Extent and rate of change of remnant native vegetation

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Key finding

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.

Queensland

Of the 13 bioregions statewide, three have retained less than half of their remnant native vegetation: New England Tableland (36%), Brigalow Belt (42%), and South East Queensland (44%). The native vegetation that remains in these bioregions, as well as, Central Queensland Coast (70%) and Wet Tropics (77%) was less than Queensland’s overall 80% remnant native vegetation at 2013.

Broad Vegetation Groups (BVGs) are a higher-level grouping of regional ecosystems and vegetation communities. BVGs provide an overview of vegetation across both the state and bioregions. At the 1:5 million scale, there are 16 BVGs with varied extent across the state from ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests’ (BVG 3) covering 19% of the state to ‘Wet eucalypt open forests’ (BVG 2) covering only 0.2% of Queensland.

The diversity of the state’s vegetation is reflected by the two largest BVGs, ranging from ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ and to ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’.

Only two groups had less than 60% remnant vegetation in 2013, mainly comprising: ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10) at 57%, and ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) at 60%.

Remnant vegetation clearing in Queensland in 2011-2013 increased by 40% from the previous period (2009-2011). Clearing occurred in all bioregions, most notably in:

  • Mulga Lands (33%)
  • Brigalow Belt (30.2%)
  • Mitchell Grass Downs (13.1%)
  • Desert Uplands (8.1%)
  • South East Queensland (4.4%).

The BVGs most affected by clearing were:

  • Acacia aneura (mulga) dominated open-forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 9, 27%)
  • ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ (BVG 3, 21%)
  • ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5, 20%)
  • ‘Other acacia dominated open-forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10, 13%)
  • ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’ (BVG 13, 8%).

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing.

Brigalow Belt

The Brigalow Belt (BRB) bioregion has mainly ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10), ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) and ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ (BVG 3). The bioregion had the second lowest remnant vegetation in Queensland in 2013 with only 41.6% remaining. None of the BVGs were completely retained. Six of the 16 BVGs present had about 40% or less remaining pre-clear with only 17% left of ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10).

Remnant vegetation clearing in the BRB bioregion accounted for 30.2% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

Clearing between 2011 and 2013 affected certain vegetation communities more than others under specific BVGs in the BRB bioregion. The majority of the clearing was in communities of the largest represented BVGs in the BRB bioregion – BVG 3, BVG 5 and BVG 10.

For BVG 3, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Woodlands of Eucalyptus crebra (Narrow leaf ironbark)’
  • ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box)’.

For BVG 10, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Open forests to woodlands dominated by Acacia harpophylla (brigalow) sometimes with Casuarina cristata (belah)’.

Clearing equally affected all communities under BVG 5.

Pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Cape York Peninsula

Cape York Peninsula (CYP) bioregion has mostly ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ (BVG 3) and ‘Melaleuca open woodlands on depositional plains’ (BVG 8). The bioregion is mostly intact with 99.3% of remnant vegetation. All 12 of the BVGs in CYP had more than 99% of their pre-clear native vegetation remaining in 2013; one BVG, ‘Eucalypt low open woodlands usually with spinifex understorey’ (BVG 6), was completely retained.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the CYP bioregion accounted for 3.9% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013. The majority of the clearing occurred within BVG 3 communities.

Within BVG 3, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Woodlands and tall woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus tetrodonta (Darwin stringybark) (or E. megasepala), with Corymbia nesophila (Melville Island bloodwood)’.

Other clearing in BVG 3 occurred in:

  • ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus tetrodonta (Darwin stringybark), or E. megasepala (Cape York stringybark) with Corymbia nesophila (Melville Island bloodwood), with Corymbia clarksoniana (grey bloodwood)’.

Mining was the main reason for this bioregion’s land clearing in 2013-2014.

Central Queensland Coast

The Central Queensland Coast (CQC) bioregion has mostly ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ (BVG 3) and ‘Rainforests, scrubs’ (BVG 1). The bioregion had 70% remnant vegetation in 2013. The pre-clear extent of BVGs is quite mixed. Six of the 11 BVGs retained more than 96% of their pre-clear extent. However, another three of the 11 had only about 40%.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the CQC bioregion accounted for 0.3% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

The majority of the clearing in CQC was in BVG 3 communities, the worst affected being:

  • ‘Moist to dry woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus platyphylla (poplar gum)’
  • ‘Open forests, woodlands and open woodlands dominated by Corymbia clarksoniana (grey bloodwood) or C. intermedia (pink bloodwood)’
  • ‘Moist to dry open forest to woodland dominated by Eucalyptus portuensis, Corymbia intermedia (pink bloodwood), E. drepanophylla, E. resinifera or E. reducta, with or without Syncarpia glomulifera (turpentine) or E. cloeziana (Gympie messmate) on ranges’.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Channel Country

The Channel Country (CHC) bioregion has mainly ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’ (BVG 13), ‘Hummock grasslands’ (BVG 14), ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10), ‘Wetlands (swamps and lakes)’ (BVG 15), and ‘Acacia aneura (mulga) dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 9).

The bioregion is mostly intact with 99.8% of remnant vegetation remaining. Seven of the eight BVGs in CHC retain more than 99% of their pre-clear extent.

The BVG worst affected by native vegetation loss—‘Mixed species woodlands - open woodlands (inland bioregions) includes wooded downs’ (BVG 11)—had the most extent lost at 86% remaining.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the CHC bioregion accounted for 0.6% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

The BVGs most affected by clearing in the CHC bioregion between 2011-2013 were BVG 14, BVG 13 and BVG 9.

For BVG 14, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Hummock grasslands dominated by Triodia basedowii (hard spinifex) or Zygochloa paradoxa (sandhill canegrass) associations on dunefields or sandplains’.

For BVG 9, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Tall shrublands to low open woodlands dominated by Acacia aneura (mulga) on shallow red earth plains’.

Clearing equally affected all communities under BVG 13.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Desert Uplands

The Desert Uplands (DEU) bioregion has mainly ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) and ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10). The bioregion had 81% remnant vegetation in 2013.

The bioregion’s two largest BVGs have sustained the most loss of pre-settlement native vegetation:

  • ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) retains 83%
  • ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10) retains 60%.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the DEU bioregion accounted for 8.1% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013. The majority of the clearing in DEU was within BVG 5 communities, the most affected being:

  • ‘Woodlands to open woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) (or E. shirleyi (Shirley's silver-leaved ironbark)) on sand plains and footslopes of hills and ranges’
  • ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box) (or E. brownii (Reid River box)) on alluvium, sand plains and footslopes of hills and ranges’.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Einasleigh Uplands

The Einasleigh Uplands (EIU) bioregion has mainly ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ (BVG 3), ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) and ‘Eucalypt low open woodlands usually with spinifex understorey’ (BVG 6). The bioregion is mostly intact with 97.6% of remnant vegetation.

All but one BVG had more than 90% of their pre-settlement native vegetation remaining in 2013. ‘Wet eucalypt open forests’ (BVG 2) had lost more than 40% of its previous extent.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the EIU bioregion accounted for 1.4% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland in 2011-2013.

The majority of the clearing in EIU was in BVG 3 communities, mostly affecting:

  • ‘Woodlands and open woodlands dominated by ironbarks such Eucalyptus cullenii (Cullen's ironbark), E. staigeriana (lemon-scented ironbark) or E. melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) and bloodwoods such as Corymbia stockeri subsp. peninsularis, C. clarksoniana
  • ‘Woodlands of Eucalyptus crebra (narrow-leaved red ironbark), E. drepanophylla (grey ironbark), E. shirleyi (Shirley's silver-leaved ironbark) on granitic and metamorphic ranges’
  • ‘Woodlands and open woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus chlorophylla (or E. microtheca or E. leptophleba on heavy soils) frequently with Corymbia spp’.

Pasture was the main reason for clearing land in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Gulf Plains

Gulf Plains (GUP) bioregion has mainly ‘Melaleuca open woodlands on depositional plains’ (BVG 8); ‘Tussock grasslands and forblands’ (BVG 13) and ‘Eucalypt open forests to woodlands on floodplains’ (BVG 4). The bioregion is mostly intact with 99.3% of remnant vegetation. All 14 of the BVGs in GUP had more than 96% of their pre-clear extent remaining in 2013: one BVG, ‘Callitris woodland - open forests’ (BVG 7), remained completely intact.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the GUP bioregion accounted for 1.5% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

Clearing between 2011 and 2013 affected certain communities more than others under specific BVGs in the bioregion. The majority of the clearing was in communities of BVG 13 and BVG 4.

For BVG 13, clearing mostly affected:

  • ‘Woodlands and open woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus microtheca (coolabah) or Eucalyptus chlorophylla on floodplains.’

For BVG 4, clearing mostly affected:

  • ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands dominated by Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) or Dichanthium spp. (bluegrass) often with Iseilema spp. grass on undulating downs or clay plains’.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Mitchell Grass Downs

Mitchell Grass Downs (MGD) bioregion has mainly ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’ (BVG 13), ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10) and ‘Mixed species woodlands - open woodlands, includes wooded downs’ (BVG 11).

The bioregion is mostly intact with 94% of remnant vegetation. At least 10 of the 12 BVGs in MGD had more than 90% of their pre-clear extent remaining in 2013. However, only 26% of the pre-clear ‘Callitris woodland - open forests’ (BVG 7) remained in 2013.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the MGD bioregion accounted for 13.1% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

Clearing between 2011 and 2013 affected certain BVG communities more than others. Clearing had the most impact on the bioregion’s three largest BVGs: BVG 13, BVG 10 and BVG 11.

For BVG 13 communities, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Tussock grasslands dominated by Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) or Dichanthium spp. (bluegrass) often with Iseilema spp. grass on undulating downs or clay plains’
  • ‘Tussock grasslands dominated by Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass) or Dichanthium spp. (bluegrass) often with Eulalia aurea (silky browntop) on alluvia’.

For BVG 10, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Open forests to tall shrublands dominated by Acacia cambagei (gidgee) or A. georginae (Georgina gidgee)’.

For BVG 11, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Low open woodlands dominated by a variety of species including Acacia tephrina (boree), Atalaya hemiglauca (whitewood), Ventilago viminalis (supplejack) and Lysiphyllum spp’.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Mulga Lands

The Mulga Lands (MUL) bioregion has mainly ‘Acacia aneura (mulga) dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 9) and ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10).

The bioregion had 75% remnant vegetation in 2013. Only three of the eight BVGs had more than 90% of their pre-clear extent remaining in 2013. The greatest loss of native vegetation was found within BVG 5:

  • ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ retained only 34% of its pre-settlement native vegetation.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the MUL bioregion accounted for 33.6% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

Clearing between 2011 and 2013 affected certain communities more than others, particularly BVG 9 and BVG 10.

For BVG 9, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Woodlands to low woodlands dominated by Acacia aneura (mulga) on red earth plains or sandplains’.

Clearing equally affected all BVG 10 communities.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

New England Tableland

The New England Tableland (NET) bioregion is comprised mainly of various communities under ‘Eastern eucalypt woodlands to open forests’ (BVG 3) and ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5). Under BVG 3, the most prevalent communities in NET include ‘Woodlands of Eucalyptus crebra (Narrow leaf ironbark)’ and ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box)’. This bioregion had the lowest remnant vegetation in Queensland in 2013 with only 36.5% remaining. Only 34% of the largest vegetation group, BVG 3, remained.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the NET bioregion accounted for 1.1% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

Clearing between 2011 and 2013 affected certain BVG communities more than others in the NET bioregion, particularly BVG 3 and BVG 5.

For BVG 5, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Woodlands to open woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) on sand plains and footslopes of hills and ranges’
  • ‘Woodlands of Eucalyptus crebra (narrow-leaved red ironbark), E. drepanophylla (grey ironbark) and E. fibrosa (dusky-leaved ironbark) on granitic and metamorphic range’
  • ‘Woodlands and open forests dominated by Eucalyptus youmanii (Youman's stringybark), E. scoparia (Wallangarra white gum), E. caliginosa (broad-leaved stringybark) or E. melliodora (yellow box) occurring on traprock’.

For BVG 3, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box)’.

Pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Northwest Highlands

Northwest Highlands (NWH) bioregion mainly comprises ‘Eucalypt low open woodlands usually with spinifex understorey grasses’ (BVG 6). The bioregion is mostly intact with 99.5% of remnant vegetation. All 12 of the BVGs in NWH had more than 98% of their pre-clear extent remaining in 2013. Two were completely intact.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the NWH bioregion accounted for 1.4% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

The largest amount of clearing was within communities of BVG 6. Communities within BVG 6 that were the greatest affected by clearing included:

  • ‘Low open woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus leucophloia (snappy gum) with Triodia spp. grass dominated ground layer, mainly on hills and ranges’
  • ‘Low open woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus leucophylla (Cloncurry box)’ ‘Corymbia terminalis (long-fruited bloodwood) low open woodlands and related associations of mainly lower slopes and valleys’ (to a lesser extent).

Mining was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Southeast Queensland

The South East Queensland (SEQ) bioregion has various communities under ‘Eastern eucalypt woodlands to open forests’ (BVG 3), ‘Eucalypt open forests to woodlands on floodplains’ (BVG 4) and ‘Rainforests, scrubs’ (BVG 1). Under BVG 3, the most prevalent communities in SEQ include ‘Woodlands of Eucalyptus crebra (Narrow leaf ironbark) and ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box)’.

The SEQ bioregion had the third lowest remnant vegetation in the state in 2013 with only 44.2% remaining. None of the BVGs had completely retained pre-clear extents. By far, the largest loss was in the BVG 10 community ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’. Only 4% survived in SEQ in 2013.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the SEQ bioregion accounted for 4.4% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

Clearing between 2011 and 2013 affected certain communities more than others under specific BVGs in the SEQ bioregion. The majority of the clearing was within BVG 3 and ‘Mangroves and saltmarshes’ (BVG 16) communities.

For BVG 3, clearing mostly affected:

  • ‘Moist open forests to woodlands dominated by Corymbia citriodora (spotted gum)’
  • ‘Moist to dry woodlands to open forest dominated by stringybarks or mahoganies such as Eucalyptus tindaliae (Queensland white stringybark), E. latisinensis (white mahogany), E. acmenoides (narrow-leaved white stringybark) or E. racemosa (scribbly gum)’.

All mangrove and saltmarsh communities under BVG 16 were affected equally by clearing in SEQ.

Pasture and forestry were the main reasons for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

Wet Tropics

The Wet Tropics (WET) bioregion has mostly of ‘Rainforests, scrubs’ (BVG 1). Other vegetation includes ‘Eucalypt woodlands to open forests (mainly eastern)’ (BVG 3). The bioregion had 76.8% remnant vegetation in 2013. None of the 10 BVGs in WET had completely retained their pre-clear extent. Only 8% pre-clear extent of ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’ (BVG 13) remained in 2013.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the WET bioregion accounted for 0.2% of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2011-2013.

The majority of the clearing in WET was within BVG 3 communities, specifically:

  • ‘Open forests, woodlands and open woodlands dominated by Corymbia clarksoniana (grey bloodwood) or C. intermedia (pink bloodwood) frequently with Erythrophleum chlorostachys (red ironwood)’
  • ‘Open forests of Corymbia clarksoniana (grey bloodwood) (or C. intermedia (pink bloodwood)), C. tessellaris (carbeen), with or without Eucalyptus tereticornis (blue gum) predominantly on coastal ranges’
  • ‘Moist to dry open forest to woodland dominated by Eucalyptus portuensis, Corymbia intermedia (pink bloodwood), E. drepanophylla, E. resinifera or E. reducta, with or without Syncarpia glomulifera (turpentine) or E. cloeziana (Gympie messmate) on ranges’.

Forestry purposes was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013-2014.

More information:

Indicator: Extent of remnant native vegetation as a proportion of pre-clear

Comparison between extents of pre-clear (pre-European settlement extent) and remnant (current extent) vegetation mapping. Categorised by 5 million scale Broad Vegetation Groups. Data is based on the latest Regional Ecosystems mapping (version 9, 2013).

Download data from Queensland Government data