The Fitzgerald Biosphere covers four local shires; all of Jerramungup Shire, half of Ravensthorpe Shire and small portions of Lake Grace and Kent Shires, and the towns of Ravensthorpe, Jerramungup, Hopetoun and Bremer Bay.
In 2008 the estimated resident population of Jerramungup and Ravensthorpe Shires was 3,675, up from the previously static population of around 2,700 before 2005 (source: ABS Estimated Resident Population). This recent population growth was in the Ravensthorpe Shire due to the development of the BHP Ravensthorpe Nickel operations. There are also other mining interests in the Biosphere area, primarily in the Ravensthorpe and Wellstead areas, and so the population will potentially continue to grow.
The Biosphere was settled in the late 1800s following the discovery of minerals in the Ravensthorpe area, and then in the late 1950s with the release of land for Soldier Settlement and Conditional Purchase for agricultural purposes. Over the years a little over half of the Biosphere has been released for agricultural purposes (Table ). Just over one third of the Biosphere is National Park and other crown reserves, with a further 11% Unallocated Crown Land (UCL). There are a number of areas of UCL, in particular in the Ravensthorpe Range, that have been endorsed as proposed conservation reserves (CALM 1992), but for a number of reasons these proposed changes in tenure vesting have not been implemented.
Agricultural land use is predominantly winter cereal production and grazing. Wheat and barley are the main cereal crops, grown in rotation with lupins, canola and subterranean or medic pasture. Other industries in the Biosphere are predominately tourism and mining.
Table : The percentage (%) of the Fitzgerald Biosphere that is Freehold or a Pastoral Lease, Crown Reserve (including National Parks and Nature Reserves) or Unallocated Crown Land (UCL).
There are several non-profit and community organisations and catchment groups that are actively involved in conservation and natural resource management across the Fitzgerald Biosphere. The groups most directly involved in threatened species recovery or biodiversity conservation include the Malleefowl Preservation Group, Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park and Gondwana Link. The Fitzgerald Biosphere Group (FBG), Ravensthorpe Agricultural Initiative Network (RAIN), South Coast NRM Inc. and catchment groups are significant groups in supporting sustainable natural resource management and best practise agricultural practices.
Figure : The Landscape Units of the Fitzgerald Biosphere (developed by Nathan McQuoid, 2009). Note: the North West mosaic does not occur within the Biosphere. The characteristics of these landscape units are described in Table .
This Plan represents all terrestrial threatened fauna, flora and ecological communities listed either by the State or under Commonwealth legislation that occur in the Fitzgerald Biosphere. There are 41 species/communities listed as threatened by the State, 33 of which are also listed by the Commonwealth (Table ). Of the State listed species/communities, 19 are endemic to the Biosphere.
Information on the biology, ecology, habitat requirements and distribution of each of these threatened species and the one ecological community are included in the species profiles (Appendix 2). The occurrence of these species/communities across the landscape units of the Biosphere are shown in Appendix 3.
This Plan also considers the terrestrial fauna, flora and ecological communities that are listed by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) as ‘Priority’ (Appendix 4) that occur in the Fitzgerald Biosphere. These species/communities are a priority for further survey and research to determine their conservation status, or which are rare and require ongoing monitoring, or are conservation dependent. This includes 253 species/ecological communities, 63 of which are endemic to the Biosphere (Table ).
Table : The number of species and ecological communities of the Fitzgerald Biosphere that are listed as Threatened under State or Commonwealth (EPBC Act) legislation or Priority by the Department of Environment and Conservation (as of June 2010) or are locally extinct. In brackets are the numbers of those species or ecological communities that are endemic to the Biosphere.
There are historic records of 6 ‘critical weight-range’ mammals in the Fitzgerald Biosphere which are presumed to be locally extinct (Table 3). These include Woylie (Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi), Boodie (Bettongia lesueur), Banded Hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), Bilby (Macrotis lagotis), Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) and Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville) (Abbott 2008). These species have not been included in the list of threatened species in the Biosphere, although these species are considered in this Plan as future surveys may rediscover these species, or because the Biosphere may provide potential sites for their reintroduction. Two extinct ‘critical weight-range’ mammals also occurred in the Biosphere, Broad-faced Potoroo (Potorous platyops) and Crescent Nailtail Wallaby (Onychogalea lunata) (Abbott 2008).