The Walpole Nornalup National Park

The Walpole Nornalup National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Western Australia, located on the south coast, 120km west of Albany. It is the home to a range of landforms, species and communities. Walpole is also one of the wettest places in WA with a minimal amount of seasonal variation. The national park is famous for its red tingle eucalypts and their massive buttressing bases supporting up to 75m of trunk and crown above the ground. These gums are one of the earliest evolved eucalypts in Australia. and often have hollowed out bases caused by bushfire and fungal attack. The Valley of the Giants was well-known for one red tingle tree whose hollow was so big that people could drive their cars into it. After this tree fell down in 1990, the famous Tree Top Walk was constructed and has become one of WA’s top icons.

Within this forest Gondwanan invertebrates still live, some surviving here for over
100 million years. The Tingle spider (Moggridgea tingle), which often lives in the bark on the south side of the tingle trees or in moist creek banks, has a close cousin in South Africa from when the continent broke away 140 million years ago. Also found in the Walpole Nornalup National Park is the Peripatus a living link between arthropods and worms that existed up to 400 million years ago.

The National Park has much more than that just the tingle forest. Within the park’s 18 000ha there is a diverse range of landscapes - sand dunes, heath lands, granite outcrops, karri, jarrah and red gum forests, ancient river systems, perched lakes and undulating hills rising from wetland swamps. With such a mosaic of different living areas, the National Park is home to a significant range of flora and fauna - especially invertebrates.

This has attracted many people who value the opportunity to study and understand the park's natural resources. The government body that manages national parks in Western Australia is the Department of Parks and Wildlife. The management of the park is guided by a 10 year Management Plan that has been developed by managers, scientists, community members and interest groups to ensure the natural and cultural values of the area are conserved for future generations.

The Walpole Nornalup National Park Association is one of the main active interest groups who continue to contribute building a community understanding and stewardship for the Park, and assisting where possible in its research and management. The Walpole Wilderness Invertebrate Research Project is one such undertaking and has been achievable through a partnership with the Department of Parks & Wildlife, the Nuyts Wilderness Research and Management Community Trust Fund and a grant from LotteryWest Gordon Reid Foundation for Conservation and Great Southern Development Commission.

The Nuyts Wilderness is a special area within the National Park and was zoned Wilderness in recognition of its biological and landscape diversity, limited access and natural beauty. This area is situated at the western extremity of the park on a peninsular bounded by Southern Ocean to the south, Nornalup Inlet and Deep River to the north and the western boundary joining the D’Entrecasteaux National Park. A range of management decisions were implemented including no vehicle access, restricted camping, no planned burning other than two fuel reduction buffer strips alongside walk tracks crossing the peninsular.

On 7 March 2001, following a morning electrical storm, a fire started in the wilderness and had burnt through 2700 hectares. By 11 March it was finally contained on the fuel reduction buffer after a massive effort by the Department of Parks & Wildlife. Due to the dry conditions and high fuel loadings the fire appeared to have a high impact to some vegetation and, with the removal of refuge and foraging habitat, appeared to have a large impact on fauna especially the mainland population of quokka and possums. This was an important opportunity to begin an intensive study to find out some of the fire's impact on the flora and fauna.

The project description illustrates why it is important to study the impact on invertebrates and monitor their re-colonisation. Invertebrates play an important role in their associated ecosystems, not just in the food chain, but many also have symbiotic relationships with plants. Invertebrates are the most biodiverse group in the Park. It is estimated more that 100 000 specimens will be collected and already over 200 new or undescribed species have been found.

This project, with its group of dedicated volunteers of the Walpole Nornalup National Parks Association, the Walpole Community and the Department of Parks and Wildlife and scientists, with the support of a LotteryWest grant are actively contributing not just to the management of the National Park but are building an understanding, awareness and stewardship that ensures the special values of the Walpole Nornalup National Park are able to be appreciated for generations to come.

To learn about the National Park, its highlights and future, please click on the following link within NatureBase, the Department of Parks & Wilflife’s award winning site.

Maps of the Walpole Nornalup National Park (click on the pictures to see them in full size):
Air photo of the Walpole Map of the National Park 3D Map of the Nyuts Wilderness