Conservation Significant Ecological Communities

Threatened Ecological Communities

Since European settlement, enormous strain has been place upon the unique bush, wetlands and other habitats within Australia. The rapidly expanding population further adds pressure to many ecological communities and some now face extinction.

Threats include: clearing of native vegetation, inappropriate fire regimes, pests, climate change, changes in hydrology, pollution, and urban development.

In Australia three categories exist for the listing of threatened ecological communities (TECs) under the EPBC Act:

  1. critically endangered,
  2. endangered, and
  3. vulnerable (DotE, 2014).

Within Western Australia, a number of communities have been informally listed as Threatened Ecological Communities on the TEC database (DPaW, 2014). A total of 32 TECs have been identified within the Northern Agriculture Region.

For more information on these categories see ‘How does an ecological community become listed as threatened?’ or for a list of TECs see ‘TECs endorsed by the WA minister for the Environment list’.

A total of 32 threatened ecological communities have been identified within the Northern Agriculture Region.

Priority Ecological Communities

Where a ecological community is considered to be under threat and there is limited information available, they are allocated with a priority level. This type of community is classified as a Priority Ecological Community (PECs) (DPAW, 2014). A total of 51 PECs have been identified within the Northern Agriculture Region. To see a list of PECs see ‘Priority Ecological Communities for Western Australia’.

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Data sourced from Landgate Locate, DPaW, DAFWA, WWF and DoW.

Threatened Ecological Communities

  • Shrublands and Woodlands on Muchea Limestone

    This Endangered community is located within the Shires of Gingin and Chittering, as is described on page 3 of Interim Recovery Report No. 57 as occurring on the heavy soils of the eastern side of the Swan Coastal Plain, with the following native species being common – Casuarina obesa, Eucalyptus decipiens, Eucalyptus foecunda, Melaleuca huegelii, Alyogyne huegelii var. huegelii, Grevillea curviloba ssp. incurva, Grevillea curviloba ssp. curviloba, Grevillea evanescens, Melaleuca acerosa and Thysanotus arenarius – reflecting the unusual mixture of limestone, clay and sandy soils.

    The main processes threatening the Muchea Limestone community are clearing (97% of vegetation in the area has been subject to clearing), and mining.

     

  • Perth to Gingin Ironstone Association

    Threatened Ecological Community – Shrublands and Woodlands on Perth to Gingin Ironstone of the Swan Coastal Plain.

    Description from the DoE Interim recovery plan no. 197 (pg 3):

    Plant community located on seasonally inundated ironstone and heavy clay soils. The community occurs on the eastern side of the Swan Coastal Plain. Typical and common native species are the shrubs Melaleuca viminea, Dryandra sessilis, Acacia saligna, Grevillea curviloba subsp. incurva, Kunzea aff. recurva, Jacksonia furcellata and the herbs Rhodanthe manglesii, Tribonanthes australis and Isotropis cuneifolia subsp. glabra. The following exotic species are also currently common: Romulea rosea, Briza maxima, Trifolium dubium, Spergula arvensis and Hesperantha falcata.

    The Declared Rare Flora Grevillea curviloba var. incurva occurs in the community. Five priority listed taxa also occur in the community, as follows: Isotropis cuneifolia subsp. glabra (Priority 2), Grevillea evanescens (P1), Haloragis tenuifolia (P3), Myriophyllum echinatum (P3) and Stylidium longitubum (P3).

    Current Status: Listed as Critically Endangered in WA, Endangered under the EPBC Act.

  • Melaleuca huegelii – Melaleuca systena shrublands of limestone ridges (SCP 26a)

    The Melaleuca huegelii – Melaleuca systena shrublands of limestone ridhes (Swan Coastal Plain Community type 26a) is listed as an Endangered Community that occurs only on shallow soils over limestone within the Shires of Wanneroo, Waroona and Gingin (with some occurrences within Yanchep National Park).

    Page 3 of Interim Recovery Plan No. 193 describes the community as comprising of  species rich thickets, heaths or scrubs dominated by Melaleuca huegelii, M. systena (previously M. acerosa), Dryandra sessilis over Grevillea preissii, Acacia lasiocarpa and Spyridium globulosum, occurring on skeletal
    soil on ridge slopes and ridge tops (community 26a as described by Gibson et al. 1994).

    The most significant threat to the Community is clearing for mining and urban expansion, along with an increase in the frequency of fires.

  • Lesueur-Coomallo Floristic Community D1

    Description from Lesueur-Coomaloo Floristic Community D1 Interim recovery plan no. 109 (pg 2):

    This community occurs in the Geraldton Sandplains IBRA region and comprises a species-rich low heath, on moderately to well-drained lateritic gravels on lower slopes and low rises, dominated by Allocasuarina microstachya with A. ramosissima, A. humilis, Baeckea grandiflora, Borya nitida, Calytrix flavescens, Calothamnus sanguineous, Conostylis androstemma, Cryptandra pungens, Dryandra armata, Gastrolobium polystachyum, Hakea auriculata, H. incrassata, H. aff. erinacea, Hibbertia hypericoides, Hypocalymma xanthopetalum, Melaleuca trichophylla, Petrophile chrysantha, Schoenus subflavus and Xanthorrhoea drummondii.

    Current Status: WA listed as Critically Endangered.

  • Lesueur-Coomallo Floristic Community A1.2

    The Lesueur-Coomallo Floristic Community A1.2 is an Ecological Community occurring within the Geraldton Sandplains IBRA Bioregion that has been identified as Endangered at State level, being endorsed in 2001. The Floristic Community has only been identified on one 31 hectare area within Lesueur National Park and is currently at threat from altered fire regimes, dieback (Phytophthora sp.), plant and animal pests, and mining.

    The Lesueur-Coomallo Floristic Community A1.2 is described in Interim Recovery Plan No. 106 (pg 3) as being: Species-rich heath with emergent Hakea obliqua on sand with faithful species of Hakea obliqua and Beaufortia aff. elegans and constant species of Dasypogon bromeliifolius and Stirlingia latifolia over well-drained grey sand over pale yellow sand on lateritic uplands. Associated species include Allocasuarina humilis, Calothamnus sanguineous, Hibbertia hypericoides, Hypocalymma xanthopetalum and Schoenus subflavus.

     

  • Herbaceous plant assemblages on bentonite lake beds (Vegetation Types 1,2,3&7) and margins (Vegetation Types 4,5&6) of the Watheroo-Marchagee region

    This TEC occurs within the Geraldton Sandplains IBRA Region. The following description is from the Herbaceous plant assemblages on bentonite lake beds (Vegetation Types 1,2,3&7) and margins  (Vegetation Types 4,5&6) of the Watheroo-Marchagee region Interim recovery plan no. 108 (pg 2):

    The plant community comprises herbaceous plant assemblages dominated by a combination of Triglochin mucronata, Trichanthodium exile, Asteridea athrixioides and Puccinellia stricta (Vegetation types 1,2,3&7) on the lake beds, and a combination of Podolepis capillaris, Angianthus tomentosus and Pogonolepis stricta (Vegetation types 4,5&6) on the lake margins, of bentonite lakes in the Watheroo-Marchagee region. These herbaceous plant assemblages are characterised by a dependence on a bentonite (saponite) substrate – naturally restricted to the lake beds and margins of perched, ephemeral freshwater playa lakes and claypans of the Watheroo-Marchagee region. Whilst most lakes comprise only herbaceous species, there are a number with varying densities of Casuarina obesa trees, and shrubs of Melaleuca lateriflora subspp. lateriflora and Acacia ligustrina.

    Current Status: WA listed as Endangered.

     

  • Heath dominated by one or more of Regelia megacephala, Kunzea praestans and Allocasuarina campestris on ridges and slopes of the chert hills of the Coomberdale Floristic Region

    This TEC is located within the Avon Wheatbelt IBRA region, the following description from the Heath dominated by one or more of Regelia megacephala, Kunzea praestans and Allocasuarina campestris on ridges and slopes of the chert hills of the Coomberdale Floristic Region Interim recovery plan no. 65 (pg 3):

    This community consists of tall, dense heath dominated by either Regelia megacephala or Allocasuarina campestris on exposed chert ridges; tall, dense heath or open low woodland over dense to mid-dense heath dominated by Kunzea praestans or Allocasuarina campestris on shallow loamy rocky soil over chert on the slopes and ridges of chert hills. The suite of plant species associated with the dominant species named above includes one or more of Dryandra fraseri var. fraseri, Dryandra sessilis, Hibbertia subvaginata, Xanthorrhoea drummondii, Melaleuca sp., Calothamnus quadrifidus and Calytrix leschenaultii.

    Current Status: WA listed as Endangered.

     

  • Banksia Woodlands of the Swan Coastal Plain: a nationally protected ecological community

    The Banksia Woodlands ecological community only occurs on or adjacent to the Swan Coastal Plain of Western Australia, which stretches to the north and south of Perth. The broader region—Southwest Australia—is recognised as one of only two global biodiversity hotspots in Australia.

    The ecological community provides habitat for many native plants and animals that rely on Banksia Woodlands for their homes and food. Remaining patches of the ecological community provide important wildlife corridors and refuges in a mostly fragmented landscape.

    The ecological community was listed as endangered under Australia’s national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), on 16 September.

    For more information about this ecological community visit the Department of Environment website.

  • Banksia attenuata woodland over species rich dense shrublands (SPC 20a)

    The Banksia attenuata woodland over species rich dense shrublands (SPC 20a) is a State listed Floristic Community that is a subgroup of the ‘type 20 woodlands’. SPC 20a is found on sandy soils and is reported to be the richest group of any of the Banksia communities recorded (with an average species richness of 67.4 species per site), low weed frequency, a distinctive diverse shrub layer, and the occurrence of Mesomelaena pseudostygia, Alexgeorgea nitens, Daviesia nudiflora, Synaphea spinulosa, Hibbertia racemosa and  Stylidium calcaratum (DEC, 2012).

  • Assemblages of Organic Mound Springs of the Three Springs Area

    The Mound Springs (Three Springs Area) community is State listed as Endangered, and occurs within the Geraldton Sandplains IBRA Bioregion. The habitat of this community is described in Interim Recovery Plan No. 196 (pg 2) as being characterised by the continuous discharge of groundwater in raised areas of peat – providing a stable, permanently moist series of microhabitats, supporting a rich and healthy fauna, including invertebrate insects. Moisture loving species of flora are supported, including an overstorey of Melaleuca preissiana, Eucaluptus camaldulensis and/or E. rudis, a shrub layer of Hypocalymma angustifolium and Acacia saligna over Baumea vaginalis and other sedges.

    The maintenance of hydrological processes (quality and quantity of water) is essential in supporting this community, and the mounds have been threatened by disturbance due to clearing and conversion to farm water points among other processes.

  • *Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh

    Consists of the assemblage of plants, animals and micro-organisms associated with saltmarsh in coastal regions of sub-tropical and temperate Australia (south of 23o S latitude). The habitat is coastal areas under tidal influence. In southern latitudes saltmarsh are the dominant habitat in the intertidal zone and often occur in association with estuaries. It is typically restricted to the upper intertidal environment, generally between the elevation of the mean high tide, and the mean spring tide. The community consists mainly of salt-tolerant vegetation (halophytes) including: grasses, herbs, reeds, sedges and shrubs.

    Succulent herbs and grasses generally dominate and vegetation is generally <0.5m tall with the exception of some reeds and sedges. Many species of non-vascular plants are also found in saltmarsh, including epiphytic algae, diatoms and cyanobacterial mats. Saltmarsh consists of many vascular plant species but is dominated by relatively few families. There is also typically a high degree of endemism at the species level. The two most widely represented coastal saltmarsh plant families are the Chenopodiaceae and Poaceae. Four structural saltmarsh forms are currently recognised based on dominance of a particular vegetation type:

    • dominance by succulent shrubs (e.g. Tecticornia)
    • dominance by grasses (e.g. Sporobolus virginicus)
    • dominance by sedges and grasses (e.g. Juncus kraussii, Gahnia trifida)
    • dominance by herbs (e.g. low-growing creeping plants such as Wilsonia backhousei, Samolus repens, Schoenus nitens).

    Category (WA) – Priority 3(iii)

    Category EPBC Act – Vulnerable TEC

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • *Claypans with mid dense shrublands of Melaleuca lateritia over herbs

    Classified as Claypans of the Swan Coastal Plain under EPBC Act.

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information see the Clay pans of the Swan Coastal Plain – Interim Recovery Plan No. 354 (DPaW2015).

Priority Ecological Communities

  • Tallering Peak vegetation complexes (banded ironstone formation)

    Tallering Peak in the northwest is a massif of banded ironstone and jaspilite, with outcropping masses or rock along the spine. Vegetation is sparse and includes shrubs of only 1.2m of Acacia quadrimarginea, A ?coolgardiensis, Eremophila leucophylla, Thryptomene johnsonii, a smaller Baeckea or Thryptomene sp. and Ptilotus obovatus.

    Threats: mining

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Shrublands of the Northampton area, dominated by Melaleuca species over exposed Kockatea Shale

    Heath on breakaways located in Port Gregory, west of Northampton. Community includes priority taxa; Ptilotus chortophytum (P1), Leucopogon sp. Port Gregory, Ozothamnus sp. Northampton, Gastrolobium propinquum (P1), outlier of Ptilotus helichrysoides. Unusual geology (Kockatea Shale) outcropping at surface.

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Red Morrel Woodland of the Wheatbelt

    Tall open woodlands of Eucalyptus longicornis (red morrell) found in the Wheatbelt on lateritic, ironstone or granitic soil types. Sometimes found with Eucalyptus salmonophloia (Salmon Gum), or E. loxophleba (York Gum) woodlands and has very little understorey. It is also found directly above lake systems in the central and eastern Wheatbelt. The landscape unit in which it is found is valley floors, usually adjacent to saline areas.

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Plant assemblages of the Moresby Range system

    Includes the Melaleuca megacephala and Hakea pycnoneura thicket on stony slopes, Verticordia dominated low heath, and Allocasuarina campestris and Melaleuca uncinata thicket on superficial laterite, on Morseby Range.

    Threats: clearing for infrastructure

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Minjar and Chulaar Hills vegetation complex (banded ironstone formation)

    Threats: mining

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Lesueur-Coomallo Floristic Community M2 (Melaleuca preissiana woodland)

    Woodland dominated by Melaleuca preissiana along sandy drainage lines, with faithful species of Anigozanthos pulcherrimus and constant species of Chamaescilla corymbosa, Petrophile brevifolia and Xanthorrhoea reflexa.

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Lesueur-Coomallo Floristic Community DFGH

    Mixed species-rich heath on lateritic gravel with Hakea erinacea, Melaleuca platycalyx and Petrophile seminuda: a fine scale mixture of four floristically-defined communities occurring on lateritic slopes.

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Kalbarri ironstone community

    Winter wet, mallee/Melaleuca over herbs. Dense shrubland when burnt. Surrounded by sandplain. Yerina springs and north Eurardy Station. Z-bend loop, Junga Dam. The taxon Eremophila microtheca (previously declared rare flora) occurs in community.

  • Frankenia pauciflora low open shrublands in swales

    Community occurs on Tamala South grey-brown sand, on mid to lower slopes of Tamala Limestone ridges and some isolated rises on calcareous deep and shallow sands. Taxa include Acacia rostellifera, Stylobasium spathulatum, Frankenia pauciflora, Tetragonia implexicoma, Threlkeldia diffusa, Zygophyllum fruticulosum.

    Threats: grazing, land clearing

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Coastal sands dominated by Acacia rostellifera, Eucalyptus oraria and Eucalyptus obtusiflora

    Floristically, this community is similar to other Acacia rostellifera communities but is differentiated on structure, being dominated by mallee eucalypts. The community occurs on limestone ridges, in some swales in the coastal dunes between Cape Burney and Dongara, on the Greenough Alluvial Flats on limestone soil and near Tarcoola Beach. Some very small occurrences have also been recorded on the limestone scarp north of the Buller River.

    Threats: Clearing

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • Blue Hills (Mount Karara/Mungada Ridge/Blue Hills) vegetation complexes (banded ironstone formation)

    Threats: mining
    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • *Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh

    Consists of the assemblage of plants, animals and micro-organisms associated with saltmarsh in coastal regions of sub-tropical and temperate Australia (south of 23o S latitude). The habitat is coastal areas under tidal influence. In southern latitudes saltmarsh are the dominant habitat in the intertidal zone and often occur in association with estuaries. It is typically restricted to the upper intertidal environment, generally between the elevation of the mean high tide, and the mean spring tide. The community consists mainly of salt-tolerant vegetation (halophytes) including: grasses, herbs, reeds, sedges and shrubs.

    Succulent herbs and grasses generally dominate and vegetation is generally <0.5m tall with the exception of some reeds and sedges. Many species of non-vascular plants are also found in saltmarsh, including epiphytic algae, diatoms and cyanobacterial mats. Saltmarsh consists of many vascular plant species but is dominated by relatively few families. There is also typically a high degree of endemism at the species level. The two most widely represented coastal saltmarsh plant families are the Chenopodiaceae and Poaceae. Four structural saltmarsh forms are currently recognised based on dominance of a particular vegetation type:

    • dominance by succulent shrubs (e.g. Tecticornia)
    • dominance by grasses (e.g. Sporobolus virginicus)
    • dominance by sedges and grasses (e.g. Juncus kraussii, Gahnia trifida)
    • dominance by herbs (e.g. low-growing creeping plants such as Wilsonia backhousei, Samolus repens, Schoenus nitens).

    Category (WA) – Priority 3(iii)

    Category EPBC Act – Vulnerable TEC

    For more information visit the DPaW website.

  • *Claypans with mid dense shrublands of Melaleuca lateritia over herbs

    Classified as Claypans of the Swan Coastal Plain under EPBC Act.

    Category (WA) – Priority 1

    For more information see the Clay pans of the Swan Coastal Plain – Interim Recovery Plan No. 354 (DPaW2015).

2 Comments on “Threatened Ecological Communities”

  1. Hi, can you tell me what level of protection is afforded to PEC’s. I am campaigning to protect a site in WA’s South West. There are PEC’s, but no gazetted TEC’s. What is the value of a PEC in terms of protecting the flora and fauna.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Ecological communities (both TECs and PECs) aren’t actually protected under state legislation (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950) however, TECs are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) – for more information see DPaW’s website. This is in the process of being changed with the new Biodiversity Conservation Bill 2015. However, the presence of TECs and PECs in an area is taken into account when assessing native vegetation for clearing under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act), Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004. More information about clearing regulations can be found on the Department of Environment Regulation website.

      So the short answer is that being listed as a PEC doesn’t afford it any additional legislative protection.

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