The FNQ Rainforest SuperSite builds on more than 40 years of observations and research monitoring the physical and biological status of the rainforests of far north Queensland (FNQ). This includes ecosystem monitoring, carbon and water balance experiments, in stream water quantity and quality measurements and OzFlux energy, carbon and water monitoring sites.
The rainforests of FNQ occupy less than 0.2% of Australia’s landmass, yet support more than 10% of its flora, 36% of its mammals and 48% of its birds. The last remnants of the rainforests which formerly covered most of the continent, these globally significant World Heritage communities are also a repository for many ancestral lineages of the iconic species of Australia today, including the kangaroos and the eucalypts.
The Daintree node comprises two sites (i) the Daintree Rainforest Observatory (DRO) at Cape Tribulation, comprising a long-term monitoring sites, canopy crane, and extensive researcher and teaching infrastructure and (ii) research facilities at the Daintree Discovery Centre at Cow Bay, an award winning ecotourism interpretive centre featuring a canopy tower, aerial walkway and scientific monitoring.
This site lies 120 km north of Cairns. The Daintree Rainforest Observatory was established with ARC Infrastructure funding (REIFP) in 1998 and the 1 ha census plot was established in 2000 along with the installation of a construction crane in the forest (referred to as the Australian Canopy Crane).
Around 200 scientists have worked on site covering a range of topics from characterising bacteria in the soil, IR mapping the canopy to radio-tracking Melomys cervinipes in the canopy at night. The biophysical environment has been extensively studied. A weather station was installed in 1999, flux station in 2001, soil pit in 2007 and bores in 2008.
- How are the biota (in particular locally endemic species) changing in form, frequency and distribution and what are the drivers for this?
- Does the vegetation represent a stable structure (overstorey versus understory dynamics) or has climate change affected it?
- Which taxa of organisms are the most sensitive to local climate change and how can these be assembled into an accurate biodiversity monitoring tool?
- What are the fundamental vertical and lateral energy, carbon, water and nutrient stocks and flows in the tropical forests of north Queensland?
- How are these stocks and flows responding to past management and climate change and how are they likely to respond in the future?
- How important is the connectivity between these ecosystems for hydrology, faunal movement and as refugia under conditions of past and future climate change?