Biomes

Ecoregions of Australia

June 15, 2013, 2:44 am
Content Cover Image

Source: NASA

Australia has thirty-seven ecoregions as show in the figure below: [1]Jarrah-Karri forest and shrublands; [2] Southwest Australia woodlands; [3] Southwest Australia savanna; [4] Esperance mallee; [5] Coolgardie woodlands; [6] Carnarvon xeric shrublands; [7] Pilbara shrublands; [8] Western Australia mulga shrublands; [9] Great Victoria Desert; [10] Nullarbor Plains xeric shrublands; [11] Kimberly tropical savanna; [12] Victoria Plains tropical savanna; [13] Great Sandy-Tanami Desert; [14] Gibson Desert; [15] Central Ranges xeric scrub; [16] Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert; [17] Eyre and York mallee; [18] Mount Lofty woodlands; [19] Murray-Darling woodlands and mallee; [20] Naracoorte woodlands; [21] Southeast Australia temperate forests; [22] Australian Alps montane grasslands; [23] Southeast Australia temperate savanna; [24] Eastern Australian temperate forests; [25] Simpson Desert; [26] Eastern Australia mulga shrublands; [27] Brigalow tropical savanna; [28] Queensland tropical rain forests; [29] Mitchell grass downs; [30] Einasleigh upland savanna; [31] Cape York tropical savanna; [32] Carpentaria tropical savanna; [33] Arnhem Land tropical savanna; [34] Tasmanian temperate rain forests; [35] Tasmanian Central Highland forests; [36] Tasmanian temperate forests; and, [37] Swan Coastal Plain scrub and woodlands (not numbered in the figure below but which lies on the southwestern coast adjacent to region 2)

See also marine ecosystems

Jarrah-Karri forest and shrublands

The Jarrah-Karri forest and shrublands ecoregion extends along the Indian Ocean coast in southwestern Australia. The high rains supports forests of karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) and tingle (E. brevistylis, E. jacksonii, and E. guilfoylei), shifting to jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and marri (Eucalyptus calophylla) in areas with lower nutrient soils. Heath, swamp, and dune vegetation also occur here. This ecoregion hosts a rich biota with a clear Gondwanan influence, including endemic frogs and freshwater fauna. A number of threatened birds and mammals are also found here, but the region is well preserved in a number of large national parks. However, logging, inappropriate fire management, and dieback disease are all concerns.

The protected area system in this ecoregion includes a number of large, well-known national parks, including Shannon National Park, D'Entrecasteaux National Park, Mt. Frankland National Park, and Walpole-Nornalup National Park.

Southwest Australia woodlands

Located in the relatively high rainfall region of southwest Western Australia, this region contains forests of jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and marri (Eucalyptus calophylla), along with open eucalypt woodlands further inland.

There are several regions of high floristic richness located in this ecoregion, often in upland areas. A number of reduced range and threatened mammals also inhabit this ecoregion.

While there are several large conservation areas in the region, the combined effects of logging, agricultural conversion, and introduced species have taken a serious toll.

Southwest Australia savanna

This ecoregion covers 62,5000 square miles of critical/endangered mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub in southwestern Australia. This is an arid region, a considerable portion of which has been converted to wheat cultivation. Austral summer temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius. There are 458 vertebrates recorded in the ecoregion, including seven endemic species. There are also 21 threatened vertebrate taxa present, six of which are mammals.

The primeval habitat of this ecoregion was comprised of savanna interspersed with eucalyptus woodland, mallee woodlands,  shrublands and heath habitats. Much of the original savanna is extant within the north of the Southwest Australia savanna, where acacia dominates, rather than eucalyptus. Flora of the ecoregion include many species of woody and herbaceous taxa. The scented Acacia rostellifera. is an example common tree taxon. The best-preserved area of pristine natural environment manifests at the multi-coloured sandstone gorges of Kalbarri National Park along the Murchison River.

Endemic reptiles in the ecoregion are: Allen's ctenotus (Ctenotus alleni), Shark Bay minetia (Minetia  amaura), Christina's lerista (Lerista christinae), Lerista axilaris, L. eupoda and L. yuna. Endemic amphibians in the ecoregion are represented by the dumpy frog (Arenophryne rotunda).

Threatened mammals in the ecoregion are: the Endangered banded hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), the Near Threatened black-footed rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis), the Near Threatened brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa), the Near Threatened red-tailed phascogale (Phascogale calura), the Endangered numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) and the Near Threatened western quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii).

Special status amphibians in the Southwest Australia savanna are the Near Threatened Main's ground froglet (Geocrinia lutea). Special status reptiles in the Southwest Australia savanna are: the Near Threatened Bardick snake (Echiopsis curta), the Vulnerable Shark Bay ctenotus (Ctenotus zastictus) and the Endangered woma (Aspidites ramsayi).

Esperance mallee

This ecoregion covers 44,600 square miles of critical/endangered mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub in western Australia. About one half of the land area of this ecoregion is currently being used for agriculture, with most of the prior ecological damage arising from agricultural clearance having been carried out in government sponsored public works programs. There are a total of 382 recorded vertebrate fauna in the Esperance Mallee, including numerous special status birds and reptiles. The semi-arid ecoregion boasts a plethora of snakes, including two endemic squamata; there is also one endemic amphibian species, Neobetrachus albipes, in the Esperance Mallee.

The Mallee biogeographic region vegetation is predominantly Eucalyptus mallee over an understory of myrtaceous and proteaceous heath. Over half of the land area is vegetated solely by mallee, with a further one fourth chiefly mallee with woodland patches; the latter vegetation occurs mainly on the calcareousSoils which are high in limestone content soils to the east. The mallee region consists of a number of Eucalyptus species, the most consistent being tall sand mallee (E. eremophila). Seasonally wet and alluvial zones are vegetated by Melaleuca shrublands where freshwater, and Tecticornia‎ low shrublands for saline soils. There are also sporadic thickets of Allocasuarina, particularly on greenstone hills.

Coolgardie woodlands

This ecoregion covers 53,100 square miles of vulnerable mediterranean forests, woodlands, and shrub in southwestern Australia. The Coolgardie woodlands is the largest reamaining intact Mediterranean climate woodland on Earth, and this ecoregion hxhibits high species richness, in spite of the superficial appearance of a desiccated land. Soil fertility of this ecoregion is generally quite low, so that agriculture has never played a significant role. 

Due to the extreme geological stability and absence of glaciation since the Carboniferous period, the soils are low in nutrients and often high in salinity; many of the ecoregion's soils are saline and calcareous, and plant species here have had to adapt to the poor soils and harsh, hot arid climate to survive. Prominent vegetation includes mallee, certain eucalyptus species and a wide spectrum of plants from the genus Eremophila.

The ecoregion's low rolling hills pervaded by limestone soils present many woodlands replete with endemic species of eucalyptus, and the sandy plains portions of the Coolgardie are generally covered in scrub vegetation. Western coastal zones manifest abundant protea flowers, while the arid interior supports acacia tree taxa and kwongan heathland.

There are a number of Eremophila plant associations that typify much of the Coolgardie woodlands. For example in some of the southeastern near-coastal reaches of the Coolgardie, Eremophila miniata open shrubland often forms a sparse low canopy, with a denser low understory of Atriplex vesicaria; such a plant association is common on highly saline soil substrate.

Carnarvon xeric shrublands

This ecoregion covers 34,900 square miles of critical/endangered deserts & xeric shrublands in Western Australia. The ecoregion's topography is chiefly low-lying, and the plantlife varies with the underlying geology, which is primarily comprised of recent alluvial, aeolian, and marine sediments over cretaceous strata. This ecoregion is extremely arid, claiming less than 250 millimetres of total precipitation per annum.

Covering the saline alluvial plains are chiefly low samphire and saltbush shrublands, with  snakewood scrublands upon the clay flats; Bowgada low woodland covers sandy ridges and plains, red sand dune fields are interspersed or overlain with tree to shrub steppe over hummock grasslands, and Acacia startii-A. bivenosa shrublands cover limestone outcrops at the north. Other tree species in the ecoregion include limestone wattle (Acacia sclerosperma) with an undergrowth of dead finish (Acacia tetragonophylla). The sheltered embayments and expansive tidal flats along the coastal zone support mangroves. Fauna of the ecoregion include birds such as the Thick-billed grasswren (Amytornis textilis) and the Australian endemic red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii). This locale is  thought to be the sole possible habitat for a surviving population of the lesser stick-nest rat, which is otherwise potentially extinct.

Pilbara shrublands

This ecoregion covers 69,400 square miles of critical/endangered deserts & xeric shrublands in western Australia. The Pilbara shrublands are situated in a desolate western region of Australia, its red earth surface being underlain by rich oil, natural gas and iron ore deposits.

The dominant plantlife of the Pilbara consists of acacia trees and shrubs, as well as drought-resistant Triodia spinifex grasses. Several species of acacia (wattle) trees are classified as endemic to the Pilbara region, and are thus the focus of conservation programs, along with wildflowers and other local flora specialties. The Pilbara is known for its broad variety of endemic species adapted to this harsh arid environment, including dozens of taxa of stygofauna, microscopic invertebrates which live underground in the groundwater of the region. The Pilbara olive python, the western pebble-mound mouse, and the Pilbara Ningaui of the Hamersley Range are among the numerous animal species within the fragile ecosystems of this desert ecoregion. Birds include the Australian hobby, Nankeen kestrel, spotted harrier, Mulga parrot, budgerigars, and sulphur-crested cockatoo.

Western Australia mulga shrublands

This ecoregion covers 177,800 square miles of vulnerable deserts & xeric shrublands in western Australia.The dominant tree of this arid region is the mulga (Acacia aneura), a species whose height rarely exceeds seven metres.

There are at least 374 taxa of vertebrate species (e.g. mammals, birds, reptiles) present in the West Australian mulga shrublands, including three endemic bird species and three endemic reptile species.

Mammals in the ecoregion include the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus), the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus), the Vulnerable greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), the Vulnerable Australian false vampire bat (Macrodema gigas)

Reptiles of the ecoregion include the endemic Wilson's spinytail gecko (Strophurus wilsoni), the endangered woma python (Aspidites ramsayi), the endemic and Vulnerable status yinnietherra dragon (Ctenophorus yinnietharra), and the endemic Kennedy's lerista (Lerista kennedyensis).

Birds in this ecoregion include the Near-threatened star finch (Neochmia ruficauda), which taxon is threatened by overgrazing, which activity reduces essential cover as well as food sources. other notable avafauna include the Near-threatened bush thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius), the Near-threatened Alexandra's parrot (Polytelis alexandrae) and the Near-threatened Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis).

Floristically mulga associations are generally poor with respect to biodiversity, and the mulga of western Australia are generally low in biomass density and are comprised of lower growing shrublike forms than mulga units in Queensland for example. Major genera of plantlife in the mulga are typically: Cassia, Acacia, Bassia, Aristida, Eremophila and Eriogrostis. Myoporaceae are prominent as secondary floristic components.

Great Victoria desert

The vast Great Victoria Desert extends from the Eastern Goldfields area in Western Australia across the southern parts of central Australia to the Stuart and Gawler Ranges in South Australia. A vast, sparsely populated region covered by dunefields and gibber plains, the Great Victoria Desert receives little rain and experiences extreme temperatures. A highly desert-adapted fauna lives here and the area is known for its lizard diversity. Climate and isolation render pastoralism and agriculture inviable, so the region has suffered few direct effects of European settlement. The presence of a weapons testing range and nuclear weapons test sites has further isolated the region and means that this is one of the least populated areas of Australia.

As a consequence of the climate and the geographical isolation of the region, pastoralism and agriculture are not considered viable. Consequently, there has been little land clearance or grazing by domestic stock. A weapons testing range and nuclear weapons test sites are located in this region. Some areas have been disturbed by mineral exploration and mining, but these impacts are low when considered at the regional scale. Furthermore, extensive tracts of land are protected from exploitation. The Unnamed Conservation Park (21,289 square kilometers) on the South Australian – Western Territory border is the largest of South Australia’s conservation areas. A further 103,000 square kilometers is effectively conserved in the adjacent Pitjantjatjara Lands, which were ceded to traditional landowners by the South Australian Parliament in 1981. In Western Australia, some 20 percent (5000 square kilometers) of the Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve falls within the region.

Nullarbor Plains xeric shrublands

This ecoregion covers 75,400 square miles of vulnerable deserts & xeric shrublands in southern Australia. This ecoregion is classified within the Deserts & Xeric Shrublands biome. The Nullarbor Plains are extremely level topographically, and manifest the largest single expanse of unbroken rock on Earth; moreover, this expanse of limestone is rich in notable karst formations.

This virtually treeless ecoregion of Australia is dominated by scrub of the family Chenopodiaceae. The geological formation and history of the Nullabor Plains are related to the speciation of multiple phylogenic lines in the high endemism temperate sclerophyllus regions to the east and west of the Nullabor. The vicariance engendered by geological history of the Nullabor Plains is strongly correlated with events circa 14 to 13 million years before present.

The fauna of the Nullarbor includes a considerable of taxa of crustaceans, spiders, and beetles adapted to the darkness of the Nullarbor Caves as well as the underground rivers and lakes that connect these cave habitats. There are a total of 301 recorded vertebrate species in the ecoregion.

Threatened avian species in the Nullarbor Plains include the Near Threatened Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis), the Near Threatened buff-breasted sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis), the Vulnerable fairy tern (Sterna nereis), the Near Threatened grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos) and the Vulnerable malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata).

Special status reptiles in the ecoregion are: the Near Threatened Bardick snake (Echiopsis curta) and the Endangered woma (Aspidites ramsayi). Special status mammals in the Nullarbor Plains ecoregion are represented by the Vulnerable plains mouse (Pseudomys australis)

Kimberly tropical savanna

The Kimberley Tropical Savanna comprises the rugged sandstone and limestone ranges of northwestern Australia extending to the more arid lowlands of Dampier Land in the southwest and the Daly Basin to the northeast. Climate and topography dominate the region's ecological fabric. A short, hot wet season lasts from October to March, bringing most of the region's rainfall, often in storms associated with destructive cyclones. The region is dissected by large rivers with strongly seasonal flow patterns. The extremely complex topography of the north Kimberley has provided some refuge from historic climate change and threatening processes, supporting a distinctive biota including species which have disappeared from elsewhere in their range. However, the region's biota has been buffeted by pastoralism, changed fire regimes, feral predators (especially cats), and weed invasion. Many mammal species have been lost from the inland fringes of the region, and these declines appear to be ongoing, reaching into the region's rugged core.

Victoria Plains tropical savanna

The Victoria Plains Tropical Savannas are a region of interchange, receiving monsoonal rains in the north, and then grading into the dry arid landscapes of central Australia to the south. The ecoregion mostly consists of extensive plains, punctuated with some small areas of sandstone outcrops such as the Bungle Bungle Ranges. Dominant vegetation is eucalypt woodland with a grassy understory, although lancewood (Acacia shirleyi) and bullwaddy (Macropteranthes keckwickii) vegetation harbors rainforest elements, and small pockets of mesic vegetation are found throughout the ecoregion, in riparian strips and in sheltered gorges of the Bungle Bungles. No distinctive or highly endemic fauna characterizes the region, but the area is has retained some of its wilderness character despite widespread livestock ranching. However, overgrazing, land degradation, alterations in fire regimes, weeds, and feral stock all remain concerns.

Great Sandy-Tanami Desert

This ecoregion covers 317,800 square miles of relatively stable/intact deserts & xeric shrublands in northwestern Australia. The southern locale of the Tanami Desert, in the vicinity of the Uluru formation, features a gamut of waterholes, springs, sandstone rock caves and ancient rock art paintings.

A total of 404 distinct vertebrate taxa have been recorded within the Great Sandy-Tanami Desert. Endemic reptile species include the Great Sandy Desert lerista (Lerista vermicularis), speckled lerista (Lerista taeniata), Kenneally's gecko (Diplodactylus kenneallyi) and the Lake Disappointment gecko (Diplodactylus fulleri), Other notable reptiles found in this ecoregion include the endangered woma (Aspidites ramsayi).

Notable bird species occurring in the ecoregion are: the Near Threatened letter-winged kite (Elanus scriptus), the Vulnerable painted honeyeater (Grantiella picta), the Near Threatened Alexandra's parrot (Polytelis alexandrae), the Near Threatened Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis), the Near Threatened black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), the Near Threatened bush thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius) and the Near Threatened grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos).

Special status mammals found in the Great Sandy-Tanamki Desert are: the Near Threatened Schreibers long-fingered bat (Miniopteris schreiberii), the Vulnerable white-throated glasswren (Amytomis woodwardi), the Vulnerable Australian false vampire bat (Macroderma gigas), the Vulnerable bilby (Macrotis lagotis), the Near Threatened black-footed rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) and the Critically Endangered central rock rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus).

Gibson Desert

This ecoregion covers 60,200 square miles of relatively stable/intact deserts & xeric shrublands in western central Australia. A number of mammals, birds and reptiles occur within the Gibson Desert ecoregion, including five taxa iclassified as threatened. Most of the human population within the Gibson Desert are aboriginal peoples. The Gibson Desert sits upon the central east Sweden Plateau between Lake McDonald and the saline Lake Disappointment along the Tropic of Capricorn; this ecoregion lies south of the Great Sandy Desert, east of the Little Sandy Desert and north of the Great Victoria Desert. Major expanses of the Gibson Desert are characterized by gravel-covered topography covered in sparse desert grasses; furthermore, the arid ecoregion sports vast areas of undulating red sand plains and dunefields, low-lying rocky to gravelly ridges and sizeable upland lateriteA soil type rich in aluminum and iron, found in wet tropical zones soil areas. The sandy soil of the lateritic buckshot plains is particularly high in iron content. Several isolated saline lakes occur in the centre of the region, and at the southwest a series of smaller lakes follow ancient paleo-drainage features. There are 362 species of macro-sized animals present in this ecoregion, including a number of birds, reptiles and mammals.  There are five threatened species present within the Gibson Desert, although species endemism is low.

Central Ranges xeric scrub

The Central Ranges xeric scrub is an ecoregion in central Australia consisting of approximately 108,800 square miles in extent. This ecoregion is categorised as within the Deserts & Xeric Shrublands biome. Due to the time of formation of surficial rocks of much of the ecoregion's surface, dating to 400 to 300 million years before present, the Finke, Hale and Todd Rivers each can have their present courses dated to claim a catchment that is one of the oldest well defined drainage basins on Earth.

The dominant plant associations consist of thick, tough spinifex grassland with interspersed wooded areas of myall and desert oak (Acacia coriacea). The entire ecoregion, and especially the MacDonnell Ranges, present habitat for numerous specialized endemic plant taxa, including the cabbage palms of Palm Valley within Finke Gorge National Park.

There are 376 recorded vertebrate species within the Central Ranges xeric shrublands. While endemism is low in this ecoregion, endemic species are represented by the mountain dtella (Gehyra montium), the seven-striped ctenotus (Ctenotus septenarius), Nephurus amyae, and Lerista speciosa, reptiles found only in the Central Ranges xeric shrublands. There is one special status non-endemic reptile: the Endangered woma (Aspidites ramsayi).

Special status avian species within the ecoregion are: the Near Threatened Alexandra's parrot (Polytelis alexandrae}, the Near Threatened Australian bustard (Ardeotis australis), the Near Threatened black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), the Near Threatened bush thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius), the Vulnerable great knot (Calidris tenuirostris), the Near Threatened grey falcon (Falco hypoleucos), the Near Threatened letter-winged kite (Elanus scriptus) and the Endangered plains wanderer (Pedionomus torquata). Threatened mammals in the Central Ranges xeric shrublands are represented by the Vulnerable greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), the Near Threatened black-footed rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis), the Critically Endangered central rock rat (Zyzomys pedunculatus) and the Vulnerable plains mouse (Pseudomys australis).

Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert

This ecoregion covers 145,500 square miles of vulnerable deserts & xeric shrublands in southern central Australia. The Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert is essentially a landlocked ecoregion, with only a small southern tip nearing the Indian Ocean. This ecoregion contains the gibber plains (desert pavement) and red sands of the expansive Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert. The Tirari Desert is a disparate unit found to the north, with the Flinders Ranges and Gawler Ranges at the south. The Tirari Desert is comprised of more sand sea expanse than the Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert and boasts significant important fossil holdings.

Besides large extents of stony plain and sands, the Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert exhibits areas of chenopod, mallee and acacia (mulga) wooded scrubland. The region manifests a gamut of wildlife that has successfully adapted to the hot and arid conditions, notably including wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax), the Near Threatened yellow-footed rock-wallaby (Petrogale xanthopus) and western gray kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) within the Flinders Ranges. Endemic species of the ecoregion are represented by the Houston's dragon (Ctenophorus vadnappa)

In addition to the yellow-footed rock-wallaby, other threatened mammals in the ecoregion include the Endangered sandhill dunnart (Sminthopsis psammophila), the Vulnerable dusky hopping mouse (Notomys fuscus), the Vulnerable fawn hopping mouse (Notomys cervinus), the Vulnerable plains mouse (Notomys australis) and the Near Threatened little pied bat (Chalinolobus picatus).

Notable reptiles found in the Tirari-Sturt Stony Desert include the Endangered endemic acacia knobtail gecko (Nephrurus deleani), the Endangered woma (Aspidites ramsayi), the Vulnerable snakehead lizard (Ophidiocephalus taeniatus), the Near Threatened Bardick snake (Echiopsis curta) and the Near Threatened Flinders Ranges worm-lizard (Aprasia pseudopulchella).

Eyre and York mallee

This ecoregion encompasses areas of extensive mallee vegetation geographically isolated from the Murray-Darling Woodlands and Mallee ecoregion to the east, and from similar formations in Western Australia. The ecoregion includes two peninsulas (Eyre to the west and Yorke to the east), separated by the Spencer Gulf.

In spite of the structural homogeneity of the vegetation, biogeographically the two peninsulas that form this ecoregion are quite different. While Eyre Peninsula has strong affinities to the Western Australia biota, in particular from the floristic point of view, Yorke Peninsula’s biological affinities lean strongly towards southeastern Australia. Eyre Peninsula is a local center of plant species endemism, with 29 endemic species mostly concentrated towards the southern end of the Peninsula. Another substantial number of species are found as disjunct populations (mostly from locations in Western Australia).

Most areas suitable for agriculture have been extensively cleared, and there are large tracts of land where native vegetation is mainly found as small remnants, or linear corridors along roads. The process has been more thorough in Yorke Peninsula, partly because of its higher agricultural potential, and partly because of historical reasons. Because of its marginal productivity the northern part of Eyre Peninsula has not suffered the same degree of clearance, and many large portions of the landscape are still covered by mallee vegetation. Several large conservation areas have also been set aside across Eyre Peninsula. In Yorke Peninsula, Innes National Park stands out as the only large piece of intact vegetation. Coastal vegetation, however, is overall better preserved, in particular that on limestone or sand dunes. Overall, around 7 percent of the plant taxa have become extinct, while almost 50 percent of the plant species listed for the region have conservation significance.

Mount Lofty woodlands

Including the Mount Lofty Ranges, surrounding lowlands, and offshore Kangaroo Island, this ecoregion is mostly vegetated by eucalypt woodlands. A number of unique ecosystems are found here, but clearing has been widespread, with only fragmented vegetation remaining. The native fauna of this region has been widely affected by loss of habitat and fragmentation. Numerous local mammalian and avian extinctions have occurred in this ecoregion, and continued clearance and invasive species are threats.

The southern and central sections of this region have been thoroughly modified by human activities, particularly since European settlement. The woodlands of the southern Mount Lofty Ranges were extensively cleared for agriculture, and urban sprawl around Adelaide has claimed remnant vegetation more recently. Less than 4 percent of native vegetation remains on the Adelaide Plains. Clearance has concentrated on lowland areas with higher agricultural potential. The northern section of the ecoregion retains more integrity, in particular along the ranges.

Overall, protected areas are fairly numerous, but small, and several vegetation types are under represented. Across the ecoregion approximately 10 percent of plant species are extinct, endangered, or threatened. A large proportion of these species are endemic to the region. The fauna of this region has suffered severe reductions in its diversity as a result of the destruction of habitats, hunting, and the impact of introduced predators such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and cats (Felis catus).

Murray-Darling woodlands and mallee

Two of southeastern Australia's most important rivers, the Murray and the Darling, flow though this ecoregion, the Murray-Darling woodlands and mallee. Vegetation consisted largely of eucalypt mallee woodlands, with tracts of riverine vegetation but clearance in the region has been extensive. Despite this, the ecoregion still contains several large tracts of native vegetation, with notable diversity seen among lizards, ants, and honeyeaters (Meliphagidae).

Clearance has been extensive and few plant communities in this region are considered to be inadequately conserved. In the South Australian part of the region, some 80 percent of the land has been cleared for agriculture with comparable figures for the adjoining areas in Victoria and New South Wales. The introduction of legislative controls has seen the near cessation of broad-scale clearance. Weeds pose few problems in undisturbed habitats, except where drift or runoff from agricultural lands imports nutrients.

Naracoorte woodlands

A broad coastal plain running from Victoria to the end of the Younghusband Peninsula in South Australia, the Naracoorte woodlands ecoregion has nearly all been converted for agriculture. Low topography, high rainfalls, and the complex drainage of the Murray River mouth result in large lakes, lagoons, and waterlogged areas. Several wetlands of international significance are found in this ecoregion. However, widespread clearing and fragmentation, combined with wetlands drainage and hydrological control mean that European settlement had a severe impact on this ecoregion.

Over 90 percent of the region has been cleared, and the remaining patches of vegetation are generally fragmented and relatively small. Few tracts larger than 10 square kilometers (km2) remain, and the larger tracts are predominantly long, narrow strips of land encompassing the coastal foredunes and lagoons. The largest remaining tracts are conserved in the Coorong National Park (465 km2), Messent Conservation Park (123 km2), and Canunda National Park (105 km2).

Mammalian extinction rates are high even by Australian standards, where nearly half of the world's mammalian extinctions have occurred in the past 200 years. In this ecoregion, extinct species include taxa such as the toolache wallaby (Macropus greyi) that are above the critical weight range where the bulk of mammalian extinctions have occurred. Although regional plant extinctions are on a par with other regions in southern Australia, an unusually high proportion of the flora is considered to be threatened. Several woodland communities that were once widespread are now considered to be poorly conserved both regionally and nationally, while one freshwater aquatic herbland community is inadequately conserved regionally.

Southeast Australia temperate forests

Comprising the lowland temperate forests around the Great Dividing Range, the Southeast Australian temperate forests comprise a wide variety of vegetation. Unlike the rest of mainland Australia, this region is well-watered with a temperate climate. Wet forest grows along the coast and dry forest and woodland is found inland of the Dividing Range. Avian and mammalian richness is high in this ecoregion, but human impact has been severe. Logging operations and pine plantations dot the wet forests, and farming and grazing has modified the drier vegetation. The major urban centers of Canberra and Melbourne are also located in this ecoregion.

This ecoregion has been heavily impacted by European settlement, and within the ecoregion the most extensive clearance of native vegetation has occurred to the west of the Dividing Range.Most wet sclerophyll forests were logged and dry forest and woodland converted to pasture and cultivated land following European arrival. Over 90 percent of temperate woodlands in the State of Victoria have been cleared, mostly for agriculture, leaving less than 6,000 km2. Box-ironbark forests have also been greatly depleted and fragmented. Pine plantations, mostly Pinus radiata, are located in the wet sclerophyll forests of this ecoregion. Many of the grassy coastal forests were also cleared for agriculture, and more recently for urban and recreation development. There are protected areas in this ecoregion, but they are mostly located in coastal regions and to the east of the Great Divide, biased to include wet sclerophyll vegetation. Protected areas include Grampians and Wilson's Promontory National Parks in Victoria and Wadbilliga, Deua, and Morton National Parks in New South Wales. However, throughout Australia, approximately half of all eucalypt forests in protected areas have been subject to logging at some point.

Australian Alps montane grasslands

The Australian Alps comprise the southeastern portion of the Great Dividing Range, or Eastern Highlands, a vast chain of high elevation areas that extend along the east coast of Australia from Tasmania to Cape York. The only area on mainland Australia to be glaciated, the Australian Alps extend for 500 km over two states and the Australian Capital Territory, from the Brindabella Ranges near Canberra nearly all the way to Melbourne. The Alps are an ecoregion like no other in low-lying, arid, drought-prone Australia. High mountains receive regular rainfall each year, supporting a thriving mix of grasslands, heath, and bogs above the treeline, as well as montane and subalpine communities at lower elevations. A number of alpine specialists and endemic animals are found here, and the Alps are of vast significance for people as well. They serve as a water catchment area for half of Australia's population and provide popular recreational activities in the numerous national parks.

Although a small area of the Australian continent (less than .3 percent), the Australian Alps receive 20 to 25 percent of the continent's total precipitation and provide water for half of Australia's population, as well as water for agricultural production and hydroelectricity generation. Due to its immense value as a water catchment area, the Australian Alps were first protected in the late 1800s and early 1900s when livestock grazing was restricted and then later, banned altogether. The majority of the Australian Alps montane grasslands ecoregion is state land today.

The Australian Alps are well conserved in a chain of alpine and sub-alpine protected areas covering 16,000 square kilometers  across State and Territory borders. National parks include the Australian Capital Territory's (ACT's) Namadgi National Park, New South Wales's Kosciuszko, and Brindabella National Parks and Bimberi and Scabby Range Nature Reserves, and Victoria's Alpine and Snowy River National Parks and Avon Wilderness. Since 1986, these parks have been managed collectively, at the ecoregion level, as the result of a memorandum of understanding signed by the States and the ACT. This agreement is the only one of its kind in Australia. All ecosystems of the Australian Alps are well-represented in this system of protected areas.

Southeast Australia temperate savanna

Positioned between mesic forests and the arid interior of Australia, the Southeast Australian temperate savannas span a broad north-south swatch across New South Wales. Unfortunately, most of this ecoregion has been converted to sheep rearing and wheat cropping. The original eucalypt vegetation remains only in small fragments. However, a number of endemic species and endangered species are found here, including the swift parrot (Lathamus discolor EN) and bridled nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata EN). Habitat clearing continues, as does degradation and salination. The preservation of these small fragmented savannas and their biota pose a unique challenge for conservationists and private landholders in New South Wales.

This southeastern wheatbelt region is an economically important area, supporting both wheat and sheep. Most of the native vegetation has been cleared, negatively impacting biodiversity and causing a decline in the native fauna. The 235 square-kilometer Warrumbungle National Park is one the few protected areas in this ecoregion, but does not conserve typical savanna vegetation. This protected area contains the westernmost steep, rocky areas of the Great Dividing Range. A number of smaller nature reserves and national parks are found throughout the ecoregion. Conservation programs that focus on private lands are key because of the small, fragmented nature of remaining vegetation. Private landholders in New South Wales have shown themselves amenable to conserving remaining vegetation fragments.

Eastern Australian temperate forests

Reaching from central coastal New South Wales into southeast Queensland, the Eastern Australian temperate forests ecoregion encompasses a vast variety of substrates, microclimates, and vegetation communities. Eucalypt forests interspersed with patches of rain forest extend through much of the ecoregion, with heath and associated sandplain vegetation near the coast. The region contains three areas recognized internationally because of their biodiversity and landscape values. They include two centers of plant endemism, the sandstone area around Sydney and the Border Ranges, including the volcanic landscape of the Mount Warning Shield. Other areas of importance are the coastal sandmasses and high dunes of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy region in southern Queensland. However, European settlement has had significant impact on this region's orginal rich biota. Clearing for land and urban development still continues, and woody weeds have invaded native vegetation, subsequent to overgrazing and other land disturbance.

When Europeans first arrived, the Border Ranges area contained one of the largest expanses of rain forest in Australia. The 750 square kilometer 'Big Scrub' comprised the largest stand of lowland subtropical rain forest in Australia and one of the biggest in the world. Today the Big Scrub has been reduced to mere fragments. Important timber species found in this ecoregion include red cedar, hoop pine, and white beech (Gmelina leichardtii). The Border Ranges are also vital for water catchment. Rainforests in this region are largely protected within the 3,700 km2 Central Eastern Rain forest Reserves World Heritage Site. The Blue Mountains area is also protected in a 2,500 km2 World Heritage Site. An extensive network of National and State Parks are spread throughout New South Wales and Queensland, although the representation of habitats varies throughout the ecoregion.

Sustainable logging continues in state-held eucalyptus forests and woodlands, with tallowwod, Sydney blue gum, spotted gum, blackbutt, and flooded gum harvested. Logging of eucalyptus forest in state forests in southeast Queensland is gradually being phased out. Eucalypt woodlands and dry forests have also been cleared for development or to enhance grazing. This ecoregion contains several large population centers, most notably Sydney and Brisbane.

Simpson Desert

Located in arid central Australia, the Simpson Desert region is centered on one of the world’s largest endorheic, or internal, drainage basins. This region includes Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest lake and the fifth largest terminal lake in the world. The landscape is subdued, characterized by flood- and alluvial plains, ephemeral lakes and claypans, dunefields, gently undulating stony plains, and low eroded ranges and mesas. Most of the region retains native vegetation cover with relatively pristine biota. Of particular importance to biodiversity are the large number of seasonal, and often semi-saline wetlands. Many of these areas teem with birds and fish when flooded, and are recognized internationally for their important breeding and habitat for large numbers of waterbirds.

The dominant industry in the region is cattle grazing with lesser areas used for other purposes such as mining and tourism. Most individual properties cover large areas, greater than 4,000 square kilometers (km2), and are run by large pastoral companies. This area is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Australia. The major towns in the region are Bedourie, Birdsville, Innaminka, Thargomindah, and Windorah.

Most of the region retains native vegetation cover with relatively pristine biota. There is virtually no large-scale land clearance in the region, apart from narrow excavation for gas pipelines that traverse the area. There are very few exotic weed species present in the region. There is widespread grazing throughout the region, by both domestic stock and introduced animals, particularly rabbits, but also camels, pigs, and goats. Pasture resources of the region as a whole are in reasonable condition. The river systems have retained their natural hydrology regimes with minimal water harvesting in comparison to other regions of Australia.

National Parks and major conservation areas overlapping with or contained within the ecoregion include the Simpson Desert, Goneaway, Diamantina, Lochern, Bladensburg, Welford, Witjira, Sturt, and Lake Eyre National Parks as well as the Simpson Desert Conservation Park and Innamincka and Simpson Desert Regional Reserves. These areas cover the range of habitat types that occur in the region under varying conservation management. However, significant wetlands in the northern part of this arid region are poorly represented in protected areas.

Eastern Australia mulga shrublands

The region is located within the semi-arid inland Australia.The Eastern Australia mulga shrublands are characterized by mulga (Acacia anuera) and other Acacia species on very infertile soils in a semi-arid climate. Much of the region retains a large proportion of native species although is subject to severe soil degradation. Of particular importance to biodiversity are the large numbers of ephemeral fresh-saline wetlands that provide important habitat for vast numbers of migratory bird and waterbird species when flooded.

Most of the land in this region is used for cattle and sheep grazing, with smaller areas used for other purposes including conservation, mining, and oil and gas production. The area is sparsely populated. Overall 80 percent of the region retains native vegetation cover. There are relatively few threatened plant species listed for the northern part of the region. Studies in the southern part of the region suggest there has been a decline in a high proportion of mammal and bird species.

Brigalow tropical savanna

The bulk of the Brigalow Belt forms a wide band of inland habitats wedged between wetter coastal habitat and the drier semi-arid zone to the west. The region is characterized by the natural overstory dominance of brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) in many lowland woodlands of the region, although other eucalypt woodlands are also present. The majority of the brigalow communities in the ecoregion have been cleared for cropping and pasture improvement. Several previously widespread communities are regarded as endangered, and a number of animals are threatened as well.

There are ten notable major conservation reserves of the Brigalow Belt. They range in size from the Taunton NP, at 115 kilometers2, to the Carnarvon NP at 2980 kilometers2. The habitat types protected within these reserves range from woodlands, savanna, eucalypt forests, vine thicket and montane forests to moist gorge communities and coastal wetlands. The reserves, from smallest to largest, are: the Taunton, Epping Forest, Dipperu, Bowling Green Bay, Goodedulla, Chesterton Range, Homevale, Blackdown Tableland, Expedition, and Carnarvon.

Queensland tropical rain forests

The Queensland tropical rainforests of Australia contain most of the world’s present day relict species of the ancient Gondwanan forests. The rainforests contain the most complete and diverse living record of the major stages in the evolutionary history of the world’s land plants, as well as one of the most important living records of the history of the marsupials and the songbirds. caption Bull pine (Agathis microstachya), notable canopy tree of the Queensland tropical rainforest ecoregion. Bull pine (Agathis microstachya), notable canopy tree of the Queensland tropical rainforest ecoregion.

High concentrations of endemic monotypic genera and primitive plant families reflect the refugial nature of many parts of the ecoregion. These rainforests also provide an unparalleled living record of the ecological and evolutionary processes that shaped the flora and fauna of Australia over the past 415 million years, although the Queensland tropical rainforests are only about as old as 70 million years as a stable time continuous ecological system.

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area was declared over 8940 km2 of the region in 1988 and includes most of the remaining larger contiguous rainforest blocks and most of the recognized high altitude refugial rainforest areas where high levels of local endemism occur. Logging has been a prohibited activity in the World Heritage Area since its listing. Although 15 percent of the ecoregion is managed as national park, some very significant lowland centers of plant endemism are missing from the protected areas network as are a number of very depleted ecosystems and critical habitats for several endangered species.

Mitchell grass downs

Mitchell Grass Downs form an extensive band of almost treeless grasslands in northwestern Queensland and the northeastern Northern Territory. Although Mitchell grasses (Astrebla spp.) may be common along drainage lines in adjacent lowland ecoregions (Gulf Plains and Channel Country), it is only in the downs that Mitchell grasses dominate regional vegetation. The undulating clay plains of the downs are also distinctive when compared to the dissected highlands and plateaus of surrounding regions. The region contains several threatened animals and vegetation communities and while there are some large protected areas, cattle grazing has pervasive effects on natural vegetation.

Major habitats within the Mitchell Grass Downs ecoregion are relatively intact and dominated by natural ecosystems . Three species of vertebrates are extinct within the ecoregion and a further twelve are endangered. Twenty-two of 152 regional ecosystems are considered endangered within Queensland, 17 of which are located in the Desert Uplands. Nearly all are naturally restricted to limited areas of habitat, and their endangered status is not solely the result of dramatic alteration of natural systems. Mitchell Grass Downs are poorly represented within conservation reserves, particularly in the Northern Territory. However, recent land acquisition in Queensland, most notably the establishment and recent expansion of Astrebla Downs National Park, has begun rectifying this situation. The park protects important habitat for an isolated population of the vulnerable bilby (Macrotis lagotis).

Einasleigh upland savanna

The Einasleigh uplands are a geologically rich area in the north of Australia’s eastern highlands. It is is a diverse area separated from surrounding tropical savannas by differences in climate, vegatation, and geology. The region is known for its rich basaltic soils and lava tubes. Ironbark woodlands, dry rainforests, and wetlands are all found in this ecoregion. A rich fauna is found in this ecoregion, including a number of cave-adapted insects as well as rare and localized mammals and reptiles. Due to a low intensity of human use, vegetation in this area is well-preserved and protected in conservation areas. However, cattle grazing, weeds, and mining are all threats.

The natural vegetation of the region is largely intact. Limited land clearing has resulted in the endangered status of a single regional ecosystem, Gidgee (Acacia cambagei) which has a restricted natural occurance on basalt clays in the south east of the region. Fifty seven percent of regional ecosystems are represented in conservation reserves. Given current patterns of low intensity landuse across the ecoregion, the reserve system is reasonably adequate and unbiased when compared to some adjacent ecoregions (eg. Brigalow Tropical Savannas ecoregion), although greater representation of wetlands and riparian habitats is needed.

Cape York tropical savanna

At the northernmost tip of Queensland, Cape York Peninsula is a remote wilderness area, boasting outstanding species diversity and features that are globally, regionally, and nationally significant in respective of eight natural heritage criteria. Mostly dominated by eucalyptus woodland, the region also contains notable rainforest, heathlands, grasslands, wetlands, and mangrove vegetation. Rainforest vegetation harbors Gondwanan and New Guinean floral elements, as well as exceptional orchid diversity. The Great Barrier Reef adjoins the ecoregion on its eastern seaboard, and supports a rich diversity of marine species. While pastoralism is the dominant land use, a significant area of land is contained in Aboriginal holdings, state land, and protected areas. As a result, this ecoregion has remained unmodified to a large degree, contains whole river systems of good quality, and key hydrological processes remain intact. However, feral animals, weeds, and plans for economic development are threats.

Cape York Peninsula is sparsely populated, with 12 urban centers containing a population of 8,700, and the rest of the population (roughly 9,000 people) spread out in smaller towns, settlements, and cattle properties. More than 60 percent of Cape York Peninsula’s population belong to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands groups.

This ecoregion has long been recognized as one of Australia’s largest and most important wilderness areas. Very little clearing has occurred with 99 percent of the area covered in remnant vegetation. Approximately 10 percent of the Peninsula is contained in a protected areas system including a number of large national parks: Lakefield (5,370 kilometers2), Mungkan Kandju (4,570 kilometers2), and Jardine River National Parks (2,530 kilometers2).

The vast, high-quality areas of wilderness mean that there have been no documented plant or vertebrate extinctions in this ecoregion after European settlement. The region actually serves as a refuge for several birds that were originally widely distributed across Australia in low numbers, such as the pied oyster catcher (Haemotopus longirostris).

Carpentaria tropical savanna

The Gulf of Carpentaria is a major feature of the northern Australian coastline. Stretching inland from the southern margins of the Gulf are grasslands and woodland savannas on large depositional plains. These plains form the basis of much of the Carpentarian Tropical Savanna ecoregion, which also includes the Gulf Fall and Uplands of the Northern Territory, an area of dissected plateau and ranges that drains to the Gulf across a narrow section of coastal plain. A number of restricted range and endangered species are found here, including one endangered endemic rodent. Natural vegetation communities still dominate in this ecoregion but cattle grazing is widespread and causes significant degradation.

Natural vegetation still dominates the region. Clearing of Acacia cambadgei woodlands near the boundary with the Mitchell Grass Downs has occurred in Queensland, but has not been widespread. Conservation reserves in this ecoregion include Staaten River National Park (4,700 kilometers2), Lawn Hill National Park and adjacent resource reserves (less than 1,000 kilometers2), Mitchell-Alice River National Park, and part of Bulleringa National Park. Several major reserves are concentrated in Queensland sections of the ecoregion, particularly in the northeastern Gulf Plains. The Northern Territory remains relatively unprotected in reserve systems. A recently declared large national park in the Limmen Bight region will partially address this lack of reserves in the Northern Territory. One of the Pellew Islands is protected in Barranyi National Park.

Arnhem Land tropical savanna

The rugged sandstone massif of Arnhem Land extends over a relatively flat landscape along the northern coast of Australia. Here, rivers make their way down to the coast, creating vast floodplains during the annual monsoon rains. Open eucalypt forests extend across most of the landscape, intermixed with small patches of rainforest, and notable communities of heath vegetation grow on the sandstone escarpment. The sandstone massif harbors a highly endemic biota, including vascular plants and mammals. The vast wetlands of this region are extremely productive and known for their high rodent and snake densities. Vast portions of this ecoregion remain in their natural state, preserving large-scale natural processes such as bird migration. This ecosystem is well preserved in protected areas, including the iconic Kakadu National Park, but changes in the fire regime, feral animals, and weeds are all threats.

Aboriginal Land Trusts hold most of this region as inalienable tenure, and many parts of the ecoregion are managed in ways reflecting the more than 40,000 years of continuous occupation by these peoples. Aboriginal lands include the nearly 20,000 km2 Kakadu National Park, one of Australia's largest and most iconic national parks, also recognized as a World Heritage site for its outstanding natural and cultural values.

The environments of this region are largely unaffected by broad-scale clearing and major habitat modification, with several exceptions. Most notably, land has been cleared for horticultural production in the vicinity of Darwin, some relatively minor clearing has occurred for strip mining in north-eastern Arnhem Land and Groote Eylandt, and there is some plantation forestry of exotic tree species on Melville Island. Conservation reserves comprise 26,662 km2 or 17 percent of the region, and include good representation of the full range of environments found here.

In contrast to most other regions in Australia, the Arnhem Land tropical savanna has suffered no known extinctions in the 200 years since European colonization. However, there is recent evidence of substantial declines in at least some bird and mammal assemblages. Endangered species present include the palm (Ptychosperma macarthuri - listed as CR under former name P. bleeseri), the gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae EN), and the golden bandicoot (Isoodon auratus VU). One hundred years ago, the golden bandicoot's distribution extended across almost all of the Northern Territory, but it now occurs on only one island. Sandstone heathland has recently been nominated for listing as an endangered community.

Tasmanian temperate rain forests

The cool, moist climate of rugged western Tasmania harbors a rich, Gondwanan flora. Rainforest vegetation mixes with a variety of habitats in this ecoregion, supporting endemic plants, rare marsupials, and endangered birds.

A large portion of this ecoregion is protected by the 13,800 km2 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site. Less than 25 percent of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site contains rainforest vegetation, which can grow only where fires are infrequent. In general, rainforest vegetation is well-conserved, with 45 percent found in protected areas and another 12 percent currently proposed for protection. Out of an identified 38 communities, all but six are deemed to have good representation in protected areas. Wet eucalypt forest are not as well-represented in protected areas, with only 18 percent of this community included in reserves.

Although rainforest is well-conserved in the large Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area, fire is a pervasive threat to rainforest vegetation throughout the region, and logging and mining continue outside protected areas.

Tasmanian Central Highland forests

Dominating central Tasmania, the high, cold Central Plateau is surrounded by the low, dry, grassy Midlands to the east and south.

Grassy vegetation mixes with eucalpyt woodland at lower elevations and unique climatic conditions allow woody evergreen elements to persist high on the Central Plateau. A diverse assemblage of vegetation types harbors alpine specialists, wide-ranging marsupials, and a variety of birds, including the endangered swift parrot (Lathamus discolor).

Alpine areas are well protected in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area but lower elevation woodlands and grasslands receive little protection and have been greatly modified for grazing.

The Tasmanian Central Highland forests are the source of a variety of resources. The Central Plateau region is used for forestry, grazing, and water catchment. Lower elevation grasslands have largely been converted for grazing, with some forestry occurring in the Midlands as well. The high-elevation, western half of this ecoregion is better-preserved than the eastern portion. Both the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park are part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and fall within the western half of this ecoregion. These parks preserve mostly alpine vegetation; the dry eucalypt forest and grasslands of this ecoregion are not well-conserved at present. However, subalpine eucalypt vegetation has survived largely intact since the 1800s. In contrast, highland silver tussock grassland has largely been converted to pasture over the last few decades. Although a large proportion of native grassland vegetation survives, most is heavily invaded by exotic species, or replaced by native shrubs when disturbed. The Midlands have been heavily impacted by human use so that vegetation there is largely modified grassland and woodland. Silver tussock grasslands are especially prized in the Midlands for stock grazing.

Tasmanian temperate forests

Tasmanian temperate forests are found in the east and northeast of Tasmania, extending offshore onto the Flinders and King Islands in the Bass Strait.

The dry eucalyptus forest here differs greatly from cool, wet western Tasmania and has more affinities with mainland Australia.

The forests here have been extensively altered by humans, first by Aboriginal fire regimes, and then by European settlement. As a result this ecoregion is the most degraded in Tasmania, and endemic species such as the Tasmanian thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) and the King Island emu (Dromaius ater) are now extinct.

As a result of European occupation, the Tasmanian Temperate Forests have suffered more irreversible disturbances than any other ecoregion on Tasmania. Today, between 30 to 40 percent of the dry sclerophyll vegetation present in 1803 has been completely transformed by agriculture, urbanization, and intensive forestry. The coastal areas on the Furneaux Group have been heavily modified by grazing. A significant amount of land in this ecoregion is privately owned. Approximately 15 percent of Tasmania’s dry sclerophyll forest is included in protected areas, although this figure includes outlying pockets of dry sclerophyll vegetation in other ecoregions. Key protected areas in the Tasmanian Temperate Forest ecoregion include the Douglas-Aspley, Strezlecki, Ben Lomond, and Freycinet National Parks.

Swan Coastal Plain scrub and woodlands

Running along the narrow Swan Coastal Plain, this ecoregion contains a variety of vegetation, from coastal dunes and sandplains to Banksia and eucalypt woodlands.

A diverse fauna is also found in this relatively high rainfall region.

However, the region around Perth is heavily developed and much of this region has already been cleared. While there are several large protected areas in the region, continued development, habitat fragmentation, dieback disease, and inappropriate fire regimes are serious threats.

Nearly 80 percent of the Swan Coastal Plain has been cleared. Sandplain heathlands near Perth have almost entirely been converted as the urban center expands. Urban expansion reaches as far east as the Darling Scarp and has spread in a north-south direction as well.

A number of Swan Coastal Plain woodland communities are listed as Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act: marri (Eucalyptus calophylla)–kingia (Kingia australis) woodlands on heavy soils, marri (Eucalyptus calophylla)–grass tree (Xanthorrhoea preissii) woodlands, and shrublands, shrublands, and woodlands of the eastern Swan Coastal Plain, shrublands and woodlands on Muchea Limestone of the Swan Coastal Plain, and shrublands and woodlands on Perth to Gingin ironstone.

Protected areas in this ecoregion include the Hills Forest conservation area which comprises five national parks (John Forrest, Gooseberry Hill, Greenmount, Kalamunda, and Lesmurdie Falls) and the Mount Dale Conservation Park. This ecoregion has a lower percentage of land in protected areas than the Jarrah-Karri forest and shrublands and Southwest Australia woodlands ecoregions.

World Heritage sites

Context

Ecoregions are areas that:

[1] share a large majority of their species and ecological dynamics;
[2] share similar environmental conditions; and,
[3] interact ecologically in ways that are critical for their long-term persistence.

Scientists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have established a classification system that divides the world in 867 terrestrial ecoregions, 426 freshwater ecoregions and 229 marine ecoregions that reflect the distribution of a broad range of fauna and flora across the entire planet.

Glossary

Citation

Fund, W. (2013). Ecoregions of Australia. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/177124