Sunday, November 22, 2009

Townsville Dry Dry Tropics

One of the biggest contrasts that I get to experience in travelling between the southeast corner of Queensland to the northern portion of the state is the dramatic difference in vegetation communities.

Townsville (where my family live) is the northern most piece of Brigalow Belt and is often a very very dry part of northeastern Queensland....when I arrived in Australia in 1989 I was told that the city was at the end of a 7yr drought, and coming from Sub Saharan Africa, it certainly looked like a very familar landscape to me.

Now this is not to say that the region has not had rain, and flood rains at times in the intervening years, but the current dry season is particularly pronounced.

Looking north from Castle Hill

It has taken me 20yrs to build an emotional connection with this dry sclerophyll, but i can say without any word of a lie that I am amazed and intrigued and in love with all aspects of the native bush in my small part of North Queensland.

Section of Eucalyptus platyphylla on Castle Hill

What is most striking during these dry periods is the survival strategies amongst the vegetation, leaf drop is very common...Eucalyptus platyphylla can have a number of repeat periods of leaf drop depending on the conditions, walking on the hill today it was very clear that one of the most resiliant tree species native to Townsville Lophostemon confertus will also become completely deciduous if conditions demand dramatic reductions in evapo-transpiration.

Copses of leafless Lophostemon confertus interspersed with Acacia sp

Castle Hill is an area of Townsville totally devoid of any additional irrigation of any kind, the soils are generally very thin and devoid of organic matter, trees that are successful here will grow in very hostile conditions elswhere in the town...I am thinking of the streetscape species of tree that is truely magnificent when full grown that does very well despite the apparent extreme pressures on its neighbours is Euroschinus falcata.....

Maybe eventually some of these reliable resiliant survivors that thrive without any intervention by us, will be adopted by city planners for use in the urban street environment where despite the best intentions a great many of trees fall well short of ever fulfilling their genetic potential.

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