Sound map update: announcing the FKISM


The Fleurieu Sound Map – which I have facilitated since 2011 – is to be expanded into the Fleurieu & Kangaroo Island Sound Map.

The recent Communiqué post covered the impact of the 2019-20 Australian bushfires which have, and continue to decimate communities and ecosystems across the country. The magnitude and extent of their destruction has far surpassed previous natural disasters. The scale and impact on the environment is beyond comprehension.

Here in South Australia, devastating fires in the Adelaide Hills, Yorke Peninsula and – most recently – Kangaroo Island have torn through communities and ecosystems. Livelihoods have been lost, people have died, and the impact on the natural environment and wildlife has been unprecedented.

The fires on Kangaroo Island – which had already been burning for two weeks in north-western sections of Ravine De Casours – quickly spread on the 3rd of January, burning through 1500 square kilometres; including much of Flinders Chase National Park, Kelly Hill Conservation Area, Cape Bouguer and the locality of Karrata. Tourist accomodation and infrastructure was badly affected – the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre, Wilderness Retreat and Southern Lodge have been completely destroyed, along with park facilities and research centres.

KI bushfires-David Mariuz.png
Image: David Mariuz/AAP. Courtesy of the Guardian: source

Then there’s the massive impact on flora and fauna. It is estimated that as many as 25,000 koalas (over half of the island’s estimated population) have been killed. This population is the only genetic lineage that is chlamydia-free (attributed to the relative isolation of the island) and is viewed essentially as the species ‘insurance policy’ to stave of functional extinction in the wild. The Kangaroo Island dunnart, Glossy Black Cockatoo  and Ligurian honey bee are also now pushed to the brink of extinction along with several other species.

It feels like a cruel blow for conservation efforts. As I’d mentioned previously, the island is viewed as sanctuary for many species, with a rich biodiversity afforded by the island’s isolation and lack of anthropogenic impacts in the western region. The fires, in many respects, underscore the sobering fact that no part of our planet is protected from an increasingly warming and drying biosphere.

A huge mobilisation effort is underway across the country to survey and evaluate the impact that these fires have had on the environment. Research institutions, fauna rescue, NRMs, First Nations People, communities and citizen science initiatives have been, and continue to be actively involved with this.

Personally, I’ve felt so helpless as this destruction has unfolded, and the disaster in  Kangaroo Island has been especially devastating. The impressions and memories of my October 2019 trip with Lauren are still so vivid, and it’s been incredibly difficult to reconcile this with the subsequent documentation of a ravaged landscape. Events like this really do emphasise the tenuous grip that life has in our biosphere, and how rapidly things can change.

In this respect, it’s been – at times – excruciating to look at images/video or listen to the audio recordings that were made during our trip; especially along the KI Wilderness Trail.

When we were there, I’d given some thought to expanding the Fleurieu Sound Map to include Kangaroo Island. On the one hand, I was completely blown away the environment (it was my first trip to the island) and struck by particular continuities it had with the Fleurieu region, whilst conversely possessing unique, one-of-a-kind attributes. Perhaps the most striking observation I’d had at the time was just how free of anthropogenic (human-made) sound the western region was. It’s one of the quietest places I’ve ever been to! Particular soundscapes arrived at my ears with such a transparency and vividness that has become so rarefied in our noisy world.

That was then, and this is now. The expansion of the sound map remained an ongoing thought, but the fires have now posited this idea as an absolute necessity. Why? I think in the broadest possible sense, accomodating the island is a personal gesture of solidarity, love and compassion for the region. The Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island – in both ancient and contemporaneous eras – have such deep, reciprocal bond with each other. Additionally, given that the primary agenda of the sound map has – in recent years – shifted to more rigorous approach in terms of documenting and monitoring sites over time, I feel that presenting sites on the island – pre- (and eventually post-) bushfires – may serve/aid (in a localised and broader context) as a valuable resource with regard to evaluating the island’s unique ecologies and their subsequent recovery.

Granted, there weren’t a lot of recordings made on the October 2019 trip, but these will serve as a starting point. I’m planning to add these to the expanded sound map in the next week or two. These updates will be announced via my Twitter account.

Lauren and I intend to visit the island again sometime later this year.

Here are some local charities/initiative that you can donate to, which will assist with the island’s overall recovery:

Kangaroo Island Mayoral Relief and Recovery Fund

South Australia bushfire relief fund

South Australia Animal Fauna Rescue


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