Advice to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) on an Amendment to the List of Threatened Ecological Communities under the

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Advice to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and 

Communities from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) on an 

Amendment to the List of Threatened Ecological Communities under the 


Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) 



Name of the ecological community 

Broad leaf tea-tree (

Melaleuca viridiflora) woodlands in high rainfall coastal north 



This ecological community was nominated for listing as threatened under the EPBC Act as 

part of a process to streamline the listing of state endemic ecological communities under 

federal and state processes.  

This advice follows assessment of information provided by the Queensland Department of 

Environment and Resource Management, other available information and consultation. 

The name of the ecological community is Broad leaf tea-tree (Melaleuca viridiflora

woodlands in high rainfall coastal north Queensland

. The name was suggested by the 

Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management as best describing the 

dominant species, structure and location that characterise the ecological community.  



Public consultation 

Experts were consulted throughout the assessment period and an extract of the draft listing 

advice was made available for public exhibition and comment for a minimum 30 business 

days. The Committee has had regard to all public and expert comment that was relevant to the 

consideration of the ecological community. 



Summary of conservation assessment by the Committee 

The Committee provides the following assessment of the appropriateness of the ecological 

community’s inclusion in the EPBC Act list of threatened ecological communities. 

The Committee judges that the ecological community has been demonstrated to have met 

sufficient elements of  


Criterion 1 to make it eligible for listing as vulnerable


Criterion 2 to make it eligible for listing as endangered


Criterion 4 to make it eligible for listing as endangered


The highest category for which the ecological community is eligible to be listed is 





The Broad leaf tea-tree (Melaleuca viridiflora) woodlands in high rainfall coastal north 

Queensland ecological community (hereafter referred to as the Broad leaf tea-tree woodlands) 

represents occurrences of woodland where M. viridiflora (broad leaf tea-tree) is dominant in 

the canopy and a diversity of grasses, sedges and forbs occupy the ground layer. The typical 

suite of species found in the ground layer is described under Vegetation. Other M. viridiflora 

woodlands not included in this ecological community will have a different suite of species to 

that described due to differences in landscape and rainfall characteristics. The ecological 

community occurs in high rainfall floodplain areas in the Wet Tropics and Central Mackay 

Coast bioregions of Queensland. Whilst most occurrences lie within 20 km of the east coast, 

some occurrences of the ecological community lie further inland.  


Flowering of broad leaf tea-trees provides an abundance of nectar sources for birds, 

invertebrates (notably butterflies) and mammals and the sandy or clay soils of the ecological 

community provide habitat for frog and reptile species. The Wet Tropics and Central Mackay 

Coast bioregions have an annual rainfall of around 2000 mm. The majority of the rainfall 

occurs in the wet season between December and May, with very little rain during the dry 

season. This seasonal inundation increases the species diversity of the ecological community 

during this time to produce a characteristic proliferation of ephemeral ground layer species. 

Geology and Landforms:


The ecological community occurs on poorly drained floodplains with a land form that is 

sloping to flat. It occurs on land zones 3 (Quaternary alluvial systems) and 5 (plains and 

plateaus on Tertiary land surfaces) as described in Queensland Regional Ecosystem mapping 

(Queensland Herbarium, 2011b). The youngest Quaternary alluvial soils include heavy clay, 

while soils on older alluvium or Tertiary alluvium have a sandy surface. The soil types 

studied in broad leaf tea-tree ecosystems in the Wet Tropics bioregion are derived from acid 

igneous rock and predominantly have low nutrient status (Skull and Congdon, 2008). The 

soils are duplex with an impeded layer several centimetres below the surface which causes 

surface water to be present during the wet season. Inundation is generally shallow and persists 

for up to a few months. In the more frequently inundated areas of the ecological community 

‘debil debil’ formations occur. These are small, regular mounds of soil created by 



The ecological community is typically a woodland but can have a forest structure in some 

areas. It generally consists of two clear structural layers: a canopy of broad leaf tea-tree and a 

diverse ground layer of grasses, sedges and forbs. Epiphytes are often conspicuous in the 

canopy trees. Shrubs may be present but are generally sparse although some sites have an 

obvious presence of Xanthorrhoea spp. (grass trees) in the understorey. The structure and 

floristics of the ecological community vary in response to different soil types, extent of 

inundation in the wet season and successional responses to fire and grazing impacts (Skull 

and Congdon, 2008).  

Canopy layers 

Broad leaf tea-tree is dominant in the canopy, with trees typically 5–14 m tall, a diameter at 

breast height typically less than 20 cm and a variable canopy cover (Skull and Congdon, 

2008). Other species that may be present in the canopy include M. nervosa (paperbark), 


spp. (wattles), Pandanus spp. (screw pine), Allocasuarina luehmannii (buloke) and 

Allocasuarina littoralis 

(black sheoak) on sandier soils. Emergents of Eucalyptus spp., 


spp. and Lophostemon suaveolens (swamp mahogany) may also be present in the 

canopy but broad leaf tea-tree remains dominant. Epiphytes are common in the canopy layer, 

with Dendrobium canaliculatum (tea-tree orchid) almost always present in the ecological 

community on the trunks and branches of M. viridiflora (Queensland Herbarium, 2011a). 

Shrub Layer 

Shrubs are typically absent in the ecological community. When they are present they are 

sparse, generally made up of juvenile canopy trees along with Acacia spp., Planchonia careya 

(cocky apple) and Petalostigma pubescens (quinine bush). Some sites have a conspicuous 

layer of Xanthorrhoea spp. (grass trees), for instance X. johnsonii can be a prominent species 

on sandier soils which are not inundated for long periods. 




Ground layer 

The ground layer of this ecological community supports the majority of plant species 

diversity, with species composition and diversity varying due to differences in soil type and 

duration, timing and degree of inundation during the wet season. Themeda triandra (kangaroo 

grass) or Eremochloa bimaculata (poverty grass) are usually dominant on slightly elevated or 

drier sites. Wetter sites are often dominated by Ischaemum spp. including Ischaemum australe 

(large bluegrass) and I. fragile, or they may be dominated by sedges and rushes such as 


spp., Restio spp., Fimbristylis spp. and Rhynchospora spp.  Sites typically have an 

average of about 8 species of perennial grasses including poverty grass, Chrysopogon fallax 

(ribbon grass), Eragrostis brownii (Brown’s lovegrass), Alloteropsis semialata (cockatoo 

grass), kangaroo grass, Imperata cylindrica (blady grass), Aristida superpendens

Heteropogon contortus 

(black speargrass), Eriachne triseta and H. triticeus (giant speargrass). 

Perennial herbs in the ground layer include sedges such as Fimbristylis cinnamometorum,  

F. dichotoma 

(common fringe-sedge), Abildgaardia spp. and Schoenus sparteus, and legumes 

such as Flemingia parvifloraDesmodium trichostachyum, and D. pullenii. Perennial herbs 

with tubers are common, such as Murdannia graminea (grass lily), M. giganteaCurculigo 


Brunoniella acaulis (blue trumpet), Chlorophytum laxum and other herbs such as 


spp., Dianella spp., Phyllanthus virgatusGoodenia purpurascens and Stylidium 

spp. (trigger plant) are often present. Carnivorous plants, including Drosera spp. (sundew), 


spp. and Utricularia spp. (bladderworts) may also be common. 

During the wet season, species composition may substantially change to a high proportion and 

richness of ephemeral species, some of which may only live for a few weeks (J. Kemp, pers 

comm.). Short-lived annual herbs such as Stylidium tenerum (swamp trigger plant), Byblis 


Phyllanthus sulcatusMitrasacme spp., Rotala spp. and Lindernia spp. are almost 

always present in the wet season. Annual grasses and sedges which may be abundant in the 

wet season include Schizachyrium spp., Fuirena spp., Eleocharis spp., Dimeria spp., 

Pseudopogonatherum contortum

 and Mnesithea formosa.  




Key Diagnostic characteristics and Condition Thresholds 

Broad leaf tea-tree woodlands no longer exist at many sites where it was formerly present. In 

many cases, the loss is irreversible because sites have been permanently cleared or have 

undergone some other substantial modification that has removed their natural hydrological 

and biological characteristics. In other cases, the ecological community now exists in a 

disturbed or degraded state, and may be so degraded that it is impractical to restore it. 

National listing focuses legal protection on the remaining occurrences of the ecological 

community that are functional, relatively natural and in relatively good condition. Condition 

thresholds help identify a patch of the threatened ecological community and when the EPBC 

Act is likely to apply to an ecological community. They provide guidance for when a patch of 

a threatened ecological community retains sufficient conservation values to be considered as a 

Matter of National Environmental Significance, as defined under the EPBC Act. This means 

that the protection provisions of the EPBC Act will be focussed on the most valuable elements 

of Australia’s natural environment, while heavily degraded patches, which do not meet the 

condition thresholds, will be largely excluded from EPBC Act protection. The condition 

thresholds for Broad leaf tea-tree woodlands are based on those developed and used to assess 

condition by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management. 

Although highly degraded patches will not be a part of the ecological community listed under 

the EPBC Act, it is recognised that patches that do not meet the condition thresholds may still 

retain important natural values. As such, these patches should not be excluded from recovery 


and other management actions


(see also the Surrounding environmental and landscape 




Key Diagnostic Characteristics 

The key defining attributes for the ecological community are: 


It occurs in the Wet Tropics and Central Mackay Coast bioregions in landscapes 

characterised by high rainfall and near coastal or floodplain locations; 


Sites are seasonally inundated during the wet season but are not permanently 



The tree canopy is clearly dominated (i.e. more than 50% of canopy cover


) by 

Melaleuca viridiflora


A shrub layer is typically absent or sparse (juvenile canopy species and/or a 

conspicuous layer of Xanthorrhoea (grass tree) may sometimes be present); and 


There is a diverse ground-layer of grasses, sedges and forbs which includes species 

listed under the Description section. 


Condition thresholds 

The listed ecological community is limited to patches that meet the description, key 

diagnostic characteristics and the following condition thresholds. 

Patch size: 


Patch size must be ≥1 ha; 


Tree canopy layer 


A tree canopy must be present with a canopy cover


 of at least 15%; 



The canopy must be dominated by Melaleuca viridiflora (broad leaf tea-tree); 


Species richness 


At least 10 perennial native plant species


 are present in the understorey (shrub and 

ground layers, excluding juvenile canopy trees) of a patch; 


Exotic species 


Perennial non-native plant species account for no more than 40% of the total ground 

layer vegetation cover


 at any time of the year. 



 An estimation of the percentage canopy cover of the living, native tree layer along a 100m transect, using the 

line intercept method (Greig-Smith, 1964). Canopy cover equates to crown cover as defined by Walker and 

Hopkins, 1990. 


 Refers to vascular plants. 


 The percentage ground surface covered by vegetation. Bare ground and rocks are excluded.  



Additional considerations 

The following information should also be taken into consideration when applying 

condition thresholds. 


patch of the listed ecological community is defined as a discrete and continuous 

area of the ecological community, as described, and does not include substantial 

elements of other ecological communities. However, a patch of the listed ecological 

community may include small-scale disturbances, such as tracks or breaks, that do not 

alter its overall functionality, for instance the easy movement of wildlife or dispersal 

of plant propogules, and may also include small-scale variations in vegetation that are 

noted in the Description and National Context.  


To assist in the preservation of the patch and persistence of the ecological community, 

it is recommended that a buffer zone of at least 40 m be maintained from the outer 

edge of the patch. The buffer zone should be primarily comprised of native vegetation 

and including a canopy layer wherever possible. The purpose of the buffer zone is to 

help protect and manage the ecological community. For example, the buffer zone may 

help to protect the ecological community by acting as a barrier to further direct 

disturbance such as from altered water flows and other threats. Changes in land-use to 

the land that falls within the buffer zone must not have a significant impact on the 

ecological community, though there are exemptions under the EPBC Act (e.g. for 

continuing use). 


The sampling protocol involves developing a quick/simple map of the vegetation 

condition, landscape qualities and management history (where possible) of the site. 

The area with the most apparent native vegetation cover in the ground layer should be 

adequately sampled to determine estimates of ground cover. Regional Ecosystem 

survey methodology used in Queensland is outlined in Neldner et al. (2005). 


Timing of surveys is an important consideration because the ecological community 

can be variable in its appearance between wet and dry seasons and between years 

depending on drought-rain cycles. Timing of surveys should also consider the 

detectability of mid and ground layer species at different times of their life cycle, or 

their recovery after recent disturbances (natural or human-induced) to the ecological 

community. Surveys of the ecological community can be conducted at any time of the 

year, however when conducting surveys during or straight after the wet season, there 

is likely to be a greater number of annual ground layer species present. 

Surrounding environmental and landscape context 

The condition thresholds outlined above are the minimum level at which patches are to be 

considered for protection under the EPBC Act. Such minimum conditions do not represent the 

ideal state of the ecological community. Additionally, patches that link with other native 

vegetation in the landscape are particularly important as wildlife habitat and to the viability of 

the listed patches of the ecological community into the future.  

Therefore, in the context of actions that may have significant impacts and require approval 

under the EPBC Act, it is important to consider the environment surrounding the listed 

patches that meet the above condition thresholds. Some patches that meet the condition 

thresholds above will occur in isolation and require protection, as well as priority actions, to 

link them with other native vegetation. Other patches will have additional conservation value 

through being connected to other intact native vegetation. In these instances, the following 

indicators should be considered when assessing the impacts of actions or proposed actions 


under the EPBC Act, or when considering recovery, management and funding priorities for a 

particular patch: 


Large size and/or with a large area to boundary ratio – larger area/boundary ratios are 

less exposed and more resilient to edge effect disturbances such as weed invasion and 

other anthropogenic impacts; 


Areas of minimal weeds and feral animals or where they can be easily managed; 


Connectivity to other, surrounding native vegetation remnants; 


Patches that occur in those areas in which the ecological community has been most 

heavily cleared and degraded, or that are at the natural edge of its range; and/or 


Patches that contain listed threatened species (state or national). 




National Context 

National distribution 

The ecological community is endemic to Queensland and is restricted to the Wet Tropics and 

Central Mackay Coast IBRA Bioregions (Interim Biogeographical Regionalisation of 

Australia version 6.1). Patches of the ecological community occur in the Wet Tropics World 

Heritage Area. 

Equivalent State vegetation units and listings 


Ecological communities are complex to classify. Each State/Territory jurisdiction applies its 

own system to classify ecological communities which can lead to challenges when cross-

referring amongst systems. They may also vary in accuracy to the on-the-ground situation, 

particularly if based on maps and modelling. Any reference to vegetation and mapping units 

as equivalent to a national ecological community, at the time of listing, should be taken as 

indicative rather than definitive. A unit that is generally equivalent may include elements that 

do not meet the description. Conversely, areas mapped or described as units other than those 

referred to may sometimes meet the description. Judgement of whether an EPBC-protected 

ecological community is present at a particular site should focus on how an area meets the 

description, key diagnostic characteristics and condition thresholds of the national ecological 



Under the national Vegetation Information system (NVIS), the ecological community falls 

within Major Vegetation Group 9 Melaleuca Forests and Woodlands, and Major Vegetation 

Subgroup 15 Melaleuca Open Forests and Woodlands. 


The Regional Ecosystems mapped by the Queensland Herbarium and listed below provide 

guidance on those state vegetation units that best correspond to the national ecological 

community. However, they are broad associations which may not fully encompass the 

national ecological community. Regional Ecosystem names and numbers below were current 

as at December 2011: 


7.3.8a   Melaleuca viridiflora open-forest to open-woodland, on poorly drained alluvial 




7.3.8b   Melaleuca viridiflora open-forest to open-woodland with eucalypt emergents 

(or sparse eucalypt overstorey) of species such as Corymbia clarksonianaEucalyptus 


Lophostemon suaveolens and E. drepanophylla. Poorly drained alluvial 



7.3.8c   Melaleuca viridiflora  and Lophostemon suaveolens open forest to woodland, 

on poorly drained alluvial plains 


7.3.8d   Melaleuca viridifloraLophostemon suaveolens and Allocasuarina littoralis 

open-shrubland, on poorly drained alluvial plains 


7.5.4g   Melaleuca viridiflora woodland on laterite 


8.3.2   Melaleuca viridiflora woodland on seasonally inundated alluvial plains with 

impeded drainage 


8.5.2a   Melaleuca viridiflora +/- Allocasuarina luehmannii woodland on Tertiary sand 



8.5.2c   Melaleuca viridiflora and M. nervosa woodland on Tertiary sand plains  


8.5.6   Melaleuca viridiflora +/- Allocasuarina littoralis woodland on Tertiary sand 


Queensland applies both a legislative (Vegetation Management Act 1999) and biodiversity 

conservation status to each regional ecosystem, as outlined in Table 1. 

Kataloq: biodiversity -> threatened -> communities -> pubs
pubs -> Flora species of littoral rainforest and coastal vine thickets of eastern australia by bioregion
threatened -> Advice to the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) on Amendment to the list of Threatened Species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
threatened -> Allocasuarina fibrosa Conservation Advice Page 1 of 4 Approved Conservation Advice (s266B of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) Approved Conservation Advice for
threatened -> Approved Conservation Advice for
threatened -> Approved Conservation Advice for
threatened -> Established under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
pubs -> Approved Conservation Advice for Broad Leaf Tea-tree (Melaleuca viridiflora)Woodlands in High Rainfall Coastal North Queensland
pubs -> Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
pubs -> Draft description, Threats Analysis and Priority Conservation Actions for

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