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Kimberley Traditional Owners protecting biodiversity and threatened Monsoon Vine Thicket

Media release

25 February 2016

Traditional Owners of the Dampier Peninsular in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, including the Bardi Jawi, Nyamba Buru Yawuru and Nyul Nyul Rangers, are working with Environs Kimberley (EK) to manage threatened Monsoon Vine Thickets by reducing large fires, creating a weed-free buffer, and restoring the species through seed collection and propagation.

Oorany rangers weedingMonsoon Vine Thickets (MVT) of the Dampier Peninsula are culturally important sites for local Indigenous people, containing a high density of bush medicine, bush tucker, artefact sources, burial grounds, middens, law grounds and sacred sites.

MTVs are a Threatened Ecological Community. They form a highly fragmented rainforest ecosystem on the coastal sand dunes of the Peninsular. Ecologically, the thickets contain around 25 per cent of all plant species on the Peninsula, despite constituting only 0.01 per cent of its area. Some fauna species are restricted only to its shady habitat.

Rangelands NRM Kimberley Program Manager Grey Mackay says the work is part of a landscape-scale focus being led by Rangelands NRM.

‘The MTV project is delivering on our Dampier Peninsular Landscape-Scale Project to manage threats to biodiversity holistically and collaboratively in this area,” he said.

‘This project marks the next phase in a series of projects, supported by Rangelands NRM with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, engaging Rangers and other Traditional Owners to identify key MVT patches to map, survey and manage the areas to allow the species to recover.”

Environs Kimberley Project Officer, Kylie Weatherall says although MVTs were traditionally protected due to their cultural and resource value, the lapse of traditional fire regimes, the introduction of cattle and weeds, and the advent of land clearing had resulted in a serious decline and loss of integrity throughout the ecosystems.

‘The objective of the project will be to reduce weeds, land clearing and inappropriate fire around key eco-cultural MVT patches, stemming the decline of the ecosystem while building capacity in local Ranger and community groups,” she said.

‘We are seeing the positive impacts of investment in Indigenous ranger programs to look after country, involving rangers and other Traditional Owners in planning and implementing the work.”

Ms Weatherall said the project work and documentation was instrumental in the March 2013 listing of the ecosystem as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is a first listing and protected status of this kind in the Kimberley region.

‘The other benefit of this project is that it is fostering intergenerational knowledge sharing for the sustained impact of Indigenous ranger programs,” she said.

Ranger work is either paid for through fee for service (FFS) contracts or in-kind contributions.

This next phase of the Monsoon Vine Thicket (MVT) project will include:

  • Developing a West Kimberley Recovery Team in conjunction with the Department of Parks and Wildlife to improve the coordination of MVT management activities across the Peninsular. This includes establishment of a Technical Reference Group and Rangers becoming trained to undertake MVT work as part of their core duties.
  • Fire Scar Mapping undertaken to map the extent of MVT patches compared to the last survey in 2009.
  • Qualitative and quantitative assessment of weed infestations in the MVT patches to allow for prioritisation of weed management effort.
  • Continued management of fire and weeds to reduce impacts of threatening processes on MVT patches.
  • Results communicated through media; conference presentations; documents and journal articles.

Mr Mackay says the ongoing partnerships and adaptive management process are building expertise among the project partners.

The workshops, engagement of Indigenous rangers and project communications will engage, inform and empower the largely Indigenous local community and wider community of the Dampier Peninsula to protect the MVT,” he said.

‘The Dampier Peninsula community will become better informed of the importance and threats to Monsoon Vine Thickets.”

Following on from important pilot studies and projects with the then WA Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and Broome Botanical Society, EK commenced the West Kimberley Nature Project in 2009 to improve conservation and protection of MVT through documenting and managing its values. This project was run in close collaboration with Indigenous Rangers and Traditional Owners of the Dampier Peninsula including Nyul Nyul, Bardi Jawi, and to a lesser extent, the Yawuru and Goolarabooloo.

1)  L to R: Ayesha Moss (EK), Cissy Tegan and Bernadette Angus (Oorany Rangers) weeding cotton weed. Photo courtesy Julia Rau (EK).
2) Monsoon Vine Thicket Patch with Educational Signage. Photo Grey Mackay (Rangelands NRM)