State of the Environment Report title
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2004 Report



Snowy River

Ecological Communities

Indicator description

Results for this indicator are also available for  

What the results tell us for Snowy River

Endangered Natural Temperate Grassland, Dry Plains; Credit: R.Purdie

Thirty-two vegetation communities have been recorded within Snowy River Shire, 10 of which are considered of conservation significance. The shire also contains occurrences of three ecological communities listed as endangered nationally or in NSW as at June 2004, one of which was gazetted during the current reporting period. Five wetlands of national importance, covering 22 separate wetland areas, are also 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. However, minor areas of vegetation were reported to have been cleared, and extensive wild fires affected vegetation in the west and south of the shire in the 2002–03 fire season.

No vegetation communities considered to be poorly represented within the broader region's reserve system in the previous reporting period met reservation targets within the current period because of additions to the reserve estate in Snowy River Shire. Only one of the nine conservation reserves within the shire had a plan of management in place; it was adopted during the current reporting period. One property in the shire had a Voluntary Conservation Agreement in place, and another two properties are designated wildlife refuges.

The Monaro Grasslands Conservation Management Network and council carried out a range of activities during the current reporting period to help protect grassland ecological communities in the shire. A range of other on-ground projects during the period enhanced the conservation of other ecological communities, including some affected by the 2002–03 wildfires.

Vegetation communities in the shire

Thirty-two vegetation communities (or ecosystems) have been recorded within Snowy River Shire (see Table 1). These communities were classified as part of the Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) program in south-eastern NSW over 1999 (see About the data) and provide the best coverage and most consistent description of vegetation in the shire.

Eight of the forest vegetation communities that occur within the shire 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 Southern CRA region, an additional two communities were still considered poorly represented within the region's reserve system in 2004.

Table 1. Forest vegetation communities within Snowy River Shire, and their conservation status within the Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) region
Forest vegetation communitiesCRA NumberArea
(ha)#
Vulnerable*Poorly Reserved*
200420001997
ACT/Monaro Dry GrasslandS1572++++
Alpine Wet Herbfield and Sub-alpine Wet Herb/Grassland/BogS12913322,540
Central Tableland/ACT Montane Dry Shrub ForestS1077,710
Central Tablelands Shrub/Grass Dry ForestS7630,530++++
Cooma Dry Grass ForestS180530+++
Eastern Tableland Dry Shrub/Grass ForestS7321,180++++
Lower Snowy Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass ForestS7738,540
Lower Snowy Rain Shadow Woodland/ShrublandS4120
Lower Snowy White Box Dry Shrub/Herb WoodlandS7815,490
Monaro Dry GrasslandS158120++++
Montane / Sub-Alpine Dry Rocky ShrublandS36740
Montane Acacia/Dry Shrub/Herb/Grass ForestS9740,410
Montane Dry Shrub/Herb/Grass ForestS9930
North-Western Montane Dry Shrub/Herb/Grass ForestS1011,840
RockS190110
South Coast and Byadbo Acacia ScrubsS35190
South East Tablelands Dry Shrub/Tussock Grass ForestS1152,150+++
South Eastern Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass/Herb ForestS746,530++++
Sub-alpine Dry Shrub/Herb WoodlandS12828,010
Sub-alpine HerbfieldS13118,320
Sub-alpine Shrub/Grass WoodlandS13028,940
Tableland Acacia Moist Herb ForestS9518,050
Tableland and Escarpment Wet Layered Shrub ForestS581,900
Tableland Tussock Grassland /Sedgeland/ WoodlandS148310++++
Tablelands and Slopes Dry Herb/Grass WoodlandS1612++++
Tablelands Dry Shrub/Grass ForestS1104++
Tablelands Moist Sedge/Herb/GrasslandS14710++++
Tablelands Shrub/Tussock Grass ForestS753,160
Western Escarpment Moist Shrub/Herb/Grass ForestS8713,810
Western Montane Acacia Fern/Herb ForestS825,420
Western Montane Dry Fern/Grass ForestS1033,190
Western Montane Moist Shrub ForestS9828,620
Western Tablelands Dry Herb/Grass ForestS108220

* Determinations (preliminary and final) under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 made by the NSW Scientific Committee; # Listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by the Commonwealth Minister for Environment and Heritage; Source: DEC 2004a, b; DEH 2005a.

Other significant communities or habitats

Five nationally significant wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (DEH 2005b) either occur within or intersect the shire. They are:

No Ramsar sites (i.e. internationally important wetlands) have been declared within the shire.

Vegetation extent and condition

Pressures on vegetation extent

Clearing was the main pressure on the extent of native vegetation in Snowy River Shire during the current reporting period; it can also result in fragmentation of vegetation remnants. Past tree clearing for rural development in the shire has significantly altered Snowgum woodland communities (Eucalyptus pauciflora E. stellulata alliance) (Dovey 1984). Increased fragmentation of vegetation remnants and clearing are the most significant vegetation threats in eastern Australia (Sattler and Creighton 2002), and both have been identified as particular threats to the three endangered ecological communities with occurrences in Snowy River Shire (DEC 2005).

Mapped vegetation change relating to extent of native vegetation in the shire in the current and previous reporting periods is summarised in Table 3. During 2000–04, two forest communities were impacted by regrowth, one of which was rated vulnerable and one poorly reserved in July 2000. During 1997–2000, two forest communities were impacted by clearing, one of which was rated vulnerable and one poorly reserved at the beginning of that period.

Table 3. Changes in native vegetation extent within Snowy River Shire and number of forest vegetation communities affected, July 1997 to June 2004
Vegetation changeForest communities 2000–2004Forest communities 1997–2000
Area (ha)Total NoVulnerable*Poorly Reserved at 1 July 2000*Area (ha)Total NoVulnerable*Poorly Reserved at
1 July 1997
Regrowth forest77211
Vegetation loss or clearing**2211

* For definitions of Vulnerable and Poorly Reserved communities, see About the data; ** No distinction made between vegetation loss (e.g. through harvesting) and vegetation clearance; Source: Agrecon (see About the data).

Two clearing applications were approved within the shire during the reporting period under the NSW Native Vegetation Act 2003. They included removal of willows along river banks and removal of vegetation for augmentation of a water supply. The total area of vegetation cleared was about 22 hectares, of which willows comprised 36%.

Pressures on vegetation condition

Wildfire was a major, broadscale pressure on the condition of native vegetation in Snowy River Shire during the reporting period. About 249,000 hectares of land (approximately 41% of the shire) were affected by fire (predominantly wildfire) in the period 2000–04 (see Table 4), mostly during the 2002–03 fire season. Known fire severity levels ranged from very low to very high, with 22–28 forest vegetation communities affected at each severity level. In the preceding reporting period, only about 3,400 hectares were burnt, mostly as part of fuel reduction programs.

Table 4. Area of fires occurring within Snowy River Shire and number of forest vegetation communities affected, July 1997 to June 2004
Fire Severity2000–20041997–2000
Area
(ha)
No. of communitiesArea
(ha)
No. of communities
Fire very high severity27,63022
Fire high severity13,13023
Fire moderately high severity99,31028
Fire low severity67,13028
Fire very low severity41,640282,42010
Fire severity unknown94010

Source: see About the data

Other 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 vegetation condition within the shire. By 2002–03, 108 Section 18 notices had been issued for Serrated Tussock, African Lovegrass and St John's Wort since the previous reporting period, an increase of 16 notices (McConkey 2003).

General threats to the condition of the three endangered ecological communities with occurrences in the shire include (DEC 2005):

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 (DEC 2005).

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 (see government laws and policies.

Snowy River Shire is located within the Murrumbidgee 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 Murrumbidgee Catchment Blueprint (Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Board 2003) and South East Catchment Blueprint (South East Catchment Management Board 2002), both completed during the current reporting period, include a range of management actions to restore, maintain or conserve biodiversity values in each catchment area. The Murrumbidgee and Southern Rivers CMAs had yet to develop their regional vegetation plans as at June 2004.

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.

Conservation reserves

List of conservation areas in Snowy River Shire

Nine national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas either fall within or intersect Snowy River Shire, and cover approximately 222,800 hectares (37% of the shire).

Eight new conservation reserves totalling about 3,270 hectares were gazetted in the shire during the current reporting period, compared with no new reserves in the previous period (see Table 5). Additions totalling about 10,660 hectares were made to one reserve in the current period compared with no additions to reserves in the previous period. These additions to the reserve network during the current reporting period were outcomes of the Southern Regional Forest Agreement (discussed further in Landuse).

No forest communities which were considered poorly represented within the regional reserve system in 2000 met regional reservation targets by June 2004 due to the above additions to the reserve system. Another three forest communities which were included in the additions to the regional reserve system within the current reporting period were classed as vulnerable.

Table 5. New or additions to conservation reserves within Snowy River Shire and the number of significant forest vegetation types included in them, June 1997 to July 2004
Conservation Reserve^Gazettal Type#Area
(ha)
No. of significant communities+
VulnerablePoorly Reserved
2000–2004
Binjura NRNew502
Bobundara NRNew20012
Ironmungy NRNew222
Kosciuszko NPAdditions10,66022
Myalla NRNew14012
Ngadang NRNew16022
Nimmo NRNew72011
Paupong NRNew1,84011
Wullwye NRNew16023
1997–2000
none

^ NP = National Park; NR = Nature Reserve; # New = new conservation reserves gazetted in the reporting period; Additions = additions to existing conservation reserves within the reporting period; + For definitions of Vulnerable and Poorly Reserved communities, see About the data; Source: NSW Department of Environment and Conservation

Kosciuszko National Park is the only conservation reserve within the shire with a formal plan of management in place; the plan was adopted in November 2000. No fire management plans had been developed for any of the nine reserves in the shire at the time of reporting.

Other conservation management

One privately owned property in Snowy River Shire has a Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA) in place, while another two are designated wildlife refuges. The VCA covers 113 hectares and the two wildlife refuges 927 hectares. No information was available on the vegetation communities occurring within the VCA and wildlife refuges, or whether a plan of management or scheme of operation had been developed and/or implemented for them.

Management of grasslands

The Monaro Grasslands Conservation Management Network, established in 2002–03, extends over part of Snowy River Shire. The network aims to promote grassland conservation in the Monaro region (including endangered natural temperate grasslands) across a range of land tenures, such as private, state and local government managed lands. The network has been funded through the NSW Environmental Trust and the Snowy Monaro Biodiversity Conservation Strategy of the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority. Funds for specific projects were obtained from a range of other sources. Network activities in or relevant to the shire during the reporting period included (Eddy 2005):

The Southern Tablelands Grassy Ecosystems Conservation Management Network also covers some of Snowy River Shire, but is currently inactive.

A project to map the Monaro region's native grasslands was undertaken during 2003 as a collaborative effort between the then South East Catchment Management Board and the NSW NPWS. The mapping was also to show areas occupied by open grassy woodland, introduced pastures, crops and weeds (Anon 2003).

Snowy River Shire Council received funding from the WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund) in 1993 to help conserve a network of 11 grassland sites in council-managed cemeteries and roadside reserves within the shire. This project continued through the current reporting period, with management practices including minimising soil disturbance, spot spraying of weeds (replacing broadacre spraying), revegetation with native species and the development of mowing regimes to enhance seeding of native plants.

Council also initiated a Grassy Ecosystem project that was completed in Autumn 2003. As part of the project, council held training days for roadside weed contractors and staff that covered identification of significant grasslands in roadside vegetation and council reserves, and provided information on minimising the spread of noxious weeds.

Other management

Council was proactive during the reporting period in education and public awareness activities. It held community education days and participated in annual events such as Weedbuster Week.

Since the extensive wildfires in the shire in the 2002–03 fire season (see Pressures on vegetation condition), revegetation work has been carried out in areas including Ingebyra, Moonbah, Gullies Road, Reedy Creek, Paupong, Little Paupong, Numbla Vale, Snowy Plain, Crackenback, Wollondibby, Hilltop, Rocky Plain and Adaminaby (McConkey 2003).

Ten Landcare groups operated in Snowy River Shire. For information on the range of activities occurring there and in the Murrumbidgee and Southern Rivers catchments, see the Landcare NSW website.

Community groups, council and/or other organisations undertook various projects during the reporting period that enhanced the protection of ecological communities in the shire; a selection of these projects is shown in Table 6. The Snowy River Rehabilitation Project included activities such as eradication of Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) and Willow (Salix spp.) as these weeds have significant impacts on river ecology (McConkey 2003). Other nationally funded activities undertaken during the reporting period in the Murrumbidgee and Southern Rivers CMA areas (DIPNR 2004) may also have enhanced the conservation of ecological communities in the shire.

Table 6. Projects* enhancing ecological communities in Snowy River Shire, July 2000 to June 2004
Project areaPurposeSource of grant**
Minnehaha Point, Lake JindabyneRevegetationNatural Heritage Trust, 2001–02
MonaroSustainable grazingNatural Heritage Trust Envirofund, 2002–03
Paupong, Numbla ValeLand conservation incentiveNatural Heritage Trust, 2001–02
Rainbow Beach (Snowy Mountains)RestorationNatural Heritage Trust, 2000–01
Rockwell (Dalgety / Numbla Vale)RestorationNatural Heritage Trust, 2000–01
Rocky PlainsRehabilitation of emergency fire trailsNatural Heritage Trust Envirofund, 2002–03
Snowy RiverRehabilitation of emergency fire trailsNatural Heritage Trust Envirofund, 2002–03
Snowy River catchmentAssessing options for sustainable landuse and trade-offsNatural Heritage Trust, 2001–02
Snowy River corridorRemnant vegetation actionsNatural Heritage Trust, 2000–01
Snowy-Genoa catchmentCatchment action planNatural Heritage Trust, 2001–02
Southern MonaroRevegetationNatural Heritage Trust, 2001–02
Thredbo ValleyRehabilitation of emergency fire trailsNatural Heritage Trust Envirofund, 2002–03
Upper Snowy catchmentBushcareNatural Heritage Trust, 2000–01

*For more information about these projects, see the NHT website and the Environmental Trust website; ** Council, community groups and other organisations may have contributed additional funding.

About the data

Forest vegetation communities referred to in this regional State of the Environment report were derived from the Eden and Southern Comprehensive Regional Assessment (CRA) forest ecosystem mapping. This mapping was undertaken in 1998 and 1999 respectively. 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 it 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:

No data were available regarding extant vegetation at 30 June 2004, and hence it was not possible to determine changes in the extent of forest communities within the shire during the current reporting period.

Vegetation change was mapped by Agrecon in 2005 for the 1997–2000 and 2000–04 reporting periods using Landsat analysis. This mapping is at a coarse scale and may not have identified small changes in vegetation extent.

Fire severity mapping, prescribed burn and wildfire polygon data were provided by DEC South Branch. This data shows only those fires which occurred on or passed over DEC-managed conservation reserves. No data were available from Forests NSW regarding control burns undertaken by this department, nor wildfire data for fires which occurred on their estate. The Rural Fire Service provided polygon data for Section 44 fires; these are generally fires which cross more than one land tenure and are usually major wildfires. Fire severity categories used in this report were derived from the fire severity mapping undertaken by DEC for the January 2003 fires. Prescribed burns were attributed a very low fire severity and other wildfires were attributed with severity unknown. These severity classes were chosen as prescribed burns are generally thought to be undertaken so as to minimise the long-term impact on native vegetation, whereas wildfires may be of vary severities. Where areas were subject to control burns, and then burnt again by a subsequent wildfire during a reporting period, these areas are shown as fire severity unknown.

NSW National Parks estate data was provided by the DEC, South Branch. DEC also provided information on the number of voluntary conservation agreements (VCAs) and wildlife refuges. It was not possible to determine vegetation communities within these areas due to privacy concerns regarding location.

Threats to endangered ecological communities were provided by DEC, Threatened Species Unit, South Branch as an extract from its Property Vegetation Planning Database. The information contained in this database is available on the internet (DEC 2005), however the website is still being developed. The underlying data is being refined, additional utilities will be added and a number of known bugs resolved before the site is officially launched.

For further information regarding changes in landuse that could impact on condition and extent of ecological communities, see Landuse.

References

Anon (2003) Southern Tablelands Grassy Ecosystems Conservation Management Network, The Austral Bugle Volume 1, Issue 2, Autumn 2003.

DEC—see Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW)

DEH—see Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth)

Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) (2004a) NSW Scientific Committee—Final Determination, 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 ecological community listing, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, viewed 24 June 2005, http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/montane_peatlands_endangered.

Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) (2004b) NSW Scientific Committee—Final Determination, White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum woodland—endangered ecological community listing, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, viewed 24 June 2005, http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Box-gum +woodland+endangered+ecological+community+listing.

Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) (2005) Threatened Species, Populations and Ecological Communities of NSW Catchments, viewed 23 June 2005, http://www.threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au/index.aspx.

Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) (2005a) Species Profile and Threats Database, viewed 5 August 2005, http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/sprat.pl.

Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) (2005b) Australian Wetlands Database, Department of Environment and Heritage, viewed 4 July 2005, http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/wetlands/search.pl?smode=BOTH.

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)

Dovey, L (1984) The Snowy River Shire Conservation Study; vol. 1: summary and recommendations; vol. 2: environmental description and evaluation; vol. 3: appendices, National Parks and Wildlife Service, South-eastern Region.

Eddy, D (2005) Coordinator, Monaro Grassland Conservation Management Network, personal communication.

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.

McConkey, G. (2003) State of the Environment, Supplementary (Annual) report on the State of the Environment within the Snowy River Shire. Snowy River Shire Council, 2002-2003, Snowy River Shire Council, Berridale.

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.

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 5 August 2005 http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/cmb/blueprints/pdf/south_east_blueprint.pdf.