Why the Kimberley?
As anyone who has been there knows, the Kimberley is one of those special places in the world. From the breathtaking gorges, sandstone cliffs and ridges, beautiful rivers and falls, open plains, and the stunning coastline, the Kimberley embodies our ideas of wilderness and nature.
It's a World Heritage site and home to thousands of species of animal, many of which can be found nowhere else. The birdlife is simply amazing and the Kimberley is one of the few places in the world where reptiles dominate the land. Humans have been living in the Kimberley for tens of thousands of years and Indigenous culture remains strong.
As the name suggests, Global Environmental Change (GEC) is affecting the planet in many different ways, and not even an area as large or remote as the Kimberley is immune. Whilst Climate Change has yet to show effects on the Kimberley, another important part of GEC is knocking on the door. Invasive species are one of the major threats to biodiversity worldwide and a particularly dangerous invasive species has just arrived from the east - the infamous cane toad.
Cane toads have had a huge impact on Australian wildlife, particularly native predators which are killed when they try to eat the highly toxic toad. The spread of toads from Townsville across the tropics has resulted in population crashes of quolls, goannas, and other species. This is a big problem for the Kimberley because quolls and goannas are some of the most important predators in this ecosystem - and, in ecology, predators play a very important role in keeping the ecosystem working. And then there are other species, such as the Magnificent Tree Frog, that cane toads hadn't encountered before they arrived in the Kimberley; potentially, there could be a huge impact but we simply don't know how these frogs will be affected.
Cane toads arrived in the East Kimberley in 2012 and will disperse westwards and northwards through the region over the next decade. Their spread over the landscape can't be prevented (that's been tried - they are just too numerous), but we can use carefully targeted scientific approaches to understand and minimise their impact on key species. In the long term, we want to use science-based management strategies to maximise the chances of the Kimberley ecosystem to recover from the impact that it is about to receive.
Project Kimberley will develop and target these strategies along three themes:
Theme 1: Measuring Impact
Theme 2: The Kimberley Ark
Theme 3: Ecosystem Function