Boorowa

Indicator: Ecological Communities

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What the results tell us for Boorowa

Nine vegetation communities have been recorded within Boorowa Council area, eight of which are considered to be of conservation significance. The Council area may also contain occurrences of four ecological communities listed as critically endangered or endangered nationally or in New South Wales (NSW) (Note: threatened ecological community lists are generated based on Bioregions). No wetlands of national importance are located within the Council area.

Eighty five percent of Boorowa Council area's native vegetation has been cleared. It was not possible to assess accurately changes to the extent and condition of the native vegetation during the current reporting period.

There are no conservation reserves within the Council area, and no information was available on the representation of vegetation communities within the broader region's reserve system. Although private land holdings are crucial for conserving native vegetation remnants, no information was available on any voluntary conservation agreements in place, or private properties designated as wildlife refuges. Travelling stock reserves, some cemeteries and crown reserves, and roadsides are also important for vegetation conservation.

Regeneration, planting and other 'landcare' activities are considered crucial to retaining viable natural ecosystems in the Boorowa region.

Vegetation communities in the Council area

Nine vegetation communities (or ecosystems) have been recorded within Boorowa Council area (see Table 1). They were classified as part of vegetation mapping undertaken by the then NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (now Department of Environment and Climate Change) (see About the data) and provide the best coverage and most consistent description of vegetation in the Council area. Although more recent vegetation mapping has been undertaken it was not used for this report, as it had not been published at the time of writing. These vegetation classifications are still current, however Eden comprehensive regional assessments (CRA) classifications were incorporated (almost unchanged) into the new South Coast - Illawarra Vegetation Integration (SCIVI) classification system (Tozer et.al 2006), and completely overlap the Eden CRA region. SCIVI has superseded the Southern CRA region, however does not fully encompass the Canberra region, overlapping much of the Southern CRA region, but not extending as far west. SCIVI does not include western vegetation classification types therefore was not applicable to this report.

Eighty five percent of the Council area's native vegetation has been cleared and remnants are highly fragmented. A large proportion of the extant native vegetation occurs in the eastern half of the Council area on shallow or skeletal soils less suited to agriculture (NSW NPWS 2002). Most remaining large blocks of vegetation are dry forests on rocky ridgelines (NSW NPWS 2002). The remaining woodland occurs as isolated paddock trees and small patches of less than two hectares (NSW NPWS 2002). Private land holdings support the vast majority of extant vegetation in the Council area, while roadsides and travelling stock reserves are generally the areas that retain the greatest plant diversity.

No remnant native vegetation communities in the Council area are in a fully functional ecological state. Two are considered moderately functional, two moderately dysfunctional and five highly dysfunctional (NSW NPWS 2002; see also functional health in About the data). Regeneration, planting and other 'landcare' activities are considered crucial to retaining viable natural ecosystems in the Boorowa region (NSW NPWS 2002).

Table 1. Vegetation communities within Boorowa Council area
Name of vegetation type Pre-1750 area (ha) Extant area (ha) % Cleared
Blakely's Red Gum – Yellow Box Woodland 50,071 4,093 94%
Callitris endlicheri – Red Stringybark – Red Box Shrub Forest 2,379 828 65%
Kangaroo Grass – Red Leg Grassland / Open woodland 24,269 418 98%
Red Stringybark – Joycea Grass Tussock Open Forest 47,205 8,965 81%
Red Stringybark / Long-leaved Box / Candlebark / Open Forest / Woodland 17,297 2,197 87%
Red Stringybark Dry Shrub Forests 72,955 9,492 87%
River Oak riparian Forest 738 111 85%
River Red Gum Forest 3,063 577 81%
White Box Woodlands 39,700 2,204 96%

Source: NSW NPWS 2002

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Endangered ecological communities

Boorowa Council area has occurrences of four threatened ecological communities listed nationally or in NSW (Note: threatened ecological community lists are generated based on Bioregions). Two are listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, two are listed under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Two communities had their final determinations made during the current reporting period (DECC 2008b; DEHWA 2008c).

Table 2. Endangered ecological communities within Boorowa Council area, June 2008
Name of ecological community Status Date of determination* Recovery Plan
Montane peatlands and swamps of the New England Tableland, NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin, South East Corner, South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps bioregions Endangered in NSW* Final: 17 December 2004 No
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 (i.e. internationally important wetlands) occur within or intersect the Council area.

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Vegetation extent and condition

Pressures on vegetation extent

Clearing was the main pressure on the extent of native vegetation in Boorowa Council area during the previous reporting period; and likely remained so during current reporting period. It can also result in fragmentation of vegetation remnants. Increased fragmentation and clearing are the most significant vegetation threats in eastern Australia (Sattler and Creighton 2002), and both have been identified as particular threats to the four endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the Council area (DECC 2008).

Mapped vegetation change relating to extent of and changes to vegetation in the Council area 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 region, which encompasses Bombala Council area, under the NSW Native Vegetation Act 2003 during the reporting period. No information was available on clearing applications approved, including clearing areas, within the council area 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 Boorowa Council area during the current reporting period. Fire was not a pressure on vegetation condition over that time. 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 endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the Council area 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.

Available data indicate that at no land was burnt in Boorowa Council area during the current reporting period from prescribed burns. One wildlfire occurred during the current reporting period, however no information is available on areas burnt by this wildfire. No information was available on the impact of this fire on vegetation condition.

Other factors such as drought and weed invasion, including the spread of noxious pasture grasses Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma) and African Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula), asserted broadscale pressure on vegetation condition within the council area, as did the expanding softwood plantation industry on agricultural land.

General threats to the condition of the six endangered ecological communities that may have occurrences in the council area 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.

Changes to water tables and surface flows caused by drainage works or altered flows in catchments are also general threats to the endangered Montane peatlands and swamps of the New England Tableland, NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin, South East Corner, South Eastern Highlands and Australian Alps bioregions (DECC 2008a).

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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. Laws such as the Native Vegetation Act 2003 (enacted during the current reporting period and replaced 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.

Boorowa Council area is located within the Lachlan 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 Lachlan Catchment Blueprint (Lachlan Catchment Management Board 2003), completed during the current reporting period, includes a range of management actions to restore, maintain or conserve biodiversity values in the catchment area.

Local government legislation, regulations and planning documents such as local environment 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.

Conservation reserves

Two new nature reserves were gazetted within Boorowa Council area during the current reporting period.

Table 3. New or additions to conservation reserves within Boorowa Council area and the number of significant forest vegetation types included in them, June 2004 to July 2008
Conservation Reserve Gazettal Type#. Area(ha) No of significant communities+
Vulnerable Poorly Reserved
Gungewalla Nature Reserve New 142    
Illunie Nature Reserve New      

Source: Department of Environment and Climate Change

Travelling stock reserves in the Council area contain important vegetation remnants, including the best examples of native vegetation on lower slopes and flats. Some cemeteries and crown reserves also contain high conservation value remnants.

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Other conservation management

Private land holdings are crucial to the conservation of biodiversity within Boorowa Council area (NSW NPWS 2002), with several large and significant vegetation remnants occurring on private land. Five privately owned properties in the Council area, covering a total of 3328 hectares, are designated wildlife refuges. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within them, or whether they had plans of management or schemes of operation developed and/or implemented.

During the previous reporting period, no private properties in the Council area had a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCAs) in place. No information was available on the number of privately owned properties in the Council area had a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) in place.

Roadsides in the Council area are important for the conservation of understorey plant species that are sensitive to grazing pressure. While council maintains the roadsides with conservation in mind, the safety of motorists is always the prime concern.

Seven Landcare groups operated in Boorowa Council area. For information on the range of activities occurring there and in the Lachlan catchment, see the Landcare NSW website.

Community groups, council and/or other organisations may have undertaken various projects during the reporting period that enhanced the protection of ecological communities in the Council area. No information was available on these projects.

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About the data

Information regarding ecological communities within the Council area was derived from the report Native Vegetation of Boorowa Shire (NSW NPWS 2002) and that provided by Steve Priday, who is undertaking vegetation mapping of the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Murray catchments in the NSW South Western Slopes region.

Threats to each endangered ecological community was provided by 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 NSW 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).

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References

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

DECC—see Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW)

DEHWA—see Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Commonwealth)

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.

DIPNR—see Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (NSW)

Dovey, L (1984) The Snowy River Shire Conservation Study; vol. 1: summary and recommendations; vol. 2: environmental description and evaluation; vol. 3: appendices, NPWS, South-eastern Region.

Tozer, M.G., Turner, K., Simpson, C., Keith, D.A., Beukers, P., MacKenzie, B., Tindall, D. & Pennay, C. (2006) Native vegetation of southeast NSW: a revised classification and map for the coast and eastern tablelands. Version 1.0. Department of Environment and Conservation and Department of Natural Resources

 

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