Australian Aquatic Biological

Australian aquatic biodiversity research and consultancy

An expedition into the upper Clyde River system

 

Euastacus frehswater crayfish were abundant in the upper Clyde River

In October 2012 we conducted a survey of the upper Clyde River with the priority being to determine the freshwater crayfish species present within the upper catchment. It is currently unknown which freshwater crayfish species occur in this pristine and mostly inaccessible area. Our survey aimed at filling this knowledge gap and also record the other species present within the upland creeks and swamps.

The survey team. From the left: Rob McCormack; Hugh Jones; Paul Van der Werf; David Crass

The survey was a team effort with a group of us getting together to find and survey as many watercourses in the area as possible. The team consisted of;

David Crass – Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority

Hugh Jones – Office of Environment and Heritage

Rob McCormack – Australian Aquatic Biological and Australian Crayfish Project volunteer

Paul Van der Werf – Earthan Group and Australian Crayfish Project volunteer

Hugh scooping and Paul photographing the catch in a tributary of the upper Clyde River

Hugh scooping and Paul photographing the catch in a tributary of the upper Clyde River

The area of interest is entirely within the Morton National Park and with the aid of Libby Shields and Rob Perry who are the local National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers for the area we gained access to the whole park which has a series of maintenance roads through it. It was very fortuitous that we could gain access as it would have taken us ages to cover the area on foot. Libby told us some of the roads were currently impassable but we had Hugh Jones at the wheel of his Toyota troop carrier and though some of the roads proved extreme they were all passable for Hugh and his V8 diesel troop carrier.

Hugh at the wheel of his car with Paul beside him. The roads were extreme.

Hugh at the wheel of his car with Paul beside him, I was hanging on in the back taking this photo and waiting for it to roll. The roads were extreme but Hugh got us out and back safely.

Unfortunately, they were far too extreme for both Pauls and my Great Walls so we left them discarded along the side of the track and loaded into Hugh’s beast for an exciting 4 wheel drive adventure. We came within millimetres of rolling the troopy in a pothole at one point but Hugh ground us up and out of what we described as a bomb crater. Much of the area we were surveying was part of the old bombing range and there were signs up everywhere warning of unexploded ordinance.

Paul and my Great Walls were no match for the rough roads and we were lucky to have Hugh’s Toyota for the extreme roads.

The upland streams in the area were relatively cold being 9-12⁰C and very low pH (4-5) without much biodiversity. The upper streams were without fish though they did occur at lower altitudes. We were unable to find any shrimp, crabs, snails or mussels but both macro invertebrates and tadpoles were common and freshwater crayfish were abundant in many of the larger streams. The area was pristine and a tribute to the NSW National Parks for the management and protection of the area. This survey is part of a series of the area and a report on our findings will be submitted to the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and we are thankful to them for assisting with funding for our surveys.

Blue Mountains Tree Frogs (Litoria citropa) were common in the area

 

 

 

Morton National Park below Fitzroy Falls searching for Euastacus dharawalus

Fitzroy Falls, NSW

Fitzroy Falls, NSW

Euastacus dharawalus is a critically endangered species that is only known to occur in Wildes Meadow Creek above Fitzroy Falls, NSW. There has been some conjecture as to whether or not the species occurs below the Falls. It’s a rugged, inhospitable area below the falls and it had never been surveyed for freshwater crayfish. As part of the Euastacus dharawalus project we conducted the seventh survey in Wildes Meadow Creek and Yarrunga Creek below Fitzroy Falls on the 29th and 30th of May 2012. The first site was on Wildes Meadow Creek at the base of the Falls and then a site on Yarrunga Creek 5.65 km downstream from the falls and the last site a further 4.87 km downstream from site 2.

These three sites were investigated with the surveys being conducted by Robert B McCormack (Australian Aquatic Biological P/L), Justin Stanger (NSW DPI Fisheries) and Prue McGuffie (NSW DPI Fisheries). Each survey consisted of setting 20 traps (10 green opera house and 10 box traps) along a 80-100 m section of stream for a minimum of 120 minutes. Traps were baited with pilchards and set from the bank.

Prue McGuffie, NSW DPI Fisheries (left). Rob McCormack, Australian Aquatic Biological P/L (middle). Justin Stanger, NSW DPI Fisheries (right) on Wildes Meadow Creek below the Falls

Prue McGuffie, NSW DPI Fisheries (left). Rob McCormack, Australian Aquatic Biological P/L (middle). Justin Stanger, NSW DPI Fisheries (right) on Wildes Meadow Creek below the Falls

Fitzroy Falls is a popular tourist destination with the Falls dropping 80 m off the escarpment to the creek below where it further cascades over a series of smaller waterfalls and cascades carved deep in the heavily forested lush damp valley. The area below the falls is remote and the only access is from the top of the escarpment. With the assistance of NSW NPWS we managed to find an old disused track to the base of the falls. It was a bit of an effort to get down the escarpment to the base of the falls with our equipment but once there we managed to find some crayfish specimens.

The site was extremely rugged and it was hard to find good fishing spots but Justin carried his waders down the mountain and put them on, hoped into the swift flowing stream and managed to find a number of good locations to set some survey traps. Prue and I watched on with a smile as Justin waded the stream and scrambled over the slippery boulders and jumped, scrambled, fell, slid, bounced and climbed the rapids and waterfalls to get to the very base of the Falls.

Justin taking water quality readings and Prue recording the information

Justin taking water quality readings and Prue recording the information

We were unable to find any Euastacus dharawalus below the Falls, only finding Euastacus yanga and Cox’s gudgeons. Interestingly the Euastacus yanga we were finding were an unusual morphological variety without much in the way of abdominal spines, but extra spines on their claws.

Euastacus yanga from Wildes Meadow Creek below the Falls

Euastacus yanga from Wildes Meadow Creek below the Falls

It was an interesting survey that concluded E. dharawalus does not occur below the falls and I’m grateful to NSW DPI Fisheries for all their help and assistance.

The new hairy crayfish Euastacus neohirsutus

The new hairy crayfish Euastacus neohirsutus

The new hairy crayfish Euastacus neohirsutus

This is a relatively small dwarf group crayfish that is shy and elusive, with an extensive burrow system. We were researching streams draining the Dorrigo plateau south of Dorrigo. The streams were clear and fast flowing and Euastacus neohirsutus was plentiful in the area. They tended to be in the upper catchments with Euastacus dangadi in the lower regions.

Euastacus neohirsutus

Euastacus neohirsutus

They are a common species around the Nymboida, Dorrigo and Coffs Harbour areas. Occurring in the catchments of the Nambucca, Bellingen and Macleay rivers (Styx River) and Clarence River (Little Nymboida, Nymboida, Orara and Bobo river systems). Though common they are rarely seen spending most of their time in flooded burrow systems. We surveyed tributaries of the Rosewood and Never Never Rivers which are all tributaries of the Bellinger River. We found them in every stream we surveyed and they seemed abundant in the area.

Paul and I spent the night in Tuckers Nob State Forest beside little Hydes Creek which was full of eels and gudgeons

Paul and I spent the night in Tuckers Nob State Forest beside little Hydes Creek which was full of eels and gudgeons

Cox's Gudgeon Gobiomorphus coxii were abundant in Little Hydes Creek

Cox's Gudgeon Gobiomorphus coxii were abundant in Little Hydes Creek

 

 

 

An Expedition for the small spiny crayfish Euastacus dangadi

Euastacus dangadi from the Bellinger River, NSW

Euastacus dangadi from the Bellinger River, NSW

This small intermediate group crayfish is relatively widespread and prolific. It is found in coastal mountain streams of New South Wales from north of Coffs Harbour to Telegraph Point in the south and Rolland Plains, Dorrigo and Nymboida in the west. They prefer clear water with dense overhanging terrestrial vegetation. Its greatest populations are in forest streams but it can also be found in lesser numbers in the streams through cleared grazing paddocks. Larger animals will wander the ponds during the day, especially after mid-afternoon. They can be active day and night, but most populations have their peak activity at night.

Paul and I circled the Great Walls and camped on the side of the road on the slopes of Mount Killiekrankie

Paul and I circled the Great Walls and camped on the side of the road on the slopes of Mount Killiekrankie

We were researching them in the forest streams near Bellingen, NSW and the streams in the area were perfect with good numbers in all suitable streams. They are a sociable species and small deep pools in otherwise dry creek beds will often contain many E. dangadi living around the edges or in the steam bed. Euastacus dangadi spends much of its time in its burrow. They burrow both into the banks and into the stream bottom, and any shelter is utilised. Burrows can have two to over ten entrances and some banks can be honeycombed with burrows. We were researching streams in the Bellinger River and everything was flowing nicely. Euastacus dangadi can be found from near sea level up the catchment to 550 metres or so and we were attempting to find them in the upper catchments in the 400-500 m range. Unfortunately, most of the Bellinger River catchment is remote and inaccessible so we had a high level of difficulty accessing suitable streams either being too high or too low.

Berried Euastacus dangadi are common in the Bellinger River in May 2012

Berried Euastacus dangadi are common in the Bellinger River in May 2012

This was the first of a series of surveys we will be doing on the Bellinger River catchment and it was just what we call a “touchy feely” to ascertain what’s required for next time. This recognisance of the area identified which National Parks and forests we need to survey so we can contact the appropriate NP&WS officer and which private property owners we need to contact to access streams through their properties, etc. We will be back in the area better prepared later this year so stay tuned for further updates.

 

 

Project 100059 Euastacus urospinosus

Euastacus urospinosus

Euastacus urospinosus

For some time now we have been surveying the Conondale Range in Queensland for a small dwarf group crayfish Euastacus urospinosus. It’s a species with very specific habitat requirements that occurs in a relatively remote area. They prefer the deep rainforest valleys but the logging roads in the area are all along the top of the ridges so if you want to survey the area for these crayfish you need to abandon the roads and scramble down the mountains through the forests into the lush creek beds below. That makes for some exciting and exhausting surveying. It’s satisfying when you find them but exasperating when you search high and low with none to be found. Nothing for it, just drag yourself back up the mountain and do it all over again at the next potential site.

Euastacus urospinosus burrow entrance

Euastacus urospinosus burrow entrance

Project 100059 has finally been concluded (May 2012), we feel we have enough information to confirm our initial findings and future researchers can expand on our surveying results. We managed to identify 16 sites where Euastacus urospinosus were abundant in 6 new streams in two catchments. A paper has been written and is currently out for review so stay tuned as we will advise when published.

Rob McCormack (left) and Paul Van der Werf (right) researching Euastacus urospinosus. Each flag represents a burrow entrance in the rainforest floor.

Rob McCormack (left) and Paul Van der Werf (right) researching Euastacus urospinosus. Each flag represents a burrow entrance in the rainforest floor.