The Scenic Rim

Around 23 million years ago, a large volcano erupted in what is now the border country between South East Queensland and northern NSW. Today, the central remains of this volcano form Mount Warning, a forested peak which, due its altitude, is the first point on the Australian mainland to be touched by the rising sun each morning. Millions of years of erosion have created a spectacular ring of ranges and plateaus surrounding Mount Warning, which are collectively known as the Scenic Rim.

One of the volcano’s legacies was a well-watered, basalt geology that has weathered to produce nutrient-rich volcanic soils. Consequently, at the time of European settlement, the Scenic Rim supported some of Australia’s largest expanses of subtropical rainforest. Fortunately, the rugged topography of the Scenic Rim has protected many of these rainforests from clearing. Today, large tracts of wilderness survive within several national parks, and the United Nations recognises the forests collectively as the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

Elsewhere, in more accessible areas along valley floors, such as in the Numinbah Valley, there has been extensive land clearing, and over the past century primary industries such as sugar cane, bananas and dairying have been developed, serviced by regional towns such as Murwillumbah. In some places, including our study site at Carool, agriculture has been abandoned and a rainforest-like vegetation is actively re-growing, albeit with a reduced diversity, and dominated by the introduced camphor laurel tree.

This diverse mosaic of landscapes and vegetation, incorporating old-growth rainforests, a history of agriculture and a developing focus on ecotourism, combined with the novel ecosystems of secondary forest re-growth, make the Scenic Rim a rewarding place to study ecology and conservation.