Leigh Sullivan at lsulliva@scu.edu.au or by telephone on (02) 6620 3742

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