State: QLD | Hectares: 58,850 | IUCN Category: II, IV | Partners: Australian Wildlife Conservancy
One of the many gorges on Taravale Photo courtesy of AWC
Reserves like Mt Zero-Taravale in North Queensland are helping to protect some of the species and habitats that are the most vulnerable to climate change.
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) bought Mt Zero in 2001, adding neighbouring property Taravale two years later, with both acquisitions supported by the National Reserve System Program. The sanctuary provides an important link from the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area west to drier country.
Protecting the sanctuary's huge variety of landscapes creates a safe haven for its native plants and animals. Resilient, well managed landscapes are our best defence against climate change, so AWC's work in controlling wildfire, weeds like lantana, and feral animals like pigs, horses, rabbits and cats is vital. By reducing other threats, native species are more able to adapt to a changing climate.
Peter Hensler manages Mt Zero-Taravale for AWC, and says it is particularly important to protect areas like this because of their staggering biodiversity.
"When you get a region like this with big variation in rainfall, temperature and the height of the land, you get enormous variation in plant and animal life," he says.
"This magnificent wilderness runs from wet sclerophyll forest through to arid spinifex-covered hills, and is home to hundreds of animal and bird species including the threatened northern bettong, spotted-tailed quoll and masked owl. Protecting them as climate change sets in is really important."
But the enormous biodiversity of Mt Zero-Taravale isn't the only thing that makes it important to the National Reserve System. By helping the AWC purchase Taravale next to the existing Mt Zero reserve, the Australian Government was reflecting a growing trend in what the World Commission on Protected Areas calls connectivity conservation.
Penelope Figgis is the Vice Chair for Australia and New Zealand of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. She says connectivity conservation is about strategically linking protected areas to provide unfragmented chains of well-managed native ecosystems.
"A region's climate - how hot it is and how much rain it gets - dictates what can survive there," Penny says. "If those things change, particularly over a short period of time, many plant and animal species could be isolated in places that no longer support them.
"Most scientists agree that an essential response is creating greater connectivity across the landscape. Connectivity conservation is about linking 'islands' of protected areas into connected large-scale mosaics of lands that are managed cooperatively. This creates wildlife corridors between different types of habitat, allowing native species to move through the landscape as their previous environment changes seeking habitat that better suits their needs."