Abbot Bay subcatchment draft HEV waters
Several areas in the Abbott Bay catchments have been assessed by the WQIP ecological values technical panel to be “effectively unmodified” (ANZECC 2000) and have been identified as containing High Ecological Value (HEV) waters. Three of these HEV areas were estuarine and included: the estuarine areas on the north side of Elliot River, including an isolated section of Cape Upstart National Park; the south side of Elliot River to Saltwater Creek; and, the estuarine areas surrounding Branch Creek west of Abbot Point. Two other areas were categorised as containing freshwater HEV waters. These are in the upper catchment areas that include two discontinuous sections of Mount Aberdeen NP and the Mount Aberdeen Nature Refuge: one section surrounding the hill slopes of Mount Aberdeen (910m) just north of the Collinsville – Bowen rail line; and the other further north on the northern side of the upper section of Elliot Creek also known as Highlanders Bonnett National Park as it covers the slopes of Highlanders Bonnett (487m) which is in the Bogie River subcatchment.
The estuarine wetlands on the north side of Elliot River connect, to an isolated section of the Cape Upstart National Park and the area identified as containing HEV waters surrounding Nobbies Inlet in the Upstart Bay subcatchment. This area is also adjacent to coastal waters identified as containing HEV marine waters in Abbott Bay. The area crossing the neck of Cape Upstart peninsula to Nobbies Inlet is largely made up of beach ridge plains and tidal flats formed from coastal sediments. Typical of the region the tidal flats are inundated by shallow freshwater during summer rain periods – but transition to brackish with tides and dry through the dry season. Both areas are part of the Southern Upstart Bay Aggregation listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands (DOIW). Included within this wetland aggregation are wetlands within Cape Upstart Station, a freehold property that was used for cattle grazing but retains much of its natural assets including intact brackish and freshwater wetlands. The wetlands in these areas support large numbers of waterbirds for breeding and drought refuge. Species include magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata), black swan (Cygnus atratus), wandering whistling duck (Dendrocygna arcuata), plumed whistling duck (Dendrocygna eytoni), hardhead (Aythya australis), grey teal (Anas gracilis), Australasian shoveler (A. rhynchotis), Pacific black duck (A. superciliosa), pink-eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus), and green pygmy goose (Nettapus pulchellus). Other notable bird species that regularly occupy this area include the estern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) and the black necked stork (Ephippiorynchus asiaticus). Cotton pygmy goose (N. coramandelianus) is occasionally seen using this area as well of infrequent records of the vagrant freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa).
The area on the south side of Elliot River to Saltwater Creek is also included within the Southern Upstart Bay Aggregation. Whereas, the estuarine area around Branch Creek is part of the area listed as the Abbot Point – Caley Valley Aggregation on the DOIW. This DOIW site is continuous with the Southern Upstart Bay Aggregation.
All of these estuarine HEV areas are connected to brackish and freshwater wetlands that make up the more extensive areas listed on the Directory of Important Wetlands. The wetlands of these areas contribute to the almost continuous network of coastal wetlands between Ingham and Bowen with many of the ecological values of the other coastal wetland systems in the region. They all support rich and productive fisheries and avifauna, as well as diverse coastal vegetation.
Mount Aberdeen and Highlanders Bonnett National Parks, and the Mount Aberdeen Nature Refuge, are located in the Bogie Range, 42 km south-west of Bowen. Mount Aberdeen (910m) lies to the east while the twin peaks of Pine Hill (624m) and Highlanders Bonnett (487m) form the western part of the Park – sometimes referred to as Highlanders Bonnet National Park. The sections of national park are separated by the upper section of the Elliot River valley. This area between the sections of national park and areas adjacent to the national parks make up the Aberdeen Nature Refuge.
Mount Aberdeen and Highlanders Bonnett are rugged granite massifs that rise abruptly from the surrounding plain. Due to the rugged nature of the landscape the areas have remained in a largely natural condition. The significance of this area lies in the fact that the topography has created a series of microclimates that allow for a range of high altitude (montane) and wetter (mesic) elements of disjunct and relict plant communities to exist in an otherwise dry landscape. The vegetation of Mount Aberdeen comprises largely of closed notophyll vine forest with hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamiii) emergents on the upper slopes above 800 meters and eucalyptus dominated woodlands on the lower slopes. Above 850 meters the canopy height decreases and barbed wire vine (Similax australia) and vine reed cane (Flagellaria inidca) form dense entanglements. Epiphytes, including orchids, elkhorn (Platycerium sp.), hanging mosses and lichens are common on tree trunks and branches. Steep granite gullies, characterised by granite outcrops, intersect these eucalyptus woodlands which provide microhabitat and protection from fire allowing vine forests to descend the slopes somewhat. Creek gullies at higher altitudes support depauperate semi-evergreen notophyll vine forest species including, chain fruit (Alyxia ruscigfolia), tamarind (Cupaniopsis parvifolia), batswing coral tree (Erythrina vespertilio), native hibiscus (Hibiscus heterophyllus) and pink tamarind (Jagera pseudorhus). A feature of the thick notophyll vine forest on the upper slopes is a dense stand of cabbage palm (Livistonia sp.) found on the Eungella and Paluma Ranges to the south and north, respectively.
No information is available on the streams and waterbodies of these areas but it is assumed that surface water would only persist in small stream channels for short periods after rain. Due to the isolation of these areas, if surface water is available on the upper slopes and gullies for extended periods this may be expected to support very isolated and unique relict aquatic flora and fauna. Larger and more permanent pools may persist in the Elliot River channel. Distinct populations of aquatic invertebrates and bryophytes (e.g. mosses and liverworts) may occur on the higher sections in the national parks.
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