Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

North Coast - biodiversity

Plant communities

In the north of the bioregion, soils derived from basalts support sub-tropical and warm temperate rainforests, or wet sclerophyll forests. Dominant species include black booyong (Argyrodendron actinophyllum), white booyong (Argyrodendron trifoliolatum), hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana), climbing palm (Calamus muelleri), rough tree fern (Cyathea australis), Australian cedar (Toona australis), teak (Flindersia australis), white mahogany (Eucalyptus acmenoides), small-fruited grey gum (Eucalyptus propinqua), tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) and Sydney blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna).

In the south of the bioregion on the Barrington Plateau, cool temperate species are more common, including Antarctic beech (Nothofagus moorei), which occurs as a monoculture with a fern understorey. In addition to the fertile areas derived from basalts, rainforests are sometimes found inhabiting protected pockets where plant nutrients have accumulated through organic cycling in litter.

Forests occurring on soils derived from granites are mainly eucalypt vegetation communities. The dominant species include blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis), Sydney blue gum, spotted gum (Eucalyptus maculata), grey gum (Eucalyptus punctata), forest red gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis), red bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera), brush box (Tristania conferta) and white mahogany.

In the coastal dunes, the vegetation sequence includes coast tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum) and coastal wattle (Acacia longifolia) near the beach, with some areas of beach she-oak (Casuarina equisetifolia), snappy gum (Eucalyptus racemosa), blackbutt, dwarf red bloodwood and bastard mahogany (Eucalyptus umbra). Banksia and bangalow palms are found in the dunes and heath and paperbark swamps occur behind the dunes and near the lagoons. Rare patches of rainforest species can be found even here where sufficient nutrients have accumulated.

Estuaries are dominated by mangrove communities composed of Avicennia marina, Aegiceras coniculatum, Exoecaria agallocha and saltmarsh species. Freshwater margins are occupied by swamp oak (Casuarina glauca) and paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) while flooded gum (Eucalyptus grandis) grows on alluvial river flats.

Significant flora

Two hundred and two flora species found in the North Coast Bioregion are listed in the schedules of the TSC Act. Of these, 108 are endangered, 89 are vulnerable and 5 are considered extinct in the bioregion (NSW NPWS 2001).

Several of these species are endemic to the bioregion, including Zieria prostrata and Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek. Z. prostrata is restricted to Moonee Beach Nature Reserve and is listed as endangered in both State and Commonwealth legislation. E. sp Rocky Creek is found in only 4 locations on the southern edge of the Mt Warning caldera and is also listed as endangered in both State and Commonwealth legislation.

Significant fauna

One hundred and fifty-seven fauna species recorded in the North Coast Bioregion are listed in the schedules of the TSC Act (NSW NPWS 2001). Of these, 36 are listed as endangered and 121 are listed as vulnerable.

The subtropical habitats of the North Coast Bioregion are rich in bird diversity, with many endemic species and species with restricted distributions, especially in rainforest habitats where there are also several threatened species.

The bioregion is important for the logrunner (Orthonyx temminckii), paradise riflebird (Ptiloris paradiseus), the vulnerable Albert's lyrebird (Menura alberti), rufous scrub-bird (Atrichornis rufescens) (both the northern vulnerable and near-threatened southern subspecies), the critically endangered Coxen's fig-parrot (Cyclopsitta dipthalma coxeni) and northern species of eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).

The only breeding population of Gould's petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera) occurs on two small islands off the coast of Newcastle.

Numbers of grassland species and ground-feeding insectivorous birds, as well as temperate woodland and forest birds, appear to have declined in the bioregion. This decline in forest birds is against the national trend (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).

The white-headed pigeon (Columba leucomela), long-billed corella (Cacatua tenuirostris), little corella (Cacatua sanguinea), rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) and common myna (Acridotheres tristis) have increased in number in the bioregion. The continued loss of woodland birds, particularly those sensitive to fragmentation, is likely, while rainforests species remain stable (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).

Significant wetlands

Eight significant wetlands have been identified in the North Coast Bioregion (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002). Clarrie Hall Dam supports several significant species, including the vulnerable comb-crested jacana (Irediparra gallinacea) and the endangered black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus).

The Brunswick River Floodplain supports a number of threatened species including the vulnerable comb-crested black bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis), freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa), mangrove honeyeater (Lichenostomus fasciogularis) and the endangered black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus). Threatened flora on this section of floodplain includes the vulnerable bakers wattle (Acacia bakeri) and the endangered Randia moorei.

Cumbebin Swamp provides habitat for the endangered black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) and Mitchell's rainforest snail (Thersites mitchellae). Other vulnerable species recorded are the bush hen (Amaurornis olivaceus), great knot (Calidris tenuirostris), grass owl (Tyto capensis) and the little bent-wing bat (Miniopterus australis).

Cokora Lagoon supports a diversity of wetland birds including the vulnerable brolga (Grus rubicundus), pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris) and the endangered black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus).

Blue Lake is protected in Yuraygir National Park. This wetland provides habitat for the vulnerable brolga (Grus rubicundus), the comb-crested jacana, the endangered black-necked stork and green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea). The endangered little tern (Sterna albifrons) has also been recorded at the lake. The little tern is protected under both the JAMBA and CAMBA agreements. Other vulnerable species include the glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae), rose-crowned fruit dove (Ptilinopus regina) and squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis).

An unnamed swamp next to Kalang River in the Nambucca catchment has also been identified as one of the most significant wetlands in the bioregion. The vulnerable comb-crested jacana and blue-billed duck (Oxyura australis), as well as the endangered black-necked stork, have been recorded at the swamp. Other vulnerable species found here include the glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) and koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).

Lake Innes supports the vulnerable Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) and the endangered black-necked stork. Other vulnerable species recorded here include the osprey (Pandion haliaetus), grass owl (Tyto capensis), koala, greater broad-nosed bat (Scoteanax rueppellii) and wallum froglet (Crinia tinnula).

Grahamstown Lake provides habitat for the vulnerable blue-billed duck and freckled duck as well as the endangered black-necked stork. There have also been many sightings of the vulnerable koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) and the Australian Museum has recorded the vulnerable tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) at the lake.

Threats to the wetlands in this bioregion are numerous and include changed drainage patterns from construction of roads, drains and channels, particularly in expanding urban areas. Cudgens Lake in particular is affected by increased flooding because the lake's entrance is permanently open.

Water quality is continually affected by urban and agricultural runoff such as the discharge of treated sewerage into Port Stephens estuary. Minor impacts have resulted from recreational activities such as camping and bushwalking, with more serious impacts, such as damage to coral reefs from boat anchors, caused by recreational and commercial users of the estuaries. Other impacts include the presence of feral animals and exotic weeds, acid sulfate soils, sedimentation, erosion and grazing pressure.

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Page last updated: 26 April 2016