New - Urban Bushland Council and Wildflower Society of WA have nominated Perth's Banksia woodlands as a Threatened Ecological Community under the Federal Government's Environment Protection and Biodiverstity Conservation Act.
The area of this nomination includes the Perth Metro Region and the Peel Region where most of the population of WA lives. Whilst there are some larger patches of intact Banksia Woodland, there are many smaller intact patches as well as remnants of Banksia menziesii and B attenuata overstorey scattered across the suburbs forming regionally and locally significant ecological linkages.
These linkages are under increasing threat from urban development and urban infill, largely due to the lack of appreciation and understanding of their ecological significance. This is combined with the lack of formal legally binding recognition that such linkages are valuable ecologically and need to be retained. The sustainability of the biodiversity of these species rich Woodlands is now critically dependant on the maintenance of these linkages. They are essential as wildlife corridors and act as refugia for recolonisation after catastrophic events such as fire and hail storms.
Perth and the Peel Regions are growing steadily as a result of the mining boom and urban infill is actively promoted by the State Government. This provides a major threat to unprotected ecological linkages as small patches are cleared little by little. As a result the health and inherent species of the Woodlands is under threat.
Our Banksia Heritage
Perth is the only city in the world set in a natural landscape dominated by Banksia woodlands. Whilst the landscape relief and tree profile is subtle, these woodland communities are highly biodiverse, especially in understorey and herb layer. Indeed the Perth region is a hotspot of plant species diversity within the globally recognised south-west biodiversity hotspot for conservation priority. It is under threat. Yet Perth's Banksia woodlands are so little known and appreciated.
Banksia as a genus is an ancient West Australian. Banksia woodlands, including the dominant trees of the woodland define the Perth Metropolitan area. The genus Banksia is part of the great Southern Hemisphere family of plants, the Proteaceae, named after the Greek god Proteus (many forms). Worldwide there are 80 genera and approximately 1,770 species, of which Australia has 46 genera (57.5% of total) and approximately 1,100 species (61.7% of total). Of the 46 genera, 80.4% are confined to Australia as are 1,088 (99.5%) of the species. The Proteaceae is the third largest family in Australia after the Peas and the Myrtles.
In Western Australia there are 17 genera (21% of the world, 37% of Australia) and 740 species (41.7% of the world, 67.6% of Australia). Banksia (without including Dryandra) has 80 species, of which 63 are only found in south-west Western Australia (SWWA).
Around Perth on the Swan Coastal Plain there are only seven common trees. Three are eucalypts (Tuart, Jarrah and Marri), three are Banksias (B. attenuata, B. grandis and B. menziesii) and one is the sheoak Allocasuarina fraseriana. Three of these, the Tuart and the two Banksia species (B. attenuata and B. menziesii) are the characteristic trees of Perth.
Banksia woodlands are highly important, diverse, species-rich environments. They have declined substantially and face serious threat. There is an urgent need to understand the diversity, venerability and vulnerability of Banksia woodlands and their remarkable biota. There is also a need to achieve substantial change in policy and management if we are to make a difference to Banksia woodland conservation and management.
There will need to be additional efforts in intervention and monitoring if we are to be effective in the conservation and on-going management of Banksia woodlands. However, it is essential to consider the conservation of Banksia woodlands within a broader global conservation agenda. Anthropogenic climate change now urges such a conservation agenda. The alternative would render continued efforts irrelevant in Banksia woodland conservation.
Perth Banksia Woodlands Symposium
The Urban Bushland Council organised a Banksia Woodlands Symposium in March 2011. Sponsored by Lotterywest, more than 150 people attended the event - all levels of Government, industry, nature conservation groups and the general public.
Speakers discussed the evolutionary history of the Banksia genus and ecophysiology of groundwater use by Banksias and the understory plants of the woodlands. Studies of the fungi and the vertebrate and invertebrate fauna found in Banksia woodlands were also presented along with management issues such as climate change, fragmentation of the bushland and invasive plants.
The speakers notes have been compiled into proceedings of the symposium which covers Perth's Bansia woodland, its flora, fauna and fungi ecosystem, its threats and aspects of management. See below for edited short videos of Symposium speakers:
Banksia Woodlands: A Perth Icon
Greg Keighery, Science Division, Department of Environment and Conservation
Banksia as a genus is an ancient West Australian. Banksia woodlands, including the dominant trees of the woodland define the Perth Metropolitan area and are hence an Iconic Community of our City. They should be regarded as icons as much as the eight Perth Heritage Icons of the 13 selected in 2004 (Swan River, Fremantle Harbour, Kings Park, Albany ANZAC Day dawn service, Rottnest, Broome pearls, Ningaloo Reef, Western AFL Derby, Kalgoorlie Gold, Perth
Royal Show, Bungle Bungle Ranges, His Majesty’s Theatre and the Midland Railway Workshops).......
The Significance of Rooting Depth in Perth's Banksias
Philip K. Groom, Curtin University
Perth’s Banksia woodlands inhabit nutrientimpoverished coarse sands of low waterholding capacity overlying shallow unconfined groundwater aquifers with a depth-to-groundwater ranging from < 1 m in the low lying depressions, damplands and wetlands to > 30 m atop the dune crests. These soils tend to dry out to considerable depths during the hot, dry summer months (Dec–Mar), rewetting when rain falls in autumn and winter (May–Aug).......
Macro-Invertebrate Fauna of the Banksia Woodlands
David Knowles, Director of Spineless Wonders
Macro-invertebrates include the insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and other fauna without backbones. In fact there are far more species of macro-invertebrates on the Swan Coastal Plain than there are vertebrate species (less than 3%). Over 2,250 macro-invertebrate arthropods are listed on the Greater Perth Metro Invertebrate Database.........
Turtle Frogs: Bizarre Breeders in the Banksia Woodlands
Nicola Mitchell, University of Western Australia
The Banksia woodlands of south-western Australia are home to a variety of amphibians, including Pobblebonk, Motorbike and Moaning frogs (Limnodynastis dorsalis, Litoria moorei and Heleiporus eyrei) that forage on the forest floor and sit out dry periods in moist retreat sites. In addition, one very unusual amphibian not only feeds in the woodlands, but breeds there as well, despite the absence of standing water. Turtle frogs (Myobatrachus gouldii), perhaps the strangest and most secretive inhabitants of Banksia woodlands, spend most of year buried deep underground in sandy soils and only emerge following rainfall for feeding and courtship.......
Maintaining the Biodiversity in our Bansia Woodlands
Judy Fisher, Fisher Research
One of the major threats to the world’s biodiversity is the transformation of ecosystems through invasion. In fact, invaders are as important as a driver and direct threat to biodiversity as human transformation of ecosystems and production of greenhouse gases.
Invasive alien species have affected native biodiversity in almost every ecosystem type in the world and are considered to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, human health and the economy, threatening the ecological and economic well being of the planet. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment indicated that tackling the drivers of biodiversity loss in an integrated manner is much more likely to achieve the 2010 targets than tackling them independently, hence the importance of understanding the effects and interactions of invasion on various components of the ecosystem........
Below the Knees Diversity and how we Survey It
Bronwen Keighery, Office of the Environmental Protection Authority, WA
The Banksia woodlands of Perth’s Swan Coastal Plain are an integral part of the city’s natural environment. However, the eucalypt dominated plant communities with tall Tuart, Jarrah and/or Marri trees are often considered to be the ‘real’ bushland. People’s attraction to all things large, the usefulness of eucalypt timber, the persistence of these trees in the built environment and the ease with which eucalypts can be grown appear to be the foundation of this belief. While all Perth’s plant communities are distinctive and biodiverse, it is the Banksia woodlands that are the most diverse and restricted plant communities......
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