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Terrestrial ecosystems

Key Messages

  • 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.

  • 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 2017 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.

  • 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.

  • Fragmentation reduces ecological connectivity—the connection between ecosystems and habitats that allows wildlife to cross the landscape in search of food, shelter and suitable breeding sites, which are all critical to maintaining population levels. Opening up of surrounding areas can further decrease species survival through predation, exposure and decreased food availability.

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 1 year.

Remnant vegetation clearing increased by 168% in Queensland between the 2011–2013 and the 2015–2017 reporting periods, increasing from approximately 81,000ha to approximately 217,000ha.

Of the 16 Broad Vegetation Groups statewide, 1 (comprising ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’) retains less than 60% of its pre-clearing extent as remnant native vegetation as at 2017.

Broad vegetation groups within protected areas

Queensland’s 2017 remnant vegetation extent covers 80% of the state: 10.1% 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 more than 40,971 hectares between 1 January 2018 and 30 June 2020, and now covers about 8.24% of Queensland.

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

The area of Queensland is 172.8 million hectares. In 2017, Queensland remnant vegetation covered about 80% of the state, of which 1% had a conservation classification of ‘endangered’ regional ecosystems, 8.5% was classified as ‘of concern’ and 70.5% of remnant regional ecosystems were of ‘no concern at present’ and about 20% is non-remnant.

Extent and rate of change of riparian vegetation

Between 2013 and 2017, woody vegetation has decreased in extent within the riparian zones of South East Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef catchments. Most of the decrease is due to land clearing. Maintaining vegetation in the area adjacent to waterways is important for reducing pollutant flow to waterways, stabilising the streambank, and providing habitat for biodiversity.

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 native vegetation

In 2016–2017, 356,000 hectares per year (ha/year) of woody vegetation was cleared, statewide. This represented a 9% decrease from 2015–2016. In 2017–2018, 392,000 hectares per year (ha/year) of woody vegetation was cleared, statewide. This represented a 10% increase from 2016–2017.

Fragmentation of remnant vegetation

In the most recent 2015–2017 period, the New England Tablelands has experienced the greatest patch density increase (13.4%) and greatest remnant core areas density loss (-2%). The Gulf Plains experienced the greatest increase in the frequency of edges (226), the Brigalow Belt the greatest increase in patches (316) and the Mulga Lands the greatest fragmentation of core areas into smaller core units (400). These examples demonstrate that fragmentation has many guises and they do not necessarily correlate with rates of clearing.

Resources

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).