Shenton Park Banksia Woodlands¦MAY

Young Naturalists, All Branches

We were very fortunate to have Daniel Boase-Jelinek, the Convenor of the Friends of Shenton Bushland, to take adult members and Young Nats through this area on Sunday, May 20.

This bushland is a Protected Class A Conservation Reserve and was first listed 25 years ago, after a short campaign to save it from becoming an industrial estate. At that time it was weed infested and had been neglected for years, with regular fires destroying much of the Jarrah canopy. Since then it has been weeded every Sunday morning by the Friends, who keep a close eye on any potential problems. An example that Daniel gave was plants that appear in the bushland that were once considered weeds, may eventually become necessary to support the ecosystem. For example, they currently remove various Brachychiton, Leptospermum, and Acacia species, some of which may be more tolerant of the changing climate.

The massive hail storm in 2011, which basically removed the entire canopy from the bushland, created problems in succeeding years for Jarrah trees when they were affected by a series of very hot dry summers. This made them vulnerable to insect and fungal infestations which are still causing the Jarrah to die. Such events are likely to increase with climate change. Daniel pointed out that the bushland is in a state of transition, which is happening so fast that Jarrah, Banksias and Allocasuarinas may not be able to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions. For example, we seem to be experiencing a new pattern for rainfall. The rainfall so far for this year appears to be following a recently observed pattern: summer rainfall above average, winter rainfall (so far) below average.

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Banksias also can suffer from Sudden Autumn Death (SAD), in which mature Banksias suddenly die without warning following the first rains of autumn. As a result of this syndrome, it is important to ensure we get as much recruitment of Banksias as possible to offset the deaths. According to a PhD thesis by Roberto Crosti in 2011, it seems that having a thick leaf litter layer beneath Banksia trees reduces the chances of seedling germination. Another factor affecting recruitment of Banksias is the number of birds eating Banksias’ seeds. Shenton Bushland currently has a resident population of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos and visiting groups of Carnaby’s Cockatoos that forage on Banksia flowers and seeds (below, M Gardner).

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Daniel took us to a thicket of Banksia sessilis which appears to be doing quite well and is very important in supporting the Black Cockatoos in the bushland—so it is not all doom and gloom.

Roz and Laurton managed to see four different fungi. Pycnoporus coccineus or Scarlet Bracket Fungus, Pisolithus tinctorius, which if cut through with a sharp knife has bright orange spores, an old Ganoderma that grows on wood, looking not unlike a coral plate and a Schizophyllum communeII—a fan-like bracket fungus with a white-grey colour.

We had a very interesting and informative walk all around the bushland and pathways provided. Many thanks go to Roz Hart and Laurton McGurk, Cate Tauss and, of course, Daniel.

Maureen Gardner