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BIOLOGICAL diversity, or biodiversity, is the variety of life – all of the living things in our world and the processes and interactions sustaining them.

Biodiversity can be quantified at a number of levels - genes, species, populations, communities and ecosystems.

Species are the most basic and recognisable units for analysing and understanding biodiversity. Higher order (phyletic) and ecosystem diversity are also important but these too are ultimately based on species.

The world is in the middle of a major plant and animal extinction event arguably the most severe since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.

The major difference is the extinctions which have occurred in the past 200 – 300 years have been largely human induced and have taken place over a very short period of time in evolutionary terms. In Western Australia, 25 plant species have become extinct since European settlement and regionally 12 mammals and two bird sub-species are now presumed extinct.

Recent rapid global extinctions have been caused by the clearing of native vegetation for timber, minerals, farming and housing; the introduction of competitive pests and diseases, the over-exploitation of plant and animal stocks for food and the effects of climate change.

The impending extinction crisis and the loss of our planet’s biodiversity is the most far-reaching environmental crisis we face. Biodiversity is impossible to replace.

Understanding the underlying bio-geographical processes that sustain local and global biodiversity values is receiving increasing national and international attention.

Biodiversity Gallery

What we know - values and threats

Significance of the region’s biodiversity

SCIENTISTS have identified 34 ‘biodiversity hotspots’ around the world - areas considered to be of international significance, which support a combination of high levels of endemic species, diversity and threats to biodiversity.

The South West Botanical Province is the unique biogeographic region of south-west Australia, stretching from Shark Bay in the north to Israelite Bay in the south, covers more than 300,000 sq km and is the only international biodiversity hotspot in Australia. The South Coast NRM region occupies the south-eastern part of this province and contributes significantly to its biodiversity values.

Separated from the rest of the continent by desert, the plants and animals in the hotspot have evolved in isolation for millions of years. As a result the area is teeming with life - it is home to more than 5472 known flora taxa (species and sub-species) plant species, many of which are endemic. These include the majestic marri and karri eucalypt trees that can grow to 30 and 70 metres respectively.

The hotspot is home to the endangered western swamp turtle - possibly the most threatened fresh water turtle species in the world. There are also several endemic mammals in the hotspot, including the Gilbert’s Potoroo, which is a medium sized marsupial endemic to the Two People’s Bay and was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1994, and the dibbler which had been thought extinct for 83 years.

Land clearing, feral animals, weeds, fire, altered hydrology, and the soil born water mould Phytopthora cinnamomi threaten the biodiversity values of the hotspot.

The Ravensthorpe Range-Fitzgerald River National Park has 75 plants endemic to the park and 17 to the range, while the Stirling Range has 82 endemic plant species within its national park. There is also a high diversity of plant species at Walpole, Frankland, Stirling Range, Boxwood Hills, Manypeaks and the Bremer Bay to Ravensthorpe area. These high levels of diversity are partly due to the bio-geographical complexity of the region and its geological and climatic history.

The region includes the south-west of Australia’s only ‘mountain’ peaks at the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges and the peaks of the Barren Ranges within the Fitzgerald River National Park.  The Fitzgerald has a complex drainage system, including a range of riverine and estuarine types, complex freshwater and saline wetlands systems and large internally draining areas.

Biodiversity values are extremely high, despite the lack of any kind of biological survey in large areas. However, the level of knowledge and awareness of ecological processes is slowly expanding. Biodiversity contributes to the region's economy and provides ecological processes such as water and air purification and the pollination of food crops. It is valuable for health and wellbeing and contributes to tourism and the beauty of the region.


The Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA), the national ecosystem-based classification, has recognised 89 bioregions around Australia, centred on regional patterns of landform and vegetation. The South Coast region contains two complete IBRA sub-regions (the Fitzgerald and Recherche) and parts of a further five.

The Fitzgerald (ESP01) is the western section of the Esperance Sandplain and includes the Ravensthorpe Range, Fitzgerald River National Park to Cape Riche, and the Stirling Range. It consists of metamorphosed sandstones, Eocene marine sediments with small areas of Proterozoic gneiss and Archaen greenstones and sandsheets with varying levels of lateritisation. Vegetation includes scrub heath, mallee heath, coastal dune scrub, mallee, woodlands on greenstone, yate and York gum woodlands on alluvials and jarrah and marri woodlands in the west.

Recherche (ESP02) is the eastern part of the Esperance Sandplain from Hopetoun to Israelite Bay. It is an area of Proterozoic gneiss and granite, Eocence sediments and more recent coastal limestone. It also includes Quaternary coastal sandplains and dunes plus numerous granitic islands. Vegetation comprises heath, coastal dune scrub, mallee, mallee-heath and granite heath.

In addition, the South Coast contains the southern parts of the eastern and western Mallee bioregion:

The Eastern Mallee is made-up of calcareous clays and loams as duplex soils, often containing sheet and modular kankar, outcrops of metamorphosed sandstone, white and yellow sandplains and loamy plains with numerous salt pans. Vegetation includes mallee on sandplains, samphire around small salt lakes, mallee and patches of woodland on clay and scrub-heath on sandstone. The Western Mallee has clays and silts underlain by kankar, exposed granite, sandplains and laterite pavements and salt lake systems on a granite basement with occluded drainage. Mallee communities occur on a variety of surfaces, while eucalyptus woodlands occur mainly on fine-textured soils, with scrub-heath on sands and laterite.

The western part of the South Coast region is dominated by the Southern Jarrah Forest subregion and the Warren region: The Southern Jarrah Forest (JF2) is part of a broad plateau sloping gently towards the South Coast. Drainage is dissected in the west but the surface broadens and levels in the east causing poor drainage and large lakes, such as Lake Muir and numerous small wetlands. Vegetation comprises a combination of jarrah and marri forest in the west grading to marri and wandoo woodlands in the east. There are extensive areas of swamp vegetation in the south-east dominated by paperbarks and swamp yate.

The Warren (WAR) is dissected undulating country of the Leeuwin Complex and Albany Orogen with loamy soils supporting karri forest, laterites supporting jarrah and marri woodland, leached sandy soils in depressions and plains supporting paperbark and sedge swamps and Holocene marine dunes with Agonis flexuosa forests.

A small part of the eastern part of the Avon Wheatbelt around Tambellup is included in the South Coast region: The Eastern Wheatbelt (AW2) is an ancient peneplain with low relief. There is no connected drainage and salt lake chains occur as remnants of ancient drainage systems which function in very wet years. Lateritic uplands are dominated by yellow sandplain and a mosaic of scrub and woodland. A system of ecozones have been described in the region, in an attempt to subdivide the IBRA subregions. Thirteen ecozones, based on similarities in physical and biological patterns of geology, climatic history, drainage, major soils systems and existing native vegetation have been proposed for the South Coast region.


PARTS of the region were opened up for agriculture during the 1950s and 1960s, with broad scale clearing occurring as recently as the 1980s. Areas have been protected within the conservation reserve system, or retained on private land, so extensive blocks of native vegetation remain. This information is summarised in the Background paper for Biodiversity (DPaW 2011).

The conservation status of Beard vegetation systems has been reviewed, updated and reassessed using the Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative (CAR) analysis report (DPaW, 2011). Eleven vegetation systems in the region have been identified as having 15 per cent or less of their pre-European extent remaining and 13 others have less than 30 per cent. The remaining areas of these vegetation communities are conservation priorities to meet the nationally agreed criteria for the establishment of a CAR Reserve System.

More detailed vegetation mapping is crucial to confirm the relevance of Beard's assessment and provide more strategic directions for conservation priorities in the South Coast region. Some vegetation in specific areas of the South Coast region has been mapped at a more relevant scale by Ken Newby (Department of Parks and Wildlife (formerly DEC) 2011).

More recently, two significant vegetation mapping projects have been completed with the support of South Coast NRM. In 2008, approximately 10,000 ha of vegetation of the northern section of the Ravensthorpe Range was mapped and data digitised.

In 2010 the Albany Regional Vegetation Survey (ARVS) was completed, which provides mapping and supporting digital data for the Albany area’s vegetation - approximately 124,400 ha. The ARVS assists with identification of vegetation communities that are locally restricted and of conservation concern.


The South Coast region encompasses the southern and eastern part of the Southwest Botanical Province where the diversity of landform and soil types and long history of isolation have produced very diverse flora. The rainfall range, from 1400mm per year in the west to 300mm per year in the east, has also contributed to this diversity.

A 2010 analysis of Naturemap data by DPaW recorded the region as containing 5,472 native flora species and sub-species. This is more than 60 per cent of flora existing in the Southwest Botanical Province. Around 694 known plant species are endemic and found only in the South Coast region. While they represent only 12.6 per cent of the region's flora, as endemic species these plants make an important contribution to the biodiversity of the province. Acacia prismifolia is the only plant known to have become extinct in the region over the last 200 years.

However, there are 121 taxa currently at risk of extinction or range reduction and listed as threatened flora. These represent 30 per cent of the State's threatened flora.

Thirty-eight South Coast threatened flora are regarded as critically endangered, 34 are in the endangered category and 49 are listed as vulnerable. A further 793 taxa are listed as priority species which require monitoring or more investigation to determine their conservation status. The proportion of threatened flora populations found entirely within protected national parks and nature reserves has remained fairly stable since 2004, while those occurring outside conservation areas have risen by 5.7 per cent.

These populations account for 30 per cent of the total South Coast threatened flora and may be at significantly greater risk of threatening processes than those within the conservation estate. Twenty-three regional flora species have increased their threatened status since 2004, while nine have had their status reduced.

Their current ranks were determined after extensive survey and following nominations based on IUCN criteria. Six declared rare flora species were similarly analysed and delisted to Priority 4. The conservation status of nine species was reduced during the period due to concentrated survey efforts, implementation of recovery actions and/or enhanced habitat protection.


About 414 species of native vertebrate animals, including 42 mammals, 300 birds, 70 reptiles, 22 frogs and 10 fish are found within the region across habitats according to rainfall, vegetation and landform.

These numbers do not include the multitudes of invertebrate species such as insects, spiders and crustaceans. Twelve species of mammals and two bird sub-species are presumed extinct on the South Coast since European settlement. The South Coast's 59 threatened terrestrial and marine fauna species represent 28 per cent of the state’s total of 209.

Nearly three-quarters of the State’s threatened terrestrial birds and 29 per cent of threatened terrestrial mammals occur here. Endemic ground-dwellers including the noisy scrub-bird, western bristlebird, western whipbird and western ground parrot are present at Two Peoples Bay - Waychinicup, which has been recognised as one of the most important areas for threatened birds on the Australian mainland.

The region has an important part to play in the protection and recovery of threatened fauna - recovery programs for South Coast threatened species are ongoing.

Non-vascular flora and fungi

Our knowledge of non-vascular flora has improved through studies such as a fungi survey within the region, revealing 622 distinguishable taxa. It was recommended to consolidate previous records and add to data on poorly-collected species and images, surveys should continue across the region with a focus on dry woodlands and mallee, as well as in drought susceptible ecosystems due to climatic restraints and the sporadic nature of the emergence of fungi.

The need for continued work on taxonomy, multivariate analysis of fungi distribution, cataloguing and communication to the scientific and non-scientific community was also recognised.

Threatened Ecological Communities

Five Threatened Ecological Communities (TEC), are State listed for the region, including the critically endangered Montane thicket of the eastern Stirling Range and a further 25 are priority listed by DPaW. Recovery plans and recovery teams are current for many of the threatened species and communities. TECs are also recognised nationally under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999.

Reserves system

Reserves in the region contain a high proportion of remaining vegetation. While biodiversity values are better known than in 2004 when Southern Prospects 2004 – 2009 was prepared, management is still limited by a shortage of resources.

Some natural areas are well-connected across the landscape, while others act as stepping stones with limited or no connectivity. Many reserves have detailed management plans directed towards maintaining biological diversity and community values such as low key recreation.

Reserves with high visitor numbers are a focus for biodiversity information and education. DPaW is primarily responsible for terrestrial biodiversity conservation with approximately 4.25 million ha of public land managed primarily for this purpose.

While national parks such as the Stokes, Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid are highly significant in terms of biodiversity, the two largest conservation reserves in the region are the Fitzgerald River National Park and Stirling Range National Park, totalling 413,000 ha.

The Stirling Range National Park is a recognised centre for flora diversity and contains many endemic plants. It is also a significant area for endemic terrestrial invertebrate fauna.

The Fitzgerald River National Park contains a large number of endemic plants and more native mammal species within its borders than any other conservation reserve in southern WA. These include many threatened mammals locally extinct in other areas.

The Fitzgerald River National Park Biosphere Reserve was declared in 1978 under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program and is one of only two such reserves in WA. Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems, promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

The Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 provides for the management of biosphere reserves, including reference to their particular functions in conserving genetic resources, species, ecosystems and landscapes; fostering sustainable economic and human development and supporting demonstration projects, environmental education and training and research and monitoring related to local, national and global issues of conservation and development. Biospheres should ideally include a core reserve area, a buffer zone of other publicly owned land and a zone of cooperation in which sustainable economic and human development is encouraged.

Areas of state forest are also included and the wilderness area extending across the South West and South Coast NRM regions. This consolidated area contains a varied treasure trove of endemic species and assemblages found nowhere else on earth, many of which have relictual linkages to Gondwanan times.

The Gondwana Link partnership has facilitated the purchase of properties in the Corackerup area, while the Friends of the Porongurups purchased the Twin Creeks Reserve, providing a ‘stepping stone’ between the Porongurup and Stirling Range national parks.

Biospheres should ideally include a core reserve area, a buffer zone of other publicly owned land and a zone of cooperation in which sustainable economic and human development is encouraged.

Areas of state forest are also included and the wilderness area extending across the South West and South Coast NRM regions. This consolidated area contains a varied treasure trove of endemic species and assemblages found nowhere else on earth, many of which have relictual linkages to Gondwanan times.

Threatening processes

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, there is a list of threatening processes seen as major concerns for biodiversity protection, of these, the following contribute the largest risks to biodiversity.

Habitat reduction

The opening up of land for broad-acre farming for agriculture, livestock and dairy use between 1950 and the 1980s is the primary reason why much flora and fauna has become rare or threatened.

In many cases, clearing land simply left too little vegetation for viable populations of native plants and animals to survive. More recently, the expansion of urban areas and associated habitat clearing, fragmentation, hardening of surfaces, feral animal invasion, weed introduction and pollution combine to threaten biodiversity values.


Even where some habitat remains in cleared areas, vegetation fragmentation has major on-going effects and the viability of small populations is reduced by isolation. Gene flow between populations may be disrupted or, for sedentary species and poor dispersers, prevented.

Some pollinators may be prevented from reaching the next patch of flowers and movements of seed dispersing agents may be curtailed. Edge effects may dominate small fragments, gradually eroding their biodiversity values by exposing the community to weed invasion and predation.

Plant disease

Phytophthora dieback, a soil borne water mould, kills susceptible plants by destroying their root system, and is one of the most serious threats to the region’s biodiversity. It is spread by the movement of soil – particularly by vehicles and machinery and is now widespread throughout the region’s western districts and in isolated patches in the central and eastern districts. Many plant communities are dominated by families such as Proteaceae (Grevilleas, Banksias, Hakeas and Lambertias) Epacridaceae (heath plants), and Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus, bottle brush, & tea tree) which are highly susceptible to dieback.

This results in plant communities rich in species, turning into ones dominated by a small number of resistant species. Managing access, ensuring appropriate hygiene and selective treatment of susceptible plants with phosphite are important strategies for preventing or reducing the spread of dieback. Other plant diseases include rust, Armillaria and the stem canker Cryptodiaporthe which infects the scarlet Banksia coccinea throughout its geographic range.

Tree decline is apparent in many parts of the region and appears to be often associated with insect attack following other stress, which can include rising groundwater and/or salinity, but may also be associated with other soil and land conditions.

It has been observed in areas where wandoo and yate are in serious decline (associated with water logging and salinity), healthy wandoo exist where native rushes and sedges still occur within the under storey. The loss of native fauna, including birds and small ground-dwelling mammals, is also associated with increased insect damage.

Invasive species

Vertebrate pests such as rabbits and pigs, cause habitat loss and predation by cats and foxes threaten the survival of native fauna on public and private land. Co-ordinated baiting programs such as the Western Shield which quarterly baits 1 million ha, are having significant benefits to agricultural production as well as biodiversity.

The control of cats is an increasing focus, with experimental work being undertaken to increase the ability to undertake integrated fox and cat control in key conservation reserves.

The State Weed Plan lists a number of actions to address Weeds of National Significance and those declared under the Agriculture and Related Resources Act (1976). Common in the region are gorse, blackberry, bridal creeper, skeleton weed and three-cornered bed straw. Other weeds threatening biodiversity include the Victorian tea-tree, Sydney golden wattle and other introduced Acacia

species, African boxthorn, golden dodder and lantana which are often well-established along roadsides and in bushland. Some sub-regions and local groups have developed weed plans as part of their catchment or other local planning strategies.

The diversity of flora is reduced, with environmental weeds dominating and altering the ecology to make it unsuitable for native plant systems to exist, often to the extent that areas become a monoculture of weed species. These structural and compositional changes can lead to increased flammability. An integrated approach to environmental weed management was developed in the Environmental Weed Strategy for WA (Department of Conservation and Land Management, 1999). Many community groups are tackling them on reserves and roadsides and targeted and integrated programs have seen significant reduction of some weed species in some areas.

Inappropriate fire regimes

Fire has been a part of South Coast ecosystems for millennia, causing flora and fauna to adapt to particular regimes for intensity, frequency and seasonality.

Species which have adapted to longer cycles between fires can be eliminated by frequent, high intensity burning, although long periods without fire can also lead to senescence, reduced regeneration and vulnerability to extreme fires. Large scale, intense burning presents the greatest danger to native species in fragmented habitats, as weeds often proliferate after fire, resulting in their establishment at the expense of native flora.

An assessment of the fire sensitive species and communities of the region was completed in 2009 and provides a synthesis of the fire response of various taxa and communities and recommendations for future research and monitoring to inform fire management.

Salinity and altered hydrological regimes

As a result of broad-scale removal of native vegetation, many of the region’s agricultural areas face major impacts from salinisation. Rising water tables and associated surface or sub-surface soil salinisation changes the distribution of species intolerant of salt and waterlogging and is a significant risk to ecosystems.

Many remaining patches of native vegetation, particularly those lower in the catchment, are at risk from the impacts of salinity and waterlogging and may result in the loss of plant communities. Biological surveys carried out in the Wheatbelt region of WA are helping to assess the impact of salinity on biodiversity.

Climate change

The South Coast NRM region has a marked rainfall gradient from west to east and south to north and predicted climatic changes may see this gradient shift to the west and south with less rain inland. Annual average rainfall has declined 20-30 per cent in the south-west over the past 20 years.  Plants not suited to a drier climate and relictual Gondwanan fauna on higher peaks in the Stirling Range are likely to be affected by changing climatic conditions. The impact of sea level change on estuarine and coastal biodiversity is likely to have a marked effect on vegetation and fauna associated with these ecosystems.

DPaW has identified that the following must occur to assist natural systems to adapt to the impacts of climate change:

  • Protect and establish habitat corridors to allow plants and animals to migrate through the landscape as climate change alters environmental conditions and habitats.
  • Protect existing and identify new refuges which provide natural sanctuaries for plants and animals and can protect small, geographically restricted or remnant populations. Populations existing in past climatic refuges will also harbour increased genetic diversity that may allow adaptation to future climatic conditions. Identifying the characteristics of future refuges will be important, as it will influence the design of State national parks and conservation reserves.

  • Build resilience to climate change by reducing the impact of threatening processes, particularly those that may be exacerbated by climate change. To improve ecosystem resilience, DPaW actively works to manage and reduce these pressures.

  • Safeguard the most vulnerable species with long generation times, low mobility, high specific host relationships, small or isolated areas in which they can live and/or low genetic variation. Where climate change is likely to result in such species becoming locally extinct, seed collection and storage or protection in a garden or zoo will be required. Protection of species in this way is considered an essential component of a comprehensive biodiversity conservation program and will be increasingly important as climate change proceeds.

Altered ecological processes

The cumulative effects of European settlement and broad-acre farming practices have resulted in changes to biophysical environments, species composition, nutrient relationships, disturbance regimes and ecosystem dynamics.

Terrestrial and aquatic ecological processes, gene flows and nutrient interactions have changed markedly and while systems have the ability to adapt to new levels and introduced states, there are ramifications and harmful effects to genetic, species and ecosystems for native biodiversity values.


Gaps in our Knowledge

WHILE baseline information and understanding of ecological functions and processes has increased significantly in recent years, some systems are still poorly understood, particularly in the east of the region.

The development of systematic vegetation mapping at scales suitable for strategic planning and management is seen as a priority, especially for Bremer Bay, Hopetoun, Ravensthorpe Range, Recherché Archipelago and the Great Western Woodlands which are all facing development pressures. Priorities include increasing our knowledge of fire sensitive communities and species, predator – prey relationships, impacts of plant diseases on habitat functionality, climate change impacts on threatened taxa and baseline information on short range endemic species. There is a lack of consideration of regional scale, cross-tenure planning for management of biodiversity.

This is especially the case for unallocated or unmanaged Crown land. Property purchased for conservation, such as those bought through the Gondwana Link partnership, and others such as the Twin Creeks Reserve have highlighted the disincentives to private purchase.

These include the costs and difficulties in getting subdivision approvals and the Australian tax system not recognising a ‘public good’ purpose from a commercial business. Schemes such as the Bush Bank Revolving Fund (National Trust) can assist potential purchasers, but are relatively limited. The harnessing of private funds for conservation purchases have not yet been realised due to factors such as the global financial crisis.

While the purchase or securing of private property is recognised as a means to achieve goals outside of the conservation reserve system, gaps relating to off-reserve conservation of habitat needs to be addressed by including development of revegetation programs for key catchments similar to what has been developed for the Bremer River catchment.

To effectively protect the region’s biodiversity, a conservation reserve system must be comprehensive, adequate and representative, similar to previously outlined by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (formely the Department of Environment and Heritage). This requires the establishment and maintenance of a network of reserves, which include representatives from all the region’s ecosystems in areas of sufficient size and diversity to ensure their viability.

A review of the South Coast region’s conservation reserve system must be undertaken to ensure it is adequate and representative and will ensure the persistence of species and ecosystems, especially in view of the threats faced by processes such as climate change. The possible impacts of Native Title determinations on the ability to secure land for conservation, also needs to be considered.

Research on the effectiveness of previous plans, such as fencing for restoration, needs to be undertaken and landholders and managers need to be engaged so the importance of managing biodiversity awareness can be heightened.


ACHIEVING a balance between conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources is the greatest challenge for all communities and has been the subject of many reports, studies and debates.

The economic benefits of commercial enterprises are more readily demonstrated than the less obvious benefits arising from conservation of ecosystems. The sense of place which native flora and fauna and natural landscapes provide, are part of an important legacy which can be handed on to future generations, as is clean water, productive soils and fresh air supported by healthy ecosystems. Some of the trade-offs for consideration within the suite of our potential target outcomes include investment in consolidating and building on baseline information, as opposed to investment in on-ground actions such as fencing, planting, eradicating pest species.

The correct balance of investments is needed to provide improved future effectiveness while valuable assets are maintained. In addition, decisions need to be made relating to the balance of protection of specific threatened species and communities as opposed to the protection of biodiversity at a broader landscape scale. Similarly, whilst investment in strategic, high-value natural assets is important, limiting concentration on certain areas could result in loss of momentum, skills and experience in other parts of the region and exacerbate threatening processes. Public and private land actions are also potential trade-off areas. The dedicated conservation estate is generally considered to be the most secure option, but reservation is clearly not the only means to ensure species and communities are maintained.

The management of isolated remnant vegetation on private property is offering real opportunities to protect flora species susceptible to disease. The public cost of maintaining the reserve system also needs to be considered and supplementary measures on other reserved and private land supported where possible. Investing in compatible land uses that may deliver biodiversity and commercial outcomes such as native plant-based industries offers a win-win situation.

Possible trade-offs between areas, types of actions and outcomes will need to be explored further during development of the South Coast NRM investment plan.


Summary of recent achievements

This summary of achievements was first published in Southern Prospects 2011 – 2016 - the South Coast Regional Strategy for Natural Resource Management.

  • A biodiversity inventory program has been undertaken to undertake the following studies: Regional Salinity Hazard Assessment on Priority Biodiversity Assets, Terrestrial Invertebrates on the South Coast Region, Vegetation of the Ravensthorpe Range and Albany Regional Vegetation Survey. These studies have created information databases and mapping for use by NRM practitioners.

  • Completion of the Phytophthora Dieback Management Plan for the South Coast 2010 - 2017) resulted in the development of regional priority areas based on biodiversity values, including the Walpole Wilderness Area and Fitzgerald River and Cape Arid national parks. In addition, strategic dieback mapping has been undertaken across the entire region, a regional risk assessment has been undertaken and implementation is underway in 10 of the 84 priority areas. Communication programs and a short documentary have raised public awareness.

  • The South Coast Macro Corridor project mapped existing vegetation to assess regional scale linkages between major areas of native vegetation and examined the potential to improve this network of corridors for dispersal, re-colonisation and gene flow between populations.

  • The Malleefowl Preservation Group has played a vital role in the recovery of this threatened species through fox control, corridor establishment and surveying. Their work has spread to other parts of southern WA, where surveys for malleefowl have also been carried out.

  • Establishment of the Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group has provided an avenue for direct community support for the Gilbert’s Potoroo recovery program through fundraising, project assistance, providing information and raising public awareness.

  • Implementation of the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Program supported by an active friends group.

  • The Gondwana Link partnership, including Bush Heritage Australia, the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group, Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park, Greening Australia, Malleefowl Preservation Group, Green Skills, The Nature Conservancy and The Wilderness Society WA, is working towards the protection and restoration of ecological function. This is being done by recreating linkage in the landscape, purchasing and/or covenanting areas of bush, rehabilitating degraded bush, restoring habitat in critical areas and increasing poorly represented vegetation associations. The project is also developing compatible economic enterprises and lifestyle opportunities and facilitates these activities between the South West NRM region and the Western Woodlands of the Goldfields.

  • The Gondwana Link partners have instigated innovative approaches to conservation through involvement of groups such as The Nature Conservancy. philanthropic funding, marketing and other business skills have broadened the approach to landscape conservation. The Gondwana Link project has contributed to the conservation of 11,772 ha of native vegetation on privately owned properties between the Fitzgerald River and the Stirling Range national parks, the two centres of endemism in the region.

  • Greening Australia (WA) formed a partnership with Shell Petroleum to undertake a project called ‘Reconnections’ (2004 – 2009) which involved large-scale revegetation of native plants between the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River national parks. Revegetation of 975 ha has been completed, with more than 60 per cent on private land.

  • The Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting investigated the carbon sequestration potential of revegetation in low rainfall areas using a diversity of native plants and indicated that rates of sequestration are likely to be higher than originally predicted.

  • With limited resources, DPaW is responsible for the management of 1,377,127 ha of land in the region for biodiversity and landscape conservation, including the management of threatened species and communities, fire management, fox control, scientific research and monitoring, visitor access, sustainable tourism and public education. DPaW also contributes to weed and feral animal control and fire management on unallocated Crown land and unvested reserves.

  • Nine threatened species and communities’ recovery teams are implementing plans. An additional four species occurring in the region, which have major populations outside, are also the subject of recovery plans.

  • There are various schemes for covenanting or otherwise dedicating land for conservation purchases and management support available. In WA, Land for Wildlife, a program operated by DPaW, has more than 2,000, covering more than 700,000 ha. There are more than 150 registrations (5,500 ha), most of which are on private property. There are also three registrations from school properties and 13 from properties owned by timber plantation companies. This has resulted in the documentation of about 45,000 ha of land, of which approximately 5,500 ha of bushland was selected as Land for Wildlife sites where nature conservation is the primary focus. Advice has been provided to land managers on management issues like fire, weeds, habitat rehabilitation, wildlife corridors, salinity and dieback.

  • The Albany Hinterland Native Vegetation projects have undertaken large scale revegetation or protection projects to enhance the Fitzgerald to Magenta Bush Corridor and 600 ha of revegetation undertaken on the Yarrabee property owned by Greening Australia, east of the Stirling Range. The Southern Incentives devolved grant has encouraged the protection of native vegetation through funding for fencing, replanting and other protective actions. This, combined with works at the Warden, Young, West, Bremer, Middle Pallinup, Upper Hay rivers and Oyster Harbour has resulted 750 km of fencing to protect remnant vegetation and 1,500 ha of revegetation. Innovation in revegetation tools and techniques now means large areas are feasible, due to the efforts of local champions.

  • The revegetation of native species on 2,832 ha of private land and the erection of 1,430 km of fencing to protect native vegetation. Production of guidelines by Greening Australia for maximising biodiversity benefits of revegetation and a pocket guide in the Bremer River catchment to show suitable native species by soil type.

  • Research and development in the cultivation of native plant-based commercial enterprises with a biodiversity outcome, such as sandalwood, broom-bush, mallet poles and native tubers, is increasing. Greening Australia (WA) and CENRM have been involved in research with Aboriginal organisations. Commercial success of these industries will encourage replanting with benefits for conservation and rehabilitation of degraded land.

  • Control programs for 20 weed species, including Sydney golden wattle, Victorian tea tree and Weeds of National Significance such as blackberry, gorse and boneseed and four vertebrate pests - pigs, foxes, wild dogs and starlings are being implemented across the region in partnership with community groups.

  • The Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo Recovery Plan implemented by BirdLife Australia and other partners, has carried out identification and monitoring of breeding sites, protection and management of breeding and foraging habitat through fencing, weed control and revegetation. The project has also promoted conservation through presentations at community events, school visits and community surveys. Other on-ground works include working with land managers to repair hollows and install breeding boxes.

  • Employment of Vegmachine, software which uses LandSat satellite imagery to determine changes in vegetation cover to create baseline data for the evaluation of changes in biodiversity.

  • Employment of three biodiversity implementation officers and eight NRM and project officers across the region.

  • Increased awareness and education through the Cultural Corridors project undertaken by Greening Australia, Gondwana Link and South Coast NRM to increase and promote awareness of biodiversity values and threats targeting schools, rural land managers and urban residents. Also, distribution of the biannual newsletter ‘Biodiversity NRM News’ with a focus on farmland. Production of a ‘Best Practice Management Toolkit’ to outline techniques to reverse environmental degradation such as groundwater rise and loss of native vegetation. Hosting of various workshops focusing on bushland management and healthy landscapes across the region.

Goals and Aspirations

Aspirations – 25+ years

OUR aspirations for the next 25-plus years as first published in Southern Prospects 2011 – 2016, is for natural ecosystems, habitats and landscapes to be valued, resilient and effectively linked and managed to provide increased viability for native species and communities, as well as:

  • Creating effective protection and management regimes for ecosystems.

  • Protecting and recovering significant taxa, species and ecological communities, including those currently threatened.

  • Minimising impacts of threats on native ecosystems.

  • Maintaining or improving extent, quality and connectivity of native vegetation and ecological communities.

  • Protecting significant landscapes.

  • Maintaining or improving recreational, cultural, commercial and social amenity values of public land.

  • Expanding, linking and creating buffer zones and re-establishing native vegetation.

  • Increasing awareness and understanding of values (including social, cultural and economic) of biodiversity, eco-systems and their functions, impacts of threats degrading processes and possible management responses.

  • Improving ability and willingness of local governments to participate in NRM, including through the use of statutory planning mechanisms.

  • Regional monitoring systems assessing trends in condition, impacts of threats and effectiveness of management actions, with monitored outcomes readily available to wider community and influencing management actions.

  • Building a comprehensive information base on natural ecosystems, habitats and landscapes.

  • Improving understanding of potential impacts of climate change on biodiversity and appropriate management responses.

Goals – 10+ years

Biodiversity-theme goals for the next 10-plus years, as first published in Southern Prospects 2011 – 2016, are:

Goal B1: Biodiversity values: Maintain and/or improve biodiversity values across the landscape for identified priority areas by 2030 using quantifiable targets.

Goal B2: Significant species and communities: Maintain and/or improve extent and condition of threatened and other significant species, communities and habitats by 2030 using quantifiable targets.

Outcomes 1-5 years

Biodiversity-theme outcomes, as first published in Southern Prospects 2011 – 2016.

Measures and monitoring

Outcome B1: Strong information base: Collect and map baseline data for identified gaps in knowledge and collate and improve accessibility and communication of existing data/information by 2012.

Outcome B2. Evaluate priorities: Set priority activities based on an evaluation of the existing prioritisation processes by 2011 (to be informed by review of existing data, community passion and knowledge and prior investments).

Outcome B3. Set benchmarks and measures: Identify reference condition sites for biodiversity values to guide the implementation and monitoring of revegetation and restoration of priorities sites (B1) by 2012.

Outcome B4. Monitor asset condition: Maintain, support and/or expand a biodiversity monitoring program at priority areas to inform management, using appropriate protocols and indicators by 2015.

On -ground actions

Outcome B5. Support recovery plan Implementation: Protect threatened and significant species, communities and habitats by the implementation of 80 per cent of recovery plans by 2015.

Outcome B6. Effective on-ground works: Implement the restoration (restoration as defined by the Society for Ecological Restoration), of 5,000 ha of cleared land in priority areas identified in outcome B3, by 2015.

Outcome B7. Protect private biodiversity resources: Increase area of privately-owned native vegetation valued and managed for conservation of 5,000 ha by 2015, through initiatives such as the establishment of conservation covenants, voluntary management agreements, Land for Wildlife and Indigenous protected areas.

Outcome B8. Improve management practices: Improve management practices for priority areas identified in outcome B2 (including unvested Crown land) through the preparation of grouped, area or theme management plans/agreements commenced or implemented by 2013.

Outcome B9. Management of invasive species: Manage the impacts of priority invasive species and diseases through information sharing, training and on-ground works by 2015.

Outcome B10. Prevention and eradication of emerging invasive species: Prevent the occurrence and spread of emerging invasive species through training, early identification, control and eradication by 2015.

Outcome B11. Improve dieback management: Protect priority areas by implementing identified sub-program projects in the delivery framework of the Phytophthora dieback management plan for the South Coast 2010-2017.

Capacity building

Outcome B12. Support appropriate fire management: Facilitate appropriate fire management for biodiversity conservation by progressing the recommendations from the identification and conservation of fire sensitive ecosystems and species of the South Coast NRM region document by 2015.

Outcome B13. Education: Increase ownership, knowledge and awareness of biodiversity values, threats, and engagement opportunities by 2015.

Outcome B14. Improve awareness and recognition: Raise the profile of the value of and threats to biodiversity assets across the region in relation to local, State, national and international policy and frameworks by 2012.

Planning and policy frameworks

Outcome B15. Climate change adaptation and mitigation: Identify biodiversity assets most at risk from the effects of climate change and associated threats and develop adaptation strategies and actions for them by 2015.

Outcomes B16. Community input: Ensure community input including traditional ecological knowledge is incorporated into planning for biodiversity outcomes in all plans and programs across the region by 2012.

Regional Capacity

UNDERSTANDING and awareness of biodiversity values and management by the general public has increased over the past seven years, but remains inconsistent across the region as conservation does not have strong links with other land management practices.

Engaging and informative projects which result in positive behavioural changes are important to increase the appreciation and protection of biodiversity values outside the conservation estate.

While biodiversity management is largely provided by the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW), its limited resources reduce its ability to extend support to other land managers. In our region, DPaW is located at a regional office in Albany, district offices in Esperance, Katanning and Walpole and a network of outstations manned by rangers. However, the community is becoming ever-more reliant relies on NRM officers for technical knowledge and support.

Local government generally has limited capacity to manage its reserves and roadsides for biodiversity. The City of Albany and shires of Esperance and Denmark employ officers to assist in NRM planning and activities. Several local governments contribute to the employment and resourcing of NRM officers who manage biodiversity projects.

There are large areas of unallocated Crown land, particularly in the north-east of the region and specific management responsibilities for nature conservation (fire and invasive species) have been devolved to DPaW, but there is very limited capacity to do this effectively due to poor resourcing.

There is on-ground support for biodiversity management through two part-time Land for Wildlife officers employed by DPaW based in Albany and Esperance. Rangers and other DPaW officers have an extension role, but demand for service exceeds capacity, as their primary focus is the management of the conservation estate.

Volunteers play an essential role in the delivery of biodiversity protection, particularly for the support of recovery projects for threatened species. This assistance is highly valued and appreciated. Volunteers benefit too, by getting the experience of working with experts in the field and are given the opportunity to visit remote areas.

A number of ‘friends’ groups operate within the region, either on land within the reserves system or supporting recovery programs and teams which deal with threatened species. The Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park have supported the Twertup Field Studies Centre – a resource damaged by fire in 2008.

A bushcare group is active in the City of Albany and promotes restoration of natural ecosystems through control and management of weeds on public and private land.

There is a growing interest in land investment for conservation through purchase and management by private, national and international organisations. Interest has been expressed by those with a special interest in conservation outcomes, while others need to offset for development in other parts of the State.

This is sometimes achieved through subdividing properties, so the purchaser can acquire those parts of the original property that can be managed for conservation of biodiversity. The vendor benefits by receiving payment for the land and the biodiversity values are better managed.

Aboriginal people have a strong interest in increasing their involvement in management for biodiversity, through land traineeships, on-ground enterprises, sharing of traditional ecological knowledge and project work. Joint management of the DPaW managed estate will provide Aboriginal people with a real opportunity to assist in managing and protecting biodiversity.

Project Snapshots

Our Projects

Restoring Gondwana: Revegetating and protecting the forest to Fitzgerald macro-corridor in the south-west biodiversity hotspot

STRETCHING approximately 400 km from the Walpole Wilderness to the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Park, the forest to Fitzgerald macro-corridor is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, ranging from high-rainfall karri and tingle forests in the west, to proteaceous rich sandplains, woodlands and mallee heath as rainfall lowers further eastward.

The objectives of this project are to improve the connectivity of biodiversity across the macro-corridor landscape and reduce the impact of threats such as Phytophthora dieback, feral animals and weeds, with an intention to strengthen the resilience of its ecosystems to climate change and to protect its threatened species.

At its conclusion in 2016, it is expected this project will have restored and/or protected at least 60,767 ha of biodiverse corridors on and adjacent to, cleared agricultural land to reduce fragmentation between core ecosystem areas within the Forest to Fitzgerald macro-corridor.

Underpinning this project are the Lindesay Link, Ranges Link, Forest to Stirlings, North Stirlings Pallinup and Fitz-Stirling conservation action plans, each developed by the community to guide conservation activities in each of these areas. Partners in this project are; Bush Heritage Australia, Gillamii Centre, Greening Australia WA, Green Skills, North Stirlings Pallinup Natural Resources, Oyster Harbour Catchment Group and Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee.



Project dieback

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Opening hours
Mon – Fri 9am – 3pm
Contact details:
Tel: (08) 9845 8537
Fax: (08) 9845 8538

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