print terrestrial ecosystems

Extent and rate of change of remnant native vegetation

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.

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.

Queensland

Of Queensland’s 13 bioregions, three have less than half of their area as remnant native vegetation:  New England Tableland (36%), Brigalow Belt (41%), and Southeast 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 2015.

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 15% of Queensland to ‘Wet eucalypt open forests’ (BVG 2) covering only 0.2% of the state.

Only two groups had less than 60% of their pre-clearing distribution as remnant vegetation in 2015, 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 increased by 163% (to approximately 200,000ha) in Queensland in 2013–2015 (compared to the previous reporting period 2011–2013) and in all bioregions, most notably:

  • Mulga Lands (31.6%)
  • Gulf Plains (21.0%)
  • Brigalow Belt (20.9%)
  • Mitchell Grass Downs (14.3%)
  • Desert Uplands (4.7%)
  • Cape York Peninsula (2.1%)
  • Southeast Queensland (1.8%).

The BVGs most affected by increased clearing in 2013–15 relative to 2011–2013 were:

  • Acacia aneura (mulga) dominated open-forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 9, 26%)
  • ‘Eucalypt open forests to woodlands on floodplains’ (BVG 4, 18%)
  • ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5, 16%)
  • ‘Other acacia dominated open-forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10, 14%)
  • ‘Eastern eucalypt woodlands to open forests’ (BVG 3, 9%)
  • ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’ (BVG 13, 7%).

Vegetation cleared to pasture was the main reason for land clearing in the state.

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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 percentage of remnant vegetation in Queensland in 2015 at just 41.45%. None of the BVGs were uncleared. Five of the 16 BVGs present had about 40% or less remaining pre-clearing extent. The worst affected was ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10) with only 17.2% left.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the BRB bioregion accounted for 20.9% (41,708ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Clearing between 2013 and 2015 affected certain vegetation communities more than others under specific BVGs in the BRB bioregion. Most of the clearing was in BVGs with the largest extent in the BRB bioregion — BVG 5, BVG 3 and BVG 10.

For BVG 5, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box) or E. melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) (or E. whitei (White's ironbark)) dry woodlands to open woodlands on sandplains or depositional plains’.

For BVG 3, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Dry to moist eucalypt woodlands and open forests, mainly on undulating to hilly terrain of mainly metamorphic and acid igneous rocks, Land zones 11 and 12
  • Corymbia citriodora (spotted gum) dominated open forests to woodlands on undulating to hilly terrain’.

For BVG 10, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Acacia harpophylla (brigalow) sometimes with Casuarina cristata (belah) open forests to woodlands on heavy clay soils’.

Pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

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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% remnant vegetation.

All 12 of the BVGs in CYP had more than 99% of their pre-clearing native vegetation remaining in 2015.

One BVG, ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10), with a very limited extent in the bioregion, has had no clearing.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the CYP bioregion accounted for 2.1% (4,190 ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015. Most of the clearing occurred within ‘Eastern eucalypt woodlands to open forests’ (BVG 3) and ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) communities.

Within BVG 3, clearing most affected:

  • Woodlands and tall woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus tetrodonta (Darwin stringybark) (or E. megasepala), and/or Corymbia nesophila (Melville Island bloodwood) and/or E. phoenicea (scarlet gum).

Within BVG 5, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Dry eucalypt woodlands to open woodlands primarily on sandplains or depositional plains’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

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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 2015. The pre-clearing extent of BVGs is quite mixed. While six of the 11 BVGs have more than 90% of their pre-clearing extent, another three have only about 40%.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the CQC bioregion accounted for 0.3% (60ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Most of the clearing in CQC was in ‘Eastern eucalypt woodlands to open forests’ (BVG 3), particularly affecting:

  • ‘Moist to dry eucalypt open forests to woodlands usually on coastal lowlands and ranges’
  • Corymbia citriodora (spotted gum) dominated open forests to woodlands on undulating to hilly terrain’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 in 2015. Seven of the eight BVGs in CHC have more than 99% of their pre-clear extent. The BVG most impacted by native vegetation loss— ‘Mixed species woodlands - open woodlands (inland bioregions) includes wooded downs’ (BVG 11)—has 85% of pre-clearing remnant vegetation.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the CHC bioregion accounted for 0.9% (1,796ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

The BVGs most affected by clearing in the CHC bioregion between 2013–2015 were BVG 10, BVG 13 and BVG 9.

For BVG 10, clearing most affected:

  • Acacia cambagei (gidgee) / A. georginae (Georgina gidgee) / A. argyrodendron (blackwood) dominated associations’.

For BVG 13, clearing (which can include cropping of grasslands), most affected:

  • Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass), Dichanthium spp. (bluegrass) tussock grasslands’.

For BVG 9, clearing most affected:

  • Acacia aneura (mulga) dominated associations on red earth plains, sandplains or residuals’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 2015.

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

  • ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ (BVG 5) has 83% of pre-clearing extent.
  • ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’ (BVG 10) has 60%.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the DEU bioregion accounted for 4.7% (9,379ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015. Most of the clearing in DEU was within BVG 5 communities, particularly affecting:

  • Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box) or E. melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) (or E. whitei (White's ironbark)) dry woodlands to open woodlands on sandplains or depositional plains’
  • ‘Dry eucalypt woodlands to open woodlands primarily on sandplains or depositional plains’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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-clearing native vegetation remaining in 2015. ‘Wet eucalypt open forests’ (BVG 2) had lost more than 40% of its pre-clearing extent.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the EIU bioregion accounted for 0.8% (1,596ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland in 2013–2015.

Most of the clearing in EIU was in BVG 3 communities, particularly affecting:

  • ‘Dry to moist eucalypt woodlands and open forests, mainly on undulating to hilly terrain of mainly metamorphic and acid igneous rocks, Land zones 11 and 12)’
  • ‘Moist to dry eucalypt open forests to woodlands usually on coastal lowlands and ranges’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 99.1% of remnant vegetation.

All 14 of the BVGs in GUP had more than 96% of their pre-clearing extent remaining in 2015.

‘Callitris woodland - open forests’ (BVG 7), while relatively restricted, remained completely intact.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the GUP bioregion accounted for 21% (41,908ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Clearing between 2013 and 2015 affected certain communities more than others under specific BVGs in the bioregion. Much of the clearing was in communities of BVG 4 and BVG 13.

For BVG 4, clearing mostly affected:

  • Eucalyptus spp. dominated open forest and woodlands drainage lines and alluvial plains’.

For BVG 13, clearing mostly affected:

  • ‘Closed tussock grasslands in coastal locations’
  • ‘Mixed open forblands to open tussock grasslands in inland locations’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 the area remnant vegetation. At least nine of the 12 BVGs in MGD had more than 90% of their pre-clearing extent remaining in 2015. However, only 26% of the pre-clearing ‘Callitris woodland - open forests’ (BVG 7) remained in 2015.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the MGD bioregion accounted for 14.3% (28,537ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Clearing between 2013 and 2015 affected certain BVG communities more than others. Clearing had the most impact on the bioregion’s three largest BVGs: BVG 10, BVG 11 and BVG 13.

For BVG 10, clearing most affected:

  • Acacia cambagei (gidgee) / A. georginae (Georgina gidgee) / A. argyrodendron (blackwood) dominated associations’
  • Acacia harpophylla (brigalow) sometimes with Casuarina cristata (belah) open forests to woodlands on heavy clay soils’.

For BVG 11, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Mixed species woodlands - open woodlands (Atalaya hemiglauca (whitewood), Lysiphyllum spp., Acacia tephrina (boree), wooded downs’.

For BVG 13, clearing most affected:

  • Astrebla spp. (Mitchell grass), Dichanthium spp. (bluegrass) tussock grasslands’
  • ‘Mixed open forblands to open tussock grasslands in inland locations’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 74.5% remnant vegetation in 2015. Only three of the eight BVGs had more than 90% of their pre-clearing extent remaining in 2015. The greatest loss of native vegetation was found within BVG 5:  ‘Eucalypt dry woodlands on inland depositional plains’ have only 34% of its pre-clearing native vegetation.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the MUL bioregion accounted for 31.6% (63,061ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Clearing between 2013 and 2015 affected certain communities more than others, particularly BVG 9, BVG 5 and BVG 10.

For BVG 9, clearing most affected:

  • Acacia aneura (mulga) dominated associations on red earth plains, sandplains or residuals’.

For BVG 5, clearing most affected:

  • Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box) or E. melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) dry woodlands to open woodlands on sandplains or depositional plains’.

For BVG 10, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Acacia spp. on residuals. Species include A. clivicola, A. sibirica, A. shirleyi (lancewood), A. microsperma (bowyakka), A. catenulata (bendee), A. rhodoxylon (ringy rosewood)’
  • Acacia cambagei (gidgee) / A. georginae (Georgina gidgee) / A. argyrodendron (blackwood) dominated associations’
  • Acacia harpophylla (brigalow) sometimes with Casuarina cristata (belah) open forests to woodlands on heavy clay soils’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 percentage of remnant vegetation in Queensland in 2015 with only 36.4% remaining. Only 34% of the largest vegetation group, BVG 3, remained.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the NET bioregion accounted for 0.4% (798ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Clearing between 2013 and 2015 affected certain BVG communities more than others in the NET bioregion, particularly BVG 3 and BVG 5.

For BVG 3, clearing most affected:

  • ‘Temperate eucalypt woodlands’
  • ‘Dry to moist eucalypt woodlands and open forests, mainly on undulating to hilly terrain of mainly metamorphic and acid igneous rocks’.

For BVG 5, clearing most affected:

  • Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box) or E. melanophloia (silver-leaved ironbark) dry woodlands to open woodlands on sandplains or depositional plains’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason for land clearing in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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 99.6% of remnant vegetation. All 12 of the BVGs in NWH had more than 98% of their pre-clearing extent remaining in 2015. Two BVGs were completely intact.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the NWH bioregion accounted for 0.6% (1,197ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

The largest amount of clearing was within communities of BVG 6, particularly:

  • Eucalyptus spp. (E. leucophloia (snappy gum), E. leucophylla (Cloncurry box), E. persistens, E. normantonensis (Normanton box)) low open woodlands often with Triodia spp. dominated ground layer’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

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Southeast Queensland

The Southeast 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, ‘Woodlands of Eucalyptus crebra (narrow leaf ironbark) and ‘Woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus populnea (poplar box)’ are most prevalent in SEQ.

The SEQ bioregion had the third lowest remnant vegetation in the state in 2015: just 44.2% remained. All BVGs have been impacted by clearing. By far the largest loss has been in the BVG 10 community ‘Other acacia dominated open forests, woodlands and shrublands’: with only 4% remaining in 2015.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the SEQ bioregion accounted for 1.8% (3,592ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Clearing between 2013 and 2015 affected certain communities more than others under specific BVGs in the SEQ bioregion. Most of the clearing was within BVG 3 and BVG 4 communities.

For BVG 3, clearing specifically affected:

  • ‘Moist to dry eucalypt open forests to woodlands usually on coastal lowlands and ranges’
  • Corymbia citriodora (spotted gum) dominated open forests to woodlands on undulating to hilly terrain’
  • ‘Dry to moist eucalypt woodlands and open forests, mainly on undulating to hilly terrain of mainly metamorphic and acid igneous rocks, Land zones 11 and 12)’.

For BVG 4, clearing mostly affected:

  • Eucalyptus spp. dominated open forest and woodlands drainage lines and alluvial plains’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

More information:

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). This bioregion had 76.7% remnant vegetation in 2015. All 10 BVGs in WET have been impacted by clearing. Only 8% of the pre-clearing extent of the restricted ‘Tussock grasslands, forblands’ (BVG 13) remained in 2015.

Remnant vegetation clearing in the WET bioregion accounted for 0.2% (399ha) of the total area of remnant vegetation cleared in Queensland during 2013–2015.

Most clearing in WET was within BVG 3 communities, specifically:

  • ‘Moist to dry eucalypt open forests to woodlands usually on coastal lowlands and ranges’.

Vegetation cleared for pasture was the main reason land was cleared in this bioregion in 2013–2015.

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 (2017).

Download data from Queensland Government data

Last updated 26 October 2018