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Sustainable Development Harmony: Monitoring the Northern Quoll at the Mount Emerald Wind Farm

By Past Projects, Recent News

Our 5-year Northern Quoll Monitoring Program, conducted in conjunction with the Mount Emerald Wind Farm (MEWF) energy project, has successfully concluded its final round of surveys. The primary aim of this initiative was to monitor and assess the potential impacts of the wind farm development on the endangered Northern quoll. The study encompassed estimates of population size, site occupancy, individual quoll trends, and habitat assessments, and was conducted both post-construction and during ongoing wind farm operations. The results will gain insights that will guide future conservation efforts for this endangered species.

 

The Northern quoll, Australia’s smallest quoll, faces significant threats such as habitat loss, predation by feral cats, and cane toad poisoning, contributing to a significant decline in their distribution. Today, these nocturnal predators are present in limited localised pockets, making monitoring of existing ranges increasingly important. By comparing the Mount Emerald quoll population to control sites in the region, including Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary, Davies Creek, and Walsh River, the study extends beyond the impact site, yielding crucial data on the health of the Mount Emerald quoll population and its habitat whilst providing insights into multiple Atherton Tableland populations.

Quoll Habitat

Camera trap deployment

Camera trap photo allowing for spot analysis

The research methodology involved deploying camera traps arranged in a grid to estimate quoll numbers within the study area. Following each round of camera deployment, our team meticulously examined the imagery, utilising the distinctive spot patterns—akin to fingerprints—exhibited by Northern quolls for individual identification. This approach ensures accurate data collection on population size, distribution, and ecology for populations, which, in turn, contributes to well-informed management decisions and successful conservation efforts.

 

As we navigate the delicate balance between ecological preservation and responsible development, the insights gained from wildlife monitoring programs become the beacon guiding our commitment to a sustainable future. The final round of surveys not only marks the end of this program but also signifies the beginning of a new chapter in our ongoing efforts to protect and conserve the Northern quoll and its habitats Together, we step forward into a future where the harmonious coexistence of wildlife and renewable energy practices is not just a vision but a shared responsibility we embrace.

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Nocturnal Navigators – Uncovering the Secret Lives of Bats

By Past Projects, Recent News

As nocturnal hunters, bats use sound instead of sight to catch their prey, using echolocation to detect even the smallest insect in complete darkness. Echolocation relies on clicks produced by the bat that reverberate off solid objects, working like sonar to provide spatial information about its environment. The pitch, length and shape of these clicks or “pulses” change depending on the bat’s environment and choice of prey, and most importantly, they also vary among species. This key feature has allowed ecologists at 4 Elements to record bat calls in the field, and identify their callers based on unique, species-specific features.

Many bats echolocate at frequencies beyond the capacity of human hearing, which is where bioacoustic monitoring devices (BARs) become indispensable tools in the field, as they capture ultra-sonic calls that can be analysed and visualised with bioacoustic software. Recently, 4 Elements Consulting attended an intensive workshop in Brisbane focusing on bat call identification hosted by Titley Scientific. Survey techniques, equipment and call analysis were among the topics covered, as well as a comprehensive overview of the unique calls of many of the bat species found on Australia’s east-coast.

he strikingly different call shapes of a Bare-rumped sheath-tail bat (above) and a Smaller horseshoe bat (below), visualised with bioacoustics analysis software.

For EVNT listed species like the Bare-rumped Sheath-tail bat, large-scale developments can threaten roosting habitat and disrupt foraging behaviour. Understanding the presence and distribution of at-risk species is therefore crucial for informing future environmental management decisions and the impacts of development proposals. Using bioacoustic detectors, 4 Elements recently detected the presence of Bare-rump sheath-tail bats and other EVNT listed bat species in a previously unsurveyed habitat with the use of bioacoustic detectors.

Troughton’s Sheath-tail bat

Spectacled Flying Fox

Bioacoustic surveys and analysis form one of many diverse fauna surveying techniques used at Four Elements Consulting to capture the full picture of an area’s biodiversity. With these tools we can better understand those elusive, nocturnal species that often go unseen to better manage environmentally responsible and sustainable developments.

4 Elements has experience in bioacoustic monitoring across a range of taxa. If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Fauna Surveys Out West: Unveiling the Hidden Treasures

By Past Projects, Recent News

The team at 4 Elements Consulting have recently completed a recent round of general fauna surveys to the arid landscapes a few hours west of Cairns. Armed with a diverse array of survey techniques, our team embarked on a mission to unveil the rich tapestry of species inhabiting this often overlooked region. In this post, we share the fascinating discoveries from our general fauna surveys and highlight a particularly thrilling find – a thriving population of Northern greater gliders.

Diverse Survey Techniques:

Our surveys employ a comprehensive suite of techniques designed to capture the essence of an ecosystem’s biodiversity. From camera trapping and cage trapping for large terrestrial mammals to elliot trapping for small mammals, pitfall traps, and funnel traps for reptiles, frogs, and rodents, our methods leave no stone unturned. Spotlighting for nocturnal birds and arboreal mammals, active searches for diurnal reptiles, and diurnal bird surveys complete the toolkit, ensuring a holistic understanding of the fauna present.

Remarkable Discoveries:

Our team’s diligent efforts uncovered a treasure trove of unique and uncommon species within the surveyed area. Notable among the findings were the striking Red-backed kingfisher and the migratory Oriental pratincole, adding to the region’s avian diversity. The discovery of cryptic reptiles such as the Black-striped snake and Curl snake, along with elusive rodents like the Central rock rat, underscored the importance of our thorough survey approach.

Oriental pratincole

Curl Snake

The Crown Jewel: Northern Greater Gliders:

The highlight of our expedition was the identification of a healthy population of Northern greater gliders within a previously unsurveyed patch of bushland. Designated as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act, the Northern greater glider faces significant threats from climate change, including drought, bushfires, and extreme temperatures. Recognising the urgency of the situation, we plan to return to the property in the coming months to conduct targeted surveys specifically for the Northern greater gliders. This will enable us to gain a nuanced understanding of their population dynamics, facilitating informed management decisions to safeguard this vulnerable species.

Climate Change and Conservation:

The vulnerability of the Northern greater glider to climate change emphasises the broader challenges facing wildlife in the region. At 4 Elements Consulting, we recognise the need for adaptive and proactive conservation strategies. By combining our expertise with cutting-edge survey techniques, we aim to contribute to the resilience of ecosystems and their inhabitants in the face of environmental challenges.

4 Elements Consulting has experience working with a range of taxa, including several threatened species. If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

4 Elements Consulting discovers new population of endangered orchid

By Past Projects, Recent News

During recent flora surveys, 4 Elements ecologists were delighted to find a thriving population of a very special plant, the swamp orchid (Phaius australis). Swamp orchids are listed as Endangered under both federal (EPBC Act) and state legislation (NC Act) and are considered a priority species at all levels of government.

Swamp orchids are spectacular, producing the largest flower spike of any Australian orchid. Unfortunately, this makes them highly sought after by collectors, and poaching has decimated wild populations. Other threats, including habitat loss and degradation, grazing by feral species, competition with invasive plant species, and fire, have also contributed to declines in swamp orchid populations, and the species now faces an uphill battle.

Discoveries like this are rare, and protection of these populations will be crucial to the ongoing survival of this species. 4 Elements Consulting has vast experience working with threatened plant species, including propagation and revegetation of fragile ecosystems, translocation of threatened species, and ongoing management of known threatened species populations.

If you are in need of a protected plant survey (PPS), a general flora survey or simply want advice about flora on your property, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Or see more information about Protected Plant Surveys

Bird surveys out west

By Past Projects, Recent News

The team have just returned from a week of bird surveys near Undara, recording several interesting species. Most of the area surveyed is dominated by basalt soil and savannah woodland, with narrow-leafed ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) and Molloy red box (Eucalyptus leptophleba) the dominant species. These areas were home to the usual FNQ, dry woodland species, including galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), pale-headed rosellas (Platycercus adscitus), striated pardalotes (Pardalotus striatus), red-winged parrots (Aprosmictuserythropterus), pied bitcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis), Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) and noisy miners (Manorina melanocephala).

The more interesting parts of the property were on granite soils, where the spectacular Eucalpytus chartaboma was in flower, as well as several sub-canopy species including Melaleuca viridiflora and Grevillea parallella. These areas attracted a range of honeyeaters, including brown honeyeaters (Lichmera indistincta), white-throated honeyeaters (Melithreptus albogularis), noisy friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus), little friarbirds (Philemon citreogularis), scarlet honeyeaters (Myzomela sanguinolenta) and hoardes of rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus). They were also home to several interesting bush species, such as the lemon-bellied flycatcher (Microeca flavigaster), brush cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus) and grey-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis).

The ephemeral creeks were all flowing after a huge wet season, attracting large numbers of azure kingfishers (Alcedo azurea) and forest kingfishers (Todiramphus macleayii). The team were also particularly excited to see the less common red-backed kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius) foraging in the woodland. Interesting birds in a beautiful part of the country – what more can you ask for!

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

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Targeted wildlife surveys in North East Queensland

By Past Projects

The team has been on site for the past few weeks conducting targeted wildlife surveys on a previously unsurveyed cattle property. After reconnaissance missions revealed potential habitat for several vulnerable and endangered species, the team went back armed with camera traps and acoustic monitors to determine presence or absence of the endangered northern quoll, sharman’s rock wallaby and large-eared horseshoe bat, and the vulnerable bare-rumped sheath-tailed bat.

After covering a huge amount of territory on the extremely large property, camera trap images revealed a healthy population of sharman’s rock wallabies but, somewhat surprisingly, we found no evidence of northern quolls. Our acoustic recorders, however, revealed both large-eared horseshoe bats and bare-rumped sheath-tailed bats.

The team will be spending a lot of time at this property over the coming months conducting a suite of environmental surveys, including targeted and general flora, fauna and habitat surveys.

If you are in need of a comprehensive consultative service, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

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Water testing at Cape Flattery

By Past Projects, Recent News

4 Elements Consulting was recently contracted by Metallica Minerals to monitor water quality at a potential future silica sand mine at Cape Flattery, Cape York to establish baseline water quality. Working with traditional owners, 4 Elements Consulting assessed both water table depth and quality using samples taken from various monitoring wells located on the project site from a depth of up to 60m. Monitoring wells were purged prior to sample collection to ensure samples were representative of the aquifer. Samples were collected in NATA approved sample containers before being stored and chilled for transport. Surface water samples were also taken from gullies and creek lines across the site.

4 Elements Consulting has extensive water testing experience, with the ability to test for a range of contaminants in a variety of situations including saltwater, freshwater and estuarine environments, irrigation water, boreholes and wells, and wastewater and effluent.

If you require water testing or have any questions about water testing, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Threatened flora translocation – Dendrobium fellowsii

By Past Projects, Recent News

4 Elements Consulting recently completed a successful translocation of the epiphytic orchid Dendrobium fellowsii. This species, which is listed as Vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, was detected during a protected plant survey at a proposed residential development in Ravenshoe in 2020. We were subsequently contracted by Gilvear Planning Pty Ltd to perform a threatened flora translocation for this population.

We collected a total of 13 plants from within the approved clearance area (i.e., the total population at this site), which were taken directly to a pre-determined recipient site that mirrored the habitat of the clearance area. A number of measures were taken to ensure the success of our translocations. Firstly, Dendrobium fellowsii grows on trees, and to ensure minimal root damage during translocation, a thin layer of bark was removed with each plant. At the recipient site, translocated plants were placed on the same tree species as their old host tree and were attached firmly using stocking material to hold the plant together. Further, plants were attached to their new trees at the same height, aspect and in similar lighting conditions to those experienced on their original host trees. We checked on the progress of all translocated plants after 12 months and found that all were exhibiting new root growth and healthy leaf material – a successful translocation!

If you require a protected plant survey, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Tropical lowland rainforest reclassified as a threatened ecological community

By Past Projects, Recent News

Tropical lowland rainforest was recently classified as a threatened ecological community (TEC) at the federal level and is currently listed as endangered under the EPBC Act. This classification has the potential to impact landowners by limiting works that can be conducted on properties where tropical lowland rainforest occurs. Further, this classification may carry legal obligations for landholders, requiring them to engage in active land management practices.

For habitat to be classified as tropical lowland rainforest, it must meet the following criteria:

  • Occur between the southern end of the Cardwell Range and the northern boundary of the Endeavour Catchment, typically to the east of the coastal ranges. It can occur anywhere below 100m asl, but mostly occurs at <40m asl;
  • Exhibit a mean rainfall of >1300mm to >3500mm per annum, with the majority falling between December and March;
  • Occur primarily on fertile soils (alluvials and basaltic parent materials);
  • Exhibit an uneven canopy ranging from 20-40m in height, which is relatively open when undisturbed. Trees are mostly evergreen and can have well developed buttress roots. The leaf length is generally between 12.5cm – 25 cm (mesophyll);
  • Exhibit a varied structure, ranging from simple (1-2 growth forms dominate) to complex (i.e., many growth forms present without any particular one dominating);
  • Contain diverse growth forms including palms, vines and robust lianas, epiphytic ferns and orchids, climbing aroids, rattans and gingers;
  • Exhibit a relatively low abundance of species from the genera Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Melaleuca and Casuarina. If these species dominate in the canopy, it is unlikely that the vegetation community can be considered a rainforest community.

If a patch meets the above criteria, it is then categorised based on its size and condition, which will consequently determine how it must be managed. 4 Elements can provide landholders with assessments to determine whether habitat meets the requirements for classification as tropical lowland rainforest under the EPBC Act. We can also provide advice on how best to manage land for conservation purposes whilst also minimising the impacts on landholders.

If you have any questions about this new classification, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Vegetation assessments for Mt Emerald Wind farm offset site (2018-present)

By Past Projects, Recent News

To offset any impacts to threatened flora as a result of construction of the Mt Emerald Wind Farm, an adjacent property was purchased and established as a nature refuge in 2018. A total of 11 threatened plant species were detected on this property, including all 8 threatened species which are found at Mt Emerald Wind Farm. To monitor vegetation at this site, 4 Elements conducted bio-condition surveys at various locations on the property. A species list was created at each survey site, and detailed habitat assessments were conducted using a series of quadrats and transects. Bio-condition sites were selected to include threatened species populations so that they could be monitored during the survey period.

Completion of these bio-condition surveys allowed us to opportunistically search for new threatened species populations as we moved between sites. As a result, 4 Elements discovered three new populations of the critically endangered purple acacia (Acacia purpureopetala), one new population of the vulnerable epiphytic orchid Dendrocium fellowsii, and three populations of endangered Prostanthera clotteniana. We also found a new population of Ford’s stink bush (Zieria fordii), which was previously known from only three tiny populations, all of which occur either within the offset, or on the property directly east of the offset. This discovery of a fourth population was a significant range extension for this highly range-restricted species.

For environmental consulting services for your next project, contact us today.

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