Rangers share vine knowledge far afield

Flip Prior

ENVIRONS Kimberley and Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Aboriginal rangers from Dampier Peninsula have teamed up to campaign for the Federal Government to declare threatened monsoon vine thicket as nationally endangered.

The rare remnant rainforest, found in 79 known patches on the Dampier Peninsula, contains almost a quarter of all peninsula plant species and is critical habitat for native fauna.

The Federal Government is considering whether the thickets should be protected as an “endangered ecological community”.

Nyul Nyul Rangers Ninjana Walsham and Keith Shadforth spoke in favour of the move at the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia Conference in Perth in November, with EK’S Kylie Weatherall.

Chris Sampi and Damon Pyke from the Bardi Jawi Rangers then presented with scientist Malcolm Lindsay at the Ecological Society of Australia Conference in Melbourne, in early December.

Their talks explained the cultural significance of monsoon vine thickets in traditional food, medicines, water sources, tools, materials, language, law and culture.

They argued any loss or dysfunction in the ecosystem was likely to have profound cultural and ecological impacts and it must be protected.

EK projects co-ordinator Louise Beames said if the thickets were declared “endangered”, the Government would have a responsibility to support the community to protect them.

In partnership, the groups have been studying the incidence of fire and vegetation cover change in the patches for the period between 1989 and 2010. Mr Sampi said Dampier Peninsula Aboriginal people had traditionally kept fire away from the thickets to protect fruit, water and cultural resources.

However, uncontrolled fires were increasing in frequency, intensity and scale and therefore presented a growing threat.

Almost three-quarters of thicket patches were burnt every three years.

Ms Beames said the findings were frightening, given the slow regrowth rate of the thickets.

“This sustained damage has alarming consequences for the ecological function and viability of the entire Dampier Peninsula MVT ecosystem network,” she said.

“This collaboration between indigenous rangers, ecologists and partners has enabled us to identify the most vulnerable thickets … to adjust management and better protect their significant eco-cultural values.”

Mr Shadforth said rangers were proud to present work.