Artesian Springs Ecological Community - Determination to make a minor amendment to Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act

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 Artesian Springs Ecological Community (as described in the determination of the Scientific Committee under Division 5 Part 2) and as a consequence to omit reference to the Artesian Springs Ecological Community (as described in the final determination to list the ecological community) which was published on pages 3684 to 3688 in the NSW Government Gazette No. 97 dated 15 June 2001. 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.

This determination has been superseded by the 2015 Determination (Critically endangered ecological community listing).

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. The Artesian Springs Ecological Community is the name given to the ecological community that is naturally restricted to artesian springs at the southern and western margins of the Great Artesian Basin in north western NSW.

2. The vegetation within the community frequently consists of sedges or similar vegetation (Pickard 1992). Trees and shrubs may be adjacent to, or nearby, the springs. Plant assemblages differ between springs. As the springs have been a focus for domestic and feral animals for nearly 150 years, the flora has become less specifically related to the permanent water and more typical of a heavily disturbed area (Pickard 1992). A number of exotic species also occur in the community. The Artesian Springs Ecological Community is variable as each individual spring varies in shape, water flow, topographic and geographic location. In general, the Artesian Springs are characterised by a suite of plant species generally associated with water (Pickard 1992):

Abutilon otocarpum

Acacia victoriae

Alternanthera denticulata

Alternanthera angustifolia

Atriplex spp.

Boerhavia coccinea

Calandrinia ptychosperma

Centipeda minima

Centipeda thespidioides

Chamaesyce drummondii

Chenopodium cristatum

Chenopodium melanocarpum

Chloris pectinata

Cyperus bulbosus

Cyperus difformis

Cyperus gymnocaulos

Cyperus iria

Cyperus laevigatus

Cyperus squarrosus

Dactyloctenium radulans

Diplachne fusca

Dodonaea viscosa subsp. angustissima

Einadia nutans subsp. nutans

Eragrostis spp.

Eremophila deserti

Eremophila sturtii

Eucalyptus largiflorens

Eucalyptus populnea

Geijera parviflora

Glinus lotoides

Marsilea spp.

Myoporum montanum

Oxalis sp.

Pimelea microcephala subsp. microcephala

Portulaca oleracea

Sclerolaena spp.

Sclerostegia sp.

Solanum esuriale

Sporobolus caroli

Sporobolus mitchellii

Stemodia florulenta

Swainsona spp.

Trianthema triquetra

3. The total species list of the community is considerably larger than that given in 2 (above), with many species present in only one or two sites or in very small quantity. In any particular site only a small component of the assemblage listed in 2 may be present. At any one time, seeds of some species may only be present in the soil seed bank with no above-ground individuals present. The species composition of the site will be influenced by the size of the site, its disturbance history and the water status of each spring.

4. The ecological community is naturally rare. The springs are characterised by mounds of sediment and salts deposited as water evaporates (Ponder 1986, 1999) or may be depressions. Unique aquatic invertebrate, vertebrate and plant communities occupy the springs. Where artesian water emerges at the surface through fault lines in the overlying rock, mounds form from salts and sediments as the water evaporates. These occur at the edges of the Great Artesian Basin. Most occur in Queensland and South Australia and a few occur in the Mulga Lands, Darling Riverine Plains and Cobar Peneplain Bioregions of New South Wales. Bioregions are defined in Thackway and Cresswell (1995).

5. The “community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin” is listed as an Endangered Ecological Community under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, 1999.

6. The Artesian Springs Ecological Community is described by Pickard (1992) and by Sattler and Williams (1999) for Queensland. Approximately 45 sets of springs occur in north western NSW. Some 30 still have permanent seeps or slight flows of artesian water (Pickard 1992).

7. Systematic surveys of Artesian Springs fauna are limited in NSW. In Queensland and South Australia, the springs are described as supporting unique aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates. Many unique freshwater snails and fishes (desert gobies) have been collected from mound springs and have been recorded nowhere else. Many species occur in one spring only (Ponder 1986, 1999).

8. Flora studies at Peery Lake have found that the only known population of Schoenoplectus pungens in far western NSW occurs at Peery Lakes Springs (Bowen and Pressey 1993). The endangered species of perennial forb, Eriocaulon carsonii (Salt Pipewort) has been recorded at several springs at Peery Lake.

9. Major threats to Artesian Springs Ecological Community are trampling and grazing by stock and feral animals such as pigs, goats and rabbits, alteration of flow or unsustainable extraction of water from artesian bores reducing flows to the mound springs. A number of springs have dried in the past 100 years due to falling water pressure caused by over-extraction. This has probably caused the extinction of undescribed species of aquatic invertebrates (Ponder 1986, 1999).

10. The only Artesian Springs that are within a reserve are at Peery Lake in Peery National Park. However, presence in the conservation reserve will not protect the ecological community from the threat of alteration of flows as the unsustainable extraction of artesian water occurs outside the reserve, yet may influence all mound springs within the region.

11. In view of the above, the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the Artesian Springs Ecological Community in New South Wales is likely to become extinct in nature unless factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate.

Dr Richard Major
Scientific Committee

Proposed Gazettal date: 02/12/11
Exhibition period: 02/12/11 – 03/02/12


Bowen, R. and Pressey, B.(1993) Localities and habitats of plants with restricted distributions in the Western District of New South Wales. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Occasional Paper No. 175.

Pickard, J. (1992) Artesian Springs in the Western Division of New South Wales. Graduate School of the Environment Working Paper Series No. 9202, pp. 1-120.

Ponder, W.F. (1986) Mound Springs of the Great Artesian Basin. pp 403-420 In de Deckker, P. and Williams W.D. ( Eds), Limnology in Australia. CSIRO, Melbourne and W. Junk, The Hague.

Ponder, W.F. (1999) Box 4.5, Mound Springs. p 50 In Boulton, A.J. and Brock, M.A. Australian Freshwater Ecology: processes and management. Glen Eagles Publishing, Adelaide.

Sattler, P.S. and Williams, R.D. (1999) The Conservation Status of Queensland's Bioregional Ecosystems. Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

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