Goulburn Mulwaree

Indicator: Ecological Communities

Results for this indicator are also available for  

What the results tell us for Goulburn Mulwaree

Forty-three vegetation communities have been recorded within Goulburn Mulwaree Council area, 27 of which are considered of conservation significance. The Council area may also contain occurrences of 11 ecological communities listed as endangered nationally or within New South Wales (NSW); three communities were gazetted during the current reporting period. One wetland of national importance is also located within the Council area.

It was not possible to assess accurately changes to the extent and condition of native vegetation in the Council area during the current reporting period. No information was available on vegetation cleared. Over the reporting period, three low intensity wildfires occurred in the Council area however no information was available of the size of these fires.

Two of the four conservation reserves within the area have plans of management, one of which was adopted during the previous reporting period. No information was available on Voluntary Conservation Agreements or wildlife refuges during the current reporting period.

No information was available on activities carried out during the reporting period that enhanced the conservation of ecological communities in the Council area.

Vegetation communities in the Council area

Forty-three vegetation communities (or ecosystems) have been recorded within Goulburn Mulwaree Council area (see Table 1). These communities were classified as part of the Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) program in south-eastern NSW over 1999 which provided the best coverage and most consistent description of vegetation in the Council area at the time of writing this State of the Environment report. These vegetation classifications are still current, however Eden CRA classifications were incorporated (almost unchanged) into the new 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 SCIVI has superseded the Southern CRA region, however does not fully encompass the Canberra region, overlapping much of the Southern CRA region, but not extending as far west.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.

Fourteen of the forest vegetation communities that occur within the Council area were considered vulnerable in 1999 (see Table 1), that is they were approaching 70% clearance of their pre-1750 extent. In the context of the CRA region, an additional 13 communities were still considered poorly represented within the region's reserve system in 2004. No information was available on changed status or reservation targets being met for these communities during the current reporting period.

Table 1. Forest vegetation communities within Goulburn Mulwaree Council area, and their conservation status within the Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) region
Forest vegetation communities CRA Number area (ha)# Vulnerable* Poorly Reserved*
2004 2000 1997
Central Coastal Hinterland and Lowland Warm Temperate Rainforest S166 370        
Coastal Escarpment and Hinterland Dry Shrub/Fern Forest S19 1,100        
Coastal Escarpment Moist Shrub/Fern Forest S137 50        
Coastal Lowlands Riparian Herb/Grass Forest S48 120   + + +
Eastern Tableland Dry Shrub/Grass Forest S73 3,930 + + + +
Eastern Tablelands Damp Heath S69 140     + +
Eastern Tablelands Dry Heath S134 390        
Eastern Tablelands Dry Shrub Forest S112 12,270   + + +
Kowmung Dry Shrub Forest S17 10        
Lowland Dry Shrub Forest S2 3,250   + + +
Morton Plateau Mallee Swamp Low Forest S176 10        
North East Riparian Forest S194 1,880 + + + +
North East Tableland Dry Shrub Forest S15 26,670   + + +
North East Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass Forest S113 33,630   + + +
North East Tablelands Shrub/Herb/Grass Dry Forest S68 2,990   + + +
North Eastern Tablelands Gully Fern Forest S181 410   + + +
Northern Coast (and Escarpment) Wet Heath/Sedge S141 150   + + +
Northern Coast and Hinterland Moist Heath S144 1        
Northern Coastal Hinterland Heath Shrub Dry Forest S139 690   + + +
Northern Foothills Moist Shrub Forest S21 180   + + +
Northern Grass Herb Forest on Basalt S173 10 + + + +
Northern Plateau and Escarpment Heath Shrub Dry Forest S138 110        
Northern Plateaux Moist Fern/Herb/Grass Forest S67 10        
Northern Slopes Dry Grass Woodland S159 40 + + + +
Northern Tablelands Acacia Herb/Grass Dry Forest S90 1,610 + + + +
Riparian Acacia Shrub/Grass/Herb Forest S53 370     + +
Shoalhaven Gorge Dry Heathy Shrub Forest S4 1,110   + + +
Shoalhaven Gorge Dry Shrub Forest S16 7,700        
Shoalhaven Gorge Forest S174 5,910        
South Eastern Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass/Herb Forest S74 680 + + + +
Southern Coastal Hinterland Moist Shrub/Vine/Grass Forest S18 860        
Tableland Alluvial Valley Floor Wetlands S191 1,880 + + + +
Tableland and Escarpment Moist Herb/Fern Grass Forest S56 140     + +
Tableland Dry Grassy Woodland S154 460 + + + +
Tableland Dry Herb/Grass Woodland S146 1 + + + +
Tableland Sedge/Grass Herbland S151 0.4 + + + +
Tableland Tussock Grassland /Sedgeland/ Woodland S148 270 + + + +
Tablelands Acacia/Grass/Herb Dry Forest S92 160 + + + +
Tablelands and Slopes Dry Herb/Grass Woodland S161 120 + + + +
Tablelands and Slopes Herb/Grassland/ Woodland S153 1,890 + + + +
Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest S114 5,850   + + +
Tablelands Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest S75 290        
Widespread Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest S109 10   + + +

CRA prefix S = forest ecosystems classified under the Southern CRA; # Extent in Council in 1999, the date of the Southern CRA mapping; * For definitions of Vulnerable and Poorly Reserved, see About the data; Source: NSW Department of Environment and Conservation

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Endangered ecological communities

Goulburn Mulwaree Council may contain 10 endangered ecological communities listed as endangered or critically endangered within NSW or nationally (Note: threatened ecological community lists are generated based on Bioregions). Eight threatened ecological communities are listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, two are listed under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Three of these ecological communities had final determinations made during the current reporting period (DECC 2008b; DEWHA 2008c).

Table 2. Endangered ecological communities within Goulburn Mulwaree Council, June 2008
Name of ecological community Status Date of determination* Recovery Plan
Moist Shale Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion Endangered in NSW* Final: ? No
Mount Gibraltar Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion Endangered in NSW* Final: ? No
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
Robertson Basalt Tall Open-forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion Endangered in NSW* Final: June 15, 2001 No
Shale gravel Transition Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion Endangered in NSW* Final: ? No
Southern Highlands Shale Woodlands in the Sydney Basin Bioregion Endangered in NSW* Final: June 15, 2001 No
Southern Sydney sheltered forest on transitional sandstone soils in the Sydney Basin Bioregion Endangered in NSW* Final: September 07, 2007 No
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 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

Lake Bathurst is the only nationally significant wetland that either occurs within or intersects the Council area that is listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DEWHA 2008a). The lake is not reserved and surrounding land use is grazing. No Ramsar sites (i.e. internationally important wetlands) have been declared within the Council area.

Remnants of native riparian vegetation along the Wollondilly River and Mulwaree Ponds have been identified as being of particular conservation significance (McDonald 2003). Only 3% (or 1.4 kilometres) of a surveyed 47 kilometres area along these waterways was covered with some form of native riparian vegetation, and only 2% (or 0.9 kilometres) of the entire survey area had 'relatively intact native vegetation' (McDonald 2003).

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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 Goulburn Mulwaree Council area during the previous reporting period. Increased fragmentation and clearing have both have been identified as particular threats to the 11 endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the Council. No information is available on the extent of native vegetation clearing in Goulburn Mulwaree Council area 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).

No information was available on mapped vegetation change relating to extent of native vegetation in the Council in the current and previous reporting periods.

The total area of vegetation cleared was not available for Goulburn Mulwaree Council, however a total area of 3,690 hectares of vegetation was approved for clearing within the Southern Rivers, Murrumbidgee and Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment regions, which together encompass the Council area, during the reporting period.

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Pressures on vegetation condition

Factors such as drought and weed invasion (including the spread of St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and the noxious pasture grasses Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma) and African Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula)) asserted broadscale pressure on the condition of native vegetation in Goulburn Mulwaree Council area during the current reporting period.

Over the current period, fire was likely a minor pressure on native vegetation condition in the area. Available data provided by the NSW Rural Fire Service indicate that 341 hectares of land were burnt in Goulburn Mulwaree Council during the current reporting periods, all for prescription burns.

Five wildlfires occurred within Goulburn Mulwaree Council area during the current reporting period. No information was available on areas burnt by these wildfires during the current reporting period. No information is available on the number of forest communities affected by very low severity fires (generally fuel reduction burns) or by fires of unknown severity (generally wildfires).

General threats to the condition of the 10 threatened ecological communities with occurrences in the Council 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.

Peat mining, and changes to water tables and surface flows caused by drainage works or altered flows in catchments, are also considered threats to the endangered montane peatlands and swamps (DECC 2008b).

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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.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council area is located within the Lachlan, Hawkesbury Nepean and Southern Rivers 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 Lachlan Catchment Blueprint (Lachlan Catchment Management Board 2003) and South East Catchment Blueprint (South East Catchment Management Board 2002), both completed during the previous reporting period, include a range of management actions to restore, maintain or conserve biodiversity values in each catchment area.

The document A Planning Framework for Natural Ecosystems of the ACT and NSW Southern Tablelands (Fallding 2002), launched in March 2003, covers Goulburn Mulwaree Council area. The framework enables planning for conservation and sustainable urban and rural development in the region, and is designed for use by various land managers and planners. Among other things, it identifies areas of varying conservation value, describes broad vegetation types, links data on vegetation types with threatened species habitat, provides threatened species mapping and outlines issues that need to be addressed.

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. In November 2004 Council adopted the South Goulburn Endangered/Threatened Species Management Plan (see GMC 2005). This plan has identified the locations of threatened or endangered vegetation in the area and the relative significance of vegetation stands there. It includes an approach to balance the competing objectives of vegetation preservation and current development expectations in the area and a framework for assessing future development proposals and ongoing land management for vegetation preservation.

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Conservation reserves

Four national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas either fall within or intersect Goulburn Mulwaree Council area, and cover approximately 21,570 hectares or 7% of its area. No information was available on new conservation reserves or additions to existing conservation reserves.

No information was available on forest communities which were considered poorly represented within the regional reserve system in 2004 meeting regional reservation targets during the current reporting period. No information was available on forest communities still classed as vulnerable changing their status due to new reserves or additions to the regional reserve system within the current reporting period..

Morton SCA was gazetted in April 2005, with an area of 1,050 hectares. It was not clear whether this SCA is located partly within Upper Lachlan Council area. Morton SCA was gazetted in April 2005, with an area of 1,050 hectares

No information was available on conservation reserves within the Council that had formal plans of management in place. No information was available on fire management plans that had been prepared and adopted for various protected areas and reserves.

Other conservation management

A roadside vegetation management plan exists for the previous Goulburn City Council area, but not for the former Mulwaree Council area. It is proposed that the former roadside vegetation plan be revised and expanded (Finch 2005).

A report commissioned by the former Goulburn City Council in 2003 on the riparian vegetation of the Wollondilly River and Mulwaree Ponds System highlighted areas of conservation significance and areas in need of restorative action and better management (McDonald 2003).

During the previous reporting period, 24 properties covering a total of 14,212 hectares were designated wildlife refuges, no privately owned properties in the Council area had Voluntary Conservation Agreements in place. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within these wildlife refuges, and whether plans of management or schemes of operation had been developed or implemented for them. No information was available on these conservation initiatives during the current reporting period.

Thirteen Landcare groups operated within Goulburn Mulwaree Council area. One group established in the early 90's, Goulburn City Landcare, has been undertaking tree planting projects in an effort to link vegetation corridors throughout the city. These efforts incorporate the Wollondilly and Mulwaree Ponds rivers in the hope of increasing biodiversity, eliminating weeds, improving water quality and encouraging the community to appreciate the river environment (see Goulburn Mulwaree Council website). For information on the range of activities occurring in the Council area and in the Lachlan, Hawkesbury Nepean and Southern Rivers catchments, 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

Forest vegetation communities referred to in this report were derived from the Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) forest ecosystem mapping, undertaken in 1999. All calculations are based on the extant and pre-1750 forest ecosystem layers. The extant forest ecosystem layers reflect the extent of these vegetation communities at the time of mapping.

Under the CRA mapping, a vulnerable vegetation community was defined as one whose areal extent at the time of mapping was approaching 70% loss of its pre-European extent. A vegetation community was defined as Poorly Reserved when less than 15% of its pre-European extent was located in formal conservation reserves across the CRA region. Further information on the 70% clearing threshold and the 15% reservation threshold is provided in JANIS (1997).

The CRA mapping was used for this report because two CRAs (Eden (mapping carried out in 1998) and Southern) provided the most current data which covered the entire extent of the majority of local government areas in the Australian Capital Region. However the mapping data have the following limitations:

  • some mapped CRA ecosystem types may be inconsistent with vegetation on the ground because the CRA vegetation types were modelled and limited ground truthing was undertaken in some areas
  • the vegetation classifications were focussed primarily of forest vegetation types and may poorly reflect non-forest communities
  • the vegetation classifications used to describe forest ecosystems were not a widely used system
  • the vegetation classification systems used in the Eden and Southern CRAs differ and there may be some duplication of forest types at the borders of these two study areas.

No data were available regarding extant vegetation at 30 June 2008, and hence it was not possible to determine changes in the extent of forest communities within the Council area during the current reporting period. 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.

Mapping of the amount of vegetation cleared was not available at a scale suitable for application within LGA’s boundaries, and reflects significant limitations in accurately assessing this indicator. Broadscale analyses under-estimate the overall rate of clearing because current techniques only operate under large map scales. Effectively this means that it only records removal of woody vegetation that is at least two metres tall with a canopy cover of 15% or more, excluding changes in sparse open woodlands and grasslands, which are extensive and among the most affected vegetation types in NSW.

Fine-scale remote-sensing studies allow a more accurate appraisal of clearing rates in woodlands, open woodlands and shrublands, however coverage is limited to particular regions of NSW. Authors using these methods in the NSW State of the Environment Report 2006 indicate that clearing rates are substantially greater (8–10 times higher) than the estimates obtained from the coarse-scale analyses referred to above. However, being regional, they provide an incomplete view of statewide clearing. 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)).

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.

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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) (2004a), 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)

Fallding, M (2002) A planning framework for natural ecosystems of the ACT and NSW Southern Tablelands, Natural Heritage Trust, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Land and Environment Planning, on-line at http://incp.environment.act.gov.au/planningframework/index.aspx.

Finch, C (2005) Town Planner, Goulburn Mulwaree Council, personal communication.

Geyer, T (2005) Manager Parks and Recreation, Goulburn Mulwaree Council, personal communication.

GMC—see Goulburn Mulwaree Council

Goulburn Mulwaree Council (2005) South Goulburn Endangered/Threatened Species Management Plan, on-line at http://www.goulburn.nsw.gov.au/environment.

JANIS—see Joint ANZECC/MCFFA National Forest Policy Statement Implementation Sub-committee

Joint ANZECC/MCFFA National Forest Policy Statement Implementation Sub-committee (1997) Nationally Agreed Criteria for the Establishment of a Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System for Forests in Australia, Joint ANZECC/MCFFA National Forest Policy Statement Implementation Sub-committee, Commonwealth of Australia.

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.

McDonald, G (2003) A Study of Goulburn's Riparian Vegetation – Report and Species Inventory. Detailing the Wollondilly River and Mulwaree Ponds System within Goulburn City Council Land Boundaries – 2003, report prepared for Goulburn City Council, September 2003, Goulburn City Council, Goulburn.

Rehwinkel, R (2005) Threatened Species Officer, Department of Environment and Conservation, Queanbeyan, personal communication.

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.

South East Catchment Management Board (2002) South East Catchment Blueprint – An Integrated Catchment Management Plan for the South East Catchment 2002, NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney, viewed 4 August 2005 http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/cmb/blueprints/pdf/south_east_blueprint.pdf.

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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