Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion - Determination to make a minor amendment to Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act

NSW Scientific Committee

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Determination to make a minor amendment to Part 3 of Schedule 1 (Endangered ecological communities) of the Act by inserting the Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion (as described in the determination of the Scientific Committee under Division 5 Part 2) and as a consequence to omit reference to the Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion (as described in the final determination to list the ecological community) which was published on pages 4682 to 4688 in the NSW Government Gazette No. 109 dated 31 July 2009. Minor amendments to the Schedules are provided for by Division 5 of Part 2 of the Act.

 

The Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the amendment is necessary or desirable to correct minor errors or omissions in the Determination in relation to the Thackway and Cresswell (1995) reference.

 

The Scientific Committee has found that:

 

1. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion is the name given to the ecological community characterised by the species listed in paragraph 2, and which at maturity typically has a tall open canopy of eucalypts with a structurally complex understorey including rainforest trees and shrubs, vines, ferns and herbs. Structural characteristics of the community may vary, depending on the intensity and nature of past disturbances including fire, logging and partial clearing.

 

2. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest is characterised by the following assemblage of species:

 

Abutilon oxycarpum

Acacia irrorata

Acacia maidenii

Acronychia oblongifolia

Alchornea ilicifolia

Alectryon subcinereus

Alectryon tomentosus

Alphitonia excelsa

Alyxia ruscifolia

Araucaria cunninghamii

Arytera divaricata

Breynia oblongifolia

Bridelia exaltata

Celastrus subspicatus

Cissus antarctica

Cordyline petiolaris

Croton insularis

Croton verreauxii

Cupaniopsis parvifolia

Cyperus gracilis

Derris involuta

Dianella caerulea

Diospyros australis

Diospyros pentamera

Doodia aspera

Drypetes deplanchei

Elaeodendron australe

Eucalyptus biturbinata

Eucalyptus moluccana

Eucalyptus propinqua

Eucalyptus siderophloia

Euroschinus falcatus

Gahnia aspera

Geijera latifolia

Geitonoplesium cymosum

Gossia bidwillii

Guioa semiglauca

Hibiscus heterophyllus

Imperata cylindrica

Jagera pseudorhus

Jasminum volubile

Lepidosperma laterale

Lomandra longifolia

Lophostemon confertus

Maclura cochinchinensis

Mallotus philippensis

Maytenus bilocularis

Melaleuca salicina

Myrsine variabilis

Notelaea longifolia

Ottochloa gracillima

Pandorea pandorana

Pellaea falcata

Pittosporum multiflorum

Pittosporum revolutum

Polyscias elegans

Psychotria daphnoides

Psydrax odorata subsp. buxifolia

Pyrrosia rupestris

Rauwenhoffia leichhardtii

Smilax australis

Solanum stelligerum

Tetrastigma nitens

 

3. The total species list of the community is considerably larger than that given above, with many species present in only one or two sites or in low abundance. The species composition of a site will be influenced by the size of the site, recent rainfall or drought condition and by its disturbance (including fire) history. The number of species, and the above ground relative abundance of species will change with time since fire, and may also change in response to changes in fire regime (including changes in fire frequency). At any one time, above ground individuals of some species may be absent, but the species may be represented below ground in the soil seed banks or as dormant structures such as bulbs, corms, rhizomes, rootstocks or lignotubers. The list of species given above is of vascular plant species; the community also includes micro-organisms, fungi, cryptogamic plants and a diverse fauna, both vertebrate and invertebrate. These components of the community are poorly documented.

 

4. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest is typically dominated by an open tree canopy of Eucalyptus moluccana (Grey Box) and Eucalyptus propinqua (Grey Gum) and, less commonly, Eucalyptus biturbinata (Grey Gum), Eucalyptus siderophloia (Grey Ironbark) and Araucaria cunninghamii (Hoop Pine). Some botanists apply the name Eucalyptus punctata in a broad sense to include E. biturbinata. The understorey typically includes a diverse and prominent stratum of rainforest trees and shrubs including Maytenus bilocularis (Orangebark), Guioa semiglauca (Guioa), Mallotus philippensis (Red Kamala), Psychotria daphnoides (Smooth Psychotria), Notelaea longifolia (Large Mock-olive) and Polyscias elegans (Celery Wood). Vines, including Cissus antarctica (Water Vine), Derris involuta (Native Derris), Smilax australis (Austral Sarsaparilla), Celastrus subspicatus (Large-leaved Staff Vine), Pandorea pandorana (Wonga Vine) and Geitonoplesium cymosum (Scrambling Lily) commonly grow over and amongst the understorey shrubs and trees. The groundcover comprises graminoid herbs, including Cyperus gracilis (Slender Flat-sedge), Gahnia aspera (Red-fruited Saw Sedge), Ottochloa gracillima (Ottochloa) and Lomandra longifolia (Spiny-headed Matrush), and ferns, including Doodia aspera (Rasp Fern). Mature stands of the community are typically tall open-forest or open-forest with a structurally complex, multi-stratum understorey, while regrowth stands or recently disturbed stands may take on the structure of low closed forest or scrub, or may have simplified understorey structure, depending on the nature of the disturbance and the time elapsed since.

 

5. A number of threatened species occur within, or may use habitat resources associated with Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest. These include the following:

 

FLORA

 

 

Clematis fawcettii

Northern Clematis

Vulnerable

Corchorus cunninghamii

Native Jute

Endangered

Marsdenia longiloba

 

Endangered

Rhynchosia acuminatissima

Pointed Trefoil

Vulnerable

Tinospora smilacina

Tinospora Vine

Endangered

 

 

 

FAUNA

 

 

Mixophyes iteratus

Giant Barred Frog

Endangered

 

 

 

Hoplocephalus stephensii

Stephens’ Banded Snake

Vulnerable

 

 

 

Calyptorhynchus lathami

Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Vulnerable

Coracina lineata

Barred Cuckoo-shrike

Vulnerable

Ninox connivens

Barking Owl

Vulnerable

Ninox strenua

Powerful Owl

Vulnerable

Petaurus australis

Yellow-bellied Glider

Vulnerable

Petaurus norfolcensis

Squirrel Glider

Vulnerable

Ptilinopus magnificus

Wompoo Fruit-dove

Vulnerable

Ptilinopus regina

Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove

Vulnerable

Pyrrholaemus sagittatus

Speckled Warbler

Vulnerable

Tyto novaehollandiae

Masked Owl

Vulnerable

Tyto tenebricosa

Sooty Owl

Vulnerable

 

 

Dasyurus maculatus

Spotted-tailed Quoll

Vulnerable

Kerivoula papuensis

Golden-tipped Bat

Vulnerable

Macropus dorsalis

Black-striped Wallaby

Endangered

Miniopterus australis

Little Bentwing-bat

Vulnerable

Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis

Eastern Bentwing-bat

Vulnerable

Myotis adversus

Large-footed Myotis

Vulnerable

Phascogale tapoatafa

Brush-tailed Phascogale

Vulnerable

Phascolarctos cinereus

Koala

Vulnerable

Potorous tridactylus

Long-nosed Potoroo

Vulnerable

Pteropus poliocephalus

Grey-headed Flying-fox

Vulnerable

Scoteanax rueppellii

Greater Broad-nosed Bat

Vulnerable

 

6. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest typically occurs on the escarpment slopes and foothills of north-eastern NSW, most commonly between 200 and 500m elevation, where mean annual rainfall exceeds approximately 1000mm and has a summer maximum (DECC 2008). Soils that support the community are relatively fertile and derived from a range of igneous (including acid volcanic, basic volcanic and intrusive igneous) or fine-grained sedimentary rocks.

 

7. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest is currently known from the local government areas of Kyogle and Tenterfield, but may occur elsewhere within the NSW North Coast bioregion (sensu Thackway and Cresswell 1995).

 

8. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest includes ‘Grey Box - Northern Grey Gum’ (Forest Type 81) of Baur (1989) and ‘Grey Box - Northern Grey Gum’ (Forest Ecosystem 62) of NPWS (1999). It belongs to the North Coast Wet Sclerophyll Forests vegetation class of Keith (2004).

 

9. All known records of Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest occur within three locations in north-eastern NSW: the vicinity of Bald Knob State Forest to the west and north-west of Woodenbong; Unumgar State Forest and Mt Lindesay State Forest (east of Woodenbong); and the Mallanganee district to the south-east of Bonalbo. Mapping by NPWS (1999) indicates that the community is scattered amongst these locations in patches totalling approximately 510 ha. Based on a grid scale of 4km2 (IUCN 2008), its area of occupancy is estimated to be 68 km2. All records of the community fall within a total extent of occurrence estimated to be approximately 500 km2. All of these estimates indicate that the community has a highly restricted distribution.

 

10. Since European settlement, and relative to the longevity of its dominant trees, which live for several hundred years, Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest has undergone a large reduction in geographic distribution. NPWS (1999) estimated that approximately 69% of its former extent has been cleared. This large reduction is evident from relic trees of characteristic species that remain in otherwise cleared landscapes within the community’s extent of occurrence (DECC 2008). Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest continues to be threatened by small-scale clearing, particularly where it occurs on fertile soils that are suitable for agriculture. ‘Clearing of native vegetation’ is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

 

11. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest has undergone changes in structure, including loss of hollow-bearing trees, as a consequence of timber harvesting. Much of the community is currently in a state of regrowth after past logging activity. DECC (2008) estimates that over half of the remaining areas exhibit moderately high to very high levels of disturbance. The upper stratum is nearly always dominated by regrowth trees with very few mature or senescent trees remaining in the areas surveyed. Most of the remaining stands are within State Forests that may be prone to future logging operations. The loss of hollow-bearing trees, which provide important fauna habitat, and other structural changes associated with timber harvesting and partial clearing activities are indicative of a large reduction in ecological function of the community. ‘Loss of hollow-bearing trees’ is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

 

12. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest is also potentially threatened by grazing and inappropriate fire regimes. Cattle grazing is practiced in large areas of freehold and leasehold eucalypt forest in north-east NSW, including Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest. Frequent burning of the understorey is carried out as part of forest management for both cattle production and timber production. There is evidence that such burning and grazing practices result in a large reduction in ecological function associated with changes in the structure, diversity and composition of a range of eucalypt forest communities in northern NSW (York 1999, 2000; Andrew et al. 2000; Henderson and Keith 2002; Harris et al. 2003; York and Tarnawski 2004; Tasker and Bradstock 2006). ‘High frequency fire resulting in disruption of life cycle processes in plants and animals and loss of vegetation structure and composition’ is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

 

13. Clearing activity, grazing, frequent burning and other disturbances accelerate the invasion of weeds into Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest. The most significant of these is Lantana camara (Lantana) which was recorded in 19 of 20 documented vegetation sites of Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest (DECC 2008). Lantana dominated the mid stratum at many of these sites. Infestations of this species have been identified as one of several factors implicated in widespread forest eucalypt dieback in eastern NSW (Wardell-Johnson et al. 2006). The invasion and establishment of exotic species in Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest results in a large reduction in the ecological function of the community. ‘Invasion, establishment and spread of Lantana (Lantana camara L. sens. lat)’ is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

 

14. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion is not eligible to be listed as a critically endangered ecological community.

 

15. Grey Box - Grey Gum Wet Sclerophyll Forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion is eligible to be listed as an Endangered Ecological Community as, in the opinion of the Scientific Committee, it is facing a very high risk of extinction in New South Wales in the near future, as determined in accordance with the following criteria as prescribed by the Threatened Species Conservation Regulation 2002:

 

Clause 25

The ecological community has undergone, is observed, estimated, inferred or reasonably suspected to have undergone or is likely to undergo within a time span appropriate to the life cycle and habitat characteristics of its component species:

(b) a large reduction in geographic distribution.

 

 

Clause 26

The ecological community’s geographic distribution is estimated or inferred to be:

(b) highly restricted,

and the nature of its distribution makes it likely that the action of a threatening process could cause it to decline or degrade in extent or ecological function over a time span appropriate to the life cycle and habitat characteristics of the ecological community’s component species.

 

Clause 27

The ecological community has undergone, is observed, estimated, inferred or reasonably suspected to have undergone or is likely to undergo within a time span appropriate to the life cycle and habitat characteristics of its component species:

(b) a large reduction in ecological function,

as indicated by any of the following:

(d) change in community structure

(g) invasion and establishment of exotic species

(h) degradation of habitat.

 

 

Dr Richard Major

Chairperson

Scientific Committee

 

Proposed Gazettal date: 08/07/11

Exhibition period: 08/07/11 - 02/09/11

 

References

 

Andrew N, Rodgerson L, York A (2000) Frequent fuel reduction burning: the role of logs and associated leaf litter in the conservation of ant biodiversity. Austral Ecology 25, 99-107.

 

Baur GN (1989) ‘Research Note 17 Forest Types in New South Wales. Forestry Commission of New South Wales, Sydney.

 

DECC (2008) Nomination to list Grey Box (Eucalyptus moluccana) Grey Gum (Eucalyptus propinqua/Eucalyptus punctata) wet sclerophyll forest in the NSW North Coast Bioregion as an Endangered Ecological Community under the NSW TSC Act 1995. Department of Environment and Climate Change, Coffs Harbour.

 

Harris R, York A, Beattie AJ (2003) Impacts of grazing and burning on spider assemblages in dry eucalypt forests of north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. Austral Ecology 28, 526-538.

 

Henderson M, Keith DA (2002) Correlation of burning and grazing indicators with the composition of the woody understorey flora of dells in a temperate eucalypt forest. Austral Ecology 27, 121-131.

 

IUCN (2008) ‘Guidelines for using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 7.0.’ (Standards and Petitions Working Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Biodiversity Assessments Sub-committee: Switzerland)

 

Keith DA (2004) ‘Ocean shores to desert dunes: the native vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT.’ NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Sydney.

 

NPWS (1999) Forest ecosystem classification and mapping for the upper and lower north east Comprehensive Regional Assessment. Report to Resource and Conservation Division, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, Sydney.

 

Tasker EM, Bradstock RA (2006) Influence of cattle grazing practices on forest understorey structure in north-eastern New South Wales. Austral Ecology 31, 490-502.

 

Thackway R, Cresswell ID (1995) An interim biogeographic regionalisation for Australia: a framework for setting priorities in the National Reserve System Cooperative Program. (Version 4.0 Australian Nature Conservation Agency: Canberra).

 

Wardell-Johnson G, Stone C, Recher H, Lynch J (2006) Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) Independent Scientific Literature Review. A review of eucalypt dieback associated with Bell miner habitat in north-eastern New South Wales. Occasional Paper DEC 2006/116. NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Coffs Harbour.

 

York A (1999) Long-term effects of repeated prescribed burning on forest invertebrates: management implications for the conservation of biodiversity. pp 181-266 in: ‘Australia’s biodiversity - responses to fire: plants, birds and invertebrates’ (Eds. AM Gill, JCZ Woinarski, A York). Biodiversity Technical Paper No. 1. Environment Australia, Canberra.

 

York A (2000) Long-term effects of frequent low-intensity burning on ant communities in coastal blackbutt forests of southeastern Australia. Austral Ecology 25, 83-98.

 

York A, Tarnawski J (2004) Impacts of grazing and burning on terrestrial invertebrate assemblages in dry eucalypt forests of north-eastern New South Wales: Implications for biodiversity conservation. pp. 845-859 in: ‘Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna’ (Ed. D Lunney ). Second edition. Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.

Page last updated: 08 July 2011