Dry Tropics Biodiversity Group Inc.
(inform, educate, enthuse, implement)
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Just one philosophical approach to education and awareness
1. Ecosystems, the "Plant Community" approach
I find the Townsville region very rich in plant life and this cry's out for more recognition. The Region contains many easily accessible, largely undamaged and relatively stable ecosystems. But there is a lot to find out. These are real treasures, and we can learn and gain many useful outcomes from a more widespread understanding about how the components interact and function.
One of the main ways to describe an ecosystem is to describe the plant communities. E.g. "Sheoak forest" and Closed Creek Edge Forest" is an easy concept for any to understand. "Wild Plant Hot Spots" begins to show some of this as well as simply showing interest in plant species. The "Plant Community" (...ecosystem) thrust of "Hot Spots" will be further developed strongly with time. Those who know what has been going on will realise that this web page takes "Hot Spots" a big step further (thanks to many who helped). Although "Hot Spots" still appears as a "rather boring bald plant list", it is a powerful foundation for later work. My invitation to experts in other fields is to think about doing focused work on the same spots.
We would love to see our own local plants showcased in public garden's, especially to see slices of our plant communities... It's easier to educate the public about plant communities, and "ecosystems" and this is the education that the public really needs. Plant species are really important too, but are a specialty interest, they are too difficult for most to absorb... and most people dislike even short walks in the trackless steep bush.
2. Ecosystems: a "Plant Species" (plant families?) approach valuable to people with gardens
We know very little about our local plant species likes and dislikes. Nationally we have and will continue to learn most about how native plants interact with soils water and fertiliser, from our gardens. Many of our plants simply do look great, as do exotic plants. But growing exotic plants teaches us nothing extra. Getting into plant/butterfly relationships seems to be simply the gardener's paradise, but it is a very potent educator... it leads into appreciating insect interactions, liking garden plants to be eaten and obviously treating pesticides with caution. Quite apart from the butterflies, a huge array of other insects live off plants. Plants attract birds directly, but so do many of these other insects. There is great potential to learn about ecosystems in suburban gardens. This is not a value that results from growing exotics.
Learning from suburban gardens is not pie in the sky idealism, it is really here now. If you know the names of the plants in your garden then you will be able to directly contribute to the knowledge. Develop your garden now, because within a few years (unless someone rolls over me with a bulldozer) you will be able to enter your data directly into our database, others will have to do no arduous typing and translation of your experiences to get the data in... and your experiences will directly contribute to our understanding of our plants. This can be extended to butterflies, birds, insects.... Realise that our local species live here, no-one else in Australia can duplicate our environment, our contributions are unique and irreplaceable.
2. Ecosystems: the "Evolution" approach.
Geological and evolutionary history also gives very necessary and a much deeper understanding of ecosystems.
It is a really good practical approach for good long term planners in our homes and businesses to consider just the next three years. We are all trained that way, indeed we are totally inept if we plan for the next 100 years.
But ecosystems really do work in terms of thousands or millions of years. Indeed we are equally inept if we do not consider ecosystems in that time frame. Thinking both in terms of 3 years and for other matters in terms of millions of years is a simple skill really. For many it is fascinating.
In Europe I was in awe of history... treasured old buildings sitting there in front of me, valued so much that they were totally rebuilt after war... nothing like Australia. But we do have a far more ancient past right on our doorsteps, and it is something that the highly human modified European environment has very little of. (Farmers in Germany usually know their wild deer by name... you really do see deer observing towers dotted all over the place... have a car accident and that's fine, but kill a deer and you are likely to be strung up to the proverbial nearest tree).
I almost apologise for saying what follows in this paragraph... and many should(?) choose to ignore it...that's OK... But it is an inescapable fact that humans are currently in a world of plenty, and are exploding in numbers with few predators... But these things inescapably also go in cycles... this has happened many times in the past to other species.
I know that what motivates me is different than what interests most... that's OK... but I do hope that many readers can find something of interest here. Doug Silke
Although this paragraph is a real mouthful... credit where credit is due. I was partly pushed in this direction by "The National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity" and "The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development" and the associated unpublished document about Queensland's Regional Ecosystems Priorities (I forgot the exact title).
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