Protection for endangered community in NSW wheatbelt
An ecological community in the NSW wheatbelt area has been added to the State list of endangered ecological communities following a nomination by Humane Society International (HSI). The extent of inland grey box woodland has been reduced in some areas by 97% because of land clearing for agriculture over more than a hundred years.
“Inland grey box woodland previously covered a large area of NSW yet hardly any of it remains now due to the intense clearing of land for agricultural purposes. Even now, clearing is continuing further fragmenting the last remnants of this endangered community” said Rebecca Keeble, HSI Program Manager. “Recognition of the community’s value and its risk of extinction through listing under the Threatened Species Conservation Act will hopefully now confer some protection over its remaining areas, and ensure that it is not lost to future generations”.
Inland grey box woodlands are typically fairly sparsely wooded with a mostly grassy understorey – hence their attraction as grazing grounds for cattle. The combination of degradation from grazing, invasion of exotic species and large scale land clearing have left this community, like many others in agriculturally favoured areas, reduced to a fraction of its former extent.
“Already by 1948 there were only few remnants of this community left, and those fragments were degraded by stock grazing. Now ecologists have estimated that only 15% of the community remains in the State overall, while its geographic distribution has reduced by 30%. In some areas only 3% of the original community is left. Declines in native vegetation on this scale have profound effects on fauna and the entire community, and require urgent action by government and land managers to protect and restore the community” added Ms. Keeble.
Several fauna species are found in the remnant inland grey box woodland and are already listed in NSW as endangered, such as the barking owl, squirrel glider, pink-tailed legless lizard and the superb parrot. As their habitat is degraded and destroyed their survival becomes more uncertain and we run the risk of losing yet more of Australia’s iconic and unique fauna.
HSI has also nominated inland grey box woodland as an endangered ecological community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. “We hope that this NSW listing will help to encourage the Commonwealth scientific committee to assess and list the community federally as quickly as possible” said Ms Keeble.