Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures in a subtropical rainforest: Part 2

For a politics junkie like me, finding yourself on Federal election night in a tiny Queensland outpost (pop.15, one pub, one single-cop police station and nothing else) can be somewhat of a shock. Normally I'm surrounded by like-minded Greens, browsers open on various election result sites, the TV being channel-hopped to find the juiciest snideries from the politicians commentating.

This time I was sitting with Chris Lusk in the bar of aforementioned pub (where we were staying), watching a hazy image on a small wall-mounted TV, and we were clearly the only people there even faintly interested in who the government was going to be. The jukebox was loudly accompanying the two pool players with Credence Clearwater Revival and Deep Purple, which made hearing Kerry O'Brien and Antony Green just a touch difficult.

As it became increasingly apparent that there would be a hung parliament, the following days were massively frustrating. No radio reception, no mobile reception, and of course, nothing even faintly resembling an Internet. To get a newspaper, we had to drive a good half hour to the nearest town--and the newspapers were out-of-date.

Many Peaks, Queensland
The road through Many Peaks, with the flood-way of Deception Creek.

Railway Bridge Many Peaks, Queensland
Many Peaks Railway Bridge.
But if the hamlet of Many Peaks feels isolated, delving into the nearby rainforest is akin to being on the dark side of the moon. Bulburin National Park is a subtropical notophyll rainforest, one of the largest remnants of rainforest in Queensland. The area around Many Peaks is schlerophyll forest, the transition to rainforest occurring as you climb the mountain.

Driving to the misty mountain
The road to the rainforest.
Within metres of the road, it's easy to lose your bearings (particularly if your bearings happen to be as fragile as mine!) The forest is dense and moist, with creepers climbing up the trees and criss-crossing your path. Some are prickly, so if you lose your balance, you need to be cautious about what you grab.

Spiky seedling

Dendrocnadidae photophylla

Extra ouch: Dendrocnide photinophylla, Giant Stinger. 

Within the rainforest

The most overwhelming impression of rainforest is the rapid turnover of resources, the constant cycle of decay and regeneration. In the ferocious competition for light, plants reach up to the canopy, climbing upon each other. If a forest giant falls and allows the sunshine to stream in, hundreds of seeds will germinate in the patch exposed, fighting each other for nutrients and access to the sky above.

Seed germination

Everything is either food or a foothold, a place to live.

A vine embraces a rainforest tree.

Tree canopy
Reaching the light.

Elkhorn colony in crown dead tree
An elkhorn fern (Platycerium sp.) colony atop a dead rainforest tree.

Next post: Fungi!

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