Indicator: Ecological Communities
Results for this indicator are also available for
What the results tell us for Cootamundra
Five vegetation communities have been recorded within Cootamundra Shire, all estimated to be of conservation significance. Other communities are known to occur there, but had not been available at the end of the current reporting period. The Shire contains occurrences of two ecological communities listed as critically endangered or endangered in New South Wales (NSW) or nationally. No wetlands of national importance are located within the Shire.
It was not possible to assess accurately changes to the extent and condition of native vegetation in the Shire during the current reporting period.
Both conservation reserves within the Shire had a plan of management in place, one of which was adopted during the previous period. No information was available on any voluntary conservation agreements in place, or private properties designated as wildlife refuges during the current reporting period.
Vegetation communities in the Shire
Five 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 Cootamundra Shire (see Table 1). These surveys provided the best coverage and most consistent description of vegetation in the area. Other vegetation communities are known to occur in the Shire (see below).
The eastern parts of Cootamundra Shire contain some of the most fertile soils in the central and southern parts of the South Western Slopes, derived from mafic volcanics purported to be of Cambrian age. Box-Gum Woodland (SouV24a) dominated this area but have been largely cleared. The far northern section of the Wagga Wagga/Gundagai Metasediments in the Jindalee State Forest area supports isolated stands of box-ironbark forest (WagM53c and WagM53d). A small section of the Hervey Group Sediments vegetation landscape adjoins the Jindalee State Forest area.
The northernmost parts of the Shire are mainly part of the South Western Slopes Alluvium vegetation landscape in which grassy to shrubby woodlands dominated by grey box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), white cypress pine (Callitris glaucophylla) and yellow box (E. melliodora) (SouA25a) are the dominant ecosystem. It has been extensively cleared for cropping. This part of the Shire is also characterised by low hills belonging to the northern parts of the Tumut Trough Volcanics. The ecosystems within this landscape had yet to be described at the time of preparing this State of the Environment report. However, ecosystems similar to SouA25a occur in these areas. The southern, higher altitude parts of the Tumut Trough Volcanics support a diverse array of ecosystems.
|Ecosystem||Description||Vegetation landscape||Soil parent materials||Estimated status|
|SouA25a||Grassy to shrubby woodlands dominated by Grey Box, White Cypress Pine and Yellow Box.||South Western Slopes Alluvium||Unconsolidated alluvial deposits in which vertosols (clay soils) are rare or absent.||Endangered|
|WagM53c||Open forests dominated by Black Cypress Pine, Red Ironbark, Red Stringybark, Scribbly Gum and Grey Box. Found only in the Jindalee State Forest area.||Wagga Wagga / Gundagai Metasediments / Sediments||Moderately to strongly folded and metamorphosed sediments. Rocks vary from relatively undeformed siltstone and sandstone to higher grade metamorphic rocks such as phyllites and schists.||Near threatened|
|WagM53d||Open forests dominated by Grey Box and Red Ironbark. Occurs on lower slopes as a narrow fringe below WagM53c.||Wagga Wagga / Gundagai Metasediments / Sediments||Moderately to strongly folded and metamorphosed sediments. Rocks vary from relatively undeformed siltstone and sandstone to higher grade metamorphic rocks such as phyllites and schists.||Vulnerable|
|WagM24a||Grassy box-gum woodlands dominated by White Box, Yellow Box and Blakely's Red Gum||Wagga Wagga / Gundagai Metasediments / Sediments||Moderately to strongly folded and metamorphosed sediments. Rocks vary from relatively undeformed siltstone and sandstone to higher grade metamorphic rocks such as phyllites and schists.||Endangered|
|SouV24a||Grassy box-gum woodlands dominated by White Box, Yellow Box and Blakely's Red Gum||South Western Slopes Volcanics||Intrusive and extrusive volcanic rocks varying between transitional siliceous/intermediate (eg dacite) to mafic (e.g. basalt).||Endangered; very few remnants resemble what is assumed to be the 'pre-1750' condition (<1% of former distribution)|
Source: Priday 2005
Endangered ecological communities
Cootamundra Shire has occurrences of two threatened ecological communities listed nationally or in NSW. White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum woodland is listed as endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands are listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The latter community had its final determination made during the current reporting period (DECC 2008b; DEHWA 2008c).
|Name of ecological community||Status||Date of determination*||Recovery Plan|
|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
One other ecological community listed as endangered in NSW—Fuzzy Box Woodland on alluvial soils of the South Western Slopes, Darling Riverine Plains and Brigalow Belt South bioregions—may also occur in the Shire.
Other significant communities or habitats
No nationally significant wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DEWHA 2008a) or Ramsar sites (that is, internationally important wetlands) either occur within or intersect the Shire.
Although numerous small 'natural' wetland areas on private properties existed in the Shire prior to any impact from land degradation such as waterlogging and salinity, no wetlands in the Shire (significant or otherwise) have been documented (Cootamundra Shire 2000). The eastern side of Bethungra Range, Migurra Reserve, Pioneer Park, Dudauman Range–Gogobilly Hill, Powderhorn Hill, Jindalee State Forest and Yeo Yeo State Forest are important wildlife and habitat corridors, as are some roadside reserves, private properties and travelling stock routes and reserves in the Shire (Cootamundra Shire 2000).
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 Cootamundra Shire during the previous reporting period. Increased fragmentation and clearing have both have been identified as particular threats to the six endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the Shire. No information is available on the extent of native vegetation clearing in Cootamundra 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 3,646 hectares and 28.3 hectares of vegetation was approved for clearing within the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Catchment regions respectively, which together encompass Bombala Shire, under the NSW 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 weed invasion (including the spread of noxious weeds such as Paterson's Curse (Echium sp.) and other species) asserted broadscale pressure on vegetation condition within Cootamundra Shire during the current reporting period. Available data indicate that at no land was burnt in Cootamundra Shire during the current reporting period from prescribed burns. No wildfires occurred within Cootamundra Shire during the reporting period, therefore fire was not a pressure on vegetation condition over this time.
General threats to the condition of the two endangered 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.
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.
Cootamundra Shire is located within the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) areas 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) and Lachlan Catchment Blueprint (Lachlan Catchment Management Board 2003), both completed during the previous reporting period, include a range of management actions to restore, maintain or conserve biodiversity values in each 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.
Two nature reserves either fall within or near Cootamundra Shire, covering approximately 485 hectares (less than 1% of the Shire).
No new conservation reserves were gazetted in the Shire during the current or previous reporting periods.
Both conservation reserves within the Shire had a formal plan of management in place at the end of the previous reporting period (see Table 3). Ulandra Nature Reserve also had a fire management plan adopted in May 2005.
|Reserve||Date plan adopted|
|Ulandra Nature Reserve||February 1994|
|Flagstaff Memorial Nature Reserve||June 2004|
Source: Department of Environment and Consevation
Other conservation management
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. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within the VCAs and wildlife refuges, or whether plans of management or schemes of operation had been developed or implemented for them.
Four Landcare groups operated in Cootamundra Shire. For information on the range of activities occurring there and in the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan 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. No information was available on these projects.
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 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).
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.
Cootamundra Shire (2000) State of the Environment Reporting, Cootamundra Shire Council, Cootamundra.
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)
Lachlan Catchment Management Board (2003) Lachlan Catchment Blueprint, NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney, online at http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/cmb/blueprints/pdf/lachlan_blueprint.pdf.
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.
Sattler P and Creighton C (eds) (2002) Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002, National Land and Water Resources Audit on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, Chapter 4: Threatened Ecosystems and Species, viewed 4 August 2005, http://audit.deh.gov.au/ANRA/vegetation/docs/biodiversity/bio_assess_threat.cfm.
Stelling, F (1996) Olympic Highway Roadside Vegetation Assessment and Management Guidelines, report for the Olympic Highway 2000 Committee, Albury.