Indicator: Ecological Communities
Results for this indicator are also available for
What the results tell us for Queanbeyan
Six vegetation communities have been recorded within Queanbeyan City Council area, of which five are considered to be of conservation significance. The City Council area may also contain occurrences of four ecological communities listed as endangered nationally or in New South Wales (NSW). No wetlands of national or international importance are located within the City 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 wildfires occurred in the council area over the reporting period. No information was available on vegetation cleared. No information is available on vegetation communities considered to be poorly represented within the broader region's reserve system. No information was available on Voluntary Conservation Agreements or wildlife refuges during the current reporting period.
Vegetation communities in the City Council area
Six vegetation communities (or ecosystems) have been recorded within Queanbeyan City 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 City Council area at the time of writing this State of the Environment report (see About the data).
Three of the forest vegetation communities that occur within the council area were considered vulnerable in 1999 (see Table 1), i.e. they were approaching 70% clearance of their pre-1750 extent. In the context of the CRA region, an additional two 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.
|Forest vegetation communities||CRA Number||Area (ha)#||Vulnerable*||Poorly Reserved*|
|Northern Slopes Dry Grass Woodland||S160||5||+||+||+||+|
|Riparian Acacia Shrub/Grass/Herb Forest||S53||20||+||+|
|South Eastern Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass/Herb Forest||S74||960||+||+||+||+|
|Tableland Tussock Grassland /Sedgeland/ Woodland||S148||10||+||+||+||+|
|Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest||S114||2,110||+||+||+|
|Widespread Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest||S109||490||+||+||+|
CRA prefix S = forest ecosystems classified under the Southern CRA; # Extent in council area in 1999, the date of the Southern CRA mapping; * For definitions of Vulnerable and Poorly Reserved, see About the data
Endangered ecological communities
Queanbeyan City Council area may contain four threatened ecological communities listed as endangered or critically endangered within NSW or nationally (Note: threatened ecological community lists are generated based on Bioregions not local government areas). Two 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. Two of these ecological communities had final determinations made during the current reporting period (DECC 2008b; DEWHA 2008c).
|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 or internationally significant wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DEWHA 2008a) within the council area.
Several vegetation communities uncommon or rare in the City Council area are of local or regional significance (Barrer 1993). They include associations between Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos) and Black Cypress Pine (Callitris endlicheri), Red Box (E. polyanthemos) and Bull Oak (Allocasuarina leuhmannii), Red Box (E. polyanthemos) and Drooping She-oak (A. viminalis), and some shrublands associated with woodland and forests. Remnants of several associations dominated by Manna Gum (E. viminalis) that occur adjacent to non-urban sections of the Queanbeyan River and are of local and perhaps regional significance (Barrer 1993).
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 Queanbeyan City Council area 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 City Council area. No information is available on the extent of native vegetation clearing in Queanbeyan City 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 City Council area during the current or previous reporting periods. While the total area of vegetation cleared within Queanbeyan City Council area was not available, it is known that a total 28.3 hectares of vegetation was approved for clearing within the Murrumbidgee Catchment region, which encompasses the Council area, during the reporting period.
Pressures on vegetation condition
The condition of native vegetation is declining over the longer term, particularly due to lag effects from fragmented vegetation remnants. Fire, development pressures, clearing and other processes are all contributing to this decline.
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 Queanbeyan City Council Area during the current reporting period.
Over the current period, fire was a minor pressure on native vegetation condition in the area. No wildfires occurred during the current reporting period. About 1.24 hectares of land were affected by fire for control burning.
General threats to the condition of the four threatened ecological communities with occurrences in the City 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.
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.
Queanbeyan City Council area 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 document a Planning Framework for Natural Ecosystems of the ACT and NSW Southern Tablelands (Fallding 2002), launched in March 2003, covers the City 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.
Four nature reserves either fall within or intersect Queanbeyan City Council area, covering approximately 890 hectares or 5% of its area.
Three new reserves totalling approximately 820 hectares were gazetted in the council area during the previous reporting period; no additions were made in the current period. Previous additions to the reserve network were an outcome of the Southern Regional Forest Agreement.
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 within the current reporting period.
Cuumbeun Nature Reserve , Queanbeyan Nature Reserve, Stony Creek Nature Reserve and Wanna Wanna Nature Reserve all had formal plans of management in place, three of which were made during the current reporting period. A fire management plan was prepared for Stony Creek Nature Reserve and Wanna Wanna Nature Reserve during the current reporting period.
Other conservation management
One privately owned property in the City Council area had a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) in place, while another was designated a wildlife refuge during the previous reporting period. The VCA covers a total of 160 hectares and the wildlife refuge 269 hectares. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within the VCA and wildlife refuge, or whether a plan of management or scheme of operation had been developed or implemented for them. No information was available on these conservation initiatives during the current reporting period.
The main issue for biodiversity in Queanbeyan is the pressure from the expanding population into the valley floors and undulating hills (Greater Queanbeyan City Council 2004). Accordingly, wildlife corridors are now incorporated in future development planning.
Nationally funded activities undertaken during the reporting period in the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority area (DIPNR 2004) may also have enhanced the conservation of ecological communities in the council area. 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 City Council area. No information was available on these projects.
No information was available on revegetation projects, native vegetation preserved or fencing of remnant vegetation during the current reporting period.
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 were 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 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.
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
Barrer, P (1993) Bushlands, Grasslands and the Ecological Resources of the City of Queanbeyan, NSW—A Report to the Trees for Queanbeyan Committee, the Queanbeyan Branch of the Monaro Conservation Society, the Queanbeyan City Council and the Save the Bush Grants Scheme, Holt (Canberra).
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.
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.
Greater Queanbeyan City Council (2004) State of Environment Report 2002–03 and 2003–04, Greater Queanbeyan City Council, Queanbeyan.
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.
Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Board (2003) Murrumbidgee Catchment Blueprint, NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney, viewed 5 August 2005 http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/cmb/blueprints/pdf/murrumbidgee_blueprint.pdf.
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.