by Professor Darryl Jones
There is a Queensland Kauri (Agathis robusta), also known as Kauri Pine or Smooth-barked Kauri, growing conspicuously at the Seven Oaks Street site in Taringa. It is a genuine treasure, of unmeasurable importance and value to people, and to a huge variety of wild creatures that live nearby or occasionally visit.
It must have been planted there a very long time ago, as this species naturally occurs in only two locations: around Maryborough and Fraser Island, and on the Atherton Tablelands. This disjunct distribution tells us something of this tree’s ancient lineage; this was a species which covered much of coastal Queensland, long-before the arrival of dinosaurs (and survives long after they disappeared). These two locations are remnants of former dominance.
The district’s major tree
Kauris can reach a height of 50 metres so this one has some way to go yet. But already it is the major tree of the entire district, dominating the skyline and acting as a prominent feature.
We began to appreciate the immense geographical significance of this single tree during our studies of the daily movements of birds such as Rainbow Lorikeets and Torresian Crows, but also Eastern Koels and Channel-billed Cuckoos. All of these, admittedly noisy birds, used the Kauri as their main geographical marker as they moved through the area, especially as they flew towards the trees they were going to roost in for the night. All of these birds also perched in this tree in order to survey the local area, and all have been known to sleep within its dense foliage as well.
A remarkable number of species
But these are just the big, obvious birds. In our observations, we recorded a remarkable number of species visiting, resting, feeding and almost certainly nesting within the tree. These included Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Noisy Friarbirds, Silvereyes, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes and Pied Currawongs. But microbats also use it too, although we currently don’t know which species.
A decades-in-the-making habitat
Ecologically, big trees are just part of the overall habitat mix of an area. They are crucial as the upper stories of a complex wildlife landscape and combine with the smaller trees and shrubs below to provide a dense and continuous environment for animals to hide, shelter, feed and breed, even in a highly human-dominated location such as Taringa. Such a habitat takes decades to develop and become a familiar and secure home for local and visiting species.
Some trees cannot be replaced
But some trees are particularly significant. There structural dominance and overall size represent the framework around which the entire local landscape is constructed. Remove that one component and the entire ecosystem fails. It is simply impossible – and impossibly naïve – to think that such an interconnected and prominent long-term natural construction could be replicated or replaced.
No, it’s NOT just a tree!
Professor Darryl Jones is a behavioural ecologist working in the fields of urban ecology and wildlife management. He is especially interested in urbanisation and the way certain species are adapting to this process. Darryl’s new book is ‘The Birds at my Table’, a fascinating look at how and why humans feed birds, and the importance of this relationship. You can learn more about Darryl’s book on Facebook: @thebirdsatmytable