This week in the rainforest

Tue 22 Mar 

This week in the rainforest

By Hans van Veluwen

Cyclone Ului was a timely reminder that living in Paradise does come at a price. We have to learn to live with the potential of cyclones and be prepared for them during our Monsoon season.

Statistically only one out of every ten low depressions that form in this part of the world turns into a cyclone that crosses the land to do any damage to man made structures. Most turn into rain depressions which revitalise the forests, farms, fill our reservoirs and flush our river systems.  

A lot of our cane farmers pray for these type of rains as very few irrigate their crops so they are solely dependant on these low pressure systems to bring the rains that see their crops through. Cyclones are an integral part of the rainforest ecology. Cyclones have been been crossing our rainforests for hundreds of thousands of years. Our tropical rainforest have evolved with those regular Cyclones. Cyclones stimulate regrowth, cull out the older trees, make space for younger vegetation and most importantly dump a lot of shredded vegetable matter to the forest floor which breaks down to form the nutrients for the forests and downstream marine habitats. So, Cyclones are to rainforest as fire is to bush, stimulates regrowth and keeps the forests healthy.

You can't think of Tropical rainforest and conjure up a picture in your mind of any one type of forest. That's what makes our tropical rainforest's so complex and special,  they are actually made up of a series of micro environments. Every pocket of rainforest you drive through or past in North Queensland is actually at a point of regeneration since the last cyclone that came through it to stimulate new growth. Here in our area that is roughly ten years now since cyclone Rona, category two, and further south towards Innisfail it was Cyclone Larry only five years ago last Saturday, category five. A drive through the rainforests there and the regrowth that has occurred is phenomenal.

As you go up in altitude in our rainforests you will lose certain plant species but gain new ones.  One side of a hill can be exposed to drying winds and the other side of the same hill may be sheltered from  those very same winds so  you will find different types of vegetation growing on them. Soil types, precipitation changes from one area to another . These are all factors that help to determine what forest types that grow there.

After the forests are stimulated the first growth to return will be pioneer species of plants, usually soft, short lived and with large leaves. The stinging bush ( Dendrocide moroides ) is one such plant, this weeks photo shows one growing amongst stimulated rainforest, protecting tender rainforest seedlings from direct sun with it's large leaves that have stinging hairs to deter herbivorous animals from grazing on or near that all important regenerating rainforest.
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