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Transcript
Synthesis of Conservation Plans and
Strategies for Central Australia
Report prepared for the central Australia stakeholder group
Paul Koch and Hannah Ling
July 2014
Acknowledgements
This work represents a summary of existing Natural Resource Management plans together with the insights of
leading rangeland ecologists. It is intended that the plan be iteratively refined over time.
Todd Berkinshaw, Greg Leach, Steve Morton and others from the central Australia working group provided
valuable comments and feedback on this report.
This document may be cited as:
Koch, P.J. and Ling, H. (2014) Synthesis of Conservation Plans and Strategies for Central Australia. Summary
report. Report prepared for the central Australia stakeholder group, Greening Australia.
Version: 01/07/2014
Abbreviations
ACRIS
CAP
CLC
DEWNR
DIWA
EPBC
GIS
INFFER
NRM
NVIS
VAST
Australian Collaborative Rangelands Information System
Conservation Action Planning
Central Land Council
Department for Water, Environment and Natural Resources (SA)
Directory of Important Wetlands for Australia
Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth Government)
Geographic Information System
Investment Framework for Environmental Resources
Natural Resources Management authority
Native Vegetation Information System
Vegetation Assets States and Transitions Framework
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Table of Contents
1.
1.1
1.2
1.3
2.
2.1
2.2
3.
3.3
4.
BACKGROUND .............................................................................................. 4
The Case for a Collaborative, Cross-border Conservation Program in Central Australia..................................... 4
Scope of the Work ............................................................................................................................................... 4
Overview of the Open Standards Conservation Planning Framework ................................................................ 8
ASSETS: What are we trying to conserve? .................................................. 10
Methodology for Identifying Assets................................................................................................................... 10
Results................................................................................................................................................................ 11
VIABILITY: What is the current health of ecosystems? ................................ 21
Viability Assessment Summary .......................................................................................................................... 25
THREAT ASSESSMENT ................................................................................. 27
4.1
Existing Knowledge about Threats in Central Australia ..................................................................................... 27
4.1.1 Altered Fire regimes ............................................................................................................................................27
4.1.2 Unsustainable stock grazing regimes .................................................................................................................30
4.1.3 Overabundant kangaroo grazing .......................................................................................................................31
4.1.4 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: goats ..............................................................................................................32
4.1.5 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: camels ............................................................................................................33
4.1.6 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: horses and donkeys .......................................................................................34
4.1.7 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: rabbits ............................................................................................................35
4.1.8 Predation by feral predators: foxes and cats .....................................................................................................36
4.1.9 Invasive weeds: Buffel Grass ...............................................................................................................................37
4.1.10
Other invasive weeds and pest animals .........................................................................................................38
4.1.11
Climate change ...............................................................................................................................................38
4.2
Summary Threat Rankings and Trends .............................................................................................................. 39
5.
5.1
Strategies and Actions ................................................................................ 42
Key Contributing Factors to Threats .................................................................................................................. 42
6.
Recommended Next Steps for Planning ...................................................... 47
7.
References.................................................................................................. 48
Appendix 1: Current Status & Trend for Threatened Mammals .............................. 52
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
1.
BACKGROUND
1.1 The Case for a Collaborative, Cross-border Conservation Program in Central
Australia
Most of the desert ecosystems of Australia extend across state and territory boundaries and share
many of the same threatening processes. Many of the most serious emerging threats (eg. the rapid
expansion of Buffel Grass as a serious invasive weed and camels as a serious feral herbivore threat)
require concerted management and collaborative planning at the scale of the Australian continent. A
rapidly changing climate increases the urgency for targeted, cross-tenure action that reduces the
severity of critical threats at this broad scale.
Secondly, given the size and remoteness of central Australia, we cannot hope to influence
management across the whole landscape. Therefore, it is important to collectively understand and
iteratively refine our understanding of conservation priorities across the various ecosystems being
considered. By casting a wide net initially (including a broad geographic scope in the study area), we
can begin to identify high value conservation areas and priorities for on-ground action across the arid
ecosystems of Australia rather than solely in relation to a jurisdictional boundary. This broader-scale
planning is intended to complement the important role that natural resource management authorities
play in prioritising and managing projects within their jurisdictions.
1.2
Scope of the Work
This report summarises the results of natural resource management planning activites undertaken by
the various Natural Resource Management authorities operating in the region: Rangelands NRM (WA),
Territory NRM, Desert Channels Queensland Inc., South West Natural Resource Management Inc.
(QLD), Western CMA (NSW), Alantjira Wilurara NRM Board (SA) and South Australian Arid Lands NRM
Board (see Figure 1.2). NRM plans reviewed as part of this synthesis include:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Arid Lands Regional Action Plan (TNRM)
SAAL NRM plan: 10 year Strategic Plan
SAAL Bioregional Biodiversity Strategies
Alinytjara Wilurara Regional NRM Plan
Desert Channels Queensland's Biodiversity Plan
A Strategy for Managing the Natural Resources of Western Australia's Rangelands
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
In addition, an initial attempt is made to incorporate the insights and research of various scientists
working in the field of Australian rangeland ecology. Key documents used for this analysis include:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Various reports on rangelands threatening processes produced by the Australian Collaborative
Rangeland Information System (Bastin et al. 2008)
Vegetation–fire interactions in central arid Australia: Towards a conceptual framework
(Marsden-Smedley et al. 2012)
Refugia for biological diversity in arid and semi-arid Australia (Morton et al. 1995)
The Stewardship of Arid Australia: Ecology and Landscape Management (Morton et al. 1993)
An inventory of sites of international and national significance for biodiversity values in the
Northern Territory (Harrison et al. 2009).
Plant species and sites of botanical significance in the southern bioregions of the Northern
Territory (White et al. 2000)
National Feral Camel Action Plan (2010)
The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012 (Woinarski et al. 2014)
The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 (Garnett et al. 2011)
This plan represents an ecoregional synthesis of priorities for nature conservation and does not seek to
specifically address issues relating to indigenous culture or agricultural production. The present
analysis is mainly conceptual in nature and does not incorporate sophisticated spatial analyses.
However, a detailed spatial prioritization and other planning activities may be undertaken as part of an
ongoing planning effort at a later stage.
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 1.1. Study area in relation to Deserts and Xeric Shrublands Ecoregion.
Figure 1.2. Study area and associated IBRA regions.
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 1.3. Study area and associated NRM regions.
Figure 1.4. Study area and major land uses (derived from ACLUMP mapping).
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
1.3
Overview of the Open Standards Conservation Planning Framework
There are a range of tools available to conservation practitioners to help plan and prioritise
conservation programs. These include a number of broad conservation planning frameworks, a large
range of technical resources (e.g. databases, vegetation / habitat mapping, threatened species
records) and ecological modelling software products (refer Wintle 2008 for a review of the available
tools). The current synthesis document follows the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation
(https://www.conservationgateway.org/ConservationPlanning/ActionPlanning/CAPOpenStandards/Pa
ges/cap-and-open-standards.aspx) in conjunction with Miradi conservation planning and project
management software (www.miradi.org) as an internationally recognised and widely adopted
framework for natural resource management planning. Many organisations within Australia (eg. The
Nature Conservancy, Australian Bush Heritage Fund, Greening Australia, Northern Territory NRM,
Parks Victoria and Trust for Nature) regularly use the Open Standards framework for natural resource
management planning. The framework has also proven to be an effective engagement tool used by
Traditional Owners to facilitate community based and high quality planning for the management of
Indigenous Protected Areas in northern and arid Australia (referred to as Healthy Country Planning in
this context).
Whilst built on solid scientific principles, the approach recognises that there are often large gaps in
ecological knowledge and data sets and hence a strong on-going adaptive management ethic is implied
throughout the process. Further input from local knowledge and additional research to address data
gaps is envisaged to refine this plan in the future.
The major steps in the process, as outlined in this document, are:
• the identification of conservation assets and nested assets (i.e. ecosystems, communities and
species);
• an analysis of the viability (i.e. health) of the conservation assets;
• a ranking of major threats to the conservation assets;
• the development of actions and measurable objectives to achieve the long-term conservation
of the assets (objectives have not yet been developed as part of this synthesis);
• the identification of practical monitoring indicators to support a robust monitoring, evaluation
and adaptive management framework (indicators have not yet been developed).
The present synthesis document provides a desktop summary of existing knowledge and strategies in
line with this framework while recognising that further input and locally based knowledge is required
to advance the planning.
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Select focal conservation assets :
1.
Identify broad ecological systems first.
2.
Screen for species and communities
with special conservation requirements
not addressed through the
conservation of the broader ecosystem.
3.
Decide which species/communities are
“nested” within the broader “asset”.
Identify Conservation Assets
(ecological systems & species)
Assess Asset Viability
(based on key ecological attributes)
Consider ecological processes
and factors critical to the
function of each asset
Assess Stresses & Sources
(determine critical threats)
Develop Conservation Strategies
(objectives & strategic actions)
Figure 1.1. Diagram showing the cyclical nature of planning based on the principles of adaptive management
(above) and diagram showing the major conceptual steps involved in conservation action planning (below;
source: Low 2003).
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
2. ASSETS: What are we trying to conserve?
2.1
Methodology for Identifying Assets
The first step in the conservation action planning process involves the identification of a small number of focal
conservation assets (i.e. ecosystems, communities or species) that collectively represent the biodiversity of a
region. The explicit assumption within this process is that by conserving representative examples of broad-scale
communities and ecosystems, the majority of species will also be conserved. The list of focal conservation assets
therefore need not be long and exhaustive; rather, it should be short and representative. In general, the CAP
methodology recommends that no more than eight conservation assets are selected to be the focus of a landscape
conservation program.
The asset selection process begins by identifying the coarse-scale ecosystems and communities for conservation.
The issue of whether to lump individual ecosystems and communities together or split into individual conservation
assets is often a difficult one. In general, ecosystems and communities are lumped together if they:
● co-occur across the landscape;
● share similar ecological processes;
● share similar threats.
The next step is to screen for species and communities occurring at smaller scales that are not well “nested” within
the broader set of ecosystems or communities; that is, those species and communities whose conservation
requirements are not met through the conservation of the coarse-scale assets (as suggested by Noss et al. 1999;
Margules and Pressey 2000; MacNally et al. 2002). This approach is known as the coarse filter – fine filter approach
(Groves 2003). Examples of species often not captured by coarse-scale assets include:
● rare, threatened and endemic species;
● species with highly disjunct (spaKally separate) populations or restricted distributions;
● keystone or highly interacKve species (those that have a disproporKonate influence on the structure
and ecological function of the community);
● wide-ranging species.
Species and communities that fall into the above categories may be captured by threatened species recovery
programs or may need to be considered as separate conservation assets.
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
2.2
Results
For the central Australia region, the following 13 conservation assets were identified:
Broad Ecosystem or Land
System Type
Conservation Asset
DUNEFIELDS
DUNEFIELDS
1. Spinifex Dunefields
•
2. Non-spinifex
Dunefields (dominated by Cane Grass or Heath Myrtle)
PLAINS
3. Open Fertile Grassy Woodlands
PLAINS
4. Mitchell and Tussock Grasslands
PLAINS
5. Gidgee Plains and Dune Swales
PLAINS
6. Mulga Shrublands and Arid Woodlands
PLAINS
7. Chenopod Shrublands
PLAINS
8. Stony Plains
RUGGED RANGES
9. Rugged Ranges and Rocky Outcrops
RUGGED RANGES
10. Rockholes and Gorges
PLAINS AQUATIC
11. Salt Lakes and Samphire
PLAINS AQUATIC
12. Watercourses, floodplains and swamps
PLAINS AQUATIC
13. Mound Springs and Waterholes
This list of broad conservation assets is intended to collectively represent the biodiversity of the
region. Each asset therefore includes a number of “fine-filter” communities and species of
conservation significance. These are described in Table 2.1.
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Table 2.1. Descriptions of focal conservation assets and associated (“nested”) flora and fauna of
conservation significance for the Central Australia region. Current status ratings for threatened flora and
fauna are given in Appendix 2. Information is derived from Stafford Smith & Morton (1990), Morton et al.
(1995), White et al. (2000), Harrison et al. (2009) as well as various NRM plans.
Asset/Ecosystem
Description
Fauna of Conservation
Significance
1. Spinifex Dunefields and
Sandplains (includes Desert Oak
woodlands and sand mallee
communities)
Perennial hummock
grasslands with or
without overstory
species, grows on low
nutrient sandy soils,
low overstory tree
numbers, some shrub
species such as
Allocasuarina
decaiseana, Acacia
aneura, firedependent. Spinifex
hummock grasslands
occupy about a third
of Australia and they
are most prevalent in
sandy areas.
Threatened Grounddwelling Fauna: Sandhill
Dunnart, Brush-tailed
Mulgara; Southern
Marsupial Mole, Brushtailed Mulgara, Cresttailed Mulgara, Kultarr,
Numbat, Greater Bilby,
Woylie, Spectacled Harewallaby, Rufous Harewallaby or Mala, Central
Rock-rat, Great Desert
Skink, Desert Death Adder
IMPORTANT AREAS:
South-west Tanami Desert (unique
paleodrainage system with diverse
habitats supporting a number of
threatened fauna species and
endemic flora)
Threatened and declining
birds: Eyrean Grasswren,
Striated Grasswren, Night
Parrot, Princess Parrot,
Spinifex Pidgeon, Spinifex
Bird, Striated Grasswren,
Flock Bronzewing, Rufouscrowned Emu-wren
Functionally important
species surviving in
predator-proof
enclosures: Greater Stick
Nest Rat, Burrowing
Bettong
2. Non-spinifex sand dunes
(includes dunefield areas
dominated by Cane Grass and
Desert Heath-myrtle)
Includes sand dunes
dominated by
canegrass (Zygochloa
paradoxa) and
sand dunes dominated
by Desert Heath
Myrtle (Aluta
maisonneuvei) in
dense stands of up to
a metre or more tall.
Other area are
dominated by
Witchetty Bush
(Acacia kempeana)
Threatened Grounddwelling Fauna: Dusky
Hopping Mouse, Southern
Marsupial Mole, Northern
Marsupial Mole, Greater
Bilby, Spectacled Harewallaby, Rufous Harewallaby or Mala, Central
Rock-rat, Great Desert
Skink, Desert Death Adder
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Flora of
Conservation
Significance
Threatened flora:
Rainbow Valley
Fuscia Bush
(Eremophila
prostrata)
Quandong
(Santalum
acuminatum),
Giant Sweet Potato
(Ipomoea polpha
subsp. latzii),
Minuria tridens
and Horse Mulga
(Acacia ramulosa)
3. Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
IMPORTANT AREAS:
Large areas occur near Tennant
Creek, Birdsville and Charters
Towers; areas adjacent Davenport,
Murchison and Macdonnell Ranges
are also significant
4. Mitchell and Tussock Grasslands
IMPORTANT AREAS:
Barkly Tablelands and other large
areas near Birdsville and Winton.
Open grassy
woodlands on more
fertile clay soils of
plains and washout
areas adjacent ranges;
overstorey is
frequently dominated
by ironwood (Acacia
estrophiolata),
bloodwood (Corymbia
opaca) and/or
corkwood (Hakea
spp.), Understorey
composed of variouas
grasses including:
Astrebla lappacea, A.
elymoides, A.
pectinata, A.
squarrosa, Sporobolus
actinocladus
Threatened and declining
ground-dwelling fauna:
Chuditch or Western
Quoll, Northern Shorttailed Mouse, Stubble
Quail, Central Pebble
Mouse
Dominated by Astrebla
spp. with other grass
and some shrub
species, trees rare,
growing on relatively
fertile cracking clay
soils
Threatened and declining
ground-dwelling Fauna:
Julia Creek Dunnart,
Narrow Nosed Planigale,
Greater Bilby, Gould’s
Goanna, Spencer’s
Goanna, Collared
Whipsnake, Southern
Death Adder (Barkly form),
Great Desert Skink, Fiveclawed Worm-skink
Threatened/declining
birds and arboreal fauna:
Gouldian Finch, Princess
Parrot, Red-tailed
Phascogale,Common
Brush-tailed Possum, Flock
Bronzewing, Square-tailed
Kite, Bush Stone-curlew,
Painted Honeyeater,
Bristle-faced Free-tailed
Bat
Threatened and declining
birds: Australian Bustard,
White-winged Fairywren,
Stubble Quail, Plains
Wanderer, Flock
Bronzewing, Blackbreasted Buzzard, Eastern
Grass Owl, Yellow Chat
Endemic reptiles:
gecko (Gehyra minuta),
Black-soil Rises Ctenotus
(Ctenotus schevilli),
Spencer’s
Goanna (Varanus spenceri)
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Threatened flora:
Sea Heath
(Frankenia plicata),
Bosistoa
transversa,
Eremophila
tetraptera,
Goodenia
megasepala,
Ptilotus
maconochiei,
Sclerolaena blakei,
Xerothamnella
parvifolia
Decliner-type Plant
Species
Threatened Flora:
Bluegrass
(Dichanthium
setosum); Slender
Swainson
(Swainsona
murrayana),
Xerothamnella
parvifolia, Ptilotus
machonochiei, Scler
olaena
walkeri, Eremophila
tetraptera, Acacia
crombiei, Acacia
deuteroneura
Endemic Flora:
plant species in the
genus Callistemon
and Mukia
5. Gidgee Plains and Dune Swales
Open shrublands on
moderately fertile clay
soils of plains;
dominated by
Georgina Gidgee
(Acacia georginae) or
Myall Gidgee (Acacia
calcicola); fire
retardant when
mature, non-palatable.
Threatened and declining
ground-dwelling fauna:
Kakarratul or Northern
Marsupial Mole, Itjaritjari
or Southern Marsupial
Mole, Dusky Hoppingmouse, Bronzeback Snakelizard
Threatened flora:
Flame Spider-flower
(Grevillea
kennedyana)
Xerothamnella
parvifolia,
Eremophila
tetraptera
Typically dominated by
Mulga (Acacia aneura)
commonly found on
plains and sand plains
of red earth soil
adjacent to mountains
and hills, fire sensitive;
May be dominated by
other long lived acacia,
callitris, casuarina
trees or mallee
eucalypts in
conjunction with a
variable shrubby
understorey of:
Dodonaea viscosa ssp.
angustissima,
Eremophila spp.,
Maireana spp.,
Enneapogon spp.,
Astrebla spp.,
Rhagodia spp., Triodia
spp.
Threatened grounddwelling fauna: Greater
Bilby, Western Quoll, Redtailed Phascogale,
Numbat, Greater Bilby,
Rufous Hare-wallaby or
Mala, Slater’s Skink,
Bronzeback Snake-lizard,
Malleefowl
Threatened flora:
Flame Spider-flower
(Grevillea
kennedyana);
Yellow Swainsonpea (Swainsona
pyrophila), Giant
Sweet Potato
(Ipomoea polpha
subsp. latzii)
IMPORTANT AREAS:
6. Mulga Shrublands and Arid
Woodlands
IMPORTANT AREAS:
Threatened/declining
birds: Redthroat, Chestnut
Quail-thrush, Major
Mitchell; Dusky
Woodswallow, Major
Mitchell, White-browed
Treecreeper, Pied
Honeyeater, Black
Honeyeater, Grey
Honeyeater, Grey-fronted
Honeyeater, Purple-gaped
Honeyeater, Gilbert’s
Whistler, Chestnut Quailthrush, Shy Heathwren,
Cinnamon Quail-thrush,
Red-capped Robin,
Spotted Pardalote
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Decliner species
(mostly long-lived
perennial trees and
shrubs): Pearl
Bluebush
(Maireana
sedifolia),
Sandalwood
(Santalum
spicatum),
Quondong
(Santalum
acuminatum),
Umbrella Wattle
(Acacia oswaldii),
etc.
7. Chenopod Shrublands & Karst
Systems
IMPORTANT AREAS:
The Nullabor Plain chenopod
shrublands is one of the largest,
most intact systems in Australia and
the associated karst system is one of
world’s largest exposed karst
landscapes are of especially high
cultural value
8. Stony Plains & Breakaways
Salt-tolerant shrubs
growing in high saline
soil such as salt lakes,
claypans and
interdunal corridors,
lowland landscapes,
fire sensitive; Multilayered understorey
of: Atriplex spp.,
Maireana spp.,
Arthrocnemum spp.,
Sclerolaena spp.,
Rhagodia spp., Acacia
spp.; often associated
with sparse to dense
groves of long-lived
perennial shrubs and
trees, including mallee
species such as E.
gracilis, E. oleosa and
E. socialis
Threatened and declining
birds: Thick-billed
Grasswren, Plainswanderer, Slender-billed
Thornbill, Redthroat,
Rufous Fieldwren, Whitewinged Fairy-wren,
Squatter Pigeon, Nullabor
Quail-thrush, Cinnamon
Quail-thrush, Elegant
Parrot, Masked Owl
(Nullabor population)
Situated on plains or
low-hills, ground
covered in small
polished stones
(gibbers) with no sand
cover, chenopod
understorey with
Atriplex spp.,
Maireana spp.,
Tecticornia spp.,
Astrebla spp.
Breakaways are stony,
eroded tablelands with
a capping of silcrete
overlaying various
shales.
Endemic reptiles: Pebble
and Ochre Dragons,
Woomera Slider, Gibber
Dragon
Endemic birds: Nullabor
Quail, Nareth Bluebonnet,
Nullabor Quail-thrush
Threatened grounddwelling fauna: Southern
Hairy-nosed Wombat
Threatened and declining
ground-dwelling fauna:
Brush-tailed Mulgara,
Kowari, Kultarr, Fawn
Hopping-mouse, Plains
Mouse, Bronzeback
Legless Lizard
Declining Birds: Chestnutbreasted Whiteface
(endemic to stony plains),
Spinifex Pigeon (eastern)
Decliner species
(mostly long-lived
perennial trees and
shrubs): eg.Pearl
Bluebush
(Maireana
sedifolia),
Sandalwood
Santalum spicatum,
Quondong
Santalum
acuminatum ,
Umbrella Wattle
Acacia oswaldii,
Sugarwood
Myoporum
platycarpum
Threatened flora:
Atriplex infrequens
A Spike Rush
(Eleocharis obicis),
Slender Swainson
(Swainsona
murrayana)
Club Spear-grass
(Austrostipa
nullanulla)
Endemic Flora:
Arckaringa Daisy,
Barkers Mulla
Mulla, Johnston’s
Slipper-plant
(Embadium
johnstoni), Haegi’s
Stemodia (Stemodia
haegii), Breakaway
Pigface (Gunniopsis
tenuifolius)
Threatened Flora:
Waddy or Birdsville
Wattle (Acacia
peuce), Birds Nest
Wattle (Acacia
pickardii),
Thryptomene wittweri
Important Plant
Community:
Northern Myall
(Acacia calcicola)
low woodland
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
9. Rocky Outcrops and Rugged
Ranges
Rocky outcrops and
rugged ranges;
vegetation varies from
shrublands with
emergent trees to
spinifex and mallee;
important refuges for
isolated flora and
fauna and species that
have been heavily
impacted by grazing
on the plains
IMPORTANT AREAS:
The Davenport, Murchison,
Macdonnell, Gawler, Flinders and
Gammon Ranges are all considered
to be highly significant (from
biodiversity, cultural, geological and
tourism perspectives), providing
critical refuge habitat for threatened
fauna and threatened or endemic
flora. The Macdonnell Ranges are
considered to be of international
significance due to their outstanding
natural values.
10. Rockholes and Gorges
Threatened rock
wallabies: Yellow-footed
Rock Wallaby, Blackfooted Rock Wallaby,
Black-flanked Rock
Wallaby
Other threatened grounddwelling fauna: Central
Rock Rat, Carpentarian
Antechinus, Central Rockrat, Great Desert Skink,
Flinders Worm Lizard
Endemic flora: eg.
Gawler Ranges
Greenhood
(Pterostylis
xerophila),
Macdonnell Ranges
(Cycad Macrozamia
macdonnellii), Mt
Finke Grevillea
(Grevillea treuriana)
Threatened flora:
Slender Bell-fruit
(Codonocarpus
Declining woodland birds:
Painted Finch, Striated
Grasswren, Little
Woodswallow, Shorttailed Grasswren
Permanent to
ephemeral, associated
with rock slabs and
walls, creating areas
for the accumulation
and containment of
freshwater; often
culturally important
places
Threatened rock
wallabies: Yellow-footed
Rock Wallaby, Blackfooted Rock Wallaby
Threatened/declining
arboreal fauna: Ghost Bat
Endemic fish, frog and
snail species: Everard
Ranges Toadlet
(Pseudophyrne sp.)
Orange-crowned Toadlet
(Pseudophryne
occidentalis)
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
pyramidalis),
Corunna Daisy
(Brachyscome
muelleri), Desert
Greenhood
(Pterostylis
xerophila), Ooldea
Guinea-flower
(Hibbertia crispula),
Rhaphidospora
bonneyana,
MacDonnell Ranges
Cycad (Macrozamia
macdonnellii),
Sickleleaf Wattle
(Acacia
undoolyana),
Prostanthera
schultzii
MacDonnell Ranges
Cycad (Macrozamia
macdonnellii), Glory
of the Centre
(Ricinocarpos
gloria-medii), Palm
Valley Palm
(Livistona mariae)
11. Salt Lakes and Samphire
12. Watercourses, floodplains and
swamps
IMPORTANT AREAS:
Many wetlands and watercourses
are listed in the Directory of
Important Wetlands of Australia but
the Coongie Lakes region regularly
support large aggregations of
waterbirds and other biota and are
considered to be of international
significance. The Lake
Woods/Longreach Waterhole
system (Mitchell Grass Downs
bioregion) is probably the most
important inland waterfowl
breeding locality in the N.T (Fleming
1983). Other important refugia
include: Goyder's Lagoon, Elizabeth
Springs, the Queensland channel
country and the Bulloo Overflow
Salt lakes occur on low
depressions often
surrounded by
samphire
communities, may fill
rapidly from regional
flooding, significant
breeding habitat for
birds and fish;
Tecticornia spp.,
Sporobolus mitchellii,
Cyperus gymnocaulos,
Frankenia spp.
Breeding waders and fish
Endemic flora
Nesting raptors eg. Letterwinged Kite
Threatened birds: Night
Parrot
Threatened flora:
Club Spear-grass
(Austrostipa
nullanulla)
Permanent and semipermanent
expressions of
freshwater at or near
the ground surface are
rare in the arid zone
and provide important
habitat for a range of
plants, breeding
grounds for fish and
birds; Riparian
communities are
variously dominated
by: Eucalyptus
camaldulensis, E.
coolabah, Acacia
stenophylla
Endemic fish species
Threatened flora:
Nesting raptors
(threatened and declining
species): Red Goshawk;
Letter-winged Kite,
Square-tailed Kite, Blackbreasted Buzzard, Grey
Falcon, Eastern Grass Owl
Maiden (Atriplex
kochiana), Sea
Heath (Frankenia
plicata) , Winged
Pepper-cress
(Lepidium
monoplocoides),
Dwarf Desert Spikerush (Eleocharis
papillose)
Nomadic & migratory
aquatic birds
Australasian Bittern, Bluebilled Duck, Freckled Duck,
Musk Duck, Great Crested
Grebe, Australasian
Shoveller, Australasian
Darter, Intermediate
Egret, Little Egret, Glossy
Ibis, Brolga, Spotless Crake
Threatened reptiles:
Macquarie Tortoise,
Bronzeback Snake-lizard
Other: Western Quoll,
Grey Grasswren, Bristlefaced Free-tailed Bat
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
13. Mound Springs
IMPORTANT AREAS:
The area southwest and northwest
of Lake Eyre (Dalhousie Springs in
Wiltjira NP and the area between
William Creek and Marree) contains
the largest numberof active springs
and these springs also produce the
largest discharges (Habermehl
1982).
Natural permanent
artesian springs
forming unique
vegetation
communities,
endemism common,
central pool of water
with outer rim of reeds
and vegetation and
small outflow. The
community is
considered to be
Endangered (EPBClisted). Twenty-two
mound spring
complexes exist,
consisting of several
hundred individual
springs. Common
plant species include:
Eriocaulon spp.,
Phragmites australis,
Cyperus spp., Typha
spp.
Threatened and endemic
fish: Elizabeth Springs
Goby, Edgbaston Goby,
Red-finned Blue-eye,
Dalhousie Purple-spotted
Gudgeon, Desert Goby,
Dalhousie Gobie
Endemic invertebrates: At
least 20 endemic snails
(Hydrobiidae); also
Isopods (eg.Phreatomerus
latipes), Ostracods (eg.
Ngarawa dirge),
Amphipods (eg.
Phreatochiltonia
anophthalma,
Austrochiltonia spp.) and
others (Morton et al.
1995).
Threatened/declining
birds: Yellow Chat
Threatened flora:
Hairy-joint Grass
(Arthraxon hispidus)
(Dentella
minutissima), Salt
Pipewort
(Eriocaulon carsonii
group), Eryngium
fontanum,
Myriophyllum
implicatum,
Sesbania
erubescens,
Sporobolus
pamelae
Endemic flora:
Nicotiana
burbidgeae, Lemna
disperma, Baumea
arthrophylla, Hydro
cotyle verticillata,
Polygonum
salicifolia
The below map (Figure 2.1) shows the location of mound springs associated with the Great Artesian Basin.
The springs generally occur at the margins of the basin where faults enable water to flow upwards from
aquifers towards the surface (Habermehl 1982). The area southwest and northwest of Lake Eyre
(Oodnadatta – William Creek – Marree) contains the largest numberof active springs and these springs also
produce the largest discharges.
Figure 2.2 shows the distribution of conservation assets (broad vegetation types) and Figure 2.3 shows the
distribution of wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands.
Figure 2.1. Map of the Great Artesian Basin, showing the location of springs supergroups (source:
Habermehl 1982)
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 2.2. Distribution of major vegetation types, adapted from NVIS vegetation mapping.
19
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 2.3. Inland aquatic assets and wetlands listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia
(DIWA).
20
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
3.
VIABILITY: What is the current health of ecosystems?
3.1
Current Condition of Vegetation Communities
Figures 3.2 and 3.3 summarise vegetation condition based on the Vegetation Assets States and Transitions
framework developed by Thackaway and Leslie (2005) across the major vegetation types defined in the
National Vegetation Information System (NVIS). The national vegetation condition map is well suited to
understanding broad trends in the current condition of different vegetation communities at the
continental scale (refer to Table 3.1 for a description of the classification system). Key findings include:
•
•
•
The pattern of vegetation degradation is strikingly biased towards bioregions associated with the
more fertile plains (those areas favoured for pastoralism). Vegetation of the Gawler, Broken Hill
Complex, Stony Plains, Finke, Burt Plain, MacDonnell Ranges, Mitchell Grass Downs, Mulga Lands,
Desert Uplands and Channel Country IBRA regions have been heavily modified (Figure 3.2). These
plains-associated IBRA subregions are particularly associated with tussock grasslands, open grassy
woodlands, acacia shrublands and chenopod shrublands.
In contrast, the Little Sandy Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert, Great Victoria Desert and
Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields remain largely intact (associated mainly with spinifex hummock
grasslands of dunefields).
An exception to this rule is the Nullabor Plain, which is composed mainly of chenopod shrublands,
yet remains mostly intact (except in the western and near-coastal areas), presumably due to its
remoteness.
21
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 3.2. Vegetation condition mapping – VAST condition states (Thackaway & Leslie 2005).
Table 3.1. Vegetation, Assets, States and Transitions (VAST) condition states (adapted from Thackaway
and Lesslie, 2005).
RESIDUAL/GOOD (Relatively intact, minimum integrity): Native vegetation community structure,
composition and regenerative capacity intact – no significant perturbation from land use/ land
management practice. Structural and compositional integrity is very high, natural regenerative capacity
is unmodified.
MODIFIED/FAIR Native vegetation community structure, composition and regenerative capacity –
perturbed by land use/land management practice. Some structural modification has occurred, with at
least one structural layer removed or modified. Natural regenerative capacity persists.
TRANSFORMED/POOR: Native vegetation community structure, composition and regenerative capacity
significantly altered by land use/land management practice. Dominant structuring species of community
significantly altered or removed – species dominance altered. Natural regenerative capacity limited.
REPLACED: Native vegetation community largely replaced by exotic species, with dominant structuring
species removed or predominantly cleared, high level of weed cover relative to native cover.
Regenerative capacity/ resilience substantially depleted – rehabilitation probably involves revegetation
and weed control.
REMOVED: Intensively managed agricultural/forestry areas. May retain sparse native species but with
little to no regenerative capacity. Soil physical properties altered – recovery of original vegetation type
difficult to virtually impossible. Revegetation may reinstate some major structural components of the
system.
22
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 3.3. Chart showing the percentage of each vegetation type in VAST condition categories (see Table
3.1 for definitions). Blue bars represent 33% and 67% thresholds used as an indicator of overall condition
(<33% in Residual category = POOR; 33-67% in Residual category = FAIR; >67% in Residual category =
GOOD).
23
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
3.2
Status of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna
Mammals
The Action Plan for Australian Mammals (Woinarski et al. 2014) provides up to date information on the
status of Australian mammals with particular attention to those species of conservation significance. The
key findings are summarised as follows:
•
•
•
More than 20 species are now either extinct altogether or extinct from the wild in the arid zone.
The vast majority of these extinctions happened in the decades following European settlement and
the introduction of feral predators and exotic herbivores (including sheep and cattle).
Among those mammal species still surviving in the arid lands, a significant number of mammal
species that have already undergone massive range contractions and are continuing to decline,
with a general trend towards increasing rates of decline in the past two decades (Woinarski et al.
2012). The major causes of these declines are mostly linked to foxes and cats, inappropriate fire
regimes and ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation (discussed further in the next section).
Ground-dwelling fauna and particularly mammals have been impacted to a larger extent than
arboreal fauna (most bird and bat species) which are highly mobile and able to escape ground
predators and move across large distances in response to changing patterns of resource availability
brought about by altered fire regimes (Morton 1990b).
Birds
Reid and Fleming (1992) reviewed the literature around the status of birds (one of the best understood
and well studied fauna groups) in arid regions of Australia with a view to identifying patterns in the causes
of species declines (The Action Plan for Australian Birds provides updated information on the status of
threatened and declining birds; Garnett et al. 2011). They concluded as follows:
• Degradation of vegetation resulting from overgrazing by exotic herbivores has been the principal
agent causing the decline of bird species within the arid zone. Predation by foxes and cats has
played an additional but secondary role in many species' declines.
• Birds of grassy riparian environments (particularly the Channel Country) and chenopod shrublands
(including those in the stony desert landscapes) have been most affected. These habitats, with their
favoured water and nutrient status (Stafford Smith and Morton 1990), are natural foci for grazing
animals, and they have a long history of degradation though overgrazing (Curry and Hacker 1990).
• Cattle and sheep may have had more impact in such environments than rabbits, partly because of
their dependence on water, partly due to the additional impacts of hard hooved animals in terms of
compaction and trampling and partly due to direct competition with native animals in consuming
scarce resources near water points during times of drought.
Reptiles
Cogger et al. (1993) reviewed the status of Australian reptiles in The Action Plan for Australian Reptiles.
Reptiles have perhaps fared better than birds and mammals in adapting to the changes brought about by
European settlement, although this may be partially due to a paucity of knowledge associated with this
fauna group. Key findings include:
24
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
•
•
•
•
No Australian reptile is known to have become extinct after 1788. About one quarter of Australia’s
reptile species are considered to be threatened (204 out of a total 705 species).
Australia-wide, the type of habitat associated with the greatest number of threatened species is
considered to be isolated rocky outcrops, open grassy woodlands, tussock grasslands and
heathland.
Mallee vegetation with multi-layered shrubby understorey and riparian habitat sensitive to changes
in drainage patterns were among the habitats considered to be most under threat.
Habitat clearance and modification, overgrazing by stock and predation by feral cats and foxes are
considered to be the most critical threats pertaining to the arid zone.
Summary
In summary therefore, ground-dwelling mammals and birds are likely to be the most threatened fauna
groups, being highly susceptible to the full range of threatenening processes in the arid zone. The current
status and trend of fauna species in central Australia are summarised in Appendix 2.
Threatened fauna seem to fall broadly into three main categories:
1. Those associated primarily with dunefield vegetation, with feral predators and inappropriate fire
regimes having the greatest impact.
2. Those species specialising on more fertile plains habitats near watercourses including chenopod
shrublands, grassy woodlands and open tussock grasslands, where modification of vegetation by
livestock overgrazing and feral herbivores is the principle threat and feral predators represents a
secondary though important additional threat (altered fire regimes are likely to be less important in
this habitat)
3. Those restricted to isolated rocky outcrops (such as rock wallabies and reptiles of rugged ranges).
Such populations may be less resilient to threats such as fox and cat predation simply because they
have a naturally restricted distribution and small population size.
3.3
Viability Assessment Summary
Table 3.1 summarises information about viability based on three important ecological attributes:
vegetation condition, fauna composition and fire regime. Generally, the more fertile plains and aquatic
ecosystems have been disproportionately impacted by grazing impacts and weeds compared to dunefield
areas and rugged ranges. However, both dunefield and plains ecosystems have been impacted by altered
fire regimes and particularly communities associated with a grassy understorey.
25
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Table 3.1. Summary table current status and trends in vegetation condition, fauna composition and fire
regimes for each asset. Ratings are based on the following categories: GOOD = minimum integrity, ecosystem
function largely intact; FAIR = modified, some aspects of ecosystem function degraded; POOR = heavily modified,
ecosystem function severely compromised.
ASSET
1. Spinifex
Dunefields and
Sandplains
Vegetation Condition
GOOD (stable)
- Most vegetation classified
as “relatively intact”
Fauna Composition
Fire Regime
FAIR (declining)
- Ongoing declines in many
ground-dwelling fauna
POOR (improving)
- currently fires too
infrequent, large-scale
and intense
FAIR (stable)
- wildfires likely to be
impacting on this asset
2. Non-spinifex
dunefields
GOOD (stable)
- Most vegetation classified
as “relatively intact”
FAIR (declining)
- Ongoing declines in many
ground-dwelling fauna
3. Open Fertile
Grassy
Woodlands
POOR (declining)
- most vegetation modified
or transformed, heavily
impacted by weeds
FAIR (declining)
- associated bird communities
have been strongly impacted
POOR (stable)
- currently fires too
infrequent, large-scale
and intense
FAIR (improving)
- extensive alteration of
vegetation composition due
to stock grazing
FAIR (stable)
- some alteration of
vegetation composition due
to grazing, weeds etc.
FAIR (stable)
- some alteration of
vegetation composition due
to grazing, weeds etc.
FAIR (declining)
- large areas strongly
impacted by grazing; poor in
some bioregions
FAIR (improving)
- some alteration of veg and
gibber mantle due to grazing
FAIR (stable)
- most declines associated with
this system have already
occurred
GOOD (stable)
- relatively few declining species
FAIR (stable)
- ungrazed areas are
probably not getting
enough fire
FAIR (stable)
- currently fires too
infrequent, large-scale
and intense
FAIR (declining)
- currently fires too largescale and intense
GOOD (declining)
- ongoing invasion of Buffel
Grass in many areas
FAIR (stable)
- refuge areas for many species
but ongoing declines in rock
wallaby populations
FAIR (stable)
- feral herbivore impacts
GOOD (stable)
- some grazing impacts
FAIR (declining)
- ongoing feral herbivore
impacts
GOOD
(stable)
- relatively few declining species
POOR (declining)
- most vegetation modified
or transformed, heavily
impacted by weeds
FAIR (declining)
- vulnerable to degradation
by grazing animals
FAIR (declining)
- associated bird communities
have been strongly impacted
4. Mitchell and
Tussock
Grasslands
5. Gidgee Plains
and Dune Swales
6. Mulga
Shrublands & Arid
Woodlands
7. Chenopod
Shrublands and
Woodlands
8. Stony Plains
9. Rugged Ranges
and Rocky
Outcrops
10. Rockholes and
Gorges
11. Salt Lakes &
Samphire
12. Watercourses,
swamps and
floodplains
13. Mound
Springs &
Waterholes
GOOD (declining)
- relatively few threatened
species , but ongoing declines
likely
FAIR (declining)
- associated bird communities
have been strongly impacted
GOOD (stable)
- relatively few declining species
FAIR (declining)
- ongoing declines in aquatic
and terrestrial flora and fauna
POOR (stable)
- not enough fire, though
excess biomass removal
may be partially achieved
through
stock
grazing
GOOD
(stable)
- rarely carry a fire
FAIR (declining)
-inappropriate fire
regimes associated with
transitions to spinifex
understorey
GOOD (stable)
- rarely carry a fire
GOOD (stable)
- some areas may need
more fire
POOR (stable)
- currently fires too
infrequent and intense
NA
26
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.
THREAT ASSESSMENT
4.1 Existing Knowledge about Threats in Central Australia
4.1.1 Altered Fire regimes
Fire is a fundamental disturbance process shaping the vegetation of arid Australia, with wildfires being
closely linked to rainfall events. Altered fire regimes have been caused principally by a shift away from
traditional burning practices since European settlement. Knowledge about altered fire regimes is
summarised as follows:
• Marsden-Smedley et al. (2012) produced a useful conceptual framework to help land managers
understand the ecological fire requirements of different vegetation types, taking into account the
interacting effects of Buffel Grass and spinifex (summarised in Table 4.1). In general, communities
dominated by spinifex hummock grasses or tussock grasses are highly fire prone while arid
communities associated with a more shrubby understorey (often characterised by long-lived,
obligate seeder species) are less fire prone.
• CSIRO through the Australian Collaborative Rangeland Information System (ACRIS) has been
mapping fire scars from satellite imagery since 1997 (Baston 2012). Fire extent and frequency varies
considerably across the rangelands but in general the results suggest that altered fire regimes
caused by an absence of small, low intensity burns is a serious concern in the arid zone, particularly
for more fire prone communities like spinifex grasslands, which cover a large proportion of central
Australia.
• Large wildfires occurred in the northern part of central Australia during 2001-2 and 2011 (Figure
4.1b).
• The capacity for prescription fire management increased substantially between 2002 and 2011
(Bastin 2012). The greatest increase was associated with the extensive areas of Aboriginal Land
Trusts through the Indigenous Ranger program of the Central Land Council. However, further
increases in capacity are needed to meet ecological requirements,
• Management of fire needs to take into account the interacting effects of grazing (mimics fire to
some extent by removing grassy biomass), Buffel Grass (since burning may favour Buffel Grass
establishment and loss of sensitive native species) and spinifex (since high intensity fires may lead
to replacement of long-lived shrubs by spinifex grassland).
27
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 4.1a. Fire frequency (mapped as log10 for bioregions burnt between 1997 and 2010). Source: ACRIS;
Baston et al. (2010).
Figure 4.1b. Fire extent dor the 2001-2 and 2011 wildfires (following periods of above-average rainfall).
Source: ACRIS; Baston et al. (2012).
28
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Table 4.1. Estimated average fire frequencies required for each vegetation type, relative potential for buffel grass invasion, potential for transition to spinifex understorey
and management recommendations for each major vegetation type (adapted from Marsden-Smedley et al. 2012).
Potential for
Potential for
Recommended Average
Pastoral
transition to
VEGETATION TYPE
Buffel Grass
Management Imperative
Fire Frequency
Value
spinifex
Invasion
understorey
Maintain high fire frequency in spinifex areas (5-10 years
Spinifex sand dune communities
in northern regions; 10-20 years in southern regions),
LOWEST
LOWER
HIGHER
(includes Desert Oak woodlands and HIGH (5 -20 year fire interval)
with mosaic appropriate for threatened mammals
some mallee woodlands)
Non-spinifex sand dune
communities (includes Cane Grass
LOW (>20 years fire
interval)
LOWER
LOWER
HIGHER
Maintain Cane-grass and Desert Heath-myrtle areas at
>20 years since fire.
LOWER
LOWER
HIGHER
Maintain average fire interval at greater than 20 years to
prevent spinifex expansion
VERY HIGH
HIGHEST
HIGHEST
LOWER
Maintain buffel-grass free areas and apply frequent low
intensity burning regime in non-grazed areas
Gidgee plains and dune swales
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
HIGHER
HIGHER
Maintain average fire interval at greater than 15 years to
prevent spinifex expansion
Stony plains
VERY LOW
MEDIUM
LOW TO
MEDIUM
LOWER
NA
LOW (medium where dominated
HIGHER
MEDIUM
LOWER
NA
HIGHEST
LOWER
LOWER
NA
dominated and Desert Heath-myrtle
dominated dunes)
Plains mulga and arid woodlands
Plains open grassy fertile
woodlands
Chenopod shrublands
Mitchell and tussock grasses
LOW – MEDIUM (>20 years
fire interval)
by Maireana aphylla)
VARIABLE (depending on
grazing regime)
Vegetation of rugged hills and
ranges
LOW to HIGH (depending on
Woodlands of watercourses,
swamps and floodplains
MEDIUM to HIGH
Salt Lake margins
LOWER (higher
LOWER
in more fertile
soils)
HIGHER
Maintain spinifex-free areas at average fire interval at
greater than 20 years to prevent spinifex expansion
HIGHEST
MEDIUM
LOWER
Maintain buffel-grass free areas and apply frequent
burning regime in non-grazed areas with dense native
grassy understorey
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
HIGHER
Maintain >20 years fire interval in lake fringing areas
with fire-sensitive areas to prevent spinifex expansion
presence of spinifex)
(depending on understorey)
VARIABLE (depending on
surrounding vegetation)
29
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.2 Unsustainable stock grazing regimes
Bastin et al. (2008; ACRIS), demonstrated that there are reasonably extensive and reliable data for
livestock, kangaroo densities and goat densities in much of the pastoral rangelands. ACRIS now
regularly reports change in livestock density based on periodic census and surveys of graziers by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to obtain stock numbers. Key findings are as follows:
•
•
In recent years, stock density (almost exclusively cattle) has continued to increase in many
northern pastoral bioregions, presumably driven by continuing strong demand, until 2009,
for live-export cattle into south-east Asia. In contrast, regional livestock densities declined
between 2004 and 2008 in much of the south eastern, southern and south western
rangeland bioregions.
An important indicator of sustainable grazing management is how quickly pastoralists adjust
livestock numbers to match seasonal conditions, particularly when seasonal quality is
declining. Stock densities appeared to broadly track seasonal quality (based on rainfall
indices) in some bioregions (i.e. the expected result) while in others (particularly parts of
northern and central Australia), density remained above the 1984-91 base as seasonal
quality declined, indicating that overgrazing is an issue.
Figure 4.2. Mean stocking density for sheep and cattle (standardised as Dry Sheep Equivalents per
km2, DSE; Source: ACRIS; Baston et al. (2012).
30
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.3 Overabundant kangaroo grazing
ACRIS conducts systematic surveys of kangaroo numbers across the NSW rangelands, much of
western Queensland, the predominantly sheep-grazed pastoral tenure of SA and in the southern
and western parts of the WA rangelands, with records going back to 1993. Key findings are as
follows:
• The combined density of kangaroo species in WA (reds and western greys) was much lower
than the combined density of species in eastern states (including SA) and fluctuates
according to prevailing seasonal conditions (rainfall; Bastin et al. 2012). The highest
densities of kangaroos were generally achieved in the 1993-2003 monitoring period,
followed by a substantial decline in the subsequent drier year to 2008, followed by an
increase as conditions improved to 2012. This suggests that kangaroo numbers tend to
fluctuate in equilibrium with current environmental conditions
• The distribution of high kangaroo density areas (Figure 4.3) appears to broadly correspond
to more fertile areas areas with a higher proportion of tussock grasslands, grassy woodlands
and riparian/swampy areas, although note the the limited coverage of monitoring data.
Figure 4.3. Kangaroo density (standardised to Dry Sheep Equivalents, DSE) across eastern, southern
and western rangeland bioregions for 2012. Source: ACRIS; Baston et al. (2012).
31
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.4 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: goats
Densities of feral goats in the rangelands of Australia have been estimated over the past three
decades by aerial surveys for kangaroo management (Bastin et al. 2012). Most surveys have
involved counting goats in 100m or 200m strip transects surveyed by fixed-wing aircraft. These
surveys describe a feral goat populationin Australia that has grown from 1.4 million in 1997 to 4.1
million in 2008. In arid rangeland areas, feral goat distribution is closely linked to watering points
such as tanks and bores. Previous surveys indicated that goat activity was rare more than 4 km
from water. Russell et al. (2011) reported that fencing artificial watering points in arid areas to
prevent goat access is an apparently effective additional control strategy to harvesting and
shooting.
Figure 4.4. Annual rate of increase in goat numbers throughout monitoring areas. Source: ACRIS;
Bastin et al. (2012).
32
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.5 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: camels
There are currently over one million feral camels and this population will double in the next 8-10
years and beyond. The impacts of camels include: damage to vegetation (selective grazing of more
palatable species), damage to water sources, competition with native animals, damage to
infrastructure and cultural sites. In terms of biodiversity impacts, key findings are as follows:
• Camels are capable of using almost all available habitat types within the arid and semi-arid
areas of Australia, but have a particular impact on fragile salt lake ecosystems and foul
waterholes.
• Over 80 per cent of plant species available to feral camels in central Australia are used by
them as food sources. However, camels are primarily browsing animals, feeding on trees,
shrubs and forbs. Grasses make up a small percentage of their diet.
• Feral camels severely defoliate and suppress the recruitment of some shrub and tree
species eg. Curly Pod Wattle (Acacia sessiliceps), bean tree (Erythrina vespertilio), quandong
(Santalum acuminatum), Plumbush (Santalum lanceolatum) and Supplejack (Ventilago
viminalis), with such impacts being greatly exacerbated in drier years (DLRM 2014).
• Feral camels are also likely to destabilise dune crests thereby contributing to erosion.
• Serious impacts of camels on vegetation are evident in situations where camels occur at
densities greater than 2 animals per km2 (DLRM 2014).
• Edwards et al (2004) estimated the population in 2010 to be one million nationally,
predicting it would increase at about 10% per year.
• The feasibility of alternative control options such as commercial harvesting is discussed by
Mcleod and Pople (2008).
Figure 4.5. Density distribution of feral camels across the estimated 2008 range of the feral camel
in Australia derived from Kriging interpolation of known aerial survey densities extrapolated
forward to 2008. Source: Feral Camel Action Plan.
33
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.6 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: horses and donkeys
Australia has an estimated 400 000 feral horses and millions of feral donkeys, mainly in central and
northern Australia (DSEWPC 2011). Both species cause erosion, spread weeds, damage and foul
waterholes and compete for pasture with native animals and livestock. In central Australia, feral
horses overgraze large areas because they can travel up to 50 kilometres from water in search of
food. The impact of feral horses and donkeys on native grasses, herbs, shrubs and drinkable water
is most pronounced during drought. They can quickly degrade areas close to remote waterholes
and natural springs, which during a drought become refuges critical to the survival of many native
animals and plants.
Feral horses inhabit a range of habitat types but prefer grassland and shrubland with plentiful
water and pasture. The distribution of feral horses in Australia corresponds to the distribution of
more fertile plains with tussock grasses and wetland areas (Figure 4.6). Feral donkeys prefer
tropical savannas and arid hill country.
Figure 4.6. Distribution of feral horses in Australia (Source: DSEWPC 2011).
34
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.7 Overgrazing by feral herbivores: rabbits
Feral rabbits are widespread in many habitats throughout Australia, but show a preference for
sandy areas where they can more easily establish burrows and warrens. Rabbits contribute to total
grazing pressure, preferentially grazing on herbs, grasses and seedlings. They can prevent the
establishment of sensitive native tree and shrub species and contribute to the decline of sensitive
groundcovers, even when present at relatively low densities ( A large number of long lived
perennial trees and shrubs such as: Mulga (Acacia anuera), Bullock Bush (Alectryon oleifolium),
Quandong (Santalum acuminatum), Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum), Native Honeysuckle (Eremophila
alternifolia) and Native Apricot (Pittosporum phylliraeoides) are highly susceptible to grazing by rabbits at
the young seedling stage.
Figure 4.7. Distribution of feral rabbits in Australia (Source: DSEWPC 2011).
35
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.8 Predation by feral predators: foxes and cats
Woinarski et al. (2012) reviewed the status and action plan for Australian mammals and ranked the
importance of different threats across mammal taxa. They identified predation by feral cats,
inappropriate fire regimes, predation by foxes and habitat loss and fragmentation as the most
severe ongoing threats for extant mammal fauna, but noted that degradation due to livestock and
feral herbivores were among the most critical factors for those mammal species now extinct. Denny
and Dickman (2010) reviewed the available literature concerning cat control and management
strategies:
• Small mammals constitute the largest component of the cat’s diet, but prey up to several
kilograms in weight may be taken on occasion. Birds represent the second most important
component in the diet of cats. In arid Australia, reptiles have been recorded in up to 25 per
cent or more of cat scats.
• In the absence of broad scale solutions to cat management, shooting, trapping and baiting
are sometimes effective over small areas to protect threatened species.
• Shooting is an effective and humane means of culling cats, but it remains highly labour
intensive and costly.
• Baiting, using a suitable toxin and delivery system, remains the most attractive and cost
effective possibility for broad scale cat management, but this option is also problematic
because bait uptake depends on availability of prey species and is unlikely to be effective
when prey is relatively abundant.
Threat Score – All Threatened Mammal Taxa
Figure 4.8. Threat scores averaged across all mammal taxa throughout Australia (source: The
Action Plan for Australian Mammals; Woinarski et al. 2012).
36
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.9 Invasive weeds: Buffel Grass
Buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) has been listed among species of ‘‘extensive continental distribution’’
that are ‘‘capable of destroying’’ Australian ecosystems (Humphries et al. 1991 in Clarke et al.
2005). Buffel grass is arguably the single greatest invasive species threat to biodiversity across the
entire Australian arid zone, and without active management it will continue to invade a wide range
of native habitats to the extent that it would replace many native species in those habitats. Key
findings are as follows:
• A recent study found that over 60 per cent of mainland Australia was suited to buffel grass.
• A long term study of Buffel Grass impacts near Alice Springs confirmed that invasion causes
long term declines in herbaceous species abundance and richness, which appear to be
directly related to competition for resources (Clarke et al. 2005). Indirect effects may also
be causing the declines of some woody species from changed fire regimes as a result of
increased fuel loads.
• The authors of this study predict that Buffel Grass will begin to alter landscape level
processes as a result of these impacts due to a switch from resource limited (rainfall)
establishment of native plants to seed limited recruitment.
• There is no comprehensive national action plan for controlling and containing Buffel Grass,
although a Strategic Plan has been developed for South Australia.
The relative susceptibility of different vegetation types to Buffel Grass invasion was presented in
Table 3.2.
Figure 4.9. Buffel Grass suitability (accounting only for bioclimatic variables) and susceptibility to
invasion (accounting for current distribution as well as bioclimatic suitability). Source: Martin et al.
(2012).
37
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.1.10 Other invasive weeds and pest animals
A large number of prominent rangeland weeds other than Buffel Grass have the potential to reach
very high densities and out-compete native plant species. Widespread WONs weeds include Athel
Pine (Tamarix aphylla), Parkinsonia (Parkinsonia sp.), Mesquite (Prosopis sp) and Prickly Acacia
(Acacia nilotica; SAAL NRM 2011, TNRM 2010).
Riparian zones and wetlands appear to be especially prone to invasion (Grice and Martin 2005). For
example, it is estimated that there has been a 50% reduction in invertebrate biodiversity and an
almost total loss of floristic biodiversity as a result of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) infestation in
some of the Great Artesian Basin springs at Dalhousie (SAAL NRM 2011). Prominent riparian
invaders include: Prickly Acacia (Acacia nilotica), Rubber Vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora), Bellyache
Bush (Jatropha gossypifolia), Athel Pine or Tamarisk (Tamarix aphylla) and Neem (Azadirachta
indica). These weeds are serious problems associated with many high value river systems such as
the Finke, Diamantina- Georgina and Cooper Creek. Prickly Acacia is also a major weed of Mitchell
Grasslands and Dunefield areas.
Rugged ranges, dunefield areas and other less fertile parts of the landscape tend to be less
susceptible (but not immune) to invasive weeds. Species such as Onion Weed (Asphodelus
fistulosus), Saffron Thistle (Carthamus lanatus), Ward’s Weed (Carrichtera annua) and Salvation
Jane (Echium plantagineum) often establish in heavily grazed or other disturbed areas.
A number of introduced species of fish are a potential threat to aquatic biodiversity (particularly
important considering the high number of restricted and endemic fishes occurring in the region).
Plague Minnow (Gambusia holbrooki) is widespread and of major concern. New introductions in
areas with restricted native populations could have devastating impacts. Cane Toads have now
been recorded in the Cooper system upstream of South Australia and represent a significant
potential threat to the aquatic biodiversity.
4.1.11 Climate change
The predicted increase in mean temperature and frequency of drought, of hot days and of windy
conditions has the potential to impact negatively on the soils and vegetation of the region (SAAL
NRM 2011). Maintenance of native vegetation cover may become more difficult, particularly if total
grazing pressure is not managed appropriately, thus increasing the potential for soil erosion and
loss of soil condition. Climate change is also expected to increase the risk of invasion by exotic
organisms, such as pest plants and animals and diseases and may also favour some established
organisms that are currently restricted in range, causing them to become invasive. Possible future
impacts may also include increasing encroachment of woody shrubs into arid and semi-arid
rangelands.
38
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4.2 Summary Threat Rankings and Trends
Threat rankings are summarised in Table 4.2. Inappropriate stock grazing regimes, Buffel Grass,
Inappropriate fire regimes and cat predation are considered to be the most severe threats. Most
threats are particularly severe for more fertile and productive parts of the landscape (many of
which are also considered to be of high conservation value). Open Fertile Grassy Woodlands and
Watercourses, Floodplains and Swamps are focal points for livestock, feral herbivores, feral
carnivores and invasive weeds and also tend to be highly fire prone environments. Their favoured
nutrient and water status also makes them valuable habitats for many native animals (particularly
during times of drought) and hence impacts on biodiversity are disproportionately severe in these
areas. Note however, that the combined threats of inappropriate fire regimes and feral cats are
serious enough to severely reduce the viability of sensitive fauna populations (ground-dwelling
mammals) in dunefield areas.
39
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
TABLE 4.2. Threat rankings summary table, with notes on ecosystems (assets) most heavily impacted, types of impacts and trends. Ratings: VERY HIGH (Severe and
widespread impacts across most ecosystems), HIGH (severe impacts across many ecosystems), MEDIUM (impacts generally either severe but localised OR widespread but
generally of moderate severity).
Threat
Inappropriate Stock
Grazing Regimes
Ecosystems Most Heavily Impacted
Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
Mitchell grass plains
Chenopod Shrublands
Mulga Shrublands and Arid Woodlands
Wetlands, Watercourses and
Floodplains
Mound Springs
•
•
•
•
Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
Wetlands, Watercourses and
Floodplains
Gidgee Plains and Dune Swales
(potential to invade all ecosystems)
•
•
•
Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
Spinifex Sand Dune Communities
Fertile grassy areas of other ecosystems
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Buffel Grass
Inappropriate Fire
Regimes
Feral Predators
(foxes and cats)
Other Invasive
Weeds (Prickly
Acacia, Athel Pine,
Gamba Grass and
others)
Feral Herbivores:
Camels
Impacts
•
•
All ecosystems (greater impacts in
spinifex dunefields supporting
threatened fauna and more fertile
plains areas)
• Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
• Wetlands, Watercourses and
Floodplains
(potential to invade all ecosystems)
•
•
All ecosystems
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Altered vegetation structure and
composition (reduction or loss of
decliner-type species, long-lived
perennials)
Soil degradation
Reduced habitat quality for
threatened fauna (especially birds
and reptiles)
Altered vegetation structure and
composition
Lack of recruitment, especially of
obligate seeder species
Altered fire regimes
Reduced habitat quality for
threatened fauna and flora
Altered vegetation structure and
composition
Reduced habitat quality for
threatened fauna and flora
Altered fauna composition
Extinction and loss of functionally
important species
Summary
Threat Rating
VERY HIGH
Trend
Gradually improving in
Mitchell Grass Downs
and southern
bioregions, worsening
in other northern
bioregions such as Burt
Plain
Increasing severity and
scope
VERY HIGH
VERY HIGH
VERY HIGH
•
Altered vegetation structure and
composition
HIGH
•
Altered vegetation structure and
composition
HIGH
Ongoing shift to
infrequent but more
intense and
widespread fires
Increasing range
contractions and local
extinctions of
threatened species
Increasing scope and
severity outside control
areas
Recent control effort
but potentially
40
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Feral Herbivores:
Horses and Donkeys
•
•
•
Feral Herbivores:
Rabbits
•
•
Increasing Severity of
Droughts (Climate
Change)
•
Fox & Dingo
Predation
•
Feral Herbivores:
Goats
•
•
Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
Rocky waterholes and gorges
Wetlands, watercousres and
floodplains
Spinifex Sand Dune Communities
Non-spinifex Dunefield Communities
All ecosystems, possibly worse for
grassy ecosystems due to fire
interaction and wetland ecosystems
due to prolonged drought
All ecosystems (greater impacts in more
fertile plains areas)
Rugged hills and ranges
Rocky waterholes and gorges
•
•
•
Altered vegetation structure
Increased weed spread
Fouling of waterholes
HIGH
•
Lack of regeneration of sensitive
species
Soil degradation
Altered vegetation structure and
composition
Altered fire regimes
Soil degradation
Altered fauna composition
Extinction and loss of functionally
important species
HIGH
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Over-abundant
Native Herbivores:
Kangaroos
Water Extraction and
Diversion
Mining
•
•
Open Grassy Fertile Woodlands
Wetlands, Watercourses and
Floodplains
Mound Springs
•
All ecosystems
•
•
•
•
Altered vegetation structure due to
browsing and loss of sensitive species
Fouling of waterholes (and culturally
important areas)
Competition with rock wallabies for
resources
Altered vegetation structure and
composition
Reduction in groundwater tables,
springs less productive
Habitat loss and fragmenatation
HIGH
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
MEDIUM
increasing scope and
severity
Increasing scope of
threat due to spread of
Buffel Grass
Stable but fluctuates
with seasonal
conditions
Increasing severity as
climate change
progresses
Increasing range
contractions and local
extinctions of
threatened species
Increasing severity in
some areas outside
control zones
Stable but fluctuates
with seasonal
conditions
Reducing severity
Increasing scope of
threat
41
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
5.
Strategies and Actions
5.1
Key Contributing Factors to Threats
Central Australia is one of the most remote, extreme and uninhabited desert regions in the world,
therefore strategies requiring human intervention need to carefully consider these factors. The following
underlying problems were identified through existing plans as contributing to threatening processes:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Lack of traditional and contemporary environmental management (need for sustainable economic
enterprises that enhance remote communities and enable increased uptake of land management
practices such as fire management)
Loss of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and lack of documentation
Lack of ongoing resources to control pest plants and animals and undertake surveillance for
emerging threats
Difficulty of controlling many pest plants and animals, once established (eg. Cane Toads, invasive
aquatic plants that are spread by birds)
Resource limitations for supporting pastoralists to undertake best practice grazing management
Lack of knowledge about sustainable groundwater use and existing rates of decline
Difficulty in enforcing environmental policies and legislation in remote areas
Uncertainty regarding the severity of climate change impacts in arid areas
Paucity of knowledge about the distribution and status of many threatened flora and fauna species
Lack of documented knowledge regarding pre-European vegetation condition, fire regimes and
subsequent grazing impacts
42
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Figure 5.1. Conceptual model highlighting broad management imperatives (yellow hexagons) to key threats (pink boxes) to arid ecosystems (green ellipses).
43
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Table 5.1 Summary of key actions across NRM plans, organised by themes (strategies), with notes on
existing programs and priority locations.
Strategy
Summary of KEY ACTIONS
Existing Programs
Priority Locations
1. Use existing
mechanisms (land
purchase, land
claims) to increase
the area of underrepresented
ecosystems and
bioregions under
FORMAL
PROTECTION and
conservation
management
1. Identify priority areas for formal protection
2. Support efforts to increase the number of
IPA’s through advocacy programs
3. Work with key stakeholders to secure
resources for acquiring and managing
protected areas.
4. Support pilot projects and research that
strengthens ecosystem services markets such
as carbon farming.
Ongoing establishment of
Indigenous Protected
Areas; Land acquisition
programs led by Bush
Heritage Australia,
Australian Wildlife
Conservancy, The Nature
Conservancy and others.
Territory NRM carbon
farming booklet.
2. Expand
SUSTAINABLE
GRAZING
MANAGEMENT
PROGRAM (using
property
management
planning
approaches such as
EMU)
1. Develop list of priority project areas
2. Use existing frameworks for developing a
unified national rangeland condition
assessment tool (photographic guide to
condition states) specific to particular
vegetation types.
3. Ongoing mapping and monitoring of
rangeland condition using remote sensing
together with field-based surveys
4. Document knowledge about
increaser/decreaser species and develop
specific vegetation management guidelines for
landholders
5. Develop management plans for plant
species threatened by inappropriate grazing
6. Develop case studies and demonstration
sites showcasing best practice grazing
management for biodiversity conservation and
production
7. Develop and implement practical landholder
training courses on sustainable stock grazing
8. Provide ongoing technical support and
financial incentives to landholders in priority
areas (through Land for Wildlife and other
programs)
9. Develop local management plans and
landholder stewardship programs for high
value aquatic assets
10. Link ACRIS with field-based monitoring and
research programs (targeting sensitive plants,
birds, reptiles and other fauna) to document
the biodiversity benefits of sustainable stock
grazing
Land for Wildlife;
Various sustainable
grazing projects using
property management
planning (EMU or similar);
Barkly Tablelands
landcare group (now
coordinated through
TNRM). Barkly and
Centralian Land
Management Association
Rangeland Management
Courses (DPIF NT)
Underrepresented
ecosystems and
bioregions especially:
Mound springs in
Coongie Lakes and Lake
Eyre areas, relatively
intact areas of
Chenopod shrublands
of south-central
bioregions, Wetlands
and watercourses of
Channel Country and
Open Grassy Fertile
Woodlands
Relatively intact areas
supporting threatened
species across heavily
impacted ecosytems
and bioregions (Mound
springs in Coongie
Lakes and Lake Eyre
areas, Chenopod
shrublands of southcentral bioregions,
Wetlands and
watercourses of
Channel Country,
Mitchell Tussock
Grasslands, Open
Grassy Fertile
Woodlands)
44
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
3. Expand FERAL
PREDATOR
CONTROL programs
in priority areas
providing critical
habitat for
threatened fauna
4. Continue and
expand Indigenous
Ranger and pastoral
fire management
programs to ensure
APPROPRIATE FIRE
REGIMES are
implemented and
maintained,
particularly in
critical threatened
fauna refuges
5. Develop and
implement control
and containment
strategies for
INVASIVE
ENVIRONMENTAL
WEEDS & PEST
ANIMALS in priority
areas
1. Map priority areas (critical habitats for
predation-sensitive threatened fauna)
2. Review existing knowledge and develop
best-practice methodology for cat control
3. Undertake coordinated landscape-scale fox
and cat control program, targeting priority
areas
4. Develop ongoing monitoring programs
(linked to Threatened Species Recovery
Programs) to evaluate the effectiveness of the
programs
5. Support research into alternative (eg.
biological) control mechanisms
1. Identify highest priority areas supporting
fire-sensitive threatened fauna and flora
populations and vulnerable plant communities
2. Document Traditional Ecological Knowledge
and scientific knowledge on fire regimes and
distribute region and vegetation-specific
management guidelines
3. Support Traditional Owners and other
landholders to implement appropriate burns
(particularly in priority areas)
4. Support the development of carbon credit
schemes that improve the viability of fire
management programs in rangeland areas
4. Develop and implement a national
monitoring framework (link with ACRIS) for fire
management and regularly report on the
effectiveness of fire management for
threatened species and communities
1. Identify priority invasive environmental
weed species (“transformer” species)
2. Map distribution and density of priority
weed and pest animal species and link with
spatial information hub that provides ongoing
mapping support
3. Develop comprehensive national strategy
for controlling and containing Buffel Grass
4. Develop biosecurity management strategies
for preventing the spread of Plague Minnow,
Carp and invasive aquatic plants to high value
aquatic ecosystems
5. Rationalise and consolidate access tracks to
high value areas as required
6. Prioritise areas for the control of priority
pest plant and animal infestations
7. Develop and distribute best practice
guidelines for management of priority weed
species
9. Implement invasive pest plant and animal
control in priority areas, providing extension
support for landholders where required
10. Develop ongoing monitoring system and
evaluate the effectiveness of invasive weed
control programs
Indigenous Ranger and
park management
programs; Bounceback
and Living Flinders
programs (Flinders
Ranges SA). Feral
predator exclusion
sanctuaries (eg. Arid
Recovery project at Roxby
Downs); Fox control
program at Sangsters
Bore, Tanami Desert.
Critical habitats for
predation-sensitive
threatened grounddwelling mammals
Indigenous Ranger
programs (CLC, Alintyjara
Wilurara NRM and
others); prescriptive fire
management program on
NT parks and reserves;
various pastoral fire
management programs
supported by TNRM and
Centralian Land
Management Association
Tanami Desert and
other areas supporting
fire prone habitats
(Spinifex Dunefields,
Open Fertile Grassy
Woodlands) with high
value for sensitive
threatened fauna
Indigenous Ranger and
park management
programs; Various TNRM
projects to control WONs
weeds in conjunction with
landcare groups, CLC and
others (eg. Athel Pine
removal from Todd River,
Alice Springs);
Bounceback & Living
Flinders (Flinders Ranges
SA). SAAL Pest Plant and
Rangeland Rehabilitation
small grants program.
SAAL and BHA Gambusia
control program in spring
wetlands at “Egbaston”
property in western Qld.
High value aquatic
ecosystems, floodplain
and riparian habitats of
the Finke, DiamantinaGeorgina and Cooper
Creek river systems;
outlier and emerging
populations of Buffel
Grass (eg. in Flinders
Ranges district).
45
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
6. Control feral
horses, goats and
other FERAL
HERBIVORES in
priority areas and
maintain advances
made by camel
control program
7. Ongoing
HARVESTING OF
KANGAROOS and
other overabundant native
herbivores in
priority locations
7. Regulate
GROUNDWATER
EXTRACTION and
develop
STEWARDSHIP
PROGRAM to
reduce impacts on
priority waterdependent
ecosystems
8. Anticipate and
monitor the impacts
of CLIMATE
CHANGE on
rangeland
ecosystems and
species
1. Identify high value habitats most vulnerable
to introduced herbivore disturbance
2. Develop comprehensive national
control/containment strategies and priority
target areas for each major feral herbivore
3. Develop local management plans and
landholder stewardship programs for high
value aquatic assets
4. Identify next steps for camel control
program and lobby for ongoing government
funding
5. Fence off artificial watering points in priority
areas to prevent goats and other feral
herbivores from accessing them
6. Develop ongoing monitoring system (link
with ACRIS) and evaluate the effectiveness of
control efforts
7. Support research studies that evaluate
alternative (eg. biological) control mechanisms
and harvesting operations if/where feasible.
1. Survey kangaroo numbers (Red Kangaroo,
Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Western Grey
Kangaroo, Euro) in priority bioregions that are
currently outside monitoring area (link to
existing ACRIS monitoring program)
2. Ongoing regulation and sustainable
harvesting of kangaroos as required
Indigenous Ranger and
park management
programs; TNRM feral
horse control project;
NintiOne managed
national camel control
program; Bounceback &
Living Flinders (Flinders
Ranges SA). Land for
Wildlife rabbit monitoring
and control project in
Alice Springs.
1. Map priority aquatic ecosystems based on
existing knowledge
2. Establish baseline condition of priority
mound springs, wetlands and watercourses
(including fauna and flora surveys)
3. Establish additional groundwater monitoring
sites across the Great Artesian Basin
4. Undertake survey of landholder attitudes to
understand barriers to reducing water
extraction.
5. Run incentives program to address
infrastructure costs and ensure improved
management of priority aquatic ecosystems;
cap unused bores in priority locations.
6. Ensure existing policies align with
sustainable water use objectives
7. Ongoing monitoring of groundwater levels.
1. Investigate the potential contribution of
climate change to different threats such as
inappropriate stock grazing, invasive weeds,
fire and ferals. Adapt management strategies
accordingly
2. Identify climate change refugia and prioritise
for threat mitigation programs (above) and/or
formal protection
3. Identify monitoring sites (linked with
remotely sensed indices) to detect ecosystem
responses to climate change and develop long
term monitoring program
Various water licensing
and permit systems (eg.
Department of Land
Resource Management,
NT)
Horses & Donkeys eg.
Channel Country:
Dalhousie mound
springs and Coongie
Lakes; waterholes of
gorges in northern
ranges
Goats: rugged ranges
supporting threatened
rock wallaby
populations
Camels: vulnerable
habitats at edges of
range
Various kangaroo control
programs in SA, NSW,
QLD and WA
Mulga, Open Grassy
Woodlands, Mitchell
Tussock Grasslands,
Rivers, Floodplains and
Swamps (especially
Mulga Lands, Channel
Country and Mitchell
Grass Downs)
Mound springs in
Coongie Lakes and Lake
Eyre areas, Chenopod
shrublands of southcentral bioregions
NintiOne
Integrating Climate
Change Science
into Rangelands NRM
project (see
http://www.nintione.com
.au/current-work/nrmand-climate-change )
46
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
4. Support research studies aiming to
determine the impacts of climate change on
water-dependent ecosystems in arid areas
6.
Recommended Next Steps for Planning
A considerable amount of planning, research, monitoring and ecological analysis has been done for the
rangelands of central Australia, particularly considering the remoteness of the region. Priority sites of
conservation significance have been determined for Northern Territory, and wetlands of conservation
significance have been mapped nationally in the DIWA database. Threat mapping is reasonably well
advanced for some threats (eg. Buffel Grass: Martin et al. 2012) but is incomplete or very coarse for other
threats (eg. rabbits). Some recommendations for next steps include the following:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
extend the mapping of sites of conservation significance across the whole of central Australia
improve habitat mapping for threatened flora and fauna and refine mapping of critical habitats
(particularly for threatened mammals that are strongly declining, see Appendix 1)
develop national vegetation-specific states and transitions models for major vegetation types
across central Australia (with groundtruthing of condition states linked to remote sensing
approaches)
improve threat severity mapping (based on an understanding of ecosystem susceptibility), which is
currently very coarse for some threats
develop national threat abatement strategies for key continental-scale threats such as Buffel Grass
develop priority project areas through spatial analysis (overlaying updated threat severity maps
over sites of conservation significance)
develop common monitoring framework and standards for major on-ground projects and link with
existing rangeland monitoring tools (ACRIS and others).
develop “S.M.A.R.T.” conservation objectives and management plans for priority project areas in
conjunction with local land management authorities and landholder representatives
47
SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
7.
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SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Appendix 1: Current Status & Trend for Threatened Mammals
HABITAT NOTES
IUCN STATUS
COMMON NAME
EPBC ACT STATUS CODE
NATIONAL TREND
The following table provides up to date information on the habitat requirements and status of threatened
and declining arid-zone mammal species adapted from The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012
(Woinarski et al. 2012).
Dingo
Declining
NT
Wide range of habitats
Little Pied Bat
Data Deficient
NT
Wide range of habitats: mallee, mulga woodlands, chenopod
shrublands, eucalypt open forests etc.
Brush-tailed Mulgara (Mulgara)
Stable or increasing
VU
LC
Spinifex hummock grasslands of dunefields and adjacent
habitats
Kowari
Declining
VU
VU
Softer soils and /or ephemeral swamps of stony deserts
Crest-tailed Mulgara (Ampurta)
Stable or increasing
EN
NT
Sand ridges of dunefields with sparse grasses
Kultarr
Stable or increasing
LC
Open country including sandy and stony country with sparse
shrubs and grasses
Western Quoll (Chudditch)
Mostly extinct from
region
NT
Range of habitats
Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Strongly declining
NT
Open woodlands with perennial tussock grasses
Greater Stick-nest Rat
Extinct in the wild on
the mainland
Ghost Bat
Strongly declining
Bilby (Greater Bilby)
Declining
Hairy-nosed Freetail Bat (Bristlefaced Freetail Bat)
Probably declining
Numbat
Extinct from region
VU
Spinifex hummock grasslands of dunefields and adjacent
habitats
VU
VU
VU
Range of habitats but probably more abundant near rnages
where caves and crevices exist for roosting habitat
VU
3 major habitat types: open tussock grassland on hills, mulga
woodland/shrubland on ridges and rises, and hummock
grassland in plains and alluvial areas
NT
Open woodlands along arid watercourses
NT
Now restricted to gibber plains and alluvial flats in Channel
Country bioregion
VU
Sand dune areas with spinifex
Fawn Hopping-mouse
Probably declining
Dusky Hopping-mouse
Probably declining
VU
VU
Found on stable dunefields where perennial plant species
like Nitre Bush and Sandhill Canegrass persist; however not
in association with Triodia
Marsupial Mole (Itjara Itjara)
Stable or increasing
EN
LC
Sand dune areas and adjacent swales where there is deep
loose sand, common and widespread, less predationsensitive
Central Greater Long-eared Bat
Data Deficient
ssp
LC
Woodlands, mallee and thickets with prominent shrub strata
Black-footed Rock-wallaby
(Warru)
Strongly declining
VU
VU
Rugged ranges, rocky outcrops and surrounding areas
Black-flanked Rock-wallaby
Strongly declining
EN
EN
Rugged ranges, rocky outcrops and surrounding areas
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SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA
Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby
Stable or increasing
ssp
VU
Rugged ranges, rocky outcrops and surrounding areas
Red-tailed Phascogale
Probably declining
EN
Plains Mouse (Plains Rat)
Strongly declining
VU
VU
Now mostly restricted to gibber plains on cracking clays
supporting chenopod shrublands or lignum claupans;
formerly more widespread in various habitats
Central Pebble Mouse
Stable or increasing
LC
Mostly in eucalypt woodlands in association with pebblecovered hills
Pale Field-rat
Strongly declining
NT
Range of habitat types, possible preference for alluvial soils
near watercourses
Julia Creek Dunnart
Probably declining
EN
NT
Tussock grasslands on cracking clay soils
Sandhill Dunnart
Data Deficient
EN
VU
Spinifex hummock grasslands of dunefields and adjacent
habitats
Spectacled Hare-wallaby
Strongly declining in
NT and central QLD
NT
NT
Occurs in a range of woodland and grassland habitats
depending on food supply, sometimes in association with
spinifex
Rufous Hare-Wallaby (Mala)
Extinct in the wild on
the mainland
EN
EN
Spinifex hummock grasslands of dunefields and adjacent
habitats; mulga; low woodlands with tussock grass
Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby
Declining
VU
EN
Wide range of habitats, but preference for transitional
vegetation between dense acacia scrub and eucalypt open
woodlands with an open understorey
Woylie
Mostly extinct from
region
CR
CR
Spinifex hummock grasslands of dunefields and adjacent
habitats
Central Rock Rat
Strongly declining
CR
CR
Quartzite ridgetops and cliffs supporting spinifex grasslands
or shrublands
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SYNTHESIS OF CONSERVATION PLANS AND STRATEGIES FOR CENTRAL AUSTRALIA