Australian Institute of Alpine Studies


No. 6 October 1999


First annual meeting of the AIAS

Tasmanian news

The Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service

Queenslanders move south

Occurrence of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Across a Range of Alpine Humus Soil Conditions in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia

Autumnal mass reduction in insectivorous marsupials Antechinus swainsonii and Antechinus agilis (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in Australia

Mountain Protection Day




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The next newsletter is due out in late December/early January. It is hoped to publish an account of the AIAS meeting in December together with abstracts of the talks. Could anyone intending giving a talk - or who just wants to put in an article, conference notice, abstract of upcoming paper please send the text to Ken Green by early to mid December (certainly before Christmas).

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 (see Newsletter No. 5). For details contact Leigh Sullivan or by telephone on (02) 6620 3742

First annual meeting of the AIAS

A meeting of the Australian Institute of Alpine Studies will be held in Jindabyne on 9th December 1999. The purpose of this meeting, apart from getting to know each other, is for each researcher working in the mountains this summer (or indeed this winter) to present a short (10 minutes) talk about their work, what they are doing, where, expected results, etcetera. This should provide a fertile ground for comments from other workers and lead to possible collaborations. The talks will not be heavily structured - overheads will be enough so that the whole thing is kept pretty informal. The meeting will conclude with dinner at the Chit Thai restaurant at Snowline (just out of Jindabyne). The CRC for Sustainable Tourism subprogram in Mountain Tourism (Griffiths University) is supporting the day and may even be able to contribute towards the cost of the dinner. Accommodation for those that need it will be sorted out as best as possible with use of the Research Station at Waste Point (courtesy Snowy Mountains Region Heritage Unit), boarding out with locals etc.

To get some idea of numbers could you please respond to Ken Green to say whether you will be attending/giving a talk/attending the dinner/needing accommodation. It is intended that the second annual meeting will be at a similar time in 2000 in Melbourne to coincide with the Australian Ecological Society's symposium (see later).

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Tasmanian news

Two contributions about what is happening in alpine Tasmania follow - next newsletter will hopefully have Victorian news.

Alpine ecology in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, at the University of Tasmania by Kerry Bridle

Jamie Kirkpatrick is our leader, instigator of projects and chief provider of funds via two ARC grants (1995-97, 1998-00). The first grant was spent looking at environmental correlates of floristics and formation classes between the alpine areas of the mainland and Tasmania. We had a two-week trip to the mainland to collect vegetation and soils data, and various trips around Tasmania doing the same. Two papers have been published from this work, and the third on soil characteristics is in prep.

The second ARC grant enabled us to revisit many of the sites (another two-week jolly to the mainland) to collect invertebrate data for the same sites, and more trips around Tasmania. The invertebrate collections were done by Peter McQuillan and the identifications await him! During the 98-99 summer (also part of the second grant) we revisited plots of burnt and unburnt vegetation on Mt Read, Mt Field and Mt Wellington. These sites were last surveyed over 15 years ago. We have also collected soils for these sites and are in the process of organising the data.

Other projects (also part of the second grant) include the dynamics of cushion plant communities. JBK and others have collected data over a 20 year period from transects in Mt Field National Park. Photographs were taken in 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998. These photographs have been digitised and data on species dynamics are being collated.

During the 1999-2000 season, we will be revisiting Jasmyn Lynch's fjaeldmark plots on the Southern Range.

Anita Wild is one year into her PhD study on revegetation of closed walking and 4wd tracks. She has some inherited sites which are more than 20 years old at Cradle Mountain, and numerous sites of different ages on the Eastern Central Plateau.

Sapphire McMullan-Fisher has started her PhD this year. She is looking at the identification and distribution of fungi on Mt Wellington (and other, non-alpine, communities).

Emma Pharo-Little has joined the Department as a lecturer and we hope to get her out in the field identifying alpine bryophytes, although she seems to be busy already.

Mark Poll, working with Lorne Kriwoken, is looking at visitor experience in the World Heritage Area, focusing on the Overland Track (Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair).

And I hope to finish my study on the impact of vertebrate herbivores on alpine and treeless subalpine vegetation - very soon. I look forward to seeing the results from the recent surveys of the Kosciusko sites!

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The Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service by Jennie Whinam

The Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service is currently undertaking several management research projects in the alpine zone of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. These include:

mapping the vegetation at 1:25,000 scale (Sib Corbett) - these data can then be used to extrapolate, for example, fire sensitivity and fire asset protection priorities;

ecological monitoring and pathologic research into the cause and effects of a new high altitude dieback (Pine Lake dieback) causing death in pencil pines (Athrotaxis cupressoides) and associated shrub species (Jennie Whinam, Tim Rudman & Nicki Chilcott from P&WS with Caroline Mohammed & Kylie Shanahan Uni of Tas);

impacts of walkers in the Western Arthur Range and on the Central Plateau (Jennie Whinam & Nicki Chilcott), in an attempt to determine damage from different levels of trampling in representative vegetation types, subsequent recovery rates and sustainable carrying capacities;

assessing the reservation and conservation status of sphagnum peatlands, under the National Reserve System (Jennie Whinam & Nicki Chilcott) and the impacts of moss harvesting (Whinam J. & Buxton R. (1997) Sphagnum peatlands of Australasia: an assessment of harvesting sustainability. Biological Conservation 82:21-29);

impacts of recreational horse riding on the Central Plateau and of commercial horseriding immediately adjacent to Cradle Mountain National Park have been investigated and the results published (Whinam J., Cannell, E.J., Kirkpatrick, J.B. & Comfort M. (1994) Studies on the potential impact of recreational horseriding on some alpine environments of the Central Plateau, Tasmania. Journal of Environmental Management 40:103-117; Whinam J. & Comfort M. (1996) The impact of commercial horse riding on sub-alpine environments at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, Australia. Journal of Environmental Management 47:61-70.)

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Queenslanders move south

The Queensland chapter of the Australian Institute of Alpine Studies has been busy over the winter, and will be returning south in November.

During the winter Dr Pickering (CP) has been working on Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism activities, co-ordinating the development of the subprogram in Mountain Tourism resulting in the first round of grants going out. This is a co-operative program involving a range of interested parties with the goal of ensuring the ecological, economic and cultural sustainability of tourism in Australia. There are a range of organisations involved already including: Universities: Griffith University, La Trobe University, University of Canberra and University of Tasmania, Parks organisations: NSW NPWS, Parks Victoria, Parks and Wildlife Service of Tasmania Australian Alps Liaison Committee, Tourism organisations: Mt Buffalo Chalet, Mt Hotham Resort Management, Mt Buller Resort, Tourism Snowy Mountains, Thredbo Chamber of Commerce.

Specific projects of an ecological bent that are likely to be of interest include:

The field team has been hard at work during the winter. Michelle Stock has submitted her honours thesis on: The role of invertebrates, specifically seed flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) in the ecology of the alpine region of Kosciuszko National Park, Australia.

Both Pascal Scherrer and Frances Johnston have commenced their PhDs. Pascal is examining The Impact of human activities on vegetation of the alpine region of Mt Kosciuszko. Frances Johnston has started her PhD examining the Ecology and population genetics of the environmental weed Achillea millefolium (Asteracae, Yarrow).

Catherine Pickering and Tristan Armstrong (ANU), the buttercup devotees, have submitted a paper on the impact of climate change on alpine plant communities to the journal Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research and hope to have a second paper finished soon examining its potential impact on rare and threatened alpine plants.

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Occurrence of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Across a Range of Alpine Humus Soil Conditions in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia by Stuart Johnston* and Megan Ryan**

Abstract: The occurrence of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in tall alpine herbfields (Celmisia-Poa alliance) in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia, was examined. Relatively undisturbed areas and areas which had been successfully, and unsuccessfully, rehabilitated in the 1960s and 1970s following severe loss of vegetation and soil erosion were sampled. Most common plant species in undisturbed areas were colonized by AMF, often with greater than 50% of root length being colonized. Colonization of the dominant species, Poa fawcettiae, by AMF was substantially lower in areas which had failed to re-establish vegetation or a soil profile following rehabilitation, and in areas which had been successfully rehabilitated, but had again started to degrade again in the 1990s. This lower colonization may have resulted from a number of factors including Zn released from galvanised wire used in the rehabilitation works, reduced AMF inoculum levels due to loss of topsoil and consequences of the loss of the organic horizon, such as extreme soil temperatures and low soil water. The study indicated that AMF are common in healthy Australian tall alpine herbfields and may need to be considered when planning rehabilitation of degraded sites.

*Forestry Department, School of Resource and Environmental Science, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. Current address: NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, PO Box 2228 Jindabyne, NSW 2627, Australia.

**CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

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Autumnal mass reduction in insectivorous marsupials Antechinus swainsonii and Antechinus agilis (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) in Australia by K. Green

National Parks & Wildlife Service, Snowy Mountains Region, PO Box 2228 Jindabyne, NSW 2627. Australia

Abstract: Autumnal mass reduction is reported for Antechinus spp. (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae) inhabiting seasonally snow-covered environments to add to northern hemisphere records for this phenomenon in rodents and insectivores. There is an increasing mass-related response to autumn by Antechinus spp. from sea level to above the winter snowline at >1500 m. Autumnal mass reduction in individual A. swainsonii from 48.6g to 42.6g amounts to a 12.3% loss between April and May. Based on these figures, the saving in energy use would be considerable, the animal entering winter with a 26.6% increase in daily energy usage compared with 50% had there been no mass loss. Studies with radioactive isotopes show that the difference in mass is a reduction in lean mass rather than due to a metabolization of fat reserves. In annual species such as Antechinus spp. the need to increase mass in late summer only to lose it in autumn prior to a winter beneath the snow seems superfluous. However, the higher mass may be necessary to survive autumn before ambient conditions ameliorate beneath the snow cover. Survival from April to May is higher in heavier animals (that do lose mass in autumn) than lighter animals (with mass only equal to that of other animals after mass-reduction). These lighter animals disappear from the population in autumn. With snow cover in place, Antechinus spp. are able to increase mass towards the breeding season although this may be dependent upon food availability.

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Mountain Protection Day

For many years, the UIAA (The International Mountaineering and Climbing Association), though its Mountain Protection Commission, has been promoting the Mountain Protection Day, a worldwide annual event when all mountaineers and mountain lovers take action to promote awareness of mountain protection, such as cleaning-up, trail restoration, environmental education programs, etc.

The date of the Mountain Protection Day is fixed at the 3rd weekend of September: 18./19.9.1999; 16./17.9.2000; 15./16.9.2001; etc. Looks like we missed it this year- any ideas for next year?

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A conference on "Global change and protected areas" (with a major mountain focus), took place in L'Aquila, Italy, on 8-13 September this year (anyone interested in the outcomes from this should contact )

The World Mountain Forum "The first ever meeting of the world's mountain areas" will take place on 5-12 June 2000 at Chambery-Savoie France (in the French Alps).

Australian Ecological Society 2000
The meeting of the Australian Ecological Society in 2000 will be at LaTrobe University. The dates are 29th November till 1st December 2000. The 3 day conference with post-conference field trips will have as its theme Ecology in Changing Landscape. An alpine ecology symposium has been proposed as part of this and a number of people have agreed to present papers on topics concerning change in the mountains -change with altitude, time, or any ecological gradient. We are also hoping to publish the papers as part of The Proceedings of the Ecological Society. Watch this space!

Global Change and Mountain Regions: An IGBP Initiative for Collaborative Research
Mountain regions represent valuable and partly unique settings to detect and analyse global change processes because of strong altitudinal gradients, which cause significant variations in climatic, hydrological, cryospheric and ecological properties over short distances. Also mountain biodiversity is high, and mountain systems are often sensitive to global change processes. A large body of research is being undertaken in mountain regions worldwide, but the mountain research community could benefit considerably from coordination; existing networks such as the arctic ITEX effort clearly demonstrate the value of cross-site and cross-disciplinary communication. Thus, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP; see has recently endorsed an initiative on "Global Change and Mountain Regions" through its four Core Projects BAHC (Biospheric Aspects of the Hydrological Cycle), GCTE (Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems), PAGES (Past Global Changes), and LUCC (Land Use/Cover Change). The Mountain Research Initiative strives to link & coordinate existing research, to initiate new projects where required, and to foster multi-disciplinarity.

The overall goals of the Initiative are:

  1. to develop strategies for detecting impacts;
  2. to assess likely impacts of global environmental change on mountain regions and downstream communities; and
  3. to develop strategies for sustainable resource management.

The Initiative is structured around four Activities that describe integrated interdisciplinary research:

Activity 1: Long-term monitoring and analysis of indicators of environmental change in mountain regions.
Activity 2: Integrated model-based studies of environmental change in different mountain regions.
Activity 3: Process studies along altitudinal gradients and in associated headwater basins.
Activity 4: Sustainable land use and natural resource management.

For more information regarding the IGBP Initiative on Global Change and Mountain Regions, please contact H. Bugmann or A. Becker.

Harald Bugmann* & Alfred Becker**
*Mountain Forest Ecology, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zentrum, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
** Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany

In addition, it is worth mentioning that a 'Mountain Initiative' has been developing within the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) in recent years. The main point of contact for this is Harald Bugmann.

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The Mountain Forum has a number of good articles on the impacts of climate change on mountain regions in their on-line library.

They include:

They also have about 20 abstracts of site-specific studies of climate change in the mountains, available on the same web page.

If you don't have web access, you can obtain copies of these documents via e-mail from the Mountain Forum Moderator. Please specify your word processing software when you make your request.

For those interested in the impacts of climate change on mountains some key publications are:

1.chapter on "Impacts of climate change on mountain regions" (lead authors M. Beniston and D.G. Fox) in "Climate Change 1995", the report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, published by Cambridge University Press in 1996 (pages 191-213)

2.chapter by Roger Barry and Martin Price on climate change in "Mountains of the World" (edited by B. Messerli and J.D. Ives), published by Parthenon in 1997 (pages 409-445)

3."Views from the Alps: Regional perspectives on climate change" (edited by P. Cebon et al), published by MIT Press in 1998.

4."Global Change in the Mountains" - The proceedings of a conference organised by Martin Price in Oxford in December 1997; - published by Parthenon this year. Martin Price has a few copies available at " half the retail price (10 pounds sterling). Contact Martin Price.

5.and of course: "Snow: A Natural History; an Uncertain Future" 252pp. (edited by K. Green) 1998 (AALC, Canberra/Surrey Beatty & Sons Sydney). Copies still available from Snowy Region Visitors Centre (Jindabyne).

As a contribution to the on-going discussion on climate change in mountain regions, the Mountain Forum has received permission from Nigel J.R. Allan to place the book chapter below in the Mountain Forum On-Line Library:

Price, Martin F. & John R. Haslett. (1995)' Climate Change and Mountain Ecosystems', In: Allan, Nigel J.R.(ed). (1995) Mountains at Risk: Current Issues in Environmental Studies. Manohar. New Delhi. p.73-97.

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The snow season in both the Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alps has again been bad, both in terms of depth (well below average) and duration, with ski resorts being forced to close before or during the school holidays. Once again the NPWS has collaborated with the Snowy Mountains Authority in monitoring the Whites River Snow Course at 1680m to complement the regular snowcourse data from Spencers Creek (the source of all the commercial snow depth charts but not really indicative of what is happening at lower altitudes). The graphs of the two snow courses will be published in the next newsletter.

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