June 3 – Kyleigh

Day 24 has reached us and I can’t believe that we only have a few more days left in this wonderful place! Last night we arrived at the Cape Tribulation Beach house and enjoyed a night full of relaxation and fun. Cape Tribulation is located in Queensland, just north of Cairns.  It was named by James Cook, who while sailing through the area, hit a reef with his ship.  This “trouble” he came upon was the reason he named the area Cape Tribulation.

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Map of Cape Tribulation

In the morning we woke up and ate breakfast before we made our way to the Daintree Rainforest Observatory.  There we talked to Peter Byrnes about the canopy crane, a 48 meter high device that covers about one hectare of forest when operated, and rotates 360 degrees, enabling viewers to gain an amazing sight!  The crane was constructed using a helicopter, and used over 100 tons of steel and concrete.

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A drawing of the canopy crane

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A view of the canopy crane looking up from ground level.

We were excited to find out that we would actually have the opportunity to go up in the crane and see the canopy, but before we could do this we had a safety briefing, just for precautionary purposes.  After this we were all set for the canopy crane!  We broke up into groups of three and took turns getting into the gondola that rises high into the sky.  We were equipped with harnesses that attached to the gondola.  When in the crane we could see the ocean in the distance and were surrounded with mountainous views of green lush rainforest.

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Ken, Steve, and myself in the gondola waiting for the crane to bring us up the 48 meter high path.

While waiting to get a chance in the canopy crane, we went on a nature walk with Peter and he talked to us about some of the projects going on involving the planting of trees to add biodiversity to the property near the canopy crane. It was great to have the chance to talk to Peter and learn about all of the research projects related to the Daintree Rainforest.

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A view of the mountains with the canopy crane. It was such a beautiful sight!

After the Daintree Rainforest Observatory visit we ate lunch, and made our way to the Daintree Discovery Centre where we met up with the knowledgeable Paul O’Dowd.  Paul talked to us about the Daintree Rainforest which is a class 1A complex mesophyll vine forest that covers approximately 1200 square kilometers and is considered the world’s oldest intact tropical rainforest. Class 1A is the highest biodiversity a rainforest can obtain.  The word complex refers to the architecture of the rainforest.  Mesophyll refers to the medium leaf size the forest contains.  The type of forest includes the word vine because of the strong role vines play in maintaining the canopy of the Daintree.

The Daintree has the most abundant diversity of plants and animals in Australia. There are 800 species of canopy trees, so there is rarely an instance of having two of the exact same trees right next to each other.  This diversity is what makes the forest so stable.  There is a functional overlap so if one species cannot perform its duty there will be another species that can make up for the loss.  The forest works as a fabric with the vines acting like fibers, holding it together.  The canopy shields the understory from the outside world.

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A picture of the air walk with the beautiful Daintree Rainforest surrounding it. This air walk limits damage to the site regardless of how many people visit.

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Another picture of an aerial walkway at the Daintree Discovery Centre.

Toward the end of our visit with Paul we received word that there was a cassowary close by.  We rushed over to the area and were able to spot it! The cassowary is a giant bird that can grow up to 2m (about 6.5 feet) tall and weigh as much as 85 kgs (about 187 pounds). We were very fortunate because it is estimated that there are only around 1,200 cassowaries left in the world!  It was great that we had the opportunity to talk to Paul.  He had so much information to offer!

Cassowary

An adult cassowary with it’s offspring which are known as chicks. The cassowary is a large bird that is an endangered species.

Our final visit of the day was Cape Tribulation Farmstay which is an 88 acre commercial orchard that grows 50 different kinds of exotic fruit.  Since Cape Tribulation offers high temperatures along with high humidity, this provides great conditions for these tropical fruit trees to thrive.   When we arrived to the farm we showed up to a table full of fresh fruit! It was such an amazing sight!  Dawn talked to us about some of the fruit and even cut up a variety of fruits for us to taste.  A few we tried were dragon fruit, mangosteen, passion fruit, miracle fruit, rambutan, and bread fruit.

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The table Dawn had set up for us when we arrived. There was a large variety of fruits we were eager to try!

The bread fruit was a favorite amongst many.  It is a carbohydrate that can be cooked up and tastes much like a french fry.  In many countries it is used as a potato, and when it gets softer it tastes more like a banana.  Another interesting fruit we got the chance to try was the miracle fruit.  Dawn told us to put this fruit in our mouths and chew it all around for one minute.  She then instructed us to try the lime she had given us.  We were all surprised to find out that the lime tasted sweet instead of the normal sour taste!  Many diabetics use this fruit so they can get the taste of sweetness in their mouths without actually having to eat sugar.  The sweet taste would last for about an hour after the fruit is chewed.  Dawn showed us such great hospitality and the fruits we had the opportunity to try were quite tasty!

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The wonderful bread fruit that many people enjoyed. Here it is being served as a carbohydrate that tastes like french fries. No wonder why we enjoyed these!

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The group at Cape Tribulation Farmstay with coconut trees in the background. What a great day!

After our last visit we went back to the beach house and enjoyed another nice dinner before heading to bed.

Sustainability is an important aspect of life in Cape Tribulation.  Residents of the Daintree Coast love the rainforest, and want to do all they can to protect it.  The Daintree Coast is the largest sustainable energy community in Australia.  Many of the residents and businesses are involved in ecotourism.

These visits reinforced sustainability through environment, economy, and social systems.  The Daintree Discovery Centre is focused on keeping the Daintree Rainforest intact and supporting tourism as well.  Environmental tourism requires biodiversity to exist, so they take preventative measures to ensure that the environment doesn’t get damaged in the tourism process.  They did this by constructing board walks and air walks so that many visitors can come and enjoy the rainforest with little damage to the ground and tree roots. With tourism, money from visitors goes into the local economy and allows visitors from all over the world to enjoy the outdoors.

The Daintree Rainforest Observatory also makes efforts to be environmentally sustainable through biodiversity by doing research in the canopy.  They are currently doing a project on climate change as it relates to trees and ecosystems.  With all of their research their main goal is to advance lowland research in the Australia rainforest as well as working to benefit the tropics all over the world.

Sources:

Byrnes, Peter. Presentation. Daintree Rainforest Observatory. June 3, 2013

“Cape Tribulation and picture” Web. http://www.capetribulation.com.au/Home/ATTRACTIONS/tabid/593/Default.aspx

Cape Tribulation Farmstay. Presentation. June 3, 2013

“Cape Tribulation information and history”. Web.  http://www.rainforesthideaway.com/capetribulation/cape-tribulation.htm

“Daintree Discovery Centre”. Web. http://www.daintree-rec.com.au/daintree/

“Daintree Rainforest Observatory and picture”. Web. http://www.jcu.edu.au/canopycrane/about/JCUPRD_046917.html

“Map of Cape Tribulation”. Map. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/pacific/australia/queensland/cape-tribulation/

O’Dowd, Paul. Presentation. Daintree Discovery Centre. June 3, 2013

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5 Comments

5 thoughts on “June 3 – Kyleigh

  1. Andrew Rolling

    Paul gave a great lecture about biodiversity this day. He really made me understand why biodiversity is so important. The cassowary is a big part of the sustainability of this area, and the cassowary is nearly extinct. I also thought he did a great job of explaining why plant diversity is so imporant with his examples of the rainforrest being destroyed where human development is, however the canopy was nearly untouched where there had been no development because of the ‘fabric’ creaed by all of the diverse plants and vines holding it together. This was definitely one of the most informative lectures in my opinion.

  2. Mary Beth Kramer

    What a fantastic way to see the rainforest! What is a cassowary? Is it a bird or a reptile or mammal? Were you able to take a picture? And all that fruit you were able to try – yum!! Don’t think I have ever had bread fruit – will have to see if I can get it here in the States. Thanks for the wonderful blog!

  3. Mary Beth,

    A cassowary is actually a very large bird, that usually stands about the same height as a human! A bit shorter than an ostrich, these birds play an absolutely vital role within the rainforest. They are the only bird large enough to consume the nut of a vital canopy trees and help them reproduce. These trees, as well as the cassowary, are fighting to regain numbers with in the rainforest because of the heavy logging that occurred long ago. One tree’s wood was known as “Red Gold” (Red Cedar) because it’s wood was so valuable. Now, the tree is not as common because of logging in the past as well as the low numbers of the endangered cassowary (approximately 1200 worldwide) that is vital to the fertilization of the tree. In order for some of these tree’s nuts to be fertile, they must pass through the digestive system of the cassowary and be deposited far enough away from the parent tree. This allows for proper growth of the tree. Without the cassowary, this proper fertilization is impossible and both the cassowary and the tree are in danger of going extinct. Because the cassowary can often deposit the seed as far as 1 km away from the parent tree and protect the seed from predators such as rats in the rainforest, it helps greatly with the reproduction of many trees within the forest.

  4. lizwittenbach

    At the Daintree Discovery Centre, Paul O’Dowd also discussed what he called personal connectivity. Paul described how places are an important part of identity. He pointed out that visiting places like the Daintree Discovery Centre allows individuals to develop a connection with the rainforest by experiencing it first hand. This connection with the land furthers people’s interest in the conservation of the rainforest because a personal stake in the forest has been created. It is this personal connection that can motivate individuals to support the forest through donations of time or money. When part of the Daintree forest was threatened by development plans in the 1970s, the outcry of the public was an instrumental part of preventing the clearing of more of the rainforest. Paul said that letters came from people all around the world who had visited the Daintree. I thought it was interesting to consider how humanity’s connection with the natural environment can promote sustainability efforts such as rainforest preservation. For me, connection to a place is something I often overlook. However, many of the students developed the personal connectivity that Paul described after our day of snorkeling and diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Experiencing the Reef made many of us want to do more to protect it, even if that means educating people back home about the benefits of the Reef and the importance of its survival. Thus, it can be beneficial and even sustainable to create opportunities for humans to form personal connections to a place.

  5. The Daintree Rainforest walk was probably my favorite thing we did. Paul was so knowledgeable about so many things, especially the rain forest. We learned about rainforest sustainability that day. For example, we learned that when loggers take out the tallest trees in the rainforest it actually really messes up the sustainability of the whole ecosystem. With the primary trees gone, only secondary trees are able to grow and the whole forest is now shorter. The species that survived off of the primary trees are now forced to move elsewhere. Also, the sunlight is now more readily let into the forest and the forest then turns more into a “jungle” (messy landscape). Everything is interconnected and dramatically changed by one thing changing or disappearing.

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