Queensland’s flora is the most diverse amongst the Australian states with over 12 500 species, roughly 50% of Australia’s plant species.
This extraordinary plant diversity reflects the wide range of plant habitats, variety of soils on which they grow and also wide ranging climatic conditions. We have rainforests, eucalypt forests, monsoon forests, coastal heaths, montane heaths, mangrove forests and many more!
By comparison, Great Britain has in the vicinity of 1 400 native species and as many weed species.
Climate change & high altitude cloud forests
Scientists from James Cook University and the Australian Tropical Herbarium have found that most of the rare montane plant species, endemic to high altitude cloud forests in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area will likely not be able to survive in their current natural locations past 2080 as their high-altitude climate changes.
They studied 19 plant species * found in these cloud forests, at least 1 000 metres above sea level, and by even conservation assumptions, predict that most of these species will not have a survivable climate by 2080.
Cloud forests are unique ecosystems typically found on mountainous areas in tropical regions, where the plants strip moisture from the moist air. These forests contain a rich diversity of mosses, ferns and rare plants in a typically low tree canopy on peat-rich soils.
Dr Costion said, “The 19 species represent most of the plants that are restricted to that habitat. It’s highly likely they are found only there because of the climate. There are plenty of other similar soil and substrate environments at lower elevations where they could grow, but the climate is unsuitable.”
Co-author Professor Darren Crayn said that without a suitable environment, the survival of the threatened species may depend on them being grown in botanical gardens under controlled conditions.
* Species include Cryptocarya bellendenkerana, Diospyros sp. Mt Spurgeon, Elaeocarpus sp. Mt Misery, Eucryphia wilkiei, Phaleria biflora, Planchonella sp. Mt Lewis, Tasmannia sp. Mt Bellenden Ker, Uromyrtus metrosideros and Zieria alata.
Reference: “Will tropical mountaintop plant species survive climate change? Identifying key knowledge gaps using species distribution modeling in Australia” by C. Costion, Lalita Simpson, Petina Pert, Monica Carlsen, W. John Kress & Darren Crayn (2015). Published in “Biological Conservation”, issue 191 (2015), pages 322 – 330.
Plunkett Regional Park & surrounds
This area of forest just South-West of Beenleigh is a combination of Plunkett Regional Park, Wickham National Park and Wickham Timber Reserve, and straddles a sandstone plateau and surrounds with rugged sandstone outcrops and cliffs, with eucalypt forests and heath understorey.