The environment at a glance...

Fauna at risk

Fauna at risk

While still exisitng in other parts of WA, the Bilby: a charasmatic marsupial distinguished by its “bunny-like ears”, has sadly been lost from the SWCC Region forever and more threatened species are at risk of being lost.

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Threatened Aquatic Species

Threatened Aquatic Species

Between 2001 and 2017, the number of aquatic species (including wetland dependent birds) in the South West NRM region, which have been adequately searched for and are deemed to be, in the wild, either rare, at risk of extinction, or otherwise in need of special protection, and have been gazetted as such, have increased from 5 being listed to 23. Thus, there has been a 360% increase in aquatic species listed as threatened between 2001-2017.

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Smooth Marron Populations

Smooth Marron Populations

While past translocations of Smooth Marron (Cherax cainii) have resulted in an expansion of its distribution northward and eastward, there has also been a decline in its inland range and local abundances due to water quality decline and loss of habitat.  The populations have deteriorated over the past 40 years.  Monitoring of the recreational Smooth Marron fishery since the mid-1970s has shown both a reduction in total catches and a reduction in catch rates. There is some recent evidence of stabilisation.

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Coastal erosion risks

Coastal erosion risks

The Peron Naturaliste region (the area from the Shire Rockingham to City of Busselton) has been identified as vulnerable to the impacts of coastal climate change. From now to 2100, approximately 200 metres wide strip is at risk from erosion along the whole extent of the coastline.

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Aquatic invertebrates in forests

Aquatic invertebrates in forests

69% of 29 stream studied within conservation reserves or state forest across the SWCC NRM region received an average AusRivAS rating indicating they were in good condition.

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Water availability

Water availability

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation licences the taking of water from about 250 groundwater and surface water resources in the South West region that are proclaimed under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914. The total volume of water available under allocation limits for these water resources is about 685 gigalitres per year, 60% of which is surface water and 40% groundwater. A high proportion of resources are fully allocated particularly in areas with the biggest population growth and economic development pressures.

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Seagrass meadows

Seagrass meadows

Geographe Bay supports the most extensive seagrass meadows in temperate Western Australia and around 9,500 hectares in waters < 10 m are in good condition. The most common species is Posidonia sinuosa which is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN redlist. In Geographe Bay the P. sinuosa meadows are healthy with reasonably consistent density over the last seven years, and a higher density than found in other places in WA.

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Population growth

Population growth

Between 2001 to 2016, SWCC regional population has grown by 36.7%, from 138,049 to 188,754. and total population projected to growth 223,480 by 2026 (i.e. 61.9% growth from 2001 to 2026). Rapid urbanisation has occurred in coastal LGAs such as Busselton, Augusta-Margaret River, Harvey, Dardanup, Donnybrook-Balingup and Dardanup.

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Projected rise in temperature

Projected rise in temperature

The projected changes in temperature for the South West are severe enough to result in large parts of the current ranges of many species becoming unsuitable for those species.

Changes in average annual and seasonal temperatures can result in conditions that make a specific location unsuitable for that plant to grow or animal to thrive, i.e. the new temperature range is outside of that species’ optimal temperature range.

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Projected decline in rainfall

Projected decline in rainfall

Changes in average annual and seasonal rainfall can result in conditions that make a specific location unsuitable for that plant to grow or animal to thrive, i.e. the new rainfall range is outside of that species’ optimal range. The projected changes in rainfall for the South West are severe enough to result in large parts of the current ranges of many species becoming unsuitable for those species.

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Salinity and agriculture

Salinity and agriculture

This is a key issue affecting agriculture in Western Australia, particularly in the eastern parts of the region. The implications of dryland salinity to the agricultural industry are widespread and include reduced crop yield, area of arable land, land capability and should also include the growing need to meet community and market demands for environmentally responsible agriculture.

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Loss of native vegetation

Loss of native vegetation

Clearing of native vegetation (historical, present and future) remains one of the major threats to terrestrial biodiversity in the south west. It contributes to the the physical loss of flora, fauna and their habitat; and reduces the resilience of the remaining vegetation and biodiversity to pressures such as weed invasion, vegetation fragmentation, fire, feral animals and climate change.

While just over half (53%) the vegetation has been cleared across the whole SWCC region, some areas have been cleared more extensively. Most notably, on the Swan Coastal Plain (80% lost), Avon Wheatbelt and Mallee IBRA regions (84.7% and 89.4% lost respectively).

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Land for Wildlife

Land for Wildlife

Land for Wildlife is a voluntary conservation program to encourage and assist private landholders to provide habitat for wildlife on their property.

Within the SWCC Region, 1,516 properties are under Land for Wildlife covering a total of 26,364 hectares.

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Flora at risk

Flora at risk

Western Australian flora is arguably some of the most unique in the world and has fascinated wildflower enthusiasts for generations. 78 flora species are threatened (DBCA, 2018) in the SWCC Region i.e: flora species which are declared as rare or likely to become extinct under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

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Vegetation cover change since 2000

Vegetation cover change since 2000

From European settlement to the year 2000 vegetation cover on the Swan Coastal Plain (the area between the ocean and the scarp) had been reduced by 80%, leaving only a small proportion remaining (35,727 ha). In the short 17 years since, a further 28.5% of remaining vegetation cover has been lost (minimum 10,172 ha).

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Vegetation fragmentation

Vegetation fragmentation

Vegetation fragmentation is caused by clearing which separates vegetation into smaller patches of vegetation.  These patches are therefore no longer continuous and are disconnected by barriers such as roads, urban development, agriculture and mining, plantations. This can isolate species and restrict the movement of flora, fauna and genetics across the landscape, making species more susceptible to pressures such as disease, and/or climate change.  Smaller more isolated patches of vegetation [and the species that relay on these patches for habitat] are less resilient to threats such as invasive weeds, pest animals, drought and high-intensity fire. As patch size decreases, so too does the resilience of flora, fauna and habitat continuity.

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Fish Kill Events

Fish Kill Events

The number of fish kill events appears to be stable between 2000 and 2017 with between zero and three events per year in rivers and estuaries across the South West NRM region. The exception to this was 2015 when six events occurred, however no events were recorded in the last two years (2016 and 2017). Many of these events were linked to poor water quality due to a number of man-made changes to rivers and their catchments including increased nutrients, clearing of riparian and catchment vegetation and reduced flushing of rivers due to installation of barriers and changes in flow.

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Wetlands of international importance

Wetlands of international importance

The South West NRM region supports 3 wetlands of International importance, listed under the Ramsar convention. Covering an area of 12,239 ha. The Vasse Wonnerup Wetlands abutting Busselton, Toolibin Lake is 40 km east of the town of Narrogin, and Muir Byenup systems is 55 km east-south-east of the town of Manjimup.  They support 80, 50 and 49 bird species respectively. There are 66 Ramsar listed wetlands across Australia.

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How we use water

How we use water

About 63% of the South West region’s total water use is by the agriculture sector. 14% is used in urban areas for households, commercial and parks and gardens; while heavy industry and mining make up 12% and 11% of the region’s total water use respectively.

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Effects of rainfall decline to date

Effects of rainfall decline to date

Rainfall in the south-west of Western Australia is now around 16 per cent below the long-term average. Less rainfall results in less water flowing into rivers and aquifers and to date there has been up to a 50% reduction in average run-off into rivers and streams, and up to a 30 per cent reduction in recharge of aquifers depending on the location.

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How serious is Soil Acidity?

How serious is Soil Acidity?

More than 70% of agricultural topsoils and 50% of sub-surface soils are more acidic than they should be, and such soils affect agricultural production negatively as plants are less able to take up nutrients from the soil.

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Soil nutrient management

Soil nutrient management

On average, farm soils (i.e. pasture and arable) are over fertilised. They contain 1.3 - 1.6x as much phosphorus as is required for optimal production. Reducing the amount of phosphorus to optimal levels could lead to economic benefits (reduced fertiliser costs or redirection of fertiliser costs to removing other constraints), and reducing the off-site impacts of agriculture (reduced leaching and runoff of phosphorus).

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Extent of water repellence

Extent of water repellence

Soil water repellence is the resistance of soils to wetting, sometimes to the extent that they remain dry even after significant rainfall events or irrigation.

Most of the soils (including in coastal and forest areas) in the South West NRM region are severely water repellent affecting agriculture production.

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West Coast bioregion recreational catch

West Coast bioregion recreational catch

Recreational catch of dhufish in West Coast bioregion (includes the south-west zone) was higher in 2015/16 (97-129 t) compared with 2011/12 (64-87 t) and 2013/14 (69-94 t).
Both recreation fishing and demersal fisheries are important economies in the South West NRM region.

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South West recreational fish

South West recreational fish

Top five most common finfish species taken by rec fishers in south-west in 2015/16 were school whiting (14% of total catch), Australian herring (9%), WA Dhufish (7%), Silver trevally (5%) and Snapper (4%).

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Whales

Whales

Conservation Dependent humpback, endangered blue and endangered southern right whales have shown consistent, seasonal use of important habitat in the southwest region with an apparent steady increase in humpback sightings.

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Marine Parks

Marine Parks

The South West NRM region is home to 2 of the 17 marine parks in Western Australia (including the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park and the Ngari Capes Marine Parks) protecting scenic and biologically important areas of ocean and coastline (usually to high water mark) cover a total area of 1142 and 123,790 hectares respectively.

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Coastal vegetation loss within 1km of beach

Coastal vegetation loss within 1km of beach

The coastal zone, frequently referred to as within 1 km of the beach, is sort after for development as many of us want to live close to the beach. 60% of native vegetation in this zone has disappeared since European settlement. Coastal vegetation is important for dune stability, protecting us from storm-surges, flooding and erosion. This vegetation is also important for species that rely on it for habitat, foraging and wildlife corridors.

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Marine debris

Marine debris

Marine debris is a threat to marine life. The SWCC region has four distinctive coastal areas with differing conditions and sources affecting marine debris. The long stretches of sandy beaches between Leschenault Inlet to the Myalup desalination plant records the highest abundance of marine debris within the region. Winter storms drive offshore debris into these beaches and summertime recreational activities produce some littering.

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Mining in the South West

Mining in the South West

There are 98 active mines in SWCC Region. These are mined for the following commodities: Construction material, Energy, Industrial mineral, Specialty metal.

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Changing face of Landcare

Changing face of Landcare

Between 2000 and 2017, the number of active Landcare groups in the South West has increased from 48 to 77, while across WA, numbers have dropped from 700-800 to 465. The number of Aboriginal community groups involved in Landcare in the South West has increased from 4 to 15 between 2000 in 2017.

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Community groups

Community groups

According to community groups in the South West, there are three common threats to their legacy and continuity. Access to funding was the biggest cause for concern, with 72% citing this (including access to funding, concerns about the loss of funding and the uncertainty of future funding).

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Aboriginal heritage places

Aboriginal heritage places

The DAA on-line Heritage Inquiry System shows there are 820 Aboriginal heritage places in the South West, 251 of which are Registered Sites.

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