Representation of threatened species and ecological communities in conservation areasIndicator
While many of the ACT’s threatened species and ecological communities are well represented in conservation areas, some flora and fauna species and ecological communities remain poorly represented. This is particularly the case for Natural Temperate Grassland and Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland. For species with large proportions of non-reserved habitat, this is due to their dependence on grassland and woodland habitats, which are not as well protected in conservation areas as other ecosystems (such as forests).
Indicator assessment legend
Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.
Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.
Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.
Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.
Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus
Limited evidence or limited consensus
Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment
Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator
- Threatened fauna: representation in conservation areas
- Aquatic fauna: representation in conservation areas
- Threatened flora: representation in conservation areas
- Threatened ecological communities: representation in conservation areas
- Vegetation classes and communities: representation in conservation areas
ACT’s conservation areas contribute to the National Reserve System (NRS).Department of the Environment and Energy, National Reserve System The NRS is Australia’s network of protected areas, designed to conserve Australia’s remaining biodiversity. To ensure that the ACT’s reserve system meets the standards for comprehensiveness, adequacy and representativeness, it is essential that conservation areas protect the range of ecosystem types and biodiversity present in the region. This includes both threatened and common species and ecological communities.
Condition and trends
Threatened fauna: representation in conservation areas
Figure B7 shows the reservation of known and potential habitat for threatened terrestrial fauna. Habitat assessment is based on single records, known habitat and modelled habitat. Bird species are excluded from the assessment due to the lack of data required to assess protection.Bird sightings data is available through annual reporting by the Canberra Ornithologists Group and from Canberra Nature Map. However, for this assessment, comprehensive data on roosting areas as well as feeding areas is required. Data on sightings alone is not sufficient to determine if all the required habitat is protected for these mobile species who may utilise a range of habitats over a wide area. Four threatened species have all, or close to all, of their known and potential habitat in ACT conservation areas (includes reserves and other PCS-managed land); these are the Broad-toothed Rat, Greater Glider, Northern Corroboree Frog, and Smoky Mouse. The Pink-tailed Worm-lizard and Spotted-tailed Quoll also have significant proportions of their known and potential habitat in ACT conservation areas at 80% and 70% respectively.
Figure B7: Reservation of known and potential habitat for threatened terrestrial fauna
Threatened fauna with less than 50% of their known and potential habitat in ACT conservation areas include the Perunga Grasshopper (47%), Golden Sun Moth (44%), Striped Legless Lizard (33%), and Grassland Earless Dragon (25%). However, these species have a substantial proportion of their habitat on national land (between 20% and 50%). Management of threatened species on national lands is undertaken by the National Capital Authority as required under the EPBC Act.Sharp S., 2016, Ecological Management Plan for National Capital Authority Conservation Areas. Report to the National Capital Authority, Canberra.Ecosure, 2019, Commonwealth Park Grey-Headed Flying-fox Camp Management Plan, Proposal to National Capital Authority, Burleigh Heads.
The Grey-headed Flying Fox has no habitat in ACT conservation areas with two recently established colonies occurring in Commonwealth Park (national land) and at Lake Ginninderra (urban open space).
Threatened species with substantial proportions (20% or higher) of their known and potential habitat on non-reserved land (outside both ACT-reserved and national land) include the Pink-tailed Worm-lizard (20%), Spotted-tailed Quoll (27%), Golden Sun Moth (28%), Perunga Grasshopper (32%) and the Grassland Earless Dragon (33%). Of particular concern is the lack of reserved habitat for the Striped Legless Lizard with 46% of habitat not reserved. For species with large proportions of non-reserved habitat, this is due to their dependence on grassland and woodland habitats which are not as well protected in conservation areas as other ecosystems such as forests (see sections on Threatened flora: representation in conservation areas and Threatened ecological communities: representation in conservation areas).
Species listed as threatened in the ACT but not considered for this analysis due to the lack of wild populations include the Eastern Quoll and New Holland Mouse (both reintroduced to Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve), Eastern Bettong (reintroduced to Tidbinbilla and Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve), Southern Brown Bandicoot, and the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Koala (reintroduced to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve).
Aquatic fauna: representation in conservation areas
Potential habitat for threatened aquatic fauna is well represented in ACT conservation areas, as most of the major rivers in the ACT are included in reserves.
It should be noted that the majority of threatened aquatic fauna are mostly restricted to reserves, and that terrestrial reserve systems do not always adequately support the conservation of aquatic species. For example, dams within terrestrial reserve networks can impact on aquatic ecology values. In addition, the Murrumbidgee Reserves in the ACT are often places for high intensity recreation which can also impact on aquatic species, especially as recreation tends to be situated around large, deep pool habitats such as Kambah Pool and Casuarina Sands. Such habitats are not common and are likely to form key refuges for aquatic species during low flow periods, droughts and climate change scenarios.
All of the ACT-listed aquatic species have around 90% to 100% of their potential distribution in conservation areas (Figure B8). Distribution is potential expected distribution of these species. Data is not actual surveyed distribution or historic distribution. For example, Silver Perch have no wild current distribution in the ACT. Silver Perch, while listed as a threatened species in the ACT, is found in Googong Dam and the Queanbeyan River in NSW but has no wild distribution in the ACT. Macquarie Perch currently occurs only within reserves although attempts have been made to translocate the species to other areas.
Figure B8: Potential distribution of threatened aquatic fauna in ACT conservation areas
Although the Murray Cod is not listed as a threatened species under ACT legislation, it is managed as such due to its listing as vulnerable under the EPBC Act. Only 55% of the Murray Cod’s potential distribution in the ACT is in the reserve system. Wild populations of Murray Cod exist in the Murrumbidgee River, including within the various reserves along the river, and have been identified as an important population in the National Recovery Plan for the Murray Cod.EPSDD, 2017, Native Species Conservation Plan, Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii), ACT Government, Canberra. Murray Cod also occur in the Molonglo River and are stocked in Canberra’s urban lakes which would not naturally support the species – this accounts for the relatively low representation in reserves.
Threatened flora: representation in conservation areas
There are 605 records in the ACT Protected Plants Database of the 13 threatened plant species listed in the ACT. Data on threatened plants is collected from targeted surveys undertaken by the ACT Government and from citizen science records provided through Canberra Nature Map.
Over half of the known threatened plant sites in the ACT (349 or 58%) are located in reserves or on other land managed by the ACT PCS (Figure B9). An additional 118 (20%) occur on national land, which is managed by the National Capital Authority, and 138 (23%) occur outside both ACT-reserved and national lands, in areas such as urban open space, road reserves, railway reserves and cemeteries.
Figure B9: Percentage representation of threatened plant locations in conservation areas
Threatened flora species with a substantial proportion of known locations outside ACT conservation areas include:
- Black Gum (Eucalyptus aggregata): the main and only natural population in the ACT occurs on public land managed as part of Kowen Forest. No management plan exists for this population but the area has been fenced off to allow for the natural regeneration of the trees and plantings may be undertaken in the future.
- Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides) occurs mainly on national land.
- Tarengo Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum petilum) persists only at Hall Cemetery. The cemetery is public land and has a management plan focused on conserving the orchid population.
- Canberra Spider Orchid (Caladenia actensis): Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie Nature Reserves support significant populations of this species, but it also occurs on land owned by the Department of Defence in the Majura Valley. The Department of Defence has management plans in place for the conservation of this species.
- Small Purple Pea (Swainsona recta): the main ACT population is within a fenced-off area in the Mount Taylor Nature Reserve, and
- Murrumbidgee Bossiaea (Bossaiea grayi) occurs along the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo Rivers, some have not been found again in the field since the 2003 fires. It should be noted that records of locations in non-reserved areas may be historic, are no longer occurring, or have poor location accuracy.
Threatened ecological communities: representation in conservation areas
Of the three ecological communities listed as endangered in the ACT, only High Country Bogs and Associated Fens are fully protected in ACT conservation areas (Figure B10). Natural Temperate Grassland has just over half of its known distribution in ACT conservation areas, and Yellow Box/ Red Gum Grassy Woodland has only 30% of its representation reserved. However, both Natural Temperate Grasslands and Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland have substantial proportions of their extent on national land at nearly 30% and 20% respectively. Although this land is not managed by the ACT Government, threatened communities on ACT national lands are managed for conservation purposes by the National Capital Authority as required under the EPBC Act.Sharp S., 2016, Ecological Management Plan for National Capital Authority Conservation Areas. Report to the National Capital Authority, Canberra.
Despite this, nearly half of the ACT’s Yellow Box/ Red Gum Grassy Woodland is not reserved, and some 20% of Natural Temperate Grasslands are also unreserved. These results are a reflection of the historic and current use of these lands for agriculture and potential urban development. The low levels of reservation add to the pressures on these communities and the species they support.
Figure B10: Percentage representation of Endangered Ecological Communities in reserves
Vegetation classes and communities: representation in conservation areas
Figure B11 shows the percentage of selected vegetation classes protected in conservation areas. All classes occur in the ACT’s reserve estate with 8 having more than 80% of their extent protected, and another 2 with over 60% of their extent protected. The most under-represented vegetation class was Southern Tableland Grassy Woodlands which only has 30% of its extent in conservation areas.
Figure B11: Proportion of selected vegetation classes reserved in ACT conservation areas
The least-protected vegetation communities, those with under 50% of their extent protected in conservation areas, are shown in Figure B12. These woodland, grassland and open forest communities are the least represented in the ACT’s conservation areas. The low levels of protection for these communities, and for the Southern Tableland Grassy Woodlands vegetation class, are again the result of the historic and current use of these communities for agriculture and potential urban development. The low levels of reservation add to the pressures on these communities and the species they support.