Characteristics of Threatened Communities

Victorian Mallee Bird Community

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Victorian Mallee Bird Community

The Victorian Mallee Bird Community is defined as an assemblage of twenty native bird species and subspecies characteristic of and mainly or totally restricted to habitats dominated by mallee vegetation, and distinctive of the Victorian geographical region that characterizes their distribution.

The taxa concerned are the Black-eared Miner (Manorina melanotis), Mallee Emu-wren (Stipiturus mallee), Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata), Purple-gaped Honeyeater (Lichenostomus cratitius), Slender-billed Thornbill (Acanthiza iredalei), Southern Scrub-robin (Drymodes brunneopygia), Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus splendens), Striated Grasswren (Amytornis striatus), Red-lored Whistler (Pachycephala rufogularis), Redthroat (Pyrrholaemus brunneus), Yellow-plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus ornatus), and the Mallee forms of the Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris pallidiceps), Chestnut Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma castanotus castanotus), Grey-fronted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus plumulus graingeri), Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans assimilis), Shy Hylacola (Hylacola cauta cauta = Calamanthus cautus cautus), Regent Parrot (Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides), Western Whipbird (Psophodes nigrogularis leucogaster), White-eared Honeyeater (Lichenostomus leucotis novaenorcia) and Yellow-rumped Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus xanthopyge).

Many are ground-foraging species, or dependent on natural mallee ground or shrub cover in other ways. The community includes two mallee specialists (Red-lored Whistler, Mallee Emu-wren) and a number of others that are largely restricted to mallee habitats, especially vegetation that has high densities of Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and/or the Inland Thornbill (Acanthiza apicalis). Eight of these species are sufficiently rare to be listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act as threatened taxa: the Black-eared Miner, Mallee Emu-wren, Malleefowl, Red-lored Whistler, Regent Parrot, Western Whipbird, Redthroat and Slender-billed Thornbill.

Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community

The Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community has been defined as a suite of bird species, mainly associated with drier woodlands on the slopes and plains north of the Great Dividing Range, that seem to have declined markedly in numbers since records began.

The 24 species in this group are the Painted Button-quail (Turnix varia), Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius), Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchis banksii graptogyne), Little Lorikeet (Glossopsitta pusilla), Superb Parrot (Polytelis swainsonii), Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor), Turquoise Parrot (Neophema pulchella), Barking Owl (Ninox connivens), Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus victoriae), Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata), Western Gerygone (Gerygone fusca), Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera = Xanthomyza phrygia), Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops meltoni), Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus), Black-chinned Honeyeater (Melithreptus gularis), Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris), Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta), Jacky Winter (Microeca fascinans), Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii), Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata), Grey-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis), Ground Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina maxima), Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), and Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata).

The distributions of these birds differ between species. Many are closely associated with (but not exclusive to) northern Victorian drier woodlands dominated by box, stringybark, ironbark, yellow gum or river red gum eucalypts, or by buloke or cypress-pine. Many such woodlands originally had an open structure, a light shrubby understorey, a grassy ground cover with fallen timber, an abundance of tree-hollows and other nesting sites, and available sources of seeds, nectar and insects throughout the year. Since European settlement, most of these woodlands have been cleared for agricultural production, or fragmented and degraded, greatly reducing the resources available to these birds; many sites now also have cats and foxes present. Some species are found in other habitats: the Superb Parrot, Apostlebird and, to a lesser extent, the Ground Cuckoo-shrike are mainly found in habitats along or near the Murray River, while the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo is confined to the far south-west of the state, in woodlands on sandy soils that are dominated by Brown Stringybark (Eucalyptus baxteri) and Desert Stringybark (E. arenacea) and the nearby woodlands dominated by River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis), Yellow Gum (E. leucoxylon) or Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii).

Warm Temperate Rainforest (Coastal East Gippsland) Community

The Warm Temperate Rainforest (Coastal East Gippsland) Community is rainforest with a relatively simple structure. Its rainforest trees lack epiphytes while drought-tolerant ferns dominate the ground layer, suggesting that this community represents an intermediate between warm temperate and dry rainforest in Victoria.

The canopy layer usually consists of Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), Yellow-wood (Acronychia oblongifolia), Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii = Syzygium smithii), Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) and occasionally Blue Olive-berry (Elaeocarpus reticulatus), Muttonwood (Rapanea howittiana) and Boobialla (Myoporum insulare). This is the only Victorian rainforest community in which the coastal species Boobialla and Yellow-wood are consistently represented, and Coast Banksia (Banksia integrifolia var. integrifolia) can be quite abundant. Lianes (climbers) at the canopy level are Staff Climber (Celastrus australis), White Milk Vine (Marsdenia rostrata) and Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana). The wiry climbers Shepherd’s Delight (Geitonoplesium cymosum), Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius) and Austral Sarsparilla (Smilax australis) may be conspicuous in the understorey. Two herbaceous climbers are also found in this community: Bearded Tylophora (Tylophora barbata) and Austral Star Cucumber (Sicyos australis). Drought-tolerant ferns in the understorey include Sickle Fern (Pellaea falcata), Necklace Fern (Asplenium flabellifolium), Tender Brake (Pteris tremula), Common Rasp Fern (Doodia asperea subsp. australis) and Bracken (Pteridium esculentum). The herbaceous ground layer consists of common herbs such as Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens), Forest Nettle (Urtica incisa) and White Elderberry (Sambucus gaudichaudiana, a species listed as threatened under the FFG Act).

This community occurs on relatively dry, coastal sites, usually in shallow gullies and on abandoned sea cliffs on sandy-clay to clay-loam soils. Occasionally it occurs on deep aeolian sands on dunes. It is found at or near the Gippsland Lakes (especially Lakes King and Tyers) and at the mouth of the Snowy River near Marlo.

Warm Temperate Rainforest (Cool Temperate Overlap, Howe Range) Community

The Warm Temperate Rainforest (Cool Temperate Overlap, Howe Range) is a primarily warm temperate community, though with some attributes of a cool temperate rainforest. Amongst rainforests it is notable for its poor liane structure and high fern diversity.

The canopy layer may consist entirely of Eastern Leatherwood (Eucryphia moorei), a species unique to this type of rainforest in Victoria. Other important canopy species are Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii = Syzygium smithii), Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) and Muttonwood (Rapanea howittiana). The understorey contains species usually associated with a Cool Temperate Rainforest, such as Mountain Correa (Correa lawrenciana), Austral Mulberry (Hedycarya angustifolia), Forest Geebung (Persoonia silvatica), Broad-leaf Panax (Polyscias sambucifolia ssp. A), Slender Tree-fern (Cyathea cunninghamii), Weeping Spleenwort (Asplenium flaccidum ssp. flaccidum) and Spreading Fan-fern (Sticherus lobatus). Vascular epiphytes are diverse; they include the epiphytic Common Finger-fern (Grammitis billardierei), and Austral Filmy Fern (Hymenophyllum australe), and several rare species including Oval Fork-fern (Tmesipteris ovata) and Tangle Orchid (Plectorrhiza tridentata).

This community is known only from a small (5 km2) area on the south-western side of the Howe Range in far East Gippsland, a site that has deep, fertile soils. It lies entirely within the Croajingolong National Park.

Warm Temperate Rainforest (East Gippsland Alluvial Terraces) Community

The Warm Temperate Rainforest (East Gippsland Alluvial Terraces) Community has a low to moderate density of canopy species and is considered the most diverse rainforest community in the State. Stands can be tall and well developed on smaller streams, although on larger streams the canopy tends to be uneven in height and patchy in distribution.

The canopy is usually dominated by Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii = Syzygium smithii). Muttonwood (Rapanea howittiana = Myrsine howittiana), is often present but is less dominant. The most common emergent, in margins or in gaps, is Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), with Prickly Currant-bush (Coprosma quadrifida) usually present. There is a high diversity of lianes (vines) present with robust, wiry, cane-like and herbaceous climbers common and usually very conspicuous. The understorey is dominated by tree ferns, and abundant and diverse ground ferns. Several vascular epiphytes are common.

This community is restricted to lowlands below 470 m, where it grows on fertile alluvial flats of ephemeral creeks and the floodplains of permanent streams. The community occurs from the Mitchell River east to Mallacoota, with an isolated and disjunct occurrence in the Strzelecki Ranges at Morwell National Park.

Warm Temperate Rainforest (Far East Gippsland) Community

The Warm Temperate Rainforest (Far East Gippsland) Community is complex in structure. It is characterized by the presence of emergent species over a closed canopy of typical rainforest trees and lianes (climbers), beneath which is a dense layer of tree-ferns, shrubs, ground-ferns and herbs.

The emergent species in this community include Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) and occasionally Mountain Grey-gum (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa). The dominant canopy species are Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii = Syzygium smithii), Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) and sometimes Muttonwood (Rapanea howittiana = Myrsine howittiana). A diversity of lianes and scrambling species densely clothe the tree canopy. The most common and dominant of these include Jungle Grape (Cissus hypoglauca), Milk Vine (Marsdenia rostrata), Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana) and Jasmine Morinda (Morinda jasminoides). The widespread Warm Temperate Rainforest climbers Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius) and Austral Sarsaparilla (Smilax australis) also occur. Understorey shrubs include the Large Mock-olive (Notelaea venosa), Austral Mulberry (Hedycarya angustifolia), Mountain Pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata), Prickly Currant (Coprosma quadrifida) and Blue Oliveberry (Elaeocarpus reticulatus). Soft Tree-fern (Dicksonia antarctica) and Rough Tree-fern (Cyathea australis) are the most common and structurally dominant tree-ferns in the community. The ground layer is dominated by ground-ferns, the most abundant of which are Gristle-fern (Blechnum cartilagineum), Fishbone Water-fern (B.nudum), Mother Shield-fern (Polystichum proliferum), Creeping Shield-fern (Lastreopsis microsora subsp. microsora) and Shiny Shield-fern (L. acuminata). Vascular epiphytes are common, the most diverse group being the ferns and fern allies such as Weeping Spleenwort (Asplenium flaccidum ssp. flaccidum), Jungle Bristle-fern (Macroglena caudata = Cephalomanes caudatum), Veined Bristle-fern (Polyphlebium venosum = Crepidomanes venosum), Common Filmy-fern (Hymenophyllum cupressiforme), Small Fork-fern (Tmesipteris parva) and the flowering plants Fieldia (Fieldia australis) and Butterfly Orchid (Sarcochilis australis).

A number of secondary species may occur within the community. Hazel Pomaderris (Pomaderris aspera), Blanket-leaf (Bedfordia arborescens), Victorian Christmas Bush (Prostanthera lasianthos = P. lasianthos var. lasianthos), Trailing Guinea-flower (Hibbertia dentata), Forest Wire-grass (Tetrarrhena juncea) and Forest Bindweed (Calystegia marginata) are indicative of disturbance. Disturbance results from incursion by fire, tree fall or land slip that creates a gap, or from flooding associated with stream margins. Gaps resulting from disturbance are often filled by these secondary species, as well as by rampant thickets of Jungle Grape (Cissus hypoglauca) and Queensland Bramble (Rubus hillii = Rubus moluccanus var. trilobusI and an abundance and variety of herb species.

The Warm Temperate Rainforest (Far East Gippsland) community occurs on deep rich humus soils in gullies, gully-heads and adjoining south-easterly slopes of coastal hills and plains east of Cann River. The rainforest on the south-eastern side of Mt Drummer, in the Alfred National Park, is a prominent example.

Western (Basalt) Plains Grasslands Community

The Western (Basalt) Plains Grasslands Community is an open grassland community found mainly on undisturbed, poorly-drained heavy clay soils on the basalt plains of western Victoria. These soils are usually waterlogged in winter and very hard, dry and cracking in summer. The vegetation is characteristically dominated by perennial native grasses, with very few eucalypts and shrubs, and an almost complete absence of introduced grasses and weeds.

Perennial native plants predominate. On drier sites, the community is usually dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), together with composites such as Common Everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) and Lemon Beauty-heads (Calocephalus citreus). On moister sites tussock grasses, particularly Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia spp. = Rytidosperma spp.), Spear Grass (Austrostipa spp.) and Tussock Grass (Poa spp.) tend to predominate, often with Common Onion Orchid (Microtis unifolia) and Pale Sundew (Drosera peltata) in spaces between the tussocks. Other perennial herbs found throughout its distribution include Common Bog-rush (Schoenus apogon), Blue Devil (Eryngium ovinum), Sheep’s Burr (Acaena echinata), Pink Bindweed (Convolvulus angustissimus) and Scaly Buttons (Leptorhynchos squamatus). Trees and shrubs are more or less confined to drainage lines and the margins of ephemeral wetlands that frequently occur in depressions. There is a rich reptile fauna that includes the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar), Cunningham’s Skink (Egernia cunninghami), Eastern Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus) and Little Whip Snake (Parasuta = Unechis flagellum).

A number of listed threatened taxa are known from this community. Threatened plants include Adamson’s Blown-grass (Lachnagrostis = Lachnagrostis adamsonii), Swollen Swamp Wallaby-grass (Amphibromus pithogastrus), Sunshine Diuris (Diuris fragrantissima), Small Golden Moths (Diuris basaltica), Basalt Greenhood (Pterostylis basaltica), Small Milkwort (Comesperma polygaloides), Clover Glycine (Glycine latrobeana), Tough Scurf-pea (Cullen tenax), and the Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorhynchoides) and Large-fruit Fireweed or Groundsel (Senecio macrocarpus). Threatened grassland fauna include the Striped Legless Lizard, Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla = Tympanocryptis lineata pinguicolla), Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii), the Brolga (Grus rubicundus) and the Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus).

Although widespread at the time of European settlement, only scattered remnants of the Western (Basalt) Plains Grasslands Community now remain on the Victorian Volcanic Plain, mainly on long-uncultivated sites between the Plenty River in the east, Hamilton in the west, Beaufort in the north and Colac in the south. The near-absence of tree cover is thought to be due to the heavy basaltic soils and to frequent firing prior to European settlement.

Western Basalt Plains (River Red Gum) Grassy Woodland

This grassy woodland community has a clearly-recognizable structure made up of an open canopy of River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), a middle layer chiefly of scattered wattles such as Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) and Hedge Wattle (A. paradoxa) but including a few other shrubs as well, such as Tree Violet (Hymenanthera dentata = Melicytus dentatus), and a ground layer dominated by grasses. In its least disturbed state, the ground layer is predominantly tussock grasses such as Common Tussock Grass (Poa labillardierei = P. labillardierei var. labillardierei) and Wallaby Grass (Rytidosperma spp.), together with Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and various forbs in the spaces between the tussocks. The composition of the ground layer varies greatly from site to site, being heavily influenced locally by the amount of tree cover, soil characteristics and the site’s grazing and fire histories. More disturbed sites have a high proportion of introduced grasses and forbs in the ground layer.

The original description of this community was based on its occurrences on the volcanic plains immediately north of Melbourne, but this community also occurs across the Newer Basalt volcanic plains of Western Victoria as scattered remnants. These are present from the Melbourne region in the east to the western border of the state between the 500 and 700 mm mean annual rainfall isohyets on plains sites that typically have moderately well-drained loamy or clayey soils over a relatively shallow basalt bedrock.

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