NRM North details unique discoveries made at Launceston icon Cataract Gorge

UNIQUE: NRM North coastal coordinator Emma Williams at the purple loosestrife flower's habitat at Cataract Gorge. Picture: Tamara McDonald
UNIQUE: NRM North coastal coordinator Emma Williams at the purple loosestrife flower's habitat at Cataract Gorge. Picture: Tamara McDonald

Cataract Gorge is both a wondrous natural attraction of Launceston, and an important ecosystem. 

NRM North coastal coordinator Emma Williams said "everyday folks with an interest in a particular area" had uncovered unique discoveries at the gorge. 

"Launceston’s Cataract Gorge and surrounding Trevallyn Reserve are not only valuable to locals and visitors alike for their scenic beauty and outdoor activities, but are a treasure-trove of hidden natural wonders, many of them rare or threatened elsewhere," Ms Williams said.   

The first official Tasmanian recording of the Craspedacusta sowerbyi, or the freshwater jellyfish, was made at Lake Trevallyn in March 2009. 

The jellyfish wasn't dangerous, and was discovered during routine water testing at Lake Trevallyn. 

Local naturalists Wade and Lisa Clarkson discovered and mapped the range of a tiny new millipede, exclusive to the Trevallyn Reserve. 

A visiting schoolboy, Boaz Ng, found wetland plant Utricularia australis, or yellow fairy-apron or yellow bladderwort, in a small pond near the First Basin.

The species had never been known to flower in Tasmania prior to the February 2013 encounter. 

Ms Williams said many more threatened species called the gorge home.

Species included the plant purple loosestrife that has tall purple flower spikes.

Spotted tailed quolls, and endangered Tasmanian masked owls (Tyto novaehollandiae castanops), which are more likely to be heard than seen, and Australian fur seals have also appeared at Cataract Gorge.

In 1902, an unusual occurrence transpired when a dolphin was captured in the Cataract Gorge and described as a new distinctive species of bottlenose dolphin, although this designation was later altered.

“Dolphins are sensitive to human impacts on waterways and have subsequently declined in numbers, and would rarely be seen anywhere near the gorge these days,” Ms Williams said. 

Ms Williams encouraged anyone interested in making their own discoveries to join active groups such as the Launceston Field Naturalists.

They can also participate in citizen science programs like Fungimap and the NRM North-Basin Cottage annual Night Stalk, or make their own observations and record them with the Atlas of Living Australia (http://www.ala.org.au/).

NRM North would love to hear from anyone looking to start their own wildlife or flora monitoring activities, either on reserve land or private property, if they would like assistance starting their monitoring.