Mvg 15 Low Closed Forests and Tall Closed Shrublands

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MVG 15 - Low Closed Forests and Tall Closed Shrublands

Melaleuca lanceolata thicket, Rottnest Island, WA (Photo: R. Purdie)


    • Characterised by stunted woody vegetation with dense foliage in the upper layers usually between 5m and 10 m in height, sometimes referred to as ‘scrubs’.

    • Generally dominated by non-eucalypt species from the families Casuarinaceae, Myrtaceae, Proteaceae or Fabaceae e.g. Casuarina Agonis, Melaleuca or Leptospermum.

    • Typically associated with exposed coastal environments, periodically with strong on-shore winds.

Facts and figures

Major Vegetation Group

MVG 15 - Low Closed Forests and Tall Closed Shrublands

Major Vegetation Subgroups

(number of NVIS descriptions)

28. Low closed forest or tall closed shrublands (NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, NT, WA(115)

Typical NVIS structural formations

Low closed forest

Closed shrubland (mid, tall)

Tall closed shrubland

Number of IBRA regions


Most extensive in IBRA region

Est. pre-1750 and present: Coolgardie (WA)

Estimated pre-1750 extent (km2)

25 819

Present extent (km2)

16 278

Area protected (km2)

4 963

Coastal melaleuca, Bournda National Park, NSW Kathy Tracey

Structure and physiognomy

    • The canopy is generally dense and less than 10 m in height (Keith 2004; Beard et al. 2013).

    • Foliage of dominant shrubs or trees is sclerophyllous and varies in size from nanophyll, (0.25 – 2.5 cm2) to microphyll (20 – 45 cm2).

    • Sometimes forms a dense canopy with a projected foliage cover of 70 – 100% which can limit light penetration, reducing the understorey to shade tolerant grasses and sedges (Keith 2004; Beard et al. 2013).

Indicative species

    • The canopy is dominated by one or a few species including Agonis flexuosa in south Western Australia (Beard et al. 2013), Casuarina equisetifolia around tropical and subtropical coast lines (Neldner et al. 2014), and Acacia sophorae, Banksia integrifolia, Leptospermum laevigatum, Leucopogon parviflorus and Melaleuca armillaris around the subtropical and temperate coasts of eastern and southeast Australia (Keith 2004; (Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment 2004).

    • The ground layer includes species of Austrostipa, Lepidosperma, Lomandra Oplismenus, Poa, and Ficinia nodosa in the southern Australia (Keith 2004); and is dominated by grasses and forbs such as Thuarea involuta, Eragrostis interrupta, Sporobolus virginicus, Euphorbia tannensis subsp. tannensis, Achyranthes aspera, Tribulus cistoides and Ipomoea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis in northern Australia (Neldner et al. 2014).


  • Occurs in exposed locations on coastal headlands, foredunes and beach ridges (Keith 2004; Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment 2004; Neldner et al. 2014).

  • Substrates vary from unconsolidated sands to various rocky substrates including limestone in south-western Australia (Beadle 1981).


  • Distributed around the coastal fringe of Australia in all states and territories except the ACT.

  • Typically small patches within narrow coastal zones from a few hectares to larger pockets.


  • Approximately 37% of the estimated pre-1750 extent cleared accounting for 0.9% of total clearing in Australia.

  • Approximately 9 500 km2 cleared since European settlement due to coastal development.

  • Near major population centres and along the eastern seaboard this community has been cleared for urban development, recreation infrastructure

  • Exposed to frequent fire regimes in some per-urban areas due to unplanned ignitions.

  • Threats include the increasing residential/urban expansion in and along coastal areas, root rot disease, nutrient enrichment and weed invasion and regular or intense fires used as part of hazard reduction management near urban areas


New South Wales:

protected areas, leasehold land and freehold land

Northern Territory:


protected areas, state forests, leasehold land, isolated areas on freehold land

South Australia


protected areas, freehold land, state forests and other crown land


protected areas, state forests and isolated areas on freehold land

Western Australia:

some leasehold land, protected areas, other crown land and isolated fragments on freehold land

Key values

  • Biodiversity including a variety of species and communities.

  • Ecotourism, including bushwalking and landscape features.

  • Cultural and heritage values.

  • Often support diverse faunal communities and provide food and shelter for fauna that are often both reliant on this vegetation group and on the surrounding landscapes.

List of key management issues

  • Tourist/visitor management (e.g. access to beaches).

  • Clearing and control of clearing for urban development.

  • Fire regimes that address both biodiversity and hazard reduction issues.

  • Control of root rot disease.

  • Restoring connectivity between remnants and removing barriers to the movement of fauna between remnants.

  • Weed control (e.g. aggressive weeds such as boneseed, veldt grass, South African love grass).

  • Feral animal eradication and/or control to reduce their impact on native flora and fauna.

  • Long term monitoring to inform future management.


Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (1990) Atlas of Australian Resources. Volume 6 Vegetation. AUSMAP, Department of Administrative Services, Canberra, 64pp. & 2 maps.

Beadle N.C.W. (1981) The Vegetation of Australia. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 690pp.

Beard J.S., Beetson, G.R, Harvey J.M. Hopkins A.J.M and Shepherd D.P. (2013) The Vegetation of Western Australia at 1:3,000,000 Scale. Explanatory Memoir. Second Edition. Science Division, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia.

Keith D. (2004) Ocean Shores to Desert Dunes. The native vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT. Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), Hurstville

National Land and Water Resources Audit (2001) Australian Native Vegetation Assessment 2001. National Land and Water Resources Audit, Canberra, 332pp.

Neldner, V.J., Niehus, R.E., Wilson, B.A., McDonald, W.J.F. and Ford, A.J. (2014). The Vegetation of Queensland. Descriptions of Broad Vegetation Groups. Version 1.1. Queensland Herbarium, Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts.

Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment (2004).EVC Bioregion Benchmark for Vegetation Quality Assessment [Accessed June 2015]

Data sources

Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA), Version 6.1.

National Vegetation Information System, Version 4.1.

1996/97 Land Use of Australia, Version 2.

Collaborative Australian Protected Areas Database – CAPAD 2004 – Terrestrial.


  • See the Introduction to the MVG fact sheets for further background on this series.

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