Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Values Study in the Cessnock Local Government Area and Surrounds

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Priority conservation areas

  1. Mapping results

    1. Overview

The prioritisation process outlined in Section 2.4 has resulted in a final priority conservation map that identifies the highest priority lands, from a World Heritage perspective, within the Cessnock LGA (Figure 4.1).

It could be expected that only areas in close proximity to the existing World Heritage area would be identified as being of priority for conservation. While in general the priority areas identified though the mapping process are closer to the existing World Heritage area, there are pockets throughout the entire LGA that are shown as being of high priority for conservation utilising the parameters and weightings used for modelling in this study. This is because they support many similar complementary values to the World Heritage values, such as:

high eucalypt diversity

threatened vegetation

threatened species habitat

large patch size

good connectivity

riparian areas.

Such factors are recognised as being of significance for biodiversity conservation in general, but are also directly relevant to the values contained within the existing World Heritage area and the complementary lands within the entire Cessnock LGA. The following maps and analyses provide priority conservation rankings for all lands in the Cessnock LGA. These rankings are provided for discussion purposes and enable identification of priority conservation areas.

A general description of the findings within the three main regions of the Cessnock LGA as shown in Figure 4.1 are outlined below, with more detailed discussion on each of the priority conservations areas provided in following sections.

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Figure 4. World Heritage priority conservation analysis overview

        1. Western Region

This area consists of Yengo National Park (existing GBMWHA), inholdings and the Wollombi Valley and surrounds, as shown on Figure 4.2. Yengo National Park itself is not discussed in detail here as it can be expected that it would predominantly be of high priority for conservation in the mapping, which is generally the case on the map.

Given the close proximity to the existing GBMWHA, the native vegetation within the Wollombi Valley and surrounds are of high complementary value to the protection and enhancement of World Heritage values within Yengo National Park.

Wollombi Valley and the surrounding mountains and foothills are located immediately adjoining the eastern boundary of the GBMWHA. The vegetation types identified within Yengo National Park and the GBMWHA extend eastwards across the ridges and down into the lower slopes of the Wollombi Valley. In addition to the extension of similar vegetation types, the following characteristics have been identified as contributing to the areas high priority conservation:

A similar high eucalypt diversity and similar vegetation types to the GBMWHA.

Similar value for EPBC and TSC listed threatened ecological communities.

Direct connectivity to the GBMWHA, providing an immediate buffer capacity.

Providing large expanses of similar habitats that are used generally infrequently by humans, meaning the mass of native habitats in and adjoining the GBMWHA are significantly buffered from human impacts.

Containing similar habitat for threatened flora and fauna.

Containing generally high patch sizes, increasing resilience to external impacts and effectively buffering the GBMWHA.

Providing conditions that support high genetic diversity and resilience.

Similar and directly connected riparian areas that provide semi-aquatic or aquatic habitats intrinsically linked to the GBMWHA.

For the above reasons, a majority of vegetation from Pokolbin in the north to Cedar Creek, Wollombi, Laguna and continuing southwards towards Murrays Run and Bucketty has been identified as being of medium to high and priority classifications.

The State Forests to the east of Wollombi Valley, some of which are included in the area of forest generally known as the Watagans, include Pokolbin State Forest, Corrabare State Forest, Watagan State Forest and Olney State Forest. These State Forests, plus Yango State Forest (west of Wollombi Valley) provide an expansive contiguous secondary buffer to the GBMWHA and also contain areas with similar values to the GBMWHA.

This region also contains large areas of private ownership in the Wollombi and Laguna Valley’s, a substantial proportion of which includes areas mapped as high priority conservation. This private land is likely to provide supporting environmental buffering capacity to the GBMWHA.

Generally, the cleared valley floor is not shown as being of high priority as it supports little native vegetation and is used for agricultural purposes.
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Figure 4. Western Region World Heritage priority conservation map

Inholdings are those lands that are privately owned but are located within Yengo National Park. Such lands provide complex management challenges as they are mostly completely surrounded by the national park and can therefore influence the condition of the national park and related World Heritage values. Some significant inholdings exist in the part of Yengo National Park that is located within Cessnock LGA. The largest of these inholdings is almost 2000 ha, while others are small and may not have easy access and/or are not used for any purpose. The smallest inholding is 2.5 ha. All of the inholdings are shown in the mapping as being in the highest categories of conservation value. This is expected as, unless cleared, these areas contain complementary values to the GBMWHA and are likely to be an integral part of protection of those values.
        1. Central Region

The central region can be categorised as consisting of the areas broadly covered by the existing Cessnock Biodiversity Management Plan (Office of Environment and Heritage 2012b). This area covers the central part of Cessnock LGA from the eastern boundary of Pokolbin State Forest in the west, to Congewai and Brunkerville in the south, to Richmond Vale in the east and Branxton/Rothbury in the north, as shown in Figure 4.3. This area is under the highest competing land use pressure in the Cessnock LGA, containing the major towns of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri and other smaller satellite towns such as Weston, Abermain, Heddon Greta, Bellbird, Millfield, Paxton, Millfield, Quorrobalong, Branxton and Greta. The proposed new town of Huntlee is also partly located in the northern extreme of this region.

In general, this region contains a significant proportion of lower priority conservation areas associated with predominately fragmented vegetation and a more urbanised and intensive agricultural landscape. There are however a number of important exceptions.

The largest, major exception is the area referred to as the Hunter Economic Zone. The majority of this proposed future industrial area is identified as having high priority conservation value from a World Heritage values perspective. This means that it supports important complementary values similar to the broad values contained within the existing World Heritage area. This is not surprising given that it supports a highly diverse landscape that contains large patches of contiguous threatened ecological communities that are well connected and support numerous populations of threatened species, including woodland species not generally encountered in other parts of the LGA or eastern part of the Lower Hunter. Part of this priority conservation area is protected by Werakata National Park.

Another notable exception is an area to the east of Pelton, which is partially occupied by Werakata State Conservation Area. This area contains important remnants of the threatened ecological community Lower Hunter Spotted Gum – Ironbark Forest and associated biodiversity values, and also forms a relatively large patch of remnant vegetation in an otherwise highly cleared landscape.

At the northern end of Pokolbin State Forest exists large patches of intact Lower Hunter Spotted Gum- Ironbark Forest on the valley floor which are well connected to the contiguous vegetation to the south in Pokolbin State Forest and into the GBMWHA.

An area on either side of Congewai Road is also ranked highly, primarily due to its connectivity to the western parts of the LGA and the occurrence of vegetation on the valley floor.

The North Rothbury locality also supports some areas of high complementary value. This is at the eastern edge of the proposed Huntlee township and contains numerous threatened species and threatened ecological communities.

An area centred on Cessnock and Broke Roads, which is Commonwealth land (part of Singleton Army Base) is ranked very highly as it contains numerous threatened species and ecological communities and several highly restricted (endemic) eucalypt species such as Singleton Mallee.

A number of other smaller areas of higher conservation ranking also exists however are not specifically discussed as the focus is on identifying the main priority conservation areas. These other smaller areas should be assessed on a merits based approach as required.
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Figure 4. Central Region World Heritage priority conservation map

        1. Eastern region

The eastern region can be categorised as consisting of the areas broadly covered any parts of the LGA east of Richmond Vale in the south or Heddon Greta in the north. This area is shown in Figure 4.4. These areas are in the part of the LGA that start to be more influenced by coastal environments, although still provide a valuable transitional environment between the western valley floor and coastal valley floor.

This area contains the small localities of Buchanan, Buttai, Black Hill and Stockrington and encompasses heavily wooded areas that form the northern end of the important link between the Watagans and Hexham Swamp area. In general this area is sparsely populated and contains two open cut coal mines (Donaldson and Bloomfield).

One area directly east of Richmond Vale is the highest priority locality in eastern Cessnock. The mapping has identified this area as high priority due to a number of factors but primarily due to the large patch of Lower Hunter Spotted Gum – Ironbark Forest being located within a large eucalypt-diverse patch that is part of the important Lower Hunter Regional Strategy Green Corridor.

Areas in the north-eastern corner to the east and west of Donaldson Coal Mine are also generally ranked highly and are well connected to the important areas of contiguous bushland between Buttai, the vicinity of Stockrington and Pambalong Nature Reserve. Whilst not all of this area has been mapped as high as part of this World Heritage project, these large intact lands are considered to be strategically important for numerous threatened species, biodiversity protection purposes and regional habitat connectivity.

Other areas within this part of Cessnock LGA are generally lower priority from a complementary values perspective.
This page should be replaced with the corresponding GIS figure once the document has been pdf'd. This caption page must follow an even numbered page if the figure is A3 size or larger.

Figure 4. Eastern Region World Heritage priority conservation map

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