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Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy
Abrahams, H., Mulvaney, M., Glasco, D., & Bugg, A.
Office of the Co-ordinator General of Queensland
Australian Heritage Commission, March 1995

Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

18.0 Areas of Significance for their Contribution to Research or as Type Localities

Research, teaching sites and type localities are considered under Sub-Criterion C1 (Importance for places that provide important information contributing to an increased understanding of Australian natural history). The general remoteness of Cape York Peninsula means that it is not a significant scientific teaching area. Research sites of significance include those areas where high quality or ground-breaking research has been undertaken or is in progress, while type localities of biological specimens are important for taxonomic reference.

This assessment of natural heritage conservation values on Cape York Peninsula documented both geological and biological type localities in a systematic manner (see below and AHC 1994). However the assessment of research sites has been of an opportunistic nature and can not be regarded as comprehensive. It is hoped that further sites may be identified by researchers in response to this document.

18.1 Research Sites

A research site is significant if it is a place that is important for study that expands Australia's current understanding of the natural environment. The Cape Grenville Volcanics, Indian Head to Cape Bedford Exposures, Princess Charlotte Bay Chenier Ridges, Pera Head, Weipa Bauxite Cliffs, Cape Bedford - Cape Flattery Dune fields, Shelburne Bay - Olive River Dune Fields, Glen Garland Swamps and Pascoe River Beds where identified as geological or geomorphological sites of particular research significance (AHC 1994).

To date much of the biological research on Cape York Peninsula has had a survey focus, rather than the establishment of benchmark or detailed ecological research sites in which natural processes, such as succession, population fluctuations or hydrological cycles can be monitored and documented. There are however a few notable exceptions.

As part of a two-year survey of insects on Cape York Peninsula (Zborowski et al 1994), eleven permanent survey sites were established in various vegetation types across the Peninsula. The eleven areas are significant benchmark sites for monitoring fluctuations in the insect populations on Cape York Peninsula. The detailed inventory of insects occurring at each site also make them potentially important research sites into insect ecology. The areas will become the type locality for a large number of insects, and they are also of importance to insect taxonomy.

The Heathlands lease area is another important research site. In the wet season of 1992, the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland organised a base camp for forty-four scientists at Heathlands homestead. The expedition was the most comprehensive wet season study ever undertaken in Cape York Peninsula and provided ecological and baseline information for ongoing research into climatology, botany, invertebrate zoology, vertebrate zoology and evolution (Royal Geographical Society of Queensland 1993).

Locations of significant research sites are shown on Figure 18.1.

18.2 Type Localities

There are a number of different varieties of type specimens for which localities are important. These include Holotypes, (the actual specimen from which the species was described), Paratypes (specimens cited in the original publication describing the species but which are not the Holotype), Syntypes (specimens from which a species is collectively described) and Lectotypes (where a specimen has been chosen following the description of the species to act as the benchmark, usually where the original author has not submitted a Holotype or the Holotype has been destroyed). To further confuse the situation, with taxonomic revision and associated reclassification of species, the status of a type specimen can accordingly alter. To an extent all these types are significant.

The type locality of a species is important as the key area from which further specimens of the same population as the type may be sought. A preserved type specimen may deteriorate with age, it may be damaged or lose parts, or it may be lost or destroyed. A preserved or dried specimen may also not be suitable for studies of internal anatomy, chromosomes or biochemical characteristics all of which may be crucial for establishing taxonomic relationships. The information sought may only be obtained through collecting fresh specimens from the type locality. In addition, many of the Holotype specimens collected from Cape York Peninsula were collected for foreign museums in Europe and America, which means that the specimens may not be easily accessible to Australians (Monteith 1974).

The identification of faunal type localities for this project was undertaken by interrogating the Zoological Catalogue (ABRS) to determine the location of type localities on Cape York Peninsula. This entailed a systematic search through the ABRS data base, and cross-referencing of the species identified with the current nomenclature for those found on the Peninsula. It is possible there have been a few oversights in the process.

Time constraints meant that only type locations of plant species endemic to Cape York Peninsula or with disjunct populations there have been documented. The point locations of 90 species were established by reference to the Australian Plant Name Index (Chapman 1991).

In addition to the Zoological Catalogue search, the invertebrate coverage created included records collated for those data based by the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC). Only 10 of the 32 Orders are currently on the data base and therefore able to be readily searched. The result was 77 species that have a precise type locality in the CYPLUS study area. An indication of the partial coverage that the ANIC data-set provides is that it records 13 type specimens from the Lockerbie Scrub and Somerset area, when a literature survey reveals that 18 species of butterflies, 159 species of moth, 163 beetle species and 70 spiders have a type locality there (Monteith 1974).

Cape York Peninsula has been an important centre for plant and animal collection since the times of first European exploration. Many species that have wide spread distributions across northern Australia, have their type locality on the Peninsula. Figures 18.2, 18.3, & 18.4 show type locations for flora, invertebrate and terrestrial vertebrate species respectively. Only the vertebrate coverage can be considered comprehensive.

Although the invertebrate and flora coverages are far from complete, they do highlight areas that have been a particular focus for biological collection. These areas are further highlighted in Table 18.1 which gives the general location names attached to type specimens which are without precise grid reference locations. As is evident the vicinities of Cooktown, Somerset, Thursday Island, Iron Range and Coen are the key areas on Cape York Peninsula for biological type localities (Figure 18.5).

Relative ease of access by ship (for Cooktown, Thursday Island and Somerset) and later by road (for Coen and Iron Range) together with an interest in rainforests (for example, at Iron Range and Somerset) are important reasons explaining why these areas were a focus of collecting activity. A significant feature of the collecting sites on Cape York Peninsula is that, unlike many areas of early biological collecting in Australia, many of the Cape York Peninsula sites are still in essentially in the same condition as when the collections were made.

Table 18.1 Generalised Type Localities

Place             Animals         Plants     Total    

Cooktown          58              1          59       

Endeavour River   31              10         41       

Somerset          39              1          40       

Lockerbie         8                          8        

Bamaga            3                          3        

Thursday Island   19              1          20       

Iron Range        18              3          21       

Pascoe River      4                          4        

Claudie River     9                          9        

McIlwraith Range  3               6          9        

IR - Tozers Gap   3                          3        

MR - Lankley Ck   3                          3        

Coen              38                         38       

Cape Grenville    6                          6        

Bloomfield River  5                          5        

Utingu            5                          5        

Stewart River     4                          4        

Annan River       3                          3        

Jardine River     2               1          3        

Watson River      3                          3        

Cape Flattery     2                          2        

Evans Bay         2                          2        

Laura             2                          2        

Peak Point        2                          2        

Hann River        1                          1        

King Plain        1                          1        

Musgrave                          1          1        

Lower Archer      1                          1        

Somerset                          1          1        

Temple Bay                        1          1        

A feature of the Cooktown and Somerset type localities is that many of the collections were made by scientists whose activities have been significant within the history of Australia and/or a scientific field. Criterion H of the Register of the National Estate addresses the importance of places for their association with individuals whose actions have been significant in the course of Australian history. These type areas, which have changed little since the original collections were made, are significant under this criterion.

The north bank of the Endeavour River has changed little since August 1770, when the scientists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander collected a large number of plants, while the Endeavour, under the command of Captain James Cook was repaired. Alan Cunningham, botanist, explorer and later NSW Colonial Botanist, also collected from the Endeavour River area in 1819 and 1820 when accompanying Captain King in the Mermaid (Stanton 1976).

Rounding the "Cape" was a highlight of early voyages to Australia and most ships paused there for a day or two to take on water and celebrate completing that leg of the voyage. Many of these ships carried official naturalists such as John MacGillivray (Rattlesnake), and J. Beete Jukes (Fly) and hence Cape York and adjacent islands became a common collecting locality at a period when most of the northern coast line remained unvisited (Monteith 1974).

From 1863 till 1879 a small Government settlement was established at Somerset under the command of John Jardine, the Government Resident. The settlement became a resting location and base for scientific expeditions. This included an expedition of the Chevert funded by Sir William Macleay, a significant patron of Australian scientific research, who also collected animal specimens in the area. The ships that supplied the settlement with provisions also provided transport for naturalists to the area, several, such as James Cockerall and J.A. Thorpe, spent many months collecting in the area. When the Government settlement moved to Thursday Island, Frank Jardine, (John's oldest son) bought the buildings and remained there until his death in 1919. Thus, the Somerset area, and the near-by Albany Island and Lockerbie Scrub areas remained a centre for biologists visiting Cape York Peninsula (Monteith 1974).