Why not walk the trail and become a citizen scientist by recording the plants and animals you see on the free Climate Watch app.
Download our species guide to help get you started.
Skip straight to:
View the Map Section 1 Mangrove Section 2 Revegetation Section 3 Pests Section 4 In the Dark Section 5 Bush Tucker
Follow the 5km trail and click on the sections below for more information and answers to the signs questions.
The Science Trail Map
Download the printable map or see below for more information.
Mangroves are an important part of our coastal ecosystem. They filter water and sediment and provide habitat for a range of intertidal wildlife including birds, reptiles and invertebrates. Mangroves provide a nursery for many fish species. These highly specialised plants of the mangrove, such as Rhizophora and Sonneratiaspecies, offer a buffer against storm and tidal erosion.
- How do mangrove plants survive underwater?
For mangroves to survive in the intertidal environment, they must be able to tolerate a wide range of conditions with variations in salinity, temperature, oxygen and moisture on a daily basis.
Root adaptations are just one unique feature of these plants that make it possible for mangroves to live in the soft oxygen-poor (anaerobic) sediments along the shoreline.
All plants require oxygen for respiration to grow and survive. In times when the soil the mangrove lives in is not underwater, air diffusion between sediment grains can supply this requirement. However, in waterlogged soils, these spaces fill with water blocking access to oxygen. Each species of mangrove plant has different adaptions to allow them to live in the intertidal zone. Species such as the Rhizophora stylosa, produce a maze of arching stilt roots from the trunk and slender aerial roots from branches, to allow it to gain enough oxygen to survive even when the tide comes in along the shoreline.
East Point Reserve was extensively cleared in the 1960s and after cyclone Tracy in 1974. Revegetation of cleared areas and restoration of remnant monsoon rainforest is ongoing at the Reserve. Planting different species throughout the year assists the rainforest to maintain its biodiversity and provides habitat for flora and fauna of the Darwin region.
How many different plant species do you think grow at East Point Reserve?
Did you know that East Point Reserve used to be a golf course? Back in the 1930s the area was cleared extensively for the Darwin Golf Club. Today the City of Darwin actively revegetates the Reserve to bring back some of the diversity of plants and animals that originally existed here.
To make sure we are getting the revegetation right, we undertake biodiversity surveys. From this Council produces management plans to help guide its actions in conserving the monsoon rainforest. East Point Reserve has over 21 hectares of monsoon rainforest in good condition with over 200 different species of plants. This site is a refugee for native plant species that once covered most of the Darwin region.
- Could you tell this site was planted in 2010?
See how the process takes place….
Stage 1 Preparing the soil
Stage 2 Planting and watering
Stage 3 Vegetation maturing
Stage 4 3 year old
An important part of managing East Point Reserve is dealing with pests. This includes reducing invasive weeds and animal pests such as the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina). Cane Toads were first detected in Darwin in 2005, after migrating from Queensland where they were introduced in 1935 as an unsuccessful biological control for cane beetles. Their highly toxic poison is deadly to many native fauna species including mammals, snakes and lizards.
- How do you think the impact of pests can be reduced?
City of Darwin uses a range of methods to help reduce pests in East Point Reserve. Animal pests such as wild cats and dogs are monitored and trapped when they pose a risk to humans or native fauna. Lake Alexander also has a toad fence surrounding portions of the Lake to funnel and trap cane toads to minimise their numbers. Although Council staff work hard to minimise the cane toad infestation, there is still an issue of toads invading the Reserve and posing a threat to the wildlife that call this area home.
Plant pests or ‘weeds’ are actively removed using methods such as hand pulling in conjunction with spraying of herbicide. This process aligns to our East Point Reserve Biodiversity management plan and meets our requirements under the NT Governments Weeds Management Act 2001.
4. In the Dark
East Point Reserve is home to a variety of native fauna. Many of these species such as possums, owls and monitor lizards are more active at night (nocturnal). Even wallabies prefer to feed when the sun goes down for safety from predators and to avoid the heat of the day. Many nocturnal species have developed physiological adaptations that help them see at night.
- What other nocturnal animals do you think live in the Reserve?
Even though we might not see them during the day many fauna species are more active at night.
We are well aware of all the animals that prefer the cover of darkness and aim to look after the Reserve in such a way that all the flora and fauna thrive. Apart from the Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and Agile Wallabies (Macrpopus agilis), some of the other animals that prefer to be more active at night in the Reserve include:
Frogs: including the Marbled Frog (Limnodynastes convexiusculus), Striped Rocket Frog (Litoria nasuta), and Green Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea).
Mammals: such as the Northern Brown Bandicoot (Isoodon macrourus), Grassland Melomy (Melomys burtoni), Flying Foxes (Pteropus alecto), Gould’s Wattled Bat (Chalinobus gouldii), and even Dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) roam the rainforest at night.
Birds: many owl species such as the Tawny Frogmouth Owl (Podargus strigoides), Barking Owl (Ninox connivens), Owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus), and Curlews (Burhinus grallarius).
5. Bush Tucker
Having a remnant monsoon rainforest so close to the city gives us access and insight into the many native plants that indigenous people have used for thousands of years and still use today such as the Australian Ebony, which when red this bitter tasting fruit is eaten straight from the tree. The traditional custodians of the Darwin region, the Larrakia people enjoy the variety of local seafood, molluscs and mangrove plants available at East Point.
- What products do you use that are made from Australian native plants?
Did you notice the native sandalwood Exocarpos latifolius along the mangrove boardwalk?
Sandalwood is nature’s perfume and is used in many products from soap, cleaning products, perfume incense. Australian Sandalwood has a fragrant dark coloured wood that is coarse-grained ideal for furniture making although due to its height is more often used for wood carving and smaller pieces like utensils. The tree was used for many purposes by First Nations Peoples. The leaves were burned to repel insects and leaves crushed in a solution to treat sores.
Other common native plants readily used today include:
Eucalyptus oil – is probably one of the most well-known native oils and is found in many cleaning products.
Macadamia nuts – this delicious tasting nut is native to Australia and is now commonly cultivated for commercial purposes.
Lemon myrtle – has long been used as a food and medicinal plant. The leaf is often used as dried flakes, or in the form of a flavour essence. It has a range of uses, in both sweet and savoury dishes including biscuits, pasta and as a coating for chicken or fish. The oil is also popular ingredient in health care and cleaning products, especially soaps, lotions and shampoos.
Or perhaps you thought about Tea-tree oil, Rosella or Quandong jams or even pandanus leaves woven into baskets. The list is endless.
6. Atlas Moth
The Atlas Moth (Attacus wardi) hasn't been seen at East Point Reserve since the 1960s, when the area was heavily cleared of vegetation. With continued revegetation of important habitat and food plants such as the Croton habrophyllus, Pittosporum moluccanum and Litsea glutinosa this impressive giant moth will be reintroduced to East Point Reserve.
- How big can the Atlas Moth grow?
This giant moth species is commonly found with a wing span of 17cm.
City of Darwin hopes to reintroduce the Atlas Moth to the East Point Reserve in 2021. The moth has not been seen in this area since Cyclone Tracy. Local populations near Dundee Beach have been successfully bred in captivity. To facilitate its reintroduction Council is planting known food and larval plant species including the Litsea glutinosa and Croton habrophyllus in areas that are believed to be preferred habitat.
Hopefully one night we will be able to see these magnificent insects around the Reserve again!
7. Homes and Habitat
Homes come in many shapes and sizes. This is the nest of the Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt). Commonly called ‘Bush Chooks’ these birds are common in the Darwin region and are often found in backyards but not many backyards have a nest this big! These nests are such an iconic feature of the area.
- What other animal homes can you find?
East Point is home to many species of wildlife. They all live within the reserve creating a vibrant ecosystem. As you walk through East Point you will find many different animal homes, including; termite mounds, Green Ant nests (look in the trees!), burrows, spider webs, bird nests, tree hollows and logs.
Being a city located on the coast has many benefits but makes the land vulnerable to erosion by waves. The natural process of cliff faces and rocks being eroded into the ocean can reveal beautiful rock formations. However the unpredictable nature of eroding rocks can make these areas dangerous. City of Darwin is working to minimise the impact of erosion at East Point Reserve and other coastal areas around Darwin.
- What other natural processes contribute to erosion?
Coastal erosion is caused by many factors some of the natural processes include; wind, waves, storm surge, sea level rise, gravity, biological impacts and even natural rock face instability. Coastal erosion may also result from man-induced activities. City of Darwin has an Erosion Management Plan that outlines many ways Council is trying to reduce the impact of erosion on the land and surrounding infrastructure. Many of the measures in the plan include mitigation against wind, wave, cyclone, and water intrusion erosion. To view the plan click here.
9. Migratory birds
Australia is a haven for migratory shorebirds during the Northern Hemisphere winter (our wet season). There are over 15 visiting bird species that frequent this area making it an important habitat not only locally but globally. The number of bird species found in the Reserve has been recorded at 189 making it an ideal location for bird watchers.
- Where do most of the birds visiting Darwin fly to in the dry season?
Russia and Northern Asia are the originating locations for many of the migratory birds found around Darwin in the wet season.
Migratory birds are those that regularly move from one area to another at predictable cycles. As winter in the Northern Hemisphere starts to take a hold, migratory birds in Siberia the Arctic and North Eastern China start making their way south to feed and build up fat stores as well as avoid the bitterly cold winter.
Thousands of them gather each year around Darwin including East Point. The migratory birds frequent the intertidal zones as these are prime feeding areas and highlight Northern Australia is part of the great East Asian Australasian Flyway an important route for many migratory bird species.
The most abundant species at East Point Reserve are Great Knot, Greater Sand Plover, Grey-tailed Tattler, Lesser Sand Plover and Ruddy Turnstone. Many of these species are considered threatened and Darwin is one of the few places they can be seen in reasonable populations.
East Point Reserve is home to a wild population of Agile Wallabies (Macropus agilis). These macropods thrive here due to a large amount of native vegetation for cover and protection, interspersed with open grazing areas and water points. This is one of few wild populations so close to a capital city. Wallabies are an iconic species loved by residents and tourists alike.
- How many wallabies do you think live at East Point reserve?
A population of over 200 wallabies call East Point Reserve home.
City of Darwin undertakes regular wallaby population surveys to monitor the health and viability of the wallaby population. These physical counts allow appropriate management techniques to be implemented within the Reserve. This includes ensuring the open grazing areas are sufficient for the population to feed adequately, as well as maintaining several artificial water points for the wallabies to drink. Wallabies can often be found in a mob grazing together. This is called a mob of wallabies similar to kangaroos.