Protection for ancient species

The plant community recognised to be at risk features members of the Proteaceae family including Banksias, Grevilleas and Hakeas – all ancient species with a direct lineage to the former supercontinent Gondwana.

This new listing further enhances the region’s acknowledgment as one of the world’s 31 Biodiversity Hotspots and it is hoped will assist in attracting further funding for protection of the environment with flow on benefits to land managers and farmers who may have increased access to funds for fencing and rehabilitation projects.

Among the many benefits of listing this ecological community under the EPBC Act is that the law will at least provide a legal safety net for plants which supply landscapes with the vegetation connectivity essential for providing refuge for endangered birds and animals.

Most farming practices, such as routine property maintenance, land management and other established practices carried out in-line with national and State laws and guidelines covering native vegetation will not be affected by the new listing.

Research carried out by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee as part of an assessment of the region, discovered that the south west’s Proteaceae family had undergone an extreme reduction in integrity due to fragmented geographic distribution and face a severe level of threat in the near future.

Landscape ecologist Nathan McQuoid said Phytophthora Dieback, disturbance from fire and lack of a common understanding of its sensitivities are the biggest threats to this broad and complex plant community.

“This signature community is greatly impacted and therefore threatened by frequent fire and Dieback and the task for management is to better understand disturbance ecology and improve peoples’ understanding of its fragility, especially to Dieback,” Mr McQuoid said.

However, Mr McQuoid said some of the best Banksia dominated examples he had seen exist on private property and that many landholders had done an excellent job in protecting native vegetation on their land by leaving it alone.

“These communities often remain unburnt for much longer compared to plant communities on public reserves, they include some large and luxuriant Banksia stands near Esperance with intact understoreys and thick protective blankets of leaf mulch,” he said.

Activities likely to have a significant impact on this ecological community, including the opening up of land for mining, residential or commercial development, building wind farms or new roads must be referred to the Department of the Environment for an impact assessment and approval.