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Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment



Indicator: Native Species

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Summary

Most of the ACT is within an area that has relatively high numbers of nationally rare and threatened species. This area is called the South East Highlands IBRA (Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia) bioregion.

There is no evidence for a change in the status of most species in the ACT though some have continued to decline, including the Hooded Robin, Northern Corroboree Frog, and Tarengo Leek Orchid (declared threatened species). Twenty-four species and two ecological communities have been declared threatened under the ACT Nature Conservation Act 1980.

There is a relatively high level of habitat protection in the ACT, including lowland woodland and grassland. Native species and ecological communities were affected by the severe and widespread bushfires of January 2003, but large-scale recovery can be expected to occur.

What the results tell us about the ACT

There is no evidence for a change in the status of the majority of native species in the ACT since the last two reporting periods. However, there is concern that populations of some woodland birds, native fish, reptiles, amphibians, and native plants are continuing to decline.

The conservation status of ACT declared threatened species and ecological communities at 30 June 2003 is shown in Table 1. Many of these species and communities are also listed nationally (under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) and under State legislation.

Twenty-four plant and animal species and two ecological communities in the ACT have been declared threatened under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 (ACT). In a three-year program undertaken by Environment ACT, most of the current Action Plans are being incorporated into three integrated strategies linking declared ecological communities and component species. The first of these is the Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (ACT Government 2003) released for public consultation in April 2003. During 2003–05, Action Plans for Natural Temperate Grassland (and component species) and aquatic species (and the riparian zone) will be reviewed and integrated strategies prepared for each group.

New declarations under Act

In July 2003 the ACT Flora and Fauna Committee completed its assessment of a number of woodland bird species that are possibly in decline. On the Committee’s recommendation, in December 2003, the Minister declared the Varied Sitella, Daphoenositta chrysoptera, and White-winged Triller, Lalage suerii, as vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act 1980.

Area burnt by bushfires

The January 2003 bushfires burnt 70% (164,914 hectares) of the ACT including about 91% (96,664 hectares) of Namadgi National Park and 99% (5064 hectares) of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. There was near complete removal of ground cover over this area. In about half (83,452 hectares) of the burnt area, the fire was intense enough to remove or scorch tree canopies and large shrubs. Effects of the fire on ecological communities, species and habitats are discussed in Carey et al. (2003).

Many native species and ecological communities were affected by the bushfires. The detailed effects of the fires will take many years to become clear and the regeneration process will provide an ideal opportunity to study the effects of severe bushfire. Previous experience shows that large-scale recovery will occur, but species abundance and composition will alter, and continue to change through the regeneration process (CSIRO 2003, pp. 15–16).

COG’s bird report

The Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) carries out extensive monitoring and recording of birds in the ACT and region. As well as general reporting, COG also conducts focused surveys, including the Garden Bird Survey (in its 22nd year in 2002–03) and the Woodland Bird Survey that began in 1998. An Annual Bird Report is published which summarises all COG’s records of birds in the Canberra region each year. The report covers the area from Yass–Goulburn (north) to Bredbo (south), Wee Jasper–Adaminaby (west) to Lake Bathurst (east).

As a compilation of observations, the Annual Bird Report cannot be considered comprehensive or accepted as an accurate reflection of the status of any species, however, it is an indicator of both possible trends and the influences of environmental conditions.

From 1995–96 to 2001–02, the number of species reported has been in the range 206 to 217 (COG 2001, COG 2002). In its Annual Bird Report for 1999–2000, the COG noted:

  • upward trends for the Satin Bowerbird and Crested Pigeon
  • some waterbirds that had not been recorded for a number of years
  • for the first time in 25 years, no reports of Freckled Ducks
  • there were no reports of Regent Honeyeaters and concern was expressed for the low reporting rate of some woodland birds in the Woodland Survey (COG 2001).

In COG’s Annual Bird Report for 2001–02, the influence of inland drought conditions, lack of water in Lake George and low water levels in Lake Bathurst probably influenced waterbird records. Notable were:

  • increases in records of Freckled Ducks, Pied Cormorants (a rare visitor to the ACT), Nankeen Night Herons, and rails and crakes
  • for landbirds there were records of Swift Parrots, Channel-billed Cuckoos, Common Koels and a Spangled Drongo
  • the Common Koel is now so regularly reported, it has been removed from COG’s Unusual Birds List
  • the most commonly recorded species in the Woodland Survey were the Australian Magpie, Crimson Rosella, Striated Pardalote, Weebill, Grey Fantail, Eastern Rosella, Galah, White-throated Treecreeper, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Australian Raven
  • species that could be expected to be more prevalent but which were rarely recorded included the Flame Robin, Fuscous Honeyeater, Rufous Songlark, Restless Flycatcher and Double-barred Finch (COG 2002).

Other new information

There were also changes in information for many other native species, as listed below.

Fish

  • The Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) was listed as endangered in the ACT in 2001 under the Nature Conservation Act 1980
  • The Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) was listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) in July 2003. The species has shown substantial decline throughout its range. The species is not currently listed in the ACT.
  • Australian Smelt (Retropinna semoni): distribution (localised)

Mammals

  • Eastern False Pipistrelle (Falsistrellus tasmaniensis): distribution (insufficiently known)
  • Smoky Mouse (Pseudomys fumeus): distribution (localised, insufficiently known)
  • Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale penicillata): distribution (presumed extinct in the wild).

Reptiles

  • Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) (recognised as species not sub-species).

Amphibians

  • The Northern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne pengilleyi) is recognised as a separate species to the Southern Corroboree Frog (P. corroboree).

Northern Corroboree Frog

The Northern Corroboree Frog, Pseudophryne pengilleyi, is listed as threatened in the ACT, in New South Wales and nationally. Although the populations in the Fiery Ranges and Bogong Mountains (NSW) have declined, they are still relatively secure. In contrast, the Brindabella–Bimberi populations in the ACT (which are genetically distinct from the NSW populations) have remained at very low numbers over the last five years. Though there were a few thousand adult frogs in the Brindabella–Bimberi ranges during the early 1980s, recent monitoring suggests there are fewer than 100 adult frogs remaining.

The January 2003 bushfires burnt most of the Northern Corroboree Frog habitat in the Brindabella–Bimberi Ranges. Some breeding sites were totally burnt; in others, small unburnt patches remained, surrounded by burnt country. The fires affected little of the habitat in the Fiery Ranges and Bogong Mountains in New South Wales. The annual monitoring of calling males undertaken in early February 2003 (post-fire) and subsequent checking of nests in the ACT showed that some Northern Corroboree Frogs had survived and bred, though numbers were extremely low.

As part of the National Recovery Program for the Corroboree Frog and the ACT Action Plan for the northern species, a captive husbandry program similar to that established for the southern species has commenced at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Eggs have been collected from the wild for the program under the guidance of the Corroboree Frog Recovery Team, which comprises officers from Environment ACT, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, University of Canberra, Amphibian Research Centre (Vic.) and Arthur Rylah Institute (Vic.). Progeny from captive husbandry programs can augment the wild populations, helping them ride out environmental disturbances. A self-sustaining captive population will help safeguard the species against extinction should wild populations disappear. However, a self-sustaining captive population of either of these species has not yet been achieved, and further research into their husbandry is needed.

Sphagnum bog recovery

Monitoring of Sphagnum moss bogs and experiments with regeneration of fire-damaged Sphagnum are underway to aid the recovery of this critical breeding habitat for the Northern Corroboree Frog. Similar work is being done for the Southern Corroboree Frog.

Data sources and references

Some of these references are cited in Table 1

The ACT Action Plans (Nos 1–26) for threatened species declared under the ACT Nature Conservation Act 1980 are available in hard copy from Environment ACT or at .

The Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (Action Plan 27) supersedes nine previous Action Plans (Nos 4, 9, 10, 15–20). Available in hard copy or at .

ACT Government 1997, Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree): A vulnerable species, Action Plan No. 6 (Environment ACT, Canberra).

ACT Government 2003, Woodlands for Wildlife: Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy, Action Plan No. 27 (Environment ACT, Canberra).

Bennett, AF, Lumsden, LF & Nicholls, AO 1994, ‘Tree hollows as a resource for wildlife in remnant woodlands: spatial and temporal patterns across the northern plains of Victoria, Australia’, Pacific Conservation Biology 1: 222–35.

Bennett, R 1997, Reptiles and Frogs of the Australian Capital Territory (National Parks Association of the ACT, Canberra).

Bounds, J, Brookfield, M & Delahoy, M 1996, Observations of a breeding colony of four pairs of Regent Honeyeaters at North Watson, Canberra, in 1995–96, Canberra Bird Notes 21(3): 41–55.

Carey, A, Evans, M, Hann, P, Lintermans, M, MacDonald, T, Ormay, P, Sharp, S, Shorthouse, D & Webb, N 2003, Wildfires in the ACT 2003: Report on initial impacts on natural ecosystems, Technical Report 17 (Wildlife Research and Monitoring, Environment ACT, Canberra).

COG (Canberra Ornithologists Group) 2001, Annual bird reports: 1July 1999 to 30 June 2000 and 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001, Canberra Bird Notes 26 (4): 105–8.

COG (Canberra Ornithologists Group) 2002, Annual Bird Report: 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, Canberra Bird Notes 27 (4): 145–202.

CSIRO 2003, Submission from CSIRO to House Select Committee on the Recent Australian Bushfires. Submission No. 434 (CSIRO). Available at .

Environment Australia 2000, Revision of the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) and the Development of Version 5.1. Summary Report, (Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra).

Fallding, M 2002, Planning framework for Natural Ecosystems of the ACT and NSW Southern Tablelands (Natural Heritage Trust, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Land & Environment Planning).

Garnett, S & Crowley, GM 2000, The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Environment Australia, Canberra).

Gibbons, P & Lindenmayer, D 2002, Tree Hollows and Wildlife Conservation in Australia (CSIRO Publishing, Ringwood).

Higgins, PJ, Peter, JM & Steele, WK 2001, Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol. 5 Tyrant-Flycatchers to Chats (Oxford University Press, Melbourne).

Lenz, M & Dabb, G 2003, Breeding by Painted Honeyeaters in the Canberra region during the 2002–03 influx, Canberra Bird Notes 28 (1): 1–9.

Lintermans, M 2000, The Status of Fish in the Australian Capital Territory: a review of Current Knowledge and Management Requirements, Technical Report 15, Environment ACT, Canberra.

Lintermans, M 2002, Fish in the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment: a review of Current Knowledge, Environment ACT, Canberra.

Lintermans, M & Osborne, WO 2002, Wet and Wild: a field guide to the freshwater animals of the Southern tablelands and High Country of the ACT and NSW (Environment ACT, Canberra), 2002

Osborne, WO 1989, Distribution, relative abundance and conservation status of Corroboree Frogs (Pseudophryne corroboree): Moore (Anura: Myobatrachidae), Australian Wildlife Research 16: 537–47.

Recher, H 2000, The status of birds in Australia, in Resetting the Compass: Australia’s Journey towards Sustainability, Yencken, D and Wilkinson, D (CSIRO Publishing, Ringwood), p. 186.

Reid, J 1999, Threatened and declining birds in the New South Wales sheep–wheat belt: 1 Diagnosis, characteristics and management Consultancy report to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (CSIRO Sustainable ecosystems, Canberra).

Robinson, D & Traill, BJ 1996, Conserving woodland birds in the wheat and sheep belts of southern Australia, RAOU Conservation Statement No. 10, Supplement to Wingspan (6) 2.

Taylor, McC & COG (Canberra Ornithologists Group) 1992, Birds of the Australian Capital Territory – an Atlas (COG and the National Capital Planning Authority, Canberra).

Traill, BJ & Duncan, S 2000, Status of birds in the New South Wales temperate woodlands region (Report to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dubbo).

Williams, J, Read, C, Norton, A, Dovers, S, Burgman, M, Proctor, W & Anderson, H 2001, Biodiversity, Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report), CSIRO Publishing on behalf of the Department and Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

Table 1: Status of ecological communities and native species in the ACT

Ecological communities

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Natural Temperate Grassland
(Endangered, 1996)
A low elevation ecological community dominated by native perennial grasses with a diversity of native herbaceous plants.
No significant losses or modification to remaining sites or establishment of new protected areas in 2000–03.
No Natural Temperate Grassland areas burnt in 2002 or 2003 wildfires.
Primarily relates to ongoing development of Canberra (loss and fragmentation, degradation of remnants), particularly in the Jerrabomberra and Majura Valleys. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 1 cover survey, monitoring, research, education, on-ground management, enhancement, actions to avoid fragmentation and degradation, conservation on federal land and in the region. An integrated conservation strategy (incorporating grassland and component species including those declared threatened) is to be prepared in 2003–04. The remaining Natural Temperate Grassland in the ACT is well documented, recognised in planning, and some important areas have been secured in nature reserves. Potential degradation of sites, particularly from invasive weeds is an ongoing concern. There is a good understanding of regional context of ACT occurrences.
Yellow Box–Red Gum Grassy Woodland (YBRGGW)
(Endangered, 1997)
A low elevation open woodland community in which either or both Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) and Blakely’s Red Gum (E. blakelyi) are usually present and dominant or co-dominant. There is a species-rich understorey of native tussock grasses, herbs and scattered shrubs.
Knowledge of the condition of ACT lowland woodland improved with floristic surveys in 2001–02 as basis for the Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003). In a regional context, condition and protection of Yellow Box–Red Gum grassy woodland (YB–RGGW) is good. About 10 500ha of YB–RGGW (meeting definition of endangered ecological community) remains, which is about one-third of the estimated original extent in the ACT. About another 6000ha remains in a substantially or severely modified form. Primarily relates to ongoing development of Canberra (clearing of woodland, fragmentation of woodland, degradation of remnants). There is loss of paddock trees and large trees in the urban area (safety and infill development). Response to the concern for woodland conservation and the benefit of an integrated (ecological community) approach has been expressed in the preparation of the Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003). The Strategy (pp. 79–85) outlines recent actions and priority tasks to improve lowland woodland conservation. In April 2003 the ACT Government announced that two areas of mainly partially and moderately modified YBRGGW identified in the Strategy are to be added to ACT Nature Reserves (750ha at Gooroo (East Gungahlin) and 300ha at Callum Brae (Jerrabomberra Valley)). At East O’Malley 62ha will be added to the Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve while 27ha (moderately modified) would be committed to urban development.
Many areas of YBRGGW remain on rural leases. The majority of rural leases have Land Management Agreements requiring conservation of woodlands and component species.
Monitoring sites are being established in woodland sites to measure changes in condition.
High level of retention and protection in the ACT. Strong community interest. The Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy provides an integrated basis for future planning and management. Good understanding of regional context of ACT occurrences.
See also ecological communities.

Plants

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Tarengo Leek Orchid
(Prasophyllum petilum)
(Endangered, 1996)
Tarengo Leek Orchid is a slender ground orchid 150–300mm in height with pink-mauve green tinged flowers. It is found in grasslands and grassy woodlands.
Species is known from only one site in the ACT (Hall Cemetery) and two sites in NSW. Hall cemetery population may be in decline (ACT Government 2003). Ninety plants were recorded in 1995, 43 in 2000 and 29 in 2002. The population is small and has suffered due to its location in a currently used cemetery. Competition from other native species, weed invasion, mechanical injury (grave digging machinery) and use of herbicides. A management protocol was developed for the Hall Cemetery in Action Plan 4. The Master Plan for the Village of Hall (2001) includes a policy to seek an alternative location for future burials and to minimise burials in the current cemetery. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 27–8) for proposed conservation actions. The Tarengo Leek Orchid appears to be in decline in the ACT. Decline is unlikely to be arrested while cemetery is in use.
There is a proposal to develop an alternative burial location.
The management guidelines are being reviewed, and data on orchid locations are available to assist monitoring and management.
A Sub-alpine Herb
(Gentiana baeuerlenii)
(Endangered, 1996)
Gentiana baeuerlenii is a small annual herb (2–4cm) with bell shaped flowers, found in the inter-tussock space in moist tussock grassland and sedgeland.
Species is known only from one location in Namadgi National Park. There are only a few plants: 20 in 1992; 11 in 1994; one in 1997. No plants have been seen since, despite annual inspections. No apparent pressures due to location in Namadgi NP. Main threats are park management actions inadvertently damaging site, feral pig rooting, possibly fire and grazing by kangaroos. Action Plan 5 indicates annual monitoring will be undertaken and outlines detailed management actions to maintain the site. The Gentian appears to be extinct, however, monitoring will continue. Site is fenced to prevent pig damage. Site burnt lightly in the 2003 wildfires.
Button Wrinklewort
(Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides)
(Endangered, 1996)
A slender perennial forb (25–35cm) with yellow button flowers. Found on the margins of Yellow Box–Red Gum grassy woodland and in natural temperate grassland.
Formerly widespread in southeast NSW and western plains of Victoria, now remnant disjunct populations. Sixteen sites in ACT and region, nine of these in the ACT. Habitat loss throughout range. Competition with other species, heavy grazing, erosion of genetic diversity and inbreeding. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 8 include survey, monitoring, research, preparation of site-specific management prescriptions, education, protection through reservation and The following have been undertaken: (a) Memoranda of Understanding with federal agencies and the Anglican Church; (b) seed from Barton and Attunga Point has been collected and is stored at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. All populations with the exception of West Block (5 plants) appear to be maintained or increasing in population size. An area containing some plants has been destroyed as part of the development of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Barton, but the rest of the population there is healthy.
Ginninderra Peppercress
(Lepidium ginninderrense)
(Endangered, 2001)
A perennial herb with up to six branched stems (20cm), green flowers. Only known population occurs in natural temperate grassland. The species was first described in 2000.
One known population of about 2000 plants on flood plain of Ginninderra Creek, Lawson. Pressure will develop on the site with change from control by Department of Defence to future suburb of Lawson. Threats associated with urban infill (accidental or deliberate damage) or lack of management of adjacent vegetation. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 25 include survey, monitoring, research, specific management actions, seed collection and planting elsewhere. The following have been undertaken: (a) support for proposed reserve in planning for suburb of Lawson; (b) seed has been collected and is stored at the National Botanic Gardens. Population of Ginninderra Peppercress has been maintained in reporting period and actions taken to protect site in future adjacent urban development. The population will be protected under proposals for land development at Lawson being prepared by the ACT and Federal Governments.
Small Purple Pea
(Swainsona recta)
(Endangered, 1996)
A slender erect perennial plant with rigid stems (20–30cm). Purple or bluish pea flowers. Found in open woodland with native grass understorey.
Formerly widespread in northeast Victoria and south and central western slopes and tablelands of NSW. Known range drastically reduced to two clusters of populations (Wellington–Mudgee and Southern ACT–Williamsdale). ACT populations at Mt Taylor (101 plants flowered in 2002), Kambah (ten plants in 2001). Largest population is in NSW on the railway easement between Tralee and Williamsdale. In ACT, habitat loss or degradation, weed competition, susceptibility of small populations to single catastrophic event. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 10 include guidelines for burning, survey, monitoring, research, management guidelines for sites. Actions taken include: (a) guidelines for burning finalised; (b) regular site inspections; (c) burning undertaken; (d) control of pests, (e) establishment of Kangaroo Grass buffer (Kambah); (f) advice regarding nearby roadworks (Guises Creek); (f) factsheet and website information. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (p. 28) (Action Plan 27) for proposed conservation actions. Monitoring in 2002 indicated that the population has increased (by about 10%) since 1998. Both ACT sites burnt in Jan 2003 wildfire. The condition of the plants was assessed in Feb 2003, and many plants were sprouting and some were flowering. Seed from the Mt Taylor population has been collected and is being stored at Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Tuggeranong Lignum
(Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong)
(Endangered, 1998)
Only formally described in1997, the species is a sprawling or procumbent shrub forming a loosely tangled mass to 1m, cream–green flowers.
Known from only eight plants in the Murrumbidgee River Corridor near Tuggeranong, ACT. Main threat to survival is likely to be deliberate or unintended actions by visitors or associated with land management activities. Effects of grazing and burning unknown. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 24 covered survey, monitoring, research and specific management actions. Specimens have been grown from cuttings at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Area burnt in 2003 wildfires. Recovery of all plants from basal shoots has been observed.

Birds

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata)
(Vulnerable, 1997)
A largely sedentary species occupying drier eucalypt forest, woodland and grassland. Uncommon, breeding resident.
The south-eastern sub-species is reported as declining throughout its range (Garnett and Crowley 2000). Local disappearances are documented in the ACT especially adjacent to the urban area. Main pressure is loss of suitable habitat (woodland/native grassland with retention of understorey, away from urban areas). Species recorded in COG Woodland survey sites including Gundaroo, Yankee Hat/Boboyan, Googong Dam and Monaro Highway (Theodore to Bredbo). Protection of known and potential Hooded Robin habitat on rural leases has been pursued through Land Management Agreements. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 44–5, 77) for proposed conservation actions. New woodland reserves have recent records for this species. Hooded Robin is in decline in the ACT and reporting rate for 2000–03 shows this trend. Urban development has impacted on this species in the northern parts of the ACT and its long-term future there is uncertain. The management challenge is to retain suitable habitat in reserves and in off-reserve areas.
Swift Parrot
(Lathamus discolor)
(Vulnerable, 1997)
A small, streamlined, bright grass-green parrot which breeds in Tasmania and over-winters mainly in box/ironbark forest and woodland, inland of the Great Dividing Range in south-eastern Australia. Rare winter migrant.
Documented decline in breeding population in Tasmania. Reported in ACT every second or third year usually attracted to flowering eucalypts. One report in 2001–02 (COG 2002). Main pressure on mainland is loss of critical over-wintering habitat features (winter flowering eucalypts and eucalypts carrying lerps). Protection of known and potential Swift Parrot habitat on rural leases and federal land has been pursued through Land Management Agreements and a memorandum of understanding with federal agencies. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 44–5, 77) for proposed conservation actions. No evidence for change in status of the Swift Parrot in the ACT 2000–03, but small numbers and migratory nature make assessment difficult.
Superb Parrot
(Polytelis swainsonii)
(Vulnerable, 1997)
A slender grass-green parrot with long tail. There are two breeding areas in Riverina and Southwest Slopes and birds move to adjacent areas in winter. Most ACT reports are from the Hall area. Uncommon, summer breeding migrant/aviary escapee.
Species has suffered great contraction in range and numbers, now estimated at 5000 breeding pairs (Garnett and Crowley 2000). In the ACT and region, sparsely distributed in the breeding season between northern ACT, Yass, Sutton and Gundaroo. There are thirteen reports from this area in 2001–02 (COG 2002) but no known nest sites in the ACT. Main pressure on this species is loss of large living and dead trees with hollows for nesting sites. Species commonly feeds on ground on spilt grain and many are struck by motor vehicles. Trapping for aviary trade occurred in past but present extent unknown. Protection of known and potential Superb Parrot habitat on rural leases and federal land has been pursued through Land Management Agreements and a memorandum of understanding with federal agencies. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 44–5, 77) for proposed conservation actions. No evidence for change in status of the Superb Parrot in the ACT 2000–03, but small numbers and migratory nature make assessment difficult. Potential for ACT/NSW cooperation to protect remnant paddock trees with nesting hollows.
Brown Treecreeper
(Climacteris picumnus)
(Vulnerable, 1997)
A sedentary, grey-brown treecreeper found in lower elevation forest, woodland and open areas. Locally common where habitat is suitable e.g. Clear Range and lower Naas River in ACT. Uncommon, breeding resident.
Large reductions in density have been reported over most of the range of the species. Between 1990 and 2000, a decline of 70% in central NSW (Traill and Duncan 2000). Reports variable in the ACT: 54 records in 2001–02; 84 in 2000–01; 15 in 1997–98. Described as common breeding resident by Taylor and COG (1992) but uncommon by COG (2002). Species has declined in urban area (Taylor and COG 1992). Main pressure is loss of habitat. Species appears to need large woodland/forest patches (300ha) with native understorey, especially grasses and fallen dead timber but without a dense, woody shrub layer. Threats to Brown Treecreeper include: (a) heavy grazing, firewood removal and too frequent burning which removes foraging substrate; (b) introduced predators; and (c) competition for tree hollows. Protection of known and potential Brown Tree Creeper habitat on rural leases and federal land has been pursued through Land Management Agreements and a memorandum of understanding with federal agencies. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 44–5, 77) for proposed conservation actions. New woodland reserves include recent records for this species. No evidence for change in status of the Brown Tree Creeper in the ACT 2000–03, but species appears to be in long-term decline. The management challenge is to retain suitable habitat in reserves and in off-reserve areas.
Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta)
(Vulnerable, 1997)
A bright and showy honeyeater associated in the ACT with Needle-leaf Mistletoe (Amyema cambagei) on River Oak (Casuarina cunninghamiana) in the Murrumbidgee River valley. Rare migrant.
The Painted Honeyeater is recorded as declining throughout its range (Garnett and Crowley 2000). COG (2001) describes it as a rare, migrant species, here for short periods over summer and notes that ‘numbers seen in the ACT have declined alarmingly’. There are no reports for 2001–02 (COG 2002). An influx of the species occurred in 2002–03 with reports of breeding (Lenz and Dabb 2003). The main pressure appears to be loss of habitat – woodland with older trees and Mistletoe (Amyema spp.). Its riverine habitat in the ACT was severely burnt in the wildfire of January 2003, however, in 2002–03 the species was occurred in lowland grassy woodland with mistletoe present. Because of its general scarcity, specialised diet and nomadic habits, the species cannot be effectively protected in reserves. Habitat along the Murrumbidgee River corridor has been protected in reserves. Protection of known and potential Painted Honeyeater habitat on rural leases and federal Land has been pursued through Land Management Agreements and a Memorandum of Understanding with federal agencies. See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 44–5, 77) for proposed conservation actions. No evidence for change in status of the Painted Honeyeater in the ACT 2000–03. Decline in observations of this species predate the reporting period. Importance of lowland grassy woodland with mistletoe shown by presence of species in 2002–03. Several records (including nesting) in urban areas during the 2002–03 summer. The higher than usual number of observations is attributed to drought and influx of birds to ACT from drier western regions.
Regent Honeyeater
(Xanthomyza phrygia)
(Endangered, 1997)
A spectacular honeyeater with black and yellow colouring. An irruptive and partly migratory species formerly widely distributed throughout eastern Australia. Rare, breeding visitor in ACT.
Formerly widely distributed and numerous in south-eastern Australia. Both the range and numbers have declined severely, probably since the 1940s. Population estimates are now as low as 500–1500 individuals (Higgins et al. 2001). ACT reports show a decline from the 1960s with sightings now single birds, pairs or small flocks as in 1995 when four pairs bred in the North Watson area (Bounds et al. 1996). There is a report for 2001 (COG 2002). The ACT is at the maximum altitudinal limit of the distribution of the species. The Regent Honeyeater is an arboreal nectarivore relying on locally abundant nectar and associated insect food sources. The main pressure on the Regent Honeyeater is loss of richer flowering eucalypts from fertile river flats and lower slopes. Protection of woodland areas with large Yellow Box and mistletoe (e.g. Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve). See Draft ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (2003) (pp. 44–5, 77) for proposed conservation actions No evidence for change in status of the Regent Honeyeater in the ACT 2000–03, given that the species is now only an occasional visitor to the ACT. The long-term future of the species remains uncertain in the ACT. A pair of birds held at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve was destroyed in January 2003 fires.

Crayfish

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Murray River Crayfish
(Euastacus armatus)
(Vulnerable, 1996)
A large freshwater crayfish, with large white claws and ornately spined abdomen. Widely distributed in the Murray–Darling Basin.
In the ACT, mainly in the Murrumbidgee River, also lower Cotter and Paddys Rivers. Populations and sizes of individuals greatly reduced. Note that this species does not reach sexual maturity until quite large (15–20cm) and 6–9 years old. Illegal taking of crayfish previously widespread in NSW and overfishing in ACT prior to legislation, illegal removal is still likely to be occurring. Habitat destruction and modification especially sedimentation, overfishing (considered major factor in decline in Murrumbidgee River in the ACT), heavy metal pollution (Molonglo River), possible effects of introduced fish. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 14 cover habitat rehabilitation, control of trade in freshwater crayfish, possible reintroduction into Cotter Reservoir, monitoring, research and education. The following has been undertaken: educational material on habitats and threats to aquatic ecosystems and associated fauna has been made available through Lintermans & Osborne (2002) and Lintermans (2002). Monitoring of remnant populations is scheduled for 2004.
Reports of Murray Crays above Cotter Dam were confirmed in 2002.

Fish

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Macquarie Perch
(Macquaria australasica)
(Endangered, 1996)
A member of the Australian family of freshwater basses and cods found in the cooler, upper reaches of the Murray–Darling River system. Sought after angling species.
In the ACT, remnant populations in the Murrumbidgee, Paddys and Cotter Rivers. Known from other locations in the region. Habitat alteration, overfishing and effects of introduced fish. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 13 cover habitat rehabilitation, maintenance of river flows, protection of the Cotter catchment from introduced species, translocation to expand distribution, survey, monitoring, research and education. The following have been undertaken: (a) a significant research project into the movements and habitat use of the Cotter Reservoir population has been completed; (b) changes to environmental flow regimes to accommodate drought and competing water supply pressures have sought to protect Macquarie Perch spawning sites; (c) educational material on habitats and threats to aquatic ecosystems and associated fauna has been made available through the publications Lintermans & Osborne (2002) and Lintermans (2002); (d) increased effort has been devoted to management of illegal fishing in important habitats of this species, particularly around Cotter Reservoir; (e) a habitat rehabilitation program utilising rock groynes completed in Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa. The drought and fires in the Cotter catchment have resulted in considerable degradation of riverine habitat through sedimentation, which is likely to reduce breeding success in the immediate future.
Trout Cod
(Maccullochella macquariensis)
Endangered, 1996)
A member of the Australian family of freshwater basses and cods only formally recognised as a distinct species in the 1970s. Formerly widespread in southeast of Murray–Darling Basin.
Only two self-supporting populations remain (Murray River below Yarrawonga and near Euroa, Victoria). Last recorded capture in the ACT from Gigerline Gorge, Murrumbidgee River, late 1970s. Habitat destruction and modification especially sedimentation, previous overfishing (species was not distinguished from Murray Cod), effects of exotic species including fish diseases. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 12 cover habitat rehabilitation, maintenance of river flows, protection of the Cotter catchment from introduced species, translocation to expand distribution, survey, monitoring, research and education. The following have been undertaken: (a) educational material on habitats and threats to aquatic ecosystems and associated fauna has been made available through the publications Lintermans & Osborne (2002) and Lintermans (2002); (b) as part of a national recovery plan artificially bred fish have been stocked into Bendora Reservoir (1989–90) and the Murrumbidgee River at Angle Crossing (1996–2002); (c) large research program (funded by Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, Murray–Darling Basin Commission and CRC Freshwater Ecology) commenced in 2003–04; (d) a habitat rehabilitation program utilising rock groynes to create scour holes was completed in Murrumbidgee River at Tharwa. Stocked population in Murrumbidgee is surviving but no evidence of breeding. Status of Bendora population unknown due to difficulties of sampling fish in this deep reservoir.
Two Spined Blackfish
(Gadopsis bispinosus)
(Vulnerable, 1996)
A small to medium length blackfish found in higher altitude inland streams of south-eastern Australia.
Found in upland streams to the west of the ACT. Last record from the Murrumbidgee River in the ACT is in the mid-1970s. In the ACT, now found only in the Cotter River catchment upstream of Cotter Dam. Habitat destruction and modification especially sedimentation, effects of exotic species including fish diseases (the species appears to be able to coexist with Trout in preferred habitat), not sought as angling fish though accidentally caught. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 11 include maintenance of river flows, protection of the Cotter River catchment from introduced fish species, survey, monitoring research and education. The following have been undertaken: (a) educational material on habitats and threats to aquatic ecosystems and associated fauna has been made available through Lintermans & Osborne (2002) and Lintermans (2002); (b) changes to environmental flow regimes to accommodate drought and competing water supply pressures have sought to protect spawning sites. Evidence from pre-fire monitoring is that the species was being maintained and was relatively secure in the upper and middle Cotter catchment under the current reservoir management. Long-term response of populations to the impacts of fires in the Cotter catchment is unknown but preliminary monitoring indicates significant reduction in numbers, presumably due to sedimentation.

Reptiles

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Grassland Earless Dragon
(Tympanocryptis pinguicolla)
(Endangered, 1996)
A small dragon lizard with a stout body, short robust limbs and distinctive cryptic patterning. Found in natural temperate grassland.
Formerly described as common in the ACT, now found only in suitable grassland habitat in the Majura and Jerrabomberra valleys (and an adjacent site in NSW and near Cooma). Loss and fragmentation of habitat (rural, urban, infrastructure, industrial development), weed invasion, predation. Habitat at the Canberra International Airport was destroyed as part of airport runway works authorised by the Federal Government. Five dragons were removed. Natural temperate grassland and species such as Grassland Earless Dragon now recognised in land use planning. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 3 cover survey, monitoring, research, education and protection of the species and habitat. The following have been undertaken: (a) regional surveys have identified populations near Cooma and Queanbeyan both of which are, or will be included in reserves. No ACT population is currently protected in a reserve, although none have been lost to development; (b) MOUs cover land occupied by federal agencies; (c) all ACT sites have been assessed for their conservation significance as part of planning for the Majura and Jerrabomberra valleys. No evidence for change in status of the Grassland Earless Dragon in the ACT 2000–03. Decline in observations of this species predate the reporting period.
All ACT populations are vulnerable to development pressures in the Jerrabomberra valley and around the Canberra International Airport in the Majura valley.
Striped Legless Lizard
(Delma impar)
(Vulnerable, 1996)
A legless lizard (to about 300mm total length) usually with full length stripes. Found in natural temperate grassland and exotic pasture with suitable tussock structure.
Found in south-eastern Australia but there has been substantial contraction of distribution. In the ACT, several disjunct populations (Gungahlin, Belconnen, Yarramundi Reach, Majura Valley, Jerrabomberra Valley) reflecting the fragmentation of native grassland. Loss and fragmentation of habitat (rural, urban, infrastructure, industrial development), weed invasion, predation and pressures from encroaching development. Natural temperate grassland and species such as Striped Legless Lizard now recognised in land use planning. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 2 cover survey, monitoring, research, education and protection of the species and habitat. The following have been undertaken: (a) regional surveys have identified populations near Goulburn and Yass; (b) three reserves established in Gungahlin; (c) MOUs cover land occupied by federal agencies; (d) stock grazing and fire used as management tools for grassland habitat; (e) trials of capture techniques in place to assist in monitoring of population. Monitoring has not recorded the species at Yarramundi Reach since 1992. A new population was recorded in the Belconnen area in 2001. The species is still present at the other locations but due to its cryptic appearance is difficult to sight. A remaining and increasing threat is urban encroachment on grassland areas resulting in urban/grassland edge effects including weeds, increased fire frequency and predation by cats and dogs.

Mammals

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby
(Petrogale penicillata)
(Endangered, 1996)
A small to medium sized wallaby with long dark brushy tipped tail. Inhabits cliffs and steep rocky areas.
Formerly widely distributed in south-eastern Australia, distribution and abundance have declined dramatically. Species presumed extinct in the ACT with last confirmed sighting in 1959. Captive population at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (animals introduced from Kawau Island, New Zealand). Six of the 30 captive wallabies survived the 2003 fires. Not applicable to ACT: predation, competition from introduced herbivores, past hunting, human disturbance, surrounding land uses/management, altered fire regimes. The captive ACT population was being used for education and research. The population formed part of a reintroduction program in Victoria The future of the cross-fostering program at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve following the January 2003 fires has not yet been resolved. The ACT is participating in a National Recovery Team established in September 2003.
Smoky Mouse
(Pseudomys fumeus)
(Endangered, 1998)
A pale grey or blue-grey native mouse found in a range of habitats in south-eastern Australia.
Sub-fossil deposits indicate the species was widespread in south-eastern Australia and was probably in decline prior to European settlement. It is now found in disjunct, relictual populations. Survey records for the Brindabellas suggest its presence, but in very low densities. Difficult to interpret given long-term decline. Loss of habitat, inappropriate fire regimes and predation by foxes and cats are likely current pressures. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 23 include survey, ecological research and management actions to limit disturbance to likely habitat. Impact on habitat assessed following 2003 fires. All known habitat in ACT severely burnt in 2003 fires. Persistence of populations in these areas is uncertain due to inherent difficulty in surveying presence/absence. Species thought to benefit in medium term from post-fire vegetation succession.

Frogs

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Northern Corroboree Frog
(Pseudophryne pengilleyi)
(Vulnerable, 1996)
A small distinctively coloured (yellow-green and black) frog found at high elevations in the ACT.
Found only in the high country of the ACT and adjacent Fiery Range of NSW, associated with wet sites such as pools and seepages in Sphagnum bogs. Separate species to Southern Corroboree Frog of Snowy Mountains. Common in suitable habitat in the 1960s and 1970s the species has undergone substantial decline. Causes of overall decline are not known. Wet breeding sites are very susceptible to disturbance e.g. erosion from roads, spread of blackberry, trampling (humans, feral pigs and horses). Winter habitat is affected by autumn burning of forest/woodland. Long-term decline may be related to climate change and/or disease by Chytrid fungus. Recent fires severely burnt 80% of habitat in the Brindabella Range. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 6 include controlling local impacts at breeding areas, survey, monitoring, research, and special protective management of Ginini Flats. The following have been undertaken: (a) populations of corroboree frogs are monitored; (b) in response to low numbers and fire damage to wetland habitat, a captive husbandry program has been established. Likely detrimental impact on populations from 2003 fires, though pre- and post-fire numbers of frogs too low to determine population trend. Captive husbandry program aims to improve survival rate and reintroduce frogs to bolster wild populations, and serve as captive colony should wild populations become extinct.

Insects

Ecological community Condition Pressure Response Status/outlook
Golden Sun Moth
(Synemon plana)
(Endangered, 1996)
A short-lived and cryptically coloured moth without functional mouthparts as an adult, that spends most of its life cycle in the pre-adult stages.
Species is recorded as common and widespread in south-eastern Australia prior to 1950s (and extensive pasture improvement). In the ACT the species occurs in natural temperate grassland dominated by Austrodanthonia carphoides. Currently recorded from 19 sites in the ACT including four nature reserves. Loss or degradation of habitat (further fragmentation of grassland, weed invasion, changes to grazing regimes). A number of ACT sites are very small and potentially vulnerable to surrounding activities. Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 10 include specific management arrangements for sites, survey, monitoring, research and education. Some areas are in reserves, proposed for reserve, or covered by MOU with federal agencies. The species has been listed as critically endangered nationally. Approx. 100ha at the Belconnen Naval Station site is proposed to be reserved for the species. Surveys in NSW have established the regional context of the species.
Perunga Grasshopper
(Perunga ochracea)
(Vulnerable, 1996)
A stout, short winged, flightless grasshopper with cryptic colouring (grey-brown and greenish forms). Powerful jumper.
Species found in natural temperate grassland also native pasture and open grassy woodland. Recorded from Wagga Wagga (NSW) and areas north and east of the ACT. Recorded from 11 sites throughout the ACT. No population studies have been undertaken. Loss or degradation of habitat (further fragmentation of grassland, weed invasion) Actions outlined in ACT Action Plan 21 include specific management arrangements for sites, survey, monitoring, research and education. Four areas are in reserves, and other known habitat areas are covered by MOU with federal agencies. Lack of suitable survey method for species, low density and small cryptic appearance mean that population trends are difficult to determine. Opportunistic observations still occasionally reported for the species. Ecological studies needed to gain a better understanding of habitat requirements of the species, threats and distribution in the ACT.

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