Communities for Communities Newsletter Issue 18 In this issue



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Communities for Communities Newsletter

Issue 18

In this issue:

Ecological Communities Section update

Five threatened ecological communities listed under national environment law

River Murray–Darling to Sea and Macquarie Marshes disallowance

Alpine Sphagnum bogs and associated fens recovery planning

Eucalyptus Woodlands of the Western Australian Wheatbelt technical workshop

Ministerial decision on the Long Lowland Rivers ecological community

Two recovery plans adopted by the Minister

Conferences and events in 2014

Ecological Communities Section update

Our new website went live in mid-2013. The site features a new map function that gives an overview of ecological communities and their locations across Australia and answers some common questions. You can visit the new website here:


www.environment.gov.au/topics/biodiversity/threatened-species-ecological-communities/threatened-ecological-communities

A new fact sheet on the recently-listed Proteaceae Dominated Kwongkan Shrubland ecological community is now available on the Department’s website. The fact sheet outlines:

what an ecological community is

why it is nationally protected

what the listing aims to achieve

what the listing means for people in the region.



The fact sheet and further information on the ecological community is available at:
www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=126&status=Endangered

Conservation Advices have recently been approved for four existing listed ecological communities:

Blue Gum High Forest of the Sydney Basin Bioregion

Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla dominant and co-dominant)

Swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula

Turpentine-Ironbark Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion



The Conservation Advices are available at:
www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publiclookupcommunities.pl


Newly listed ecological communities

Since the last issue of this newsletter, five new ecological communities have been listed under national environment law, which are:

Scott River Ironstone Association

Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh

Eyre Peninsula Blue Gum Woodland

Proteaceae Dominated Kwongkan Shrubland

Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) Woodland



These additions bring the total number of nationally listed ecological communities to 66. Summaries of the five new listings can be found on the following pages.

Further information on all these ecological communities, including full conservation advice, detailed descriptions, threat analyses, distribution maps, priority research and conservation actions, can be found on the Department’s website at: www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publiclookupcommunities.pl.

Scott River Ironstone Association

Date listed: May 2013

Category: Endangered

Location: Occurs on the Scott Coastal Plain in the south-west of Western Australia.

Descriptive features: Exists as low to tall seasonally-flooded shrubland or heathland, occurring on shallow soils over massive ironstone formations. The shallowness of the soils, the iron content, and seasonal flooding and waterlogging are all thought to heavily influence the assemblage of plant species. Vegetation type is generally heathlands and low to tall shrublands, with dominant species depending on the degree of waterlogging. Patches of the ecological community may be dominated by Melaleuca preissiana, Hakea tuberculata, Kunzea micrantha or Melaleuca incana subsp. Gingilup while Loxocarya magna typically dominates the understorey.

Key threats:

land clearing

fragmentation

grazing by native and non-native species

dieback due to Phytophthora cinnamomi

weed invasion



Other features: Contains 54 orchid species. Provides habitat to the three plant and four animal species below that are listed as threatened nationally:

Banksia nivea subsp. ulinginosa (swamp honeypot)

Darwinia ferricola (Scott River darwinia)

Lambertia orbifolia subsp. Scott River Plains (Scott River roundleaf honeysuckle)

forest red-tailed black-cockatoo

Baudin’s black-cockatoo

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo

Chuditch.

Further information:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=123&status=Endangeredvegetation of the scott river ironstone association © department of parks and wildlife western australia

Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh

Date listed: August 2013

Category: Vulnerable

Location: From Curtis Island in south eastern Queensland, along the coasts of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia to Shark Bay in south-western Western Australia. Also encompasses coastal saltmarsh occurring on islands within this geographic range.

Descriptive features: Found on the sandy/muddy shores of coastal areas that are subject to regular or intermittent tidal influence. Vegetation found within the community is salt-tolerant and dominated by low herbs, shrubs/chenopods, sedges and grasses. Non-vascular plants including algae, diatoms and cyanobacterial mats are also present.

Key threats:

land clearing

fragmentation

infilling

tidal restriction

invasion by exotic weeds

rising sea levels

climate change

mangrove encroachment

pollution



Other features: This ecological community provides extensive ecosystem services and supports a wide range of insects, fish, birds and insectivorous bats. It is particularly important for fish and prawn species as it provides shelter and a nursery habitat for juveniles. Additionally, coastal saltmarsh ecosystems are considered to be one of the most efficient at capturing carbon in the world.

Note: Ecological communities listed as vulnerable do not currently trigger the referral provisions of the EPBC Act. However, listing this ecological community significantly increases awareness and provides valuable information and incentive to support its management and recovery.

Further information:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=118&status=Vulnerable

hindmarsh island saltmarsh © matt white

Eyre Peninsula Blue Gum Woodland

Date listed: August 2013

Category: Endangered

Location: Endemic to the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. The ecological community occurs in the Koppio Hills, Cleve Hills and west of the Marble Range. It is mainly restricted to well-drained, moderate to high fertility soils and is typically associated with sheltered valleys, lower hill slopes and watercourses.

Descriptive features: Typically woodland to open forest with a canopy dominated by Eucalyptus petiolaris (blue gum). Mid-layer varies from open to dense in response to soil moisture and management history and consists of native sclerophyllous shrubs and small trees. Ground layer is variable in development and composition, ranging from sparse to a thick layer of native grasses and other herbs. Ground layer flora typically is dominated by one or more of the graminoid genera.

Key threats:

land clearance and disturbance

invasive species

salinisation

dieback due to Phytophthora cinnamomi

inappropriate fire regimes



Other features: Provides habitat for three threatened plant species that are listed nationally and numerous native plant and animal species, including:

Acacia pinguifolia (fat-leaved wattle)

Pultenaea trichophylla (tufted bush-pea)

Olearia pannosa subsp. pannosa (silver daisy-bush)

musk lorikeet

yellow-tailed black-cockatoo

diamond firetail

western pygmy-possum

numerous insectivorous bats.



Further information:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=124&status=Endangered

eyre peninsula blue gum woodland northern distribution, cleve © anthony hoffman

Proteaceae Dominated Kwongkan Shrubland

Date listed: February 2014

Category: Endangered

Location: Found on the south coast of Western Australia, from Albany in the east to Cape Arid in the west.

Descriptive features: Kwongkan shrubland that ranges from sparse to dense thickets, where Proteaceaeous species form a significant component (e.g. plants from the genera Adenanthos, Banksia, Grevillea, Hakea, Isopogon and Lambertia). Proteaceae species present are variable across the region. The ecological community is typical of vegetation within some of the reserves across the region, such as Stirling Range National Park, Fitzgerald River National Park and Cape Le Grand National Park.

Key threats:

land clearing

fragmentation

changing fire regimes

dieback due to Phytophthora cinnamomi

invasive species

climate change

Other features: Provides habitat for 45 plant and 15 animal species that are listed as nationally threatened such as:

Daviesia glossosema (maroon-flowered daviesia)

Gastrolobium luteifolium (yellow-leafed gastrolobium)

Scaevola macrophylla (large-flowered scaevola)

the dibbler

heath mouse

Carnaby’s black cockatoo

western bristlebird

western ground parrot

western whipbird

Further information:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=126&status=Endangeredkwongkan shrublands at east mount barren, fitzgerald river national park © department of the environment

Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) Woodland

Date listed: May 2014

Category: Critically Endangered

Location: Limited to the eastern half of Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

Descriptive features: Mallee woodland with Eucalyptus cnerorifolia as the most common tree in the canopy. Other eucalypt species, notably E. albopurpurea (purple-flowered mallee box), E. diversifolia (coastal white mallee) or E. phenax (white mallee), may be present but are not dominant. In mature patches the canopy is often closed with a sparse or absent understorey of shrubs, groundstorey plants and considerable bare ground and plant litter. The ecological community can occur in a number of vegetation states and appearance can vary depending on the nature of and time since disturbance. A hot fire, in particular, may transform the ecological community into a shrubland—it can kill off the mallee canopy but stimulates resprouting of trees and considerable, dense regeneration of understorey plants from the soil seed bank. Over time, various understorey species die off in the absence of further fire, and re-establishes the open vegetation structure.

Key threats:

land clearing

fragmentation

changing fire regimes

invasive weeds

Other features: Provides habitat for at least 6 plant species that are listed as nationally threatened and several that are listed as threatened in South Australia or are considered regionally significant, as endemic or near-endemic to Kangaroo Island. The ecological community also provides occasional habitat or resources for three nationally threatened animals:

Kangaroo Island dunnart

southern brown bandicoot

glossy black cockatoo



Further information:
www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=102&status=Critically+Endangered


A factsheet about this ecological community is being developed and will be available through the weblink, above, in due course.

roadside remnant of ki mallee woodland along hog bay road, near penneshaw © matt whit

River Murray–Darling to Sea and Macquarie Marshes disallowance

On 11 December 2013, the Parliament passed a Government motion to disallow listing the River Murray–Darling to Sea and Macquarie Marshes ecological communities as critically endangered. This means the listings no longer have an effect.

In making this decision, the Australian Government concluded that any potential environmental benefits of listing the communities at such a scale will not sufficiently outweigh the uncertainty and potential regulatory burden for business and landholders in the region.

The Government is committed to providing effective environmental protection to the Murray-Darling Basin. It intends to deliver on this commitment by implementing the Basin Plan and by fully utilising the existing listings in these specific areas and throughout the Basin. This includes the existing listings for wetlands, threatened species, ecological communities and migratory birds.

wetland at “burrima” (a small wetland property in the north macquarie marsh) © bruce gray and department of the environment

river murray at bunyip reach, south australia © john baker and department of the environment

The Government will also use the Threatened Species Scientific Committee’s advice on the ecological communities in the implementation of the Basin Plan, environmental watering decisions and other natural resource initiatives. Information on the River Murray–Darling to Sea and the Macquarie Marshes ecological communities is available on the Department’s webpage at:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=92&status=Approval+Disallowed#listing_advice_loop



www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=93&status=Approval+Disallowed

Technical workshop on the Eucalypt Woodlands of the Western Australian Wheatbelt ecological community

A public nomination for the Eucalypt Woodlands of the Western Australian (WA) Wheatbelt was placed on the 2011 Finalised Priority Assessment List (FPAL) to assess whether it should be listed as a threatened ecological community.

The national list of threatened ecological communities includes several communities endemic to WA, most of which are fine-scale communities with a limited extent. The WA Wheatbelt assessment is one of the few broad-scale ecological communities in the state to be assessed for national listing, and follows the recent listing of the Proteaceae Dominated Kwongkan Shrublands (see article on page 5).

The technical workshop for the Eucalypt Woodlands of the WA Wheatbelt was held in November 2013. Technical workshops are a vital early step in the process for assessing ecological communities. The workshops bring together key experts and land managers familiar with the ecological community being assessed to clarify the community’s description and distribution. Workshops also determine condition thresholds for distinguishing good quality from degraded sites. eucalyptus woodland of the western australian wheatbelt © john vranjic

The workshop acknowledged that the Eucalypt Woodlands of the WA Wheatbelt is a complex ecological community and it is not characterised by one or a few distinctive dominant canopy tree species, or a particular understorey structure (e.g. grassy, shrubby, chenopod, etc). Instead, the woodland occurs as a mosaic of up to 30 eucalypt canopy species over a variable understorey across the wheatbelt landscape. The most common canopy tree species include: salmon gum, york gum, gimlet, red morrel, wandoo and mallets. However, the woodland canopy is never dominated by mallee species (typical of drier sites) or by jarrah or marri woodlands (that occupy the wetter woodlands around the Darling Range).

The Avon Wheatbelt is one of the most heavily cleared bioregions of Australia—more than 85 per cent of native vegetation has been lost. The wheatbelt generally occupies the cleared region that lies between the 300 and 600 millimetres per year average rainfall range. However, similar cleared landscapes within this rainfall range extend into adjacent regions. The degree to which Wheatbelt Woodlands extend into these regions is being investigated.

A draft description of the Eucalypt Woodlands of the WA Wheatbelt ecological community is being prepared, and a draft assessment for this ecological community will be made available for public comment in the coming months. The Minister has extended the deadline to complete this assessment to 31 December 2014.

If you would like to see what other ecological communities are currently being assessed, you can view the FPALs with expected completion dates on the Department’s website at:

www.environment.gov.au/topics/biodiversity/threatened-species-ecological-communities/listing-assessments/finalised-priority

Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens recovery planning

The Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens ecological community was listed as endangered in December 2008 and the decision was made for a recovery plan to be developed. fen pools paralyser © kåren watson

The ecological community occurs above 1000 metres in elevation on the Australian mainland—almost entirely within the Australian Alps Bioregion that spreads across the ACT, NSW and Victoria—and above 800 metres in elevation in Tasmania. The community is made up of assemblages of high-altitude specialist and wetland flora species, and provides habitat for threatened fauna species—notably the southern and northern corroboree frogs, and the alpine water skink.

The Alpine Sphagnum Bogs and Associated Fens ecological community is an integral component of the catchments and hydrological processes of the Australian Alps and Tasmanian montane areas. Threats to the survival of the ecological community include:

climate change—particularly the long-term drying of the landscape and the increase in bushfire frequency and severity that it causes

invasive weeds

pathogens



grazing, trampling and pugging by feral horses, pigs, deer and domestic stock.

After a successful meeting of the Recovery Plan Steering Committee early in January 2014, a draft plan is intended to be released for public consultation in the first half of 2014.

sphagnum hummock © kåren watson

Ministerial decision on the Long Lowland Rivers of South East Queensland and North East New South Wales ecological community

In line with the advice of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, the Minister recently decided not to list the Long Lowland Rivers of South East Queensland and North East New South Wales as a threatened ecological community under national environment law as it does not currently meet the listing criteria. However, a decision not to list this ecological community as nationally threatened should not detract from future efforts to conserve the biodiversity, ecological processes and services inherent within the river systems.

The Committee found that the uneven nature and degree of threats produce variable impacts in the individual river systems of the ecological community. The degradation across much of the ecological community’s geographic distribution is substantial, and there are signs this may continue to happen in parts of the ecological community. Also, some migratory fish species are in decline, with a substantial disruption of migration, breeding and recruitment.

However, these impacts can be improved by positive interventions such as conservation stocking of fish, recovering fish passage and meeting environmental flow objectives.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee remains concerned about threats to the ecological community’s survival over the longer term, particularly if adequate management measures are not undertaken, or the drive for recovery actions and environmental protection is lost.

Priority conservation actions to manage threats and stop the ecological community from becoming threatened are needed in the longer term and are outlined by the Committee in their conservation advice. The advice is published on the Department’s website to provide more guidance and options for environmental decision-making, including on rehabilitation and conservation initiatives in the region.

The Department has been working closely with the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee to develop a multi-species recovery plan for aquatic threatened species in the Mary River. This plan should contribute significantly to conservation outcomes in the ecological community.

The SPRAT profile for the ecological community can be accessed at:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowcommunity.pl?id=95

the mary river © paul barraclough

Ecological community recovery plans adopted by the Minister

Two recovery plans for threatened ecological communities prepared by state governments were recently adopted by the Minister:

Peppermint Box (Eucalyptus odorata) Grassy Woodland of South Australia


Prepared by the South Australian Government
www.environment.gov.au/resource/national-recovery-plan-peppermint-box-eucalyptus-odorata-grassy-woodland-south-australia

Weeping Myall – Coobah – Scrub Wilga Shrubland of the Hunter Valley


Prepared by the New South Wales Government (see note below)
www.environment.gov.au/resource/national-recovery-plan-weeping-myall-coobah-scrub-wilga-shrubland-hunter-valley

The current EPBC listing of the Weeping Myall – Coobah – Scrub Wilga Shrubland of the Hunter Valley is restricted to a single patch, whereas the more recent New South Wales listing recognises a broader extent of the ecological community. The recently adopted recovery plan is written to include the broader extent of weeping myall (Acacia pendula) in the Hunter Valley.

weeping myall – coobah – scrub wilga shrubland © trisha hogbin and office of environment and heritagec:\users\a18512\appdata\local\microsoft\windows\temporary internet files\content.ie5\kjonzdw2\eadig37601.jpg

The broader recognition of the ecological community has prompted a separate review process of the national listing of the Weeping Myall – Coobah – Scrub Wilga Shrubland of the Hunter Valley. Any revised definition of the nationally listed ecological community is likely to be similar in extent to the NSW definition and therefore also covered by the recovery plan.

The full list of recovery plans adopted by the Minister can be found at:

www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicshowallrps.pl

Conferences and events in 2014

Atlas of Living Australia Science Symposium

Canberra

11–12 June

www.ala.org.au/category/blogs-news/communications/

Australian Society for Fish Biology and Australian Society for Limnology Joint Congress

Darwin

30 June – 4 July

www.asfbasl.org.au/

Australian Mammal Society Scientific Meeting

Melbourne

7–10 July

australianmammals.org.au/conferences/conference_2014

Sustainable Landscape Futures Conference

Canberra

10–11 July

www.canberra.edu.au/faculties/arts-design/sustainability

The 17th International River Symposium

Canberra

15–18 September

riversymposium.com/

Ecological Society of Australia 2014 Annual Conference

Alice Springs

28 September – 3 October

www.esa2014.org.au/

Australasian Systematic Botany Society Inc. Conference

Palmerston North, New Zealand

24–28 November

www.anbg.gov.au/asbs/conferences.html

National Soil Conference

Melbourne

23–27 November

www.soilscienceaustralia.com.au/

Who’s who in the Ecological Communities Section?

Director:

Matt White

Assistant Directors:

Ann Holden

John Vranjic

Elizabeth Ferguson

Project Officers:

Paul Barraclough

Mark Bourne

Anthony Hoffman

Kåren Watson

Sharon Warne

Andrew Chalklen

Jessica Miller

Casey Harris

If you have any questions or comments about the articles in this newsletter please contact:

matthew.white@environment.gov.au

Media enquiries

Please direct all media enquiries to
media@environment.gov.au




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