Upper Lachlan

Indicator: Ecological Communities

Results for this indicator are also available for  

What the results tell us for Upper Lachlan

Fifty-three vegetation communities have been recorded within Upper Lachlan Shire, 36 of which are considered of conservation significance. The Shire also contains occurrences of four ecological communities listed as critically endangered or endangered nationally or within NSW. 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. No information was available on vegetation cleared, or vegetation affected by wild fires during the current reporting period. Five wildfires occurred within Upper Lachlan Shire during the current reporting period. No information was available on areas burnt by these wildfires during the current reporting period.

No information was available on whether reservation targets were met for vegetation communities considered to be poorly represented within the broader region's reserve system in 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 Shire.

Vegetation communities in the Shire

Fifty-three vegetation communities (or ecosystems) have been recorded within Upper Lachlan 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 Shire at the time of writing this State of the Environment report (see About the data). 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 SCIVI has superseded the Southern CRA region, however does not fully encompass the Canberra region, overlapping much of the Southern CRA region, but not extending as far west.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.

Twenty of the forest vegetation communities that occur within the Shire 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 Southern CRA region, an additional 16 communities were still considered poorly represented within that 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.

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Table 1. Forest vegetation communities within Upper Lachlan Shire, 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 110        
Central North Slopes Dry Grass Woodland S163 300 + + + +
Central Northern Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass Forest S111 5,880 + + + +
Eastern Tableland and Escarpment Shrub/Fern Dry Forest S59 7,330        
Eastern Tablelands Acacia/Herb/Grass Forest S89 940     + +
Eastern Tablelands Dry Shrub Forest S112 10,500   + + +
Eastern Tablelands Shrub/Grass Moist Forest S66 2,990 + + + +
Hinterland Gully Head Shrub Forest S33 70        
Kowmung / Coxs Blue Mountains Shrub / Moist Herb Forest S44 150   + + +
Kowmung Dry Shrub Forest S17 1,340        
Lower Abercrombie Dry Grass/Shrub Forest S201 4,840   + + +
Lower Snowy White Box Dry Shrub/Herb Woodland S78 70        
Lowland Dry Shrub Forest S2 80   + + +
Montane Wet Heath/Bog S123 3        
North East Riparian Forest S194 190 + + + +
North East Tableland Dry Shrub Forest S15 12,270   + + +
North East Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass Forest S113 1,620   + + +
North East Tablelands Shrub/Herb/Grass Dry Forest S68 50   + + +
North Eastern Tablelands Gully Fern Forest S181 820   + + +
Northern Coast (and Escarpment) Wet Heath/Sedge S141 10   + + +
Northern Coastal Hinterland Heath Shrub Dry Forest S139 290   + + +
Northern Plateau Mallee Heath S145 150   + + +
Northern Plateaux Moist Fern/Herb/Grass Forest S67 4,100        
Northern Slopes Dry Grass Woodland S159 420 + + + +
Northern Slopes Dry Grass Woodland S160 2,910 + + + +
Northern Slopes Dry Grassy Forest S156 10   + + +
Northern Tablelands Acacia Herb/Grass Dry Forest S90 13,900 + + + +
Northern Tablelands and Slopes Dry Shrub/Grass Forest S122 10,310 + + + +
Northern Tablelands Basalt Grass Forest S183 960   + + +
Riparian Acacia Shrub/Grass/Herb Forest S53 1,250     + +
Shoalhaven Gorge Dry Shrub Forest S16 5,820        
Shoalhaven Gorge Forest S174 3,640        
South West Slopes Acacia Dry Herb/Grass Forest S94 400 + + + +
Southern Blue Mountains Dry Shrub Forest S60 610        
Southern Blue Mountains Plateau Acacia/Fern/Herb Moist Forest S63 450        
Southern Coastal Hinterland Dry Gully Rainforest S170 620     + +
Tableland and Escarpment Moist Herb/Fern Grass Forest S56 1,700     + +
Tableland Dry Grassy Woodland S154 9,470 + + + +
Tableland Dry Heath Shrub/Herb/Grass Woodland S38 60        
Tableland Sedge/Grass Herbland S151 60 + + + +
Tableland Tussock Grass/Herb Forest S96 160 + + + +
Tableland Tussock Grassland /Sedgeland/ Woodland S148 10 + + + +
Tablelands Acacia/Grass/Herb Dry Forest S92 80 + + + +
Tablelands and Slopes Dry Herb/Grass Woodland S161 370 + + + +
Tablelands and Slopes Herb/Grassland/ Woodland S153 1,020 + + + +
Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest S114 38,650   + + +
Tablelands Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest S75 420        
Western Slopes Dry Grass Forest S118 200 + + + +
Western Slopes Dry Grass Woodland S117 5,850 + + + +
Western Slopes Grass/Herb Dry Forest S121 1,900   + + +
Western Slopes Herb/Grass Woodland S116 110 + + + +
Western Slopes Shrub/Herb/Grass Dry Forest S120 60 + + + +
Widespread Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass Forest S109

21,100

+

+

+

CRA prefix S = forest ecosystems classified under the Southern CRA; # Extent in Council area in 1999, date of 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

Upper Lachlan Shire may have occurrences of four threatened ecological communities listed nationally or in NSW (Note: threatened ecological community lists are generated based on Bioregions). Two threatened ecological communities are listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, two are listed under the 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).

Table 2. Endangered ecological communities within Upper Lachlan Shire, 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 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 (DEWH A 2008a) or Ramsar sites (i.e. internationally important wetlands) either occur within or intersect the Council area.

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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 Upper Lachlan Shire during the previous reporting period. Increased fragmentation and clearing have both have been identified as particular threats to the 12 endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the Shire. No information is available on the extent of native vegetation clearing in Upper Lachlan 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).

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

The total area of vegetation cleared was not available for Upper Lachlan Shire, however a total 3,675 hectares of vegetation was approved for clearing within the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment regions, which together encompass the Shire, during the reporting period.

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Pressures on vegetation condition

During the current period, fire was a major pressure on native vegetation condition in the area. Five wildfires occurred within Upper Lachlan Shire during the current reporting period. No information was available on areas burnt by these wildfires during the current reporting period. No available data was available on the amount of land were burnt in Upper Lachlan Shire during the current reporting period from prescribed burns. 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).

Factors such as drought and weed invasion, including the spread of noxious weeds such as Bathurst Burr and Noogoora Burr (Xanthium spp), and other species, asserted broadscale pressure on vegetation condition within the Shire during the current reporting period.

General threats to the condition of the four threatened ecological communities with occurrences in the Shire include (DECC 2008b; DEWHA 2008a):

  • 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 and,
  • 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 previous 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.

Upper Lachlan Shire is located within the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Hawkesbury Nepean 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 current 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.

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Conservation reserves

Five national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas either fall within or intersect Upper Lachlan Shire, covering approximately 32,470 hectares or 4% of its area.

No new conservation reserves were gazetted in the Shire during the current or previous reporting periods.

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.

Table 3. Conservation reserves in Upper Lachlan Shire with formal plan of management, June 2008
Reserve Date plan adopted
Blue Mountains National Park May 2001
Tarlo River National Park August 1998

Source: Department of Environment and Climate Change

Both Blue Mountains National Park and Tarlo River National Park have fire management plans, the latter being adopted during the current reporting period.

Other conservation management

One privately owned property in the Shire had a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) in place, while another 20 were designated wildlife refuges during the previous reporting period. The VCA covered a total of 73 hectares and the wildlife refuges almost 17,800 hectares. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within the VCA and wildlife refuges, or whether plans of management or schemes of operation had been developed or implemented for them during this period. No information was available on these conservation initiatives during the current reporting period.

Twenty-five Landcare groups operated in Upper Lachlan Shire. For information on the range of activities occurring there and in the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Hawkesbury Nepean 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.

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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 CMA 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)

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

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.

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.

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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