Impacts of the Development

Flora

Vegetation at the False Cape Site

The Queensland Herbarium has recently released updated mapping of its Regional Ecosystem mapping for the Wet Tropics bioregion.  The mapping is the result of years of work by Peter and David Stanton, and is the best available resource for describing the natural ecosystems of the Wet Tropics bioregion.


zoom view

Aerial view of the False Cape site.

The steepness of the site, and the cliffs overhanging much of the "Detached Dwelling" area, are obvious in this picture.

The mapping shows a surprisingly diverse range of at least 13 defined ecosystems across the 120 ha False Cape site, from dense rainforests (mesophyll/notophyll vine forests) to sclerophyll woodlands, with other unusual vegetation communities restricted to rocky seepage areas and exposed windswept cliffs near the coast.  Patches of rainforests protect epiphytic orchids and ferns, whilst many understorey species in the woodlands of the area are dependent on regular burning for their survival.

Vegetation Mapping in Queensland

Queensland’s vegetation management laws recognise over a thousand distinct ecological communities (or Regional Ecosystems) across the state.  Each Regional Ecosystem is defined by a unique vegetation structure and combination of dominant plant species, and their distribution is mapped by botanists at, or associated with, the Queensland Herbarium.  The level of protection afforded to Regional Ecosystems is based upon (a) its estimated extent prior to European settlement, (b) the proportion that has been cleared or modified by human activities and (c) the significance of the community as habitat for threatened wildlife.  In general, if a community has been reduced to less than 30% of its distribution, then it is classed as “Of Concern”, whilst communities reduced to less than 10% of their pre-European settlement distribution are classified as “Endangered”.

Queensland’s vegetation management laws apply strictly to land area only.  In applying the conservation status designation, they do not give recognition to threatening processes other than land clearing that may impact on ecological communities.  Threatening processes such as weed invasion, overgrazing, changes in water availability associated with dam building, or changes in fire regimes can also impact on the integrity of ecosystems.  For this reason, the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to take these factors into account in developing its “Biodiversity Status” designation which assists the protection of Regional Ecosystems, and is a more realistic portrayal of their conservation status.  Unfortunately “Biodiversity Status” does not have the legislation to require its enforcement for land conservation.

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