Blue Gum High Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion - critically endangered ecological community listing

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list the Blue Gum High Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion, as a critically endangered ecological community in Part 2 of Schedule 1A of the Act, and as a consequence omit reference to the Blue Gum High Forest in Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Act. Listing of critically endangered ecological communities is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

Note: This Determination has been superseded by the 2011 Minor Amendment Determination.

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. Blue Gum High Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion is the name given to the ecological community characterised by the species assemblage listed in paragraph 2. All sites are within the Sydney Basin Bioregion.

2. Blue Gum High Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion is characterised by the following assemblage of species:

  • Acmena smithii
  • Adiantum aethiopicum
  • Allocasuarina torulosa
  • Alphitonia excelsa
  • Angophora costata
  • Angophora floribunda
  • Asplenium flabellifolium
  • Backhousia myrtifolia
  • Blechnum cartilagineum
  • Breynia oblongifolia
  • Calochlaena dubia
  • Carex maculata
  • Cissus hypoglauca
  • Clematis aristata
  • Clerodendrum tomentosum
  • Dianella caerulea
  • Doodia aspera
  • Elaeocarpus reticulatus
  • Entolasia marginata
  • Entolasia stricta
  • Eucalyptus globoidea
  • Eucalyptus paniculata
  • Eucalyptus pilularis
  • Eucalyptus saligna
  • Eustrephus latifolius
  • Ficus coronata
  • Glochidion ferdinandi var. ferdinandi
  • Glycine clandestina
  • Hydrocotyle laxiflora
  • Leucopogon juniperinus
  • Lomandra longifolia
  • Marsdenia rostrata
  • Maytenus silvestris
  • Morinda jasminoides
  • Notelaea longifolia forma longifolia
  • Oplismenus aemulus
  • Oplismenus imbecillis
  • Oxalis perennans
  • Pandorea pandorana
  • Persoonia linearis
  • Pittosporum revolutum
  • Pittosporum undulatum
  • Platylobium formosum
  • Poa affinis
  • Polyscias sambucifolia subsp. A
  • Pratia purpurascens
  • Pseuderanthemum variabile
  • Pteridium esculentum
  • Rapanea variabilis
  • Smilax australis
  • Smilax glyciphylla
  • Tylophora barbata
  • Viola hederacea

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. Blue Gum High Forest is dominated by a tall canopy of eucalypts that may exceed 30 m in height. Its understorey is typically multi-layered with a midstorey of mesophyllous shrubs and small trees and a diverse ground layer of herbs, ferns and some grasses. Most stands of the community are in a state of regrowth after past clearing or logging activities, and consequently trees may be shorter, less dense or more dense than less disturbed stands. Blue Gum High Forest is dominated by either Eucalyptus pilularis (Blackbutt) or E. saligna (Sydney Blue Gum). Angophora costata (Smooth-barked Apple) is frequently observed in remnants close to the shale/sandstone boundary, but also occurs infrequently on deep shale soils, as does A. floribunda (Rough-barked Apple). Eucalyptus paniculata (Grey Ironbark) is typically found on upper slopes. A relatively diverse stratum of small trees is usually present, and includes Pittosporum undulatum (Sweet Pittosporum), Elaeocarpus reticulatus (Blueberry Ash) and Allocasuarina torulosa (Forest Oak). Shrub species are typically mesophyllous, such as Breynia oblongifolia (Coffee Bush), Pittosporum revolutum, (Yellow Pittosporum), Clerodendrum tomentosum, Notelaea longifolia forma longifolia (Large Mock-olive), Maytenus sylvestris (Narrow-leaved Orange Bark), Polyscias sambucifolia subsp. A (Elderberry Panax) and Rapanea variabilis (Muttonwood). Mesophyllous species are generally more common in gullies associated with both shale and volcanic soils than slopes and ridgetops. Sclerophyllous species such as Persoonia linearis (Narrow-leaved Geebung) and Leucopogon juniperinum (Prickly Bearded-heath) occur more frequently closer to the shale/sandstone boundary. The ground stratum is often dense and contains a mixture of herb, grass and fern species including Adiantum aethiopicum, Entolasia marginata (Bordered Panic), Lomandra longifolia (Spiny-headed Matrush), Calochlaena dubia (Common Groundfern), Dianella caerulea (Blue Flax Lily), Pseuderanthemum variabile (Pastel Flower) and Oplismenus imbecillis. Vine species are also frequently present, in particular Tylophora barbata (Bearded Tylophora), Eustrephus latifolia, (Wombat Berry), Clematis aristata (Old Man's Beard) and Pandorea pandorana (Wonga Wonga Vine).

5. While no systematic fauna surveys have been carried out across the range of Blue Gum High Forest a number of mammal and bird species listed as threatened in NSW have been recorded as resident or transient in the community. These include the Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), Yellow-bellied Sheathtail-bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris), Glossy Black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) and the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua).

6. Blue Gum High Forest is typically associated with soils derived from Wianamatta Shale (Tozer 2003), though may occur in adjacent areas underlain by Hawkesbury Sandstone . The community also occurs on soils associated with localised volcanic intrusions, 'diatremes' (Benson and Howell 1994). Typically, Blue Gum High Forest occurs more than 100m above sea level, where rainfall exceeds 1050 mm per annum, although it may be present in sheltered locations with lower rainfall (Tozer 2003). In drier areas and approaching the shale/sandstone boundary, it intergrades with Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest, which is currently listed as an Endangered Ecological Community under the TSC Act. Stands that exhibit intermediate characteristics are collectively covered by the Determinations of these communities and may be diagnosed by detailed consideration of the assemblage of species present at the site.

7. Vegetation surveys carried out across the range of Blue Gum High Forest include those of Benson and Howell (1990, 1994) and Tozer (2003). All of these studies describe and map this community as 'Blue Gum High Forest', including map unit 6b 'Tall open-forest: Eucalyptus pilularis - Eucalyptus saligna' of Benson and Howell (1994) and map unit 153 of Tozer (2003). In addition, Benson and Howell (1994) map separately that part of this community which occurs on soils associated with diatremes as 'Glen Forest, map unit 6c, i. Tall open-forest: Eucalyptus saligna', noting that this vegetation was 'very similar to the Blue Gum High Forest of the north shore [i. e. map unit 6b]'. Blue Gum High Forest belongs to the North Coast Wet Sclerophyll Forests vegetation class of Keith (2004).

8. Blue Gum High Forest is found on the north shore and northern suburbs of Sydney and has been recorded from the local government areas of Lane Cove, Willoughby, Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby, Baulkham Hills, Ryde and Parramatta within the Sydney Basin Bioregion and may occur elsewhere in the Bioregion.

9. Blue Gum High Forest has a very highly restricted geographic distribution, and is currently estimated to cover an extant area of less than 200 ha (Tozer 2003). The distribution comprises a series of small remnant patches, the largest of which is less than 20ha. Highly modified relics of the community also persist as small clumps of trees without a native understorey. All remnants of the community are now surrounded by urban development. Consequently, the distribution of Blue Gum High Forest is severely fragmented. Fragmentation of habitat contributes to a very large reduction in the ecological function of the community.

10. Prior to European settlement, about 200 years ago, Blue Gum High Forest is estimated to have covered an area of approximately 3700 ha (Tozer 2003). Its current extent amounts to less than 5% of this original distribution. The dominant eucalypts of the community live for several hundred years. Blue Gum High Forest has therefore undergone a very large reduction in its geographic distribution within a time span appropriate to the life cycle and habitat characteristics of its component species. Small-scale clearing associated with residential subdivision, road upgrading, extension and maintenance of service easements, etc. pose a threat of ongoing decline in the extent of the community. Clearing of native vegetation is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

11. Changes in structure of Blue Gum High Forest have occurred as a consequence of the extensive removal of large old trees. A number of stands of Blue Gum Forests have highly modified understories, in which the native woody component has been largely replaced by woody exotic species or by increased abundance of native and exotic grasses. Continued underscrubbing, frequent burning and mowing may maintain the understorey in an artificially open state and prevent recruitment of species with the community. The loss of large trees removes essential habitat for a range of tree-dependent fauna (Gibbons and Lindenmeyer 1996). The reduction of understorey complexity, through the reduction of native shrub cover, degrades habitat for a range of bird and mammal species (Catling 1991). These processes contribute to a very large reduction in the ecological function of the community.

12. The influx of stormwater, which brings excessive moisture, pollutants and nutrients to the remnant forests from surrounding urban areas, is a significant ongoing threat to the ecological integrity of Blue Gum High Forest. This, together with the legacy of past disturbances and the abundance and dispersal of weed propagules from nearby urban areas, results in the invasion, establishment and spread of weeds (Thomson and Leishman 2005). Problematic weed species in Blue Gum High Forest include the following:

  • Asparagus asparagoides
    Bridal Creeper
  • Cinnamomum camphora
    Camphor laurel
  • Lantana camara
    Lantana
  • Ligustrum lucidum
    Large-leaved Privet
  • Ligustrum sinense
    Small-leaved Privet
  • Ochna serrulata
  • Passiflora edulis
    Passionfruit
  • Passiflora subpeltata
    Passionfruit
  • Pennisetum clandestunum
    Kikuyu
  • Rubus ulmifolius
    Blackberry
  • Senna colutioides
  • Tradescantia fluminensis

'Invasion and establishment of exotic vines and scramblers', 'Invasion of native plant communities by exotic perennial grasses' and 'Invasion, establishment and spread of Lantana (Lantana camara L. sens. lat)' are listed as Key Threatening Processes under the Threatened Species Conservation Act. The influx of stormwater, pollutants and nutrients, and the invasion of weeds contribute to a very large reduction in the ecological function of the community.

13. Blue Gum High Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion is eligible to be listed as a critically endangered ecological community as, in the opinion of the Scientific Committee, it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in New South Wales in the immediate 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:

(a) a very large reduction in geographic distribution.

Clause 26

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

(b) very 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:

(a) a very large reduction in ecological function,

as indicated by any of the following:

(b) change in community structure

(c) change in species composition

(f) disruption of ecological processes

(g) invasion and establishment of exotic species

(h) degradation of habitat

(i) fragmentation of habitat

 

Associate Professor Lesley Hughes
Chairperson
Scientific Committee

Proposed Gazettal date: 20/04/07

Exhibition period: 20/04/07 - 15/06/07

References

Benson DH, Howell J (1990) The natural vegetation of the Penrith 1:100 000 map sheet. Cunninghamia 2, 541-596.

Benson DH, Howell J (1990) Taken for granted: the bushland of Sydney and its suburbs. (Kangaroo Press: Sydney)

Catling PC (1991) Ecological effects of prescribed burning practices on the mammals of south-eastern Australia. In: 'Conservation of Australia's forest fauna' (Ed. D Lunney), pp 353-363. (Surrey Beatty and Sons: Sydney).

Gibbons P, Lindenmeyer DB (1996) A review of issues associated with the retention of trees with hollows in wood production forests. Forest Ecology and Management 83, 245-279.

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.

Thomson VP, Leishman MR (2005) Post-fire vegetation dynamics in nutrient-enriched and non-enriched sclerophyll woodland. Austral Ecology 30, 250-260

Tozer MG (2003) The native vegetation of the Cumberland Plain, western Sydney: systematic classification and field identification of communities. Cunninghamia 8, 1-75.