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Terrestrial ecosystems

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 1,459 regional ecosystems—i.e. discrete vegetation communities in a bioregion that are consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform and soil. Regional ecosystem maps and information systems are the foundation of policy and regulation for vegetation management, environmental protection and planning. Surveying and mapping of Queensland regional ecosystems both before clearing and 2015 remnant is available for the entire state via the Queensland Globe and Open Data website.

The distribution, extent and status of the state’s regional ecosystems are monitored and reported every 2 years. Monitoring of the change in area of regional ecosystems, their change in status and their representation in protected areas are some of the indicators used 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

State

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.

While the rate of remnant native vegetation loss declined to 0.014% per year in 2009–2011, it has increased again (0.058% per year in 2013–2015), mainly attributed to land clearing for pasture across the state.

Of the 16 Broad Vegetation Groups statewide, two, mainly comprising acacia and eucalypt forests, have less than 60% of their pre-clearing extent as remnant native vegetation as at 2015.

Broad vegetation groups within protected areas

Queensland’s 2015 remnant vegetation extent covers 80% of the state: 9.6% of this remnant vegetation is within protected areas (national parks and nature refuges). 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 half a million hectares between 2015–2017 and now covers approximately 8.2% of Queensland. Nature refuges form most of the increase.

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

The area of Queensland is 172.8 million hectares. In 2015, Queensland remnant vegetation covered about 80% of the state, of which 1% had a conservation classification of ‘endangered’ regional ecosystems, 9% classified as ‘of concern’ and 70% of remnant regional ecosystems were of ‘no concern at present’.

Pressure

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 vegetation

In 2015–2016, 395,000 hectares per year (ha/year) of woody vegetation was cleared, statewide. This represented a 33% increase from 2014–2015, and was the highest woody vegetation clearing rate since 2003–2004 (490,000ha/year).

Fragmentation of remnant vegetation

The south-eastern bioregions are the most heavily fragmented in Queensland and are prone to further degradation due to the proximity of large tracts of cleared land and future development pressure. The New England Tableland, Southeast Queensland and the Brigalow Belt have the highest proportion of core remnant areas 100 hectares or less in size, indicating a very high level of fragmentation. The Central Queensland Coast, Wet Tropics and Mulga Lands also have significant levels of fragmentation.

Programs

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

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).

Last updated 26 October 2018