It’s just a tree!

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

16 replies
  1. June Lobegeiger
    June Lobegeiger says:

    This is a very important tree to the birds in this area and beyond. It must be saved. Any development on this site must be kept well away from these 2 trees. We don’t want to see them die as a result of the development.

  2. John Mayze
    John Mayze says:

    It is deeply disturbing that TriCare demonstrates absolutely no care for the environment at 52 Seven Oaks Street, despite two trees on the site – including the Kauri Pine discussed here – having been deemed of cultural significance. As operators in the aged-care business for several decades, one would have thought that TriCare would prioritise the needs of the elderly and the environment, and create a facility demonstrating best practice in aged-care facility design which evidence shows should include access to outdoor and green spaces. Imagine the immense pleasure the Kauri Pine, Jacarandas and Poinciana could give residents of an aged-care facility at the site?

  3. Helen Purvis
    Helen Purvis says:

    The Kauri Pine is an ancient species and MUST be saved. This is a very beautiful tree and because of its dominance and size on the landscape provides a home for a huge variety of our birdlife. Any development must NOT be allowed to harm this tree as it would ruin the established ecosystem.

  4. Mary Garson
    Mary Garson says:

    This extraordinary tree and its community of native wildlife together bring much pleasure to Taringa locals. I regularly stop to look at it and the resident birdlife on my Sunday afternoon walks. Please don’t do anything that impacts on this tree, its inhabitants, and its immediate habitat.

  5. Kathryn Teakle
    Kathryn Teakle says:

    Professor Darryl Jones’ article about the Kauri Pine and the associated vegetation is inspiring. If only people like him could be given more attention in the media and in city council considerations of town planning, how much more environmentally sensitive our suburbs would be. The current practice of ‘looking like a modern city’ tends to degrade the valuable aspects of what is already there. As he says, bird activity is not random. Birds have their own patterns of activity and are a special feature of Brisbane. We must look after our fauna and our flora.

  6. Andrew Carter
    Andrew Carter says:

    To lose this iconic tree, and what this would mean to the many animals that call it home, is unconscionable. It brings great quality of life to it’s own residents, and to those of us fortunate to surround it. I’m sure the residents of a possible future LOW RISE Tricare development could also take great pleasure in its presence. Must be preserved!

  7. Janet Persal
    Janet Persal says:

    One of the best things about living in Taringa is seeing and hearing the birds and other wildlife this tree attracts. I grew up in the Fraser Coast where we have Kauri Pines anc having such an iconic natural landmark so close by brings back fond memories and a little piece of country to the city for me. Don’t let Taringa become a concrete jungle.

  8. Maureen Yeats
    Maureen Yeats says:

    We need to be paying more attention to the trees and bushland in our suburbs. Tricare is demonstrating total disregard for the local people and wildlife. An iconic tree like this Queensland Kauri, with so many more years of life should be maintained for the benefit of us all. Aged care facilities are meant to enhance our lives, not diminish them. We do have to have denser living, but we also need to have more focus on retaining what bush and wildlife we have in our suburbs.

  9. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    We moved to Seven Oaks Street a year ago from Iona Terrace only a kilometre away as we downsized luckily for us in Iona Terrace we were zoned residential A. Unluckily for us tempus fugit and we had to downsize. We chose our now address with the understanding that we would be surrounded by like residential buildings no more than 3 storeys and that the surroundings would be maintained as a leafy inner city suburb albeit older homes will be removed to make place for small developments such as the building we live in
    Sadly across the road in Sundridge Street where a new development of 3 Townhouses is due to commence a very lovely frangipani tree which had no affect on the development was removed by Council even though we expressed our dismay to the Council who replied new trees will be planted
    New trees take forty years to grow to give us the shade and environment we have chosen in our new home
    Albeit we do not know what foliage was removed to build our now home so not wanting to be a NIMBY all we can say is developers rule

  10. Sally Adams
    Sally Adams says:

    The statement “some trees cannot be replaced” is critical. Too many developments are ripping down beautiful, mature trees in what was ‘leafy Taringa’ to be replaced by non-descript saplings. These offer no shade or character to the local area.
    The Kauri Line in question provides shade, habitat and incredible character to our local area. The fact that it is already protected means it should be untouchable.

  11. Jason Walk
    Jason Walk says:

    With this been a 24 hour centre would the lights be on all night effecting the life styles of the surrounding residents? I know I would not be able to sleep with 12-14 levels of lights on all night! Just doesn’t make sense having this type of development in this location. Go 5 mins further out buy average and spread the age care out. Plus you are on a very steep slope at taringa you would not be able to pick up a family member in their wheel chair and take them out of the facility for fresh air. That again does not make sense. #brisbanecitycouncil should squash this now. It shows tricare are not thinking about what’s best for their residents

  12. Brendan Carroll
    Brendan Carroll says:

    It will be a great shame on modern society if a rare Qld Kauri landmark, is to be sacrificed, chopped bulldozed, simply to squeeze in saturation CBD-type highrise buildings.

    It will also be ironic if aged people, were brought in, like a confined commodity, disoriented from their own suburbs, to be traded as the packed-in offsetting benefit.
    The chirpy habitat of the amazing birdlife that they would have valued so much, extinguished, as a price of a sanitised, desolate, clattering institutionalised concrete habitat.

  13. Jo Edwards
    Jo Edwards says:

    I am appalled at the possibility that this beautiful Qld Kauri tree could be demolished . One of the joys of living in Taringa, and other surrounding suburbs, is the presence of many large and mature trees which have been protected and valued by the residents

    The simple but very important ways trees contribute to well being and enjoyment are numerous. The joy of listening to many varieties of birds and ensuring that their natural habitat is protected is paramount to residents’ lifestyles. The simple joy of a shady park and a green and leafy outlook cannot be underestimated in my opinion.

    I implore the brains trust behind the projected high rise development in this area to show some compassion, and empathy to our senior citizens who will be living in these buildings. Our natural habitats deserve your protection and the community would support your decision to keep this beautiful tree and put quality of life issues for our aged community before the mighty dollar .

  14. Monique Mayze
    Monique Mayze says:

    To think that the Kauri Pine at 52 Seven Oaks Street has stood for up to 100 years, untouched, a magnificent sentinel tree for the suburb! The land has been used multiple times for different purposes and every owner and developer has respected the preciousness of that tree, and in more recent times, its protected status. Until TriCare. TriCare has shown such disregard for the community of Taringa, that one wonders why they claim to care about its elderly. Taringa’s current and future elderly are living there right now and they don’t want towers in their suburb or protected trees destroyed. It’s possible to accommodate a 250-bed aged-care facility on that site and preserve the character of the suburb along with the precious vegetation at the site. ‘Corporate social responsiblity’ may sound like buzz words, but it’s about organisations taking responsibility for the impacts of their decisions and activities on society and the environment. It is essential that TriCare be accountable for demonstrating its corporate social responsibility in its treatment of the people of Taringa and the environment – including the magnificent Kauri Pine – at the Seven Oaks Street site.

  15. Ian Wilkey
    Ian Wilkey says:

    I expect an arborist could age the Kauri but I wonder if the seedling came from the nursery on Fraser Island between 1880 and 1900.

  16. Janette Fadden
    Janette Fadden says:

    The Council has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to being ‘green’ by saving the trees on this site. The current unit developments in the area are ugly and leave no space for shrubs let alone trees. When is the Council going to realise the value of the cooling effect of shade trees? Removing trees and replacing them with concrete heats up our environment. The kauri pine and the poinciana on the site are significant trees of heritage value that should be still standing long after we have all turned to dust.
    They are irreplaceable.


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