Following the impact of the 2019/20 bushfires, which affected approximately 80 per cent of the million hectares of national park land in the Blue Mountains, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI) has launched a citizen science project.
The project will monitor the impacts of climate change on the ecosystems of The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area of Australia, aiming to inform future protection and recovery planning at local, state and national levels.
The project will also monitor flora and fauna and the impact on threatened ecosystems like upland swamps, facing intensifying drought, fire and local flooding.
Supported by grant funding from the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, the Federal Government's Communities Environment Program, and local tourism operator, Scenic World, monitoring activities will span across Blackheath, Katoomba, Wentworth Falls, Lawson and Springwood, totalling 28 sites overall.
Dr John Merson from BMWHI said the findings would enhance community capacity and knowledge, enabling beyond-the-project monitoring programs to be maintained and developed.
"We are installing new equipment, including camera traps, cameras and audio recording devices to monitor all five eco-system types including rainforest, wet sclerophyll, dry sclerophyll, heath and swamps," he said.
"A new App is also being developed that will feed data into the BioCollect system for inclusion in the Atlas of Living Australia."
Teams will make weekly site visits to record images and collect data, with the findings being published via community events, online, newsletters, reports and journal articles.
CEO at the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, Ian Darbyshire said they were pleased to award grant funding to BMWHI in an effort to regenerate and learn more about the impacts of climate change in the region and beyond.
"This is vital in preserving our valuable national parks for future generations," he said.
Currently, the Blue Mountains National Park is only partially open in response to the COVID-19 emergency, however, John Merson from BMWHI encourages visitation where possible.
"The biodiversity and unique ecosystems of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area provide clean air and water to the Greater Sydney region, and its extraordinary beauty attracts over five million visitors a year," he said.
"Nature is slowly but surely recovering from the devastating fires of the past few months, but many species will be struggling.
"Much like testing for the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to gather as much information as possible to understand the impacts of more extreme fires, and weather conditions driven by climate change.
"During this challenging time, we are following strict distancing protocols while still aiming to gather as much data as possible, so we can continue to nurture and conserve this exceptional place."
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