Indicator: Ecological Communities
Results for this indicator are also available for
What the results tell us for Harden
Harden Shire contains three vegetation types and also contains vegetation that would qualify under the definition of three ecological communities listed as critically endangered or endangered either Nationally or in NSW, one of which was gazetted during the current reporting period. No wetlands of National importance are located within the Shire.
No conservation reserves occur within the Shire. No information was available on Voluntary Conservation Agreements or wildlife refuges during the current reporting period. It was not possible to assess accurately changes to the extent and condition of native vegetation in the Shire during the current reporting period.
Vegetation communities in the Shire
Three vegetation communities (or ecosystems) classified by Priday (2005) as part of recent vegetation surveys of the NSW South Western Slopes region, have been recorded within Harden Shire (see Table 1). These surveys provide the best coverage and most consistent description of vegetation in the Shire, although the results had not been published at the time of preparing this State of the Environment report.
The grassy box-gum woodlands (ecosystem SouV24a; see Table 1) would have been the most extensive vegetation community in the Shire. It is associated with Young Granodiorite (which occupies more than 85% of the Shire's area) (Priday 2005). A small number of tiny remnants, in which the understorey retains at least some diversity of native forbs and grasses, are all that now remains of this community within the Shire. Shrubby open forests (ecosystem SouV39), which are associated with steeper hills of the Goobaragandra Volcanics, are present in the far south east of the Shire; some larger remnants are present in this area (Priday 2005). A narrow section of the Hervey Group Sediments found in the far north east of the Shire is mainly open forest dominated by Black Cypress Pine (Callitris endlicheri) and Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha) with other gum and box eucalypt species (ecosystem HerS53b) (Priday 2005).
|Ecosystem||Description||Vegetation Landscape||Soil Parent Materials||Estimated Status|
|SouV39||Shrubby open forests dominated by Red Stringybark, Red Box, Long-leaved Box, Blakely's Red Gum, Yellow Box and White Box||South Western Slopes Volcanics (Goobaragandra Volcanics)||Intrusive and extrusive volcanic rocks varying between transitional siliceous/intermediate (e.g. dacite) to mafic (e.g. basalt).||Vulnerable (possibly Endangered)|
|SouV24a||Grassy box-gum woodlands dominated by White Box, Yellow Box and Blakely's Red Gum||South Western Slopes Volcanics (Young Granodiorite)||Intrusive and extrusive volcanic rocks varying between transitional siliceous/intermediate (e.g. dacite) to mafic (e.g. basalt).||Endangered; very few remnants resembling what is assumed to be the 'pre-1750' condition (<1% of former distribution).|
|HerS53b||Open forest dominated by Black Cypress Pine, Red Stringybark, Scribbly Gum, Dwyer's Red Gum, Long-leaved Box and Red Ironbark. The dominant open forest community in the Dananbilla/Douglas Range section of the landscape.||Hervey Group Sediments||Fine- to coarse-grained sediments. Mainly siltstones and sandstones with minor shale and conglomerate. Includes colluvial and alluvial deposits on footslopes.||Least concern|
Source: Priday 2005.
Endangered ecological communities
Harden Shire may contain up to three threatened ecological communities listed as endangered or critically endangered Nationally or in NSW (Note: threatened ecological community lists are generated based on Bioregions). White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum woodland is listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands and Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the ACT communities is listed as under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (DECC 2008b; DEWHA 2008c).
|Name of ecological community||Status||Date of determination*||Recovery Plan|
|Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Southern Tablelands of NSW and the ACT||Endangered nationally#||Prior to 16 July 2000||In preparation|
|White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum woodland||Endangered in NSW*||Final: 15 March 2002||No|
|White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland||Critically Endangered nationally#||Final: 17 May 2006||In preparation|
* Determinations (preliminary and final) under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 made by the NSW Scientific Committee; Source: DECC 2004a–c, 2008a–h
Other significant communities or habitats
No nationally significant wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DEWHA 2008a) or Ramsar sites (internationally important wetlands) occur within or intersect the Shire.
Vegetation extent and condition
Pressures on vegetation extent
Loss of native vegetation continues to be one of the greatest threats to Australia’s biodiversity. The clearing of native vegetation is a threatening process operating on both ecosystems and species (DEHWA 2006). Even if all clearing were to cease now, the decline in vegetation condition is likely to continue for many years, because of the lag effects of vegetation fragmentation and growing pressure from climate change (DECC 2006). The main responses are the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (and supporting Regulations) and improved compliance monitoring. The new legislative regime is expected to provide a means to address this issue.
Clearing was the main pressure on the extent of native vegetation in Harden Shire during the previous reporting period. Increased fragmentation and clearing have both have been identified as particular threats to the three threatened ecological communities with occurrences in the Shire. No information is available on the extent of native vegetation clearing in Harden Shire during the current reporting period. It appears that the trend in the overall rate of clearing is difficult to accurately assess (see About the data).
Mapped vegetation change relating to extent of vegetation in the Shire in the current and previous reporting periods was not available at time of preparing this report.
A total of 28.3 hectares of vegetation was approved for clearing within the Murrumbidgee Catchment , which encompasses Harden Shire, under the Native Vegetation Act 2003 during the reporting period. No information was available on clearing applications approved, including clearing areas, within the Shire during the reporting period.
Pressures on vegetation condition
Factors such as drought and the spread of noxious weeds asserted broadscale pressure on vegetation condition within Harden Shire during the current reporting period. Common threats to roadside vegetation include road maintenance, widening and construction, weed invasion, grazing, alteration to drainage, agricultural fertilisers and firewood collection (NSW NWPS 2002).
General threats to the condition of the three threatened ecological communities with occurrences in the Shire include (DECC 2008a; DEWHA 2008b):
- land degradation and fragmentation of remnants
- grazing and trampling by stock
- weed invasion
- erosion and sedimentation
- soil disturbance caused by feral animals
- harvesting of firewood and collection of on-ground woody debris
- high frequency or high intensity fires
- climate change.
One wildfire occurred within Harden Shire during the reporting period. No information is available on areas burnt by this wildfire. Fire may have asserted pressure on vegetation condition within some parts of Harden Shire during the current reporting period, however no information is available on impacts on vegetation communities.
Conservation and management
Law and policy
Some national and state laws require recovery plans or action plans to be prepared for endangered ecological communities, and for the presence of such communities to be taken into account during decision-making on developments applications. These laws also aim to minimise the effects of threatening processes on endangered ecological communities or prevent communities from becoming endangered. Acts such as the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (enacted during the current reporting period and replacing the Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1997), also aim to minimise the effects of threatening processes and to protect, conserve and improve the condition of existing native vegetation, particularly at a local and regional level.
Harden Shire is located within the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) area established under the NSW Catchment Management Authorities Act 2003. Each CMA is required to work in partnership with Local Government as well as other stakeholders, and must develop and administer a regional vegetation management plan. These plans and the catchment blueprints prepared by the catchment management boards which preceded the CMAs, also support the conservation of native ecosystems. The Murrumbidgee Catchment Blueprint (Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Board 2003), completed during the current reporting period, includes a range of management actions to restore, maintain or conserve biodiversity values in each catchment area.
The Protect and Enhance High Conservation Value Native Vegetation project, funded by the Australian and NSW Government through the Natural Heritage Trust, was formed as part of the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority Investment Strategy. This project protected and enhanced over 7,000 hectares of high conservation value native vegetation. Eleven rare vegetation classes across the Murrumbidgee Catchment vegetation classes were protected including Yellow Box, Boree and wetlands through conservation agreements. Participating landholders signed ten-year incentive agreements with the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority to protect biodiversity for the sites.
Local government legislation, regulations and planning documents such as Local Environmental Plans (LEPs) may also provide some protection for ecological communities, or limit or prohibit certain activities that may lead to the further decline of endangered ecological communities.
No national parks, nature reserves or state conservation areas either fall within or intersect Harden Shire.
Other conservation management
No information was available on the number of privately owned properties in the Shire had a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) in place. Last reporting period, eight properties covering a total of 6,102 hectares were designated wildlife refuges. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within these wildlife refuges, or whether plans of management or schemes of operation had been developed or implemented for them. No information was available on the designation of additional wildlife refuges during the current reporting period.
Two Landcare groups operated within Harden Shire. For information on the range of activities occurring there and in the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee catchments, see the Landcare NSW website.
Community groups, Shire Council and/or other organisations may have undertaken various projects during the reporting period that enhanced the protection of ecological communities in the Shire.
About the data
Information regarding ecological communities within the Shire was provided by Steve Priday, who is undertaking vegetation mapping of the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Murray catchments in the NSW South Western Slopes region. The mapping was still in progress at the time of preparing this State of the Environment report.
Threats to each endangered ecological community was provided by Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), under the NSW Scientific Committee - final determination page, and/or the Threatened Species, Populations and Ecological Communities endangered ecological communities profile page. The information contained in this database is available on the internet link under DECC 2008a in the references. New parks and additions to existing reserves was provided by DECC upon request, as the website only listed all the parks and reserves created over the last 12 months. Information on park and fire management plans, as well as recovery plans for endangered ecological communities was provided by DECC.
Overall vegetation condition assessment across the landscape is very difficult to achieve because remote sensing below the canopy level is still not possible (given current technology and cost requirement in achieving statistically significant results from survey) and the complexities of obtaining permission to enter private land for survey staff. The availability of accurate vegetation clearing data is of critical importance for future reporting purposes, due to the threat that this pressure represents to biodiversity.
Data on vegetation approved for clearing within Catchment Management Association regions under the Native Vegetation Act 2003 was accessed through the DECC website under the Public register of approved clearing PVPs and development applications. Geographic analysis would reveal locations within LGA boundaries, however this was unavailable during the reporting period. The data collection system was changed in 2006 with the introduction of the new regulations. These estimates exclude the area of vegetation cleared illegally and clearing carried out legally under statutory exemptions; in 2005, 40% of all clearing was estimated to be illegal in NSW (Audit Office 2006).
Audit Office 2006, Auditor-General's Report: Performance Audit, Department of Natural Resources – Regulating the Clearing of Native Vegetation, follow-up of 2002 performance audit, Audit Office of NSW, Sydney
Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW) (2008a) NSW Scientific Committee—Final Determination, (search on threatened ecological community - endangered ecological community listing), viewed 20 October 2008, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/natureconservation.htm
Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW) (2008b) Threatened Species, Populations and Ecological Communities, Final determinations by date, viewed 22 October 2008, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/committee/FinalDeterminations.htm
Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW) (2006), NSW State of the Environment Report 2006, Biodiversity http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/soe/soe2006/chapter6/chp_6.1.htm#6.1.60
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Commonwealth) (2006), Australia State of the Environment 2006, Pressures on biodiversity http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/publications/report/biodiversity-2.html
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Commonwealth) (2008a) Australian Wetlands Database, Department of Environment and Heritage, viewed 22 October 2008, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/wetlands/search.pl?smode=BOTH
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Commonwealth) (2008b), Biodiversity, search on threatened ecological community, viewed October 2008, http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/index.html
Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Commonwealth) (2008c), EPBC Act List of Threatened Ecological Communities, Final determinations by date, viewed October 2008, http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/index.html
Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (NSW) (2004) 2003/04 Combined NSW Catchment Management Authorities Annual Report, Volume 1: CMA Activities and Achievements, Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, Sydney.
Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Board (2003) Murrumbidgee Catchment Blueprint, NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney, viewed 4 August 2005 http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/cmb/blueprints/pdf/murrumbidgee_blueprint.pdf.
Priday, S (2005) The Native Vegetation of the NSW South Western Slopes; Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Murray Catchments, report in preparation for NSW Department of Environment and Conservation.
Stelling, F (1996) Olympic Highway Roadside Vegetation Assessment and Management Guidelines, report for the Olympic Highway 2000 Committee, Albury.