The vertebrate fauna of North-eastern Blue Mountains National Park

Overview

This report presents the results of a systematic survey and review of existing data on terrestrial vertebrate fauna in the north-eastern section of Blue Mountains National Park. The study area encompasses 19 000 hectares of land between the Great Western Highway and Bells Line of Road, of which the large majority is deeply incised rugged sandstone plateau. It comprises a relatively small proportion of the extensive Blue Mountains - Wollemi National Park reserve system.

The systematic fauna survey was carried out in order to sample the range of habitats present in the study area and improve the understanding of the fauna values in the reserve. On 87 survey sites, birds, bats, arboreal and terrestrial mammals, reptiles and amphibians were sampled. Surveys were conducted between December 2007 and May 2008, incorporating an unusually cool and wet summer.

North-eastern Blue Mountains National Park is characterised by fauna that is typical of Sydney sandstone hinterland environments. At least 211 native species are confirmed to occur, of which twenty-one are listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. Our studies in the broader Sydney Basin region have found this level of fauna diversity consistent across many sandstone reserves. Most of the fauna found in the study area are well represented in the NSW reserve system. A few species, however, are highly threatened with one, the stuttering frog, possibly recently locally extinct in the study area.

Most of the north-eastern Blue Mountains National Park supports rocky dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands. These environments are home to over 20 reptile species and numerous shrub-frequenting birds. These include the endangered broad-headed snake, for which the study area holds high regional conservation significance. In contrast, deeply incised gorges offer considerable protection from sun, wind and fire. Tall eucalypt forests and rainforests form long ribbons of contiguous habitat for a different suite of species including the greater glider and spotted-tailed quoll, and large forest owls.

Some vegetation types are highly restricted in extent, yet provide specialised habitat for a range of important species. The hanging swamps and heathlands provide habitat for a rich suite of frogs and reptiles, as well as some birds uncommon in the Sydney region such as the southern emu-wren, beautiful firetail and Lewins rail. Similarly, species assemblages are largely unique in the shale sandstone transition forests on the eastern boundary of the park. The threatened black-chinned honeyeater and regionally significant Jacky Winter occur here, while habitat is provided for other declining woodland species such as the squirrel glider and speckled warbler. These transitional forests and woodlands are poorly represented in the reserve system and subject to several key threatening processes which are a high priority for management.

Historical records exist for one of the region's most critically threatened species, the brush-tailed rock wallaby, which occupies patchily distributed sites containing rocky cliff lines, boulders and chutes near permanent water. Additional surveys to confirm whether this species still survives in the study area are of highest management priority.

Introduced species were found to be less diverse than in some neighbouring reserves, with the wild dog being the most widespread. Very few fox records are known from the park, though this may be because the prevailing weather conditions at the time of the survey masked fox traces. The highest priority for pest management in the study area is to undertake further survey and control of the emerging problem of feral deer.

This project has contributed greatly to knowledge of the current composition and distribution of wildlife across the study area, identified numerous threatened species, and improved the understanding of conservation management priorities. The data collected for this project will later be used to model habitat for threatened species across the region.


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Page last updated: 17 March 2014