Issue: Conserving biodiversity
What does the council area have?
Queanbeyan City Council Area has a relatively low biodiversity—only six different vegetation types have been mapped there, and approximately 520 plant species (native and introduced), 79 bird species, four fish species, 38 mammal species, 26 reptile species and 10 amphibian species have been recorded there.
Mistletoe on Manna Gum
Bushland comprises some 17% of the council area, while land under some form of conservation reserve comprises approximately 12% of the area.
The council area contains occurrences of two endangered ecological communities, and populations of six plant and 20 animal species that are vulnerable or endangered nationally and/or in New South Wales. An additional 11 plant species and 15 animal species listed as vulnerable or endangered are also predicted to occur in the council area.
What has changed?
Insufficient data were available to assess many aspects of the council area's biodiversity during the reporting period. The major data gaps included changes in species populations and abundance, changes in aquatic macroinvertebrates, changes in the condition of terrestrial and riparian ecosystems, and changes in the distribution and abundance of the major pest plant speciesThe number of ecological communities and species present in the council area that are listed as vulnerable or endangered increased. Although this will assist Council further in focusing conservation efforts in the future, it demonstrates the continued pressure the natural environment is under within the region.
Queanbeyan City Council Area has been one of the fastest growing local government areas in NSW for some time. Population increases and the resulting demand for urban development within the council area during the reporting period placed some pressure on native species and communities. Disturbances such as development, drought and weed invasion led to further degradation or loss of ecological communities or habitats of native species.
Council, individuals and community groups undertook a variety of programs and projects to enhance and protect biodiversity within the council area.
More threatened species and communities
During the current reporting period:
- one ecological community with occurrences in the council area was listed as endangered
- two bird species that occur in the council area were listed as vulnerable and one invertebrate species was listed as critically endangered
- one animal species that occurs in the council area had its status upgraded from vulnerable to endangered.
The 'pressure points'
- Drought conditions that were prevalent during much of the reporting period would have affected many native species and ecosystems in the council area, although quantitative data were not available to determine the extent of impact.
- Population growth exerted major pressure on biodiversity, especially on the valley floors and undulating hills.
- Seven pest animal species and six pest plant (weed) species were of high concern during the reporting period. Two pest animal species increased in distribution, and small low-density populations of wild deer, dingoes and wild dogs were recorded for the first time within the council area in 2004.
- The riparian condition of the majority of Jerrabomberra Creek was reported to be degraded and impoverished. Weed invasion, riverbank erosion, stock access to streams and overgrazing were all reported to have impacted on the riparian condition of waterways within the council area.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity
The natural environment maintains many essential functions that form the foundation of a healthy and sustainable environment. These are often called 'ecosystem services' and include air and water purification, waste detoxification and decomposition, crop and natural vegetation pollination, dispersal of seeds and nutrients and regulation of climate. Local councils are in a prime position to take a leading role in maintaining these vital ecosystem services (see The Biodiversity Toolbox for Local Government).
A range of activities in the council area during the reporting period were aimed at improving the condition of native ecosystems and the habitat of native species or reducing the pressures on them.
- The area of land managed specifically for conservation increased by approximately 890 hectares, partially due to land transferred from Crown Land. Three new conservation reserves were created and additions made to one existing reserve.
- Recovery plans were being prepared for seven threatened species and a plan was exhibited for one other species.
- A council area-wide bushfire management plan was developed
- Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) populations were estimated to have been reduced by 50% during the past five years, while fox (Vulpes vulpes) abundance appeared to remain unchanged, despite a fox control program being in place.
- Council prepared plans and strategies and continued its involvement in on-ground projects to help enhance biodiversity within the council area. Council and community groups also undertook a number of ecological restoration projects.
The future—what does this mean for Council?
Ongoing population growth in Queanbeyan City Council Area is likely to see continued expansion of urban and rural residential development. This will place further pressure on terrestrial and aquatic native species and ecosystems, including endangered ecological communities and some endangered or vulnerable species. Urban expansion may also result in weed invasion into areas currently relatively weed free and increase runoff, erosion, sedimentation and excess nutrients entering waterways.
The continued lack of data to allow a full assessment of the council area's biodiversity status carries with it the risk that approved development proposals may result in adverse impacts on the area's native plants, animals and ecosystems. Lack of monitoring of native species, populations and communities within the council area may also hamper conservation efforts, as impacts from urban and rural development and other pressures (e.g. fire, drought, weed invasion) cannot be determined and remediation measures cannot be planned. Monitoring is also essential to determine whether environmental plans and strategies and on-ground management projects are achieving the desired biodiversity outcomes.
Council needs to maintain appropriate effort and resources in the following areas of its environmental management.
- Continue to ensure biodiversity impacts are adequately taken into account in landuse zoning, assessment of development applications, road management and construction activities, hazard control burning and weed control activities. The regulation of these activities needs to be in accordance with legislative requirements and also include as a minimum consideration of terrestrial and aquatic native species and ecosystems generally, in addition to specific consideration of endangered ecological communities and vulnerable or endangered plant and animal species known or predicted to occur in the council area.
- Develop a 'Threatened Species Assessment Guideline' to assist the community, developers and Council assessment staff with ensuring the legislative requirements are readily understood. Education of staff and the wider community of the importance of biodiversity is also required.
- Continue to incorporate wildlife corridors in future development planning.
- Help ensure appropriate (relevant and achievable) monitoring programs are in place to measure the effectiveness of council's environmental policies, strategies, management activities and on-ground restoration projects in achieving desired biodiversity outcomes.
- Continue to support and encourage community involvement in biodiversity conservation and monitoring.
- Maintain close liaison with NSW State Government agencies to encourage programs of data collection, especially for aquatic and riparian species and ecosystems, and to help ensure council has up-to-date knowledge about the council area's biodiversity and associated management issues relevant to it.
- Maintain collaborative arrangements with other land management agencies within the region to ensure ongoing success with pest animal and plant control and fire management, and to develop awareness of new land management principles, innovations or approaches.
- Work closely with the Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority and local catchment management groups to help ensure consistency in approach to biodiversity conservation and complementary actions to achieve this.