Terrestrial Biodiversity

Evolving in geographic isolation, the Terrestrial Biodiversity (all ‘land-based’ life-forms: plants, animals, micro-organisms) of the SWCC Region is some of the most unique in the country, if not the world.

The SWCC Region is located within the South West Biodiversity Hotspot (stretching diagonally from Geraldton to the east of Esperance) which is one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots[noteVictoria, L. (2015). The South West: Australia’s biodiversity hotspot Crawley, Western Australia. Crawley: UWA Publishing.[/note].

This South West Biodiversity Hotspot has 8379 native vascular plants (species + subspecies), 47% (3911) of which are endemic (found nowhere else on the planet)1. A staggering amount when compared to England, where the land mass is proportionate to the South West but there are only 1500 native vascular plants species and a mere 3% are endemi2.

The South West is synonymous with wilderness, giant forests, and spectacular coastlines. This area also has many unique and endemic animals, like the Numbat and the Western Ringtail Possum.
The South West’s uniqueness along with its threats is what attracts the global hotspot status. This status is only awarded to places with extraordinarily high concentrations of endemic species, but also where these species are undergoing severe loss of habitat.

Services and values

Biodiversity is important for many services and values such as the following:

  • Climate regulation
  • Oxygen production
  • Habitat for species
  • Recreation, tourism and leisure
  • Aesthetics
  • Education
  • Nutrient cycling (important for regulation of natural and agricultural systems)
  • Pollination (important for native plant reproduction and agricultural crop production)
  • Erosion control
  • Cultural / spiritual

Threats

  • Clearing of native vegetation (past, present and future clearing)
  • Rainfall reduction resulting from Climate Change
  • Phytophthora Dieback (an introduced plant-root pathogen affecting 40% of native species)
  • Climate change and heat stress
  • Invasive plants and feral animals

Links and further reading

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Great Sand Plover. Photo: Kim Williams.

Migratory Birds

There are 46 migratory birds that visit the south west region, and 17 of these are threatened* (DBCA, 2018).

One Migratory birds visiting our region includes the “Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) which are the largest of all the world’s shorebirds, and call their call, a mournful ‘Cuuuurrlew’, ringing out beautifully across vast coastal wetlands. Their impressive bill, which is characteristic of the species, is used to probe the mud and dig up crabs, their main food source in Australia”1

Great Sand Plover. Photo: Kim Williams

*includes terrestrial, aquatic and marine birds.

Data source:

DBCA., 2018. Threatened fauna GIS records. DBCA Threatened Species Branch [Accessed Mar. 2018].

References:

1 Birdlife.org.au. Available at: http://www.birdlife.org.au [Accessed 13 Apr. 2018].

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Native Vegetation Approved for Clearing since 2004

Since clearing regulation begun in 2004, 10,582 ha* of vegetation has been approved for clearing within the SWCC Region, an area the size of approximately 5200 MCG ovals.

Disclaimer: Statistics do not include exempt or illegal clearing, nor indicate if the clearing has occurred or not.

Data source:

* Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER). 2018. Native Vegetation Clearing Permit Data (accessed March 2018). Data analysis by DWER.

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Remnant native vegetation protected in tenure for conservation purposes

Within the SWCC Region, only 34.7% of all remaining native vegetation is held in tenure that is protected for conservation purposes*, (the equivalent of 789 Rottnest Islands). Included within this is 33 National Parks, 133 Nature Reserves and various other protected tenure classifications.

*Conservation purposes according to the international IUCN categories I-IV) (Government of Western Australia, 2018.  IUCN categories I-IV do not include State Forest, however State Forest makes up a significant proportion (38%) of vegetation in the SWCC Region, and has high ecological values and houses many threatened species. 

Data source:

  • Government of Western Australia. (2018). 2017 Statewide Vegetation Statistics incorporating the CAR Reserve Analysis (Full Report). Current as of December 2017. WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Perth

Case Studies

References

  1. Gioia, P. and Hopper, S. (2017). A new phytogeographic map for the Southwest Australian Floristic Region after an exceptional decade of collection and discovery. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 184(1), pp.1-15.
  2. Bradshaw, D. and Lambers, H. (n.d.). Australia’s south west: a hotspot for wildlife and plants that deserves World Heritage status. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/australias-south-west-a-hotspot-for-wildlife-and-plants-that-deserves-world-heritage-status-54885 [Accessed 29 Mar. 2018].