Terrestrial ecosystems

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Key messages

Why terrestrial ecosystems are important

Terrestrial ecosystems are the community of living organisms and the non-living environmental features that support them. They are essential for the provision of services (e.g. food, fuel) and ecological processes for all life on earth. While changes made to ecosystems contribute substantial benefits to human economic development, the gains are at the expense of declining and degrading ecosystems and the services they provide. The challenges of improving ecosystems include options to conserve or enhance them and the services they provide in ways that boost co-benefits and reduce negative trade-offs.

Understanding regional ecosystems

Ecosystems on land in Queensland have been classified into 1,383 regional ecosystems—i.e. discrete vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil. The regional ecosystem framework is the principal information resource used for planning, development and legislation. Surveying and mapping of regional ecosystems has been completed for 97% of Queensland. This shows the extent of native vegetation remaining from pre-settlement clearing.

The distribution, extent and status of the state’s regional ecosystems are monitored and reported every two years. Monitoring of the change in area of regional ecosystems, their change in status and their representation in protected areas are indicators for reporting on the state of Queensland’s biodiversity.

Terrestrial non-native invasive species

Information on non-native invasive species helps us to better understand the health of Queensland’s terrestrial ecosystems and the pressures facing terrestrial biodiversity.

Eradication, where possible, or management of the impacts of established non-native invasive species is important to reduce pressure on native species and retain or improve ecosystem biodiversity.

Key findings


Extent and rate of change of remnant native vegetation

The loss of remnant native vegetation in Queensland has been monitored since 1997 and reached a peak during 1999-2000 at which point 0.4% of the state’s remnant native vegetation was lost in one year.

The rate of remnant native vegetation loss declined to 0.014% per year in 2009-2011, however has recently increased to 0.02% per year in 2011-2013. The loss of remnant native vegetation is mainly attributed to clearing land for pasture across the state.

Of the 16 Broad Vegetation Groups statewide, two, mainly comprising acacia and eucalypt forests, have less than 60% remnant native vegetation as at 2013.

Broad vegetation groups within protected areas

Queensland’s current remnant vegetation extent covers 80% of the state: 9% of this remnant vegetation is within protected areas. Protected areas are spread unevenly across the bioregions and the representation of the broad vegetation groups within the protected areas varies widely.

Extent and rate of change of protected areas

The protected area estate increased by 3 million hectares between 2011-2015 and now covers 7.9% of Queensland. Nature refuges form the majority of the increase. Recent changes to protected area legislation have seen an amalgamation of a number of protected area tenures.

Extent of endangered, of concern and no concern at present regional ecosystems

The area of Queensland is 172.8 million hectares. In 2013, about 80% of the state contained remnant regional ecosystems, of which 1% had a conservation classification of ‘endangered’ regional ecosystems, 10% classified as ‘of concern’ and 69% of remnant regional ecosystems were of ‘no concern at present’.


Invasive non-native terrestrial fauna species

Invasive non-native fauna species place significant pressure on Queensland’s native biodiversity through predation, competition for food and shelter, destruction of habitat, altering ecosystem balance, and poisoning.

Invasive non-native terrestrial flora species

Invasive non-native flora species degrade natural vegetation and impact on biodiversity generally.

Land clearing impact on woody native vegetation

In 2014-2015, 296,000 hectares per year of woody vegetation was cleared, statewide. This represented a 91% increase from 2011-2012 and the highest woody vegetation clearing rate since 2005-2006. Pasture was the dominant replacement land cover, contributing to 91% of statewide clearing.

Fragmentation of remnant vegetation

Southeastern bioregions are the most heavily fragmented and prone to further degradation being in close proximity to cleared land. In particular South East Queensland has the lowest proportion of remnant intact patches of at least 1,000ha at 13.7% of the bioregion.


Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS)

The Statewide Landcover and Trees Study monitors Queensland's forests and woodlands to assess vegetation extent and clearing activities. It also provides satellite images, detailed spatial data and reports to help landholders, scientists, industry and government improve land management practices.

Regional Ecosystem Mapping

Regional ecosystems are vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil.

Regional Ecosystem Mapping is a statewide vegetation mapping program. The mapping shows pre-clearing, remnant vegetation and regional ecosystems for Queensland over a series of years. It also includes broad vegetation groups, which are regional ecosystems mapped at a higher-level grouping.


CORVEG is a database containing flora sightings and study site descriptions. It contains data on physical and vegetation features, structural and floristic attributes and descriptions of landscape, soil and geologic features. The CORVEG study locations are primarily used for ground-truthing and validating of Regional Ecosystems mapping and describing and classifying vegetation mapping units.

Annual Pest Distribution Survey

Annual pest distribution surveys provide data on the distribution of weeds and pest animal species (does not include pest fish).