Nature conservation

Biodiversity Reform

South East Corner - biodiversity

Plant communities

The diversity in topography, rainfall and temperature across the bioregion is reflected in the diversity of vegetation communities across the bioregion.

The coastal headlands support heaths dominated by hakea (Hakea sericea), melaleuca (Melaleuca armillaris), coast rosemary (Westringia fruticosa) and dwarfed red bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera). These heath communities occupy shallow soils subject to high salt spray input and frequent fire.

Moving inland, vegetation changes markedly with altitude. Red bloodwood and spotted gum (Eucalyptus maculata) forests dominate to an altitude of about 100-200m. Above 200m, yellow stringybark (E. muellerana), grey ironbark (E. paniculata) and woollybutt (E. longifolia) associations are found, with brown barrel (E. fastigata), blue-leaved stringybark (E. agglomerata), messmate (E. obliqua) and monkey gum (E. cypellocarpa) associations occurring to about 900m. Narrow-leaved peppermint (E. radiata) and snow gum (E. pauciflora) are common at the highest altitudes.

Latitude differences are also evident, with Sydney peppermint (E. piperita), large-fruited red mahogany (E. pellita), Sydney blue gum (E. saligna) and spotted gum being found in the northern part of the region. Blue box (E. bauerana), bangalay (E. botryoides), coastal grey box (E. bosistoana) and woollybutt are found further to the south. Granite areas commonly support forest red gum (E. tereticornis) and blue gum (E. globulus), while black ash (E. sieberi) can be found in almost all forest environments.

In the lower Snowy River valley the steep slopes, well-drained coarse granite soils and low rainfall support very different vegetation. Vegetation communities here are dominated by white box (E. albens), black cypress pine (Callitris endlicheri), and scattered kurrajong (Brachychiton populneum). Towards the top of the steeper slopes with northerly aspects, soils derived from volcanic and sedimentary rocks support very rare acacia dry scrub communities dominated by Acacia silvestris and Eriostemon trachyphyllus. These scrubs are dependent on periodic intense fire for their long-term survival.

Small patches of temperate rainforest with sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) and lilly pilly (Acmena smithii) occur in gully heads and as a gallery forest along major streams in sheltered locations. River oak (Casuarina cunninghamiana) is also present along most steams.

The coastal dune pattern is much the same as elsewhere in NSW with an inland forest of various banksia, bangalay (E. botryoides) and blackbutt (E. pilularis). Estuaries support small areas of stunted mangrove (Avicennia marina) and salt marsh, with a fringe of swamp oak (Casuarina glauca).

Significant flora

Forty-four species from the NSW part of the South East Corner Bioregion are listed in the schedules of the TSC Act (NSW NPWS 2001). Of these, 17 are listed as endangered, 26 are listed as vulnerable and one species, Prostanthera marifolia, is considered extinct in the bioregion.

In the outlying portion of the South East Corner Bioregion tall woodland dominated by E. albens and Callitris spp. is found along dry and exposed aspects of the Snowy River. It is the only occurrence of this association east of the Snowy Mountains and hence a significant one. It is protected in Kosciuszko National Park (NSW NPWS 1988). Another significant association known as the "black scrubs", consisting of a coastal remnant rainforest species, Acacia sylvestris, an inland wattle A. doratoxylon and a shrub Eriostemon trachyphyllus, can also be found in the outlying part of the bioregion (NSW NPWS 1988).

Significant fauna

Eighty-eight fauna species from the NSW part of the South East Corner Bioregion are listed in the schedules of the TSC Act (NPWS 2001). Of these, 19 are listed as endangered and 69 are listed as vulnerable. Of particular note is the endangered long-footed potoroo (Potorous longipes), the only occurrence of which in NSW is in this bioregion. It has been recorded in the South East Forests National Park and nearby state forests (NSW NPWS 1999).

Compared to other bioregions the South East Corner is reasonably intact, with just under 20 per cent of its native canopy having been cleared, but the bioregion is considered to be in the intensive use zone and many forests in the bioregion have been logged intensively (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).The bioregion supports several threatened bird species, including the vulnerable mainland subspecies of ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus), the southern subspecies of eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) in coastal heaths and the eastern subspecies of hooded plover (Thinornis rubricollis) on beaches.

The ranges of birds in the bioregion tend to be fairly restricted and, contrary to national trends, a decline in species of forest birds is evident, particularly cockatoos, owls and treecreepers, as well as many smaller bush birds (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002). Declines in woodland, ground-feeding insectivores and some grassland birds are also evident. On a more encouraging note, species such as the white-headed pigeon (Columba leucomela) and spotted turtle-dove (Streptopelia chinensis) seem to have increased in number in the bioregion (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002).

Significant wetlands

There were no bioregionally significant wetlands recorded in the NSW part of the South East Corner Bioregion (Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Audit 2002). A number of wetlands in the bioregion are regarded as nationally important and listed in the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (ANCA 1996).

These wetlands are exposed to a variety of threats including runoff from surrounding urban areas, impacts from feral animals and exotic weeds, grazing pressure, pollution from recreational boating and storm water runoff. Other impacts include increasing fragmentation due to development, changed hydrology from barrage construction, soil erosion from tracks and roads, increasing development and population, construction of marine structures e.g. groynes, professional fishing and recreational four-wheel driving.

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Page last updated: 18 April 2016