2. Bioregions - Natural Resources South Australia

Linking together to protect our bioregions –
a closer look at the biodiversity of South Australia
1. Introduction
Many South Australians have a strong connection to the natural environment, enjoying the outdoor life of the beach, the hills and the
bush. Learning about what makes our environment special helps us to both better understand it and appreciate its uniqueness.
This resource provides detailed information on the three Biomes that occur across South Australia and the variety of biodiversity
found in them. By understanding the importance of biodiversity we can make informed choices to better protect our biodiversity
for future generations.
2. Bioregions
Bioregions are areas defined by features of the natural environment and provide a context for discussing biodiversity and its
conservation. South Australia’s three biomes (collections of ecosystems), contain bioregions which form a mosaic of ecological
communities containing a distinctive blend of species and habitats. Biodiversity includes all the living things within and across
each bioregion.
3. Biodiversity
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of all species on earth. It is the different plants, animals and micro-organisms,
their genes, and the terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems of which they are a part. Biodiversity is essential for the
existence and wellbeing of all species.
4. Threats
Our bioregions and biodiversity face a variety of threatening processes, most of which are influenced by people. These include:
loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat; the spread of invasive species; unsustainable use of natural resources; climate
change; inappropriate fire regimes; and changes to the aquatic environment and water flows. We need to minimise threats to
South Australia’s biodiversity and protect it for the long term.
5. Conservation
South Australia has developed a world class reserve system to conserve the diverse habitats and ecosystems found in our state’s
land and marine bioregions. There are many conservation programs actively conserving and improving our state’s biodiversity.
6. Resources
Detailed fact sheets about the bioregions help us to learn more about and appreciate each bioregion’s unique biodiversity in
terms of not only flora and fauna but cultural and geological dimensions. The fact sheets encourage exploration and connection
to South Australia’s unique bioregions and include ideas for restoring and enhancing South Australia’s biodiversity.
Connect with groups and programs taking action for biodiversity in your bioregion!
1. Introduction
This resource provides detailed information about South Australia’s bioregions and unique biodiversity. By understanding the
importance of biodiversity we can make informed choices to better protect our biodiversity and maintain it for future generations.
Australians have a strong connection to the natural environment, enjoying the outdoor life of the beach, the hills and the bush. All life
on earth is directly dependent on the health of our natural environment. Environmental systems, when healthy, provide us with
breathable air, drinkable water, fertile soil, food, resources and a sense of wellbeing. In recognising our place in the natural
environment, we recognise that the variety of life also has value in and, of itself, beyond its usefulness to us.
‘Biodiversity’ is the variety of life on earth. It is fundamental to all life and is currently under threat across the world. As well as the
numbers and diversity of species, biodiversity includes ecosystems and genetic diversity. Bioregions are broader than ecosystems and
include the variety and arrangement of landforms, communities and land uses. In South Australia there are seventeen terrestrial (land)
bioregions and eight marine bioregions which, combined, cover the whole state. These bioregions contain ecosystems with plant and
animal species; some that can be found nowhere else on earth. As with many places in the world, these ecosystems are being
degraded by a range of threats including climate change and habitat loss.
South Australia has many programs and projects that work to protect South Australia’s biodiversity across the bioregions by
highlighting ecosystems, threatened species and nature conservation. The No Species Loss Strategy is a state biodiversity plan for
halting the loss of native species. NatureLinks is developing new biodiversity corridor links to connect a range of habitats that have
been fragmented, which will enable native wildlife to survive and adapt to environmental change. In addition to its numerous landbased National Parks and Conservation Parks, South Australia has also developed protected areas within its coastal waters and these
marine parks will help safeguard and conserve the precious biodiversity that exists within the sea.
However to encourage the community to support these initiatives we need to learn not only how to live more sustainably but to
explore and develop our relationship with the natural world and our role as stewards from an early an age as possible. This
resource is a valuable tool in that exploration.
2. Bioregions
Bioregions are areas defined by features of the natural environment and provide a context for discussing biodiversity and its
conservation. South Australia’s three biomes contain bioregions which form a mosaic of ecological communities containing an
integrated mix of species and habitats. Biodiversity includes all the living things within and across each bioregion.
A bioregion is an area of land or sea defined by common patterns of natural characteristics and environmental processes (such
as geology, landform patterns, climate, ecological features and plant and animal communities). Each bioregion has a unique
collection of ecosystems (self-organising and self-supporting collections of species living together) as well as different patterns
of land use and threats to biodiversity.
Australia’s land is divided into 89 terrestrial bioregions, of which 17 are in South Australia. The bioregions are described in the
interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (IBRA) (http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/nrs/science/bioregionframework/ibra/index.html). The IBRA is the National Reserve System's planning framework, the fundamental tool for identifying
priority targets across Australia. The Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia (IMCRA)
(lhttp://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/imcra/index.html) is a spatial framework for classifying Australia's marine
environment into bioregions based on their ecology and is used for regional planning. There are eight marine bioregions in
South Australia.
A bioregion’s borders are defined by natural boundaries such as soils, mountains and rivers. These boundaries help define and
break down large landscapes into smaller areas that are more easily understood and managed. Though bioregions have set
areas based on natural boundaries; they do not come to an abrupt halt at their border. Instead, they blend into each other at the
fringes - fringes which may be a few metres or many kilometres in breadth. While this resource focuses on South Australia, many
of the bioregions cross over state or territory borders.
biosphere – the earth's ecosystem which includes all living organisms in the atmosphere (air), lithosphere (land) and
hydrosphere (water).
biomes – collections of ecosystems with different patterns of climate, land use, vegetation and habitat.
bioregions – areas of land or sea defined by common patterns of natural characteristics and environmental processes
ecosystems – self-organising and self-supporting collections of species living together (CSIRO)
communities – populations of living organisms in an ecosystem interacting with each other
populations – the species of the same kind in a particular ecosystem
species – a group of organisms that share a set of common features.
genes – the genetic information contained in all individual living things, which varies within and between populations
of organisms.
The ecosystems in South Australia are quite diverse. The bioregions are part of three biomes - the Arid Lands, Mediterranean
and Marine biomes - which all support a range of plant and animal species. Each biome represents a simplified but unique
collection of ecological communities with different patterns of climate, land use, vegetation, habitat and threats to biodiversity.
The biomes represent discrete spatial units but they are dynamic; they connect with each other, and species and ecological
processes interact across them. It is critical to conserve connectivity, both within and between biomes, through appropriate
landscape and seascape planning.
In the north and west of the State is the Arid Lands Biome, which covers 87% of South Australia. There is significant variation in
climate from the semi-arid south to the arid north. South Australia’s arid lands are characterised by episodic wet and dry cycles,
where prolonged dry periods are often broken by high-intensity rains. These rains are highly unpredictable, infrequent and
variable, and have shaped the natural processes. Animals and plants cope with prolonged dry periods and respond quickly to
intense bursts of rainfall when the natural environment flourishes. Landforms represented in the Arid Lands include gibber and
gypsum plains, dunefields and sand plains, and rugged, volcanic and quartzite mountain ranges. The biome also contains river
systems with enormous variability in flow, arid watercourses, lakes, artesian springs, wetlands of international and national
importance (including sites of national importance for migratory shorebirds), salt lakes, and major ephemeral watercourses
which drain towards Lake Eyre. The high levels of intact vegetation include spinifex hummock and tussock grasslands, chenopod
shrublands, open and low mallee, and eucalypt woodlands. The Great Artesian Basin underlies about 50% of this biome to the
east. Four of Australia’s 12 plant ecosystems occur in the region, providing habitats for a significant proportion of South
Australia’s reptiles (70%), birds, (57%), frogs (50%) and mammals (50%).
The Arid Lands biome includes the bioregions of:
Broken Hill Complex
Central Ranges
Channel Country
Eyre Yorke Block
Flinders Lofty Block
Great Victoria Desert
Murray Darling Depression
Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields
Stony Plains.
Goyder's Line is a boundary across South Australia established in1865 which was believed to indicate where the level of rainfall
would support agriculture. Above the boundary was considered too dry for cropping but suitable for grazing. The boundary
follows clear changes in vegetation – mainly mallee scrub in the south and salt-bush in the north. With the increasing impacts of
climate change this boundary is now considered to need moving about 100 kilometres south to around Clare.
The southern part of South Australia contains the Mediterranean biome. The climate of the Mediterranean biome is
cool to warm; tending to winter rains. The biome is characterised by undulating plains and foothills, low ranges, steep
rocky gorges and creek lines. The highly fragmented vegetation includes chenopod shrublands, native grassland,
sedgelands, samphire shrublands, native grassland, open mallee, eucalypt woodlands and sand dune fields. Its
watercourses and rivers range from ephemeral to permanent and Kangaroo Island is uniquely fox and rabbit free.
There is significant seabird nesting habitat on offshore islands. Although much smaller than the Arid Lands biome, the
Mediterranean biome contains wetlands of international and national importance, which are also sites of national
importance for migratory shorebirds (only 30% of pre-European wetlands remain).
The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region of the Mediterranean biome covers approximately 780,000 ha with around 97,000
ha of native vegetation remaining. It includes the Barossa and Mount Lofty Ranges, Fleurieu Peninsula, metropolitan Adelaide,
63 parks and reserves, and significant areas of native vegetation on private land, roadsides and council reserves. The region is
effectively an island of habitat surrounded by desert and mallee. Its relatively high rainfall and hilly topography provide habitat
for many threatened species and declining vegetation types. The region is home to many endemic species.
The Mediterranean biome includes the bioregions of:
Central Ranges
Eyre Yorke Block
Great Victoria Desert
Murray-Darling Depression
Naracoorte Coastal Plain
Victorian Volcanic Plain.
The coastal, estuarine and marine environments make up the marine biome. The marine biome includes variable and diverse
currents around the coast with low nutrient, sheltered salty gulf waters; warmer waters of the Bight; and cooler nutrient rich
waters of the south east. In the marine biome there are rough-water rocky shores and sub-tidal reef systems, sandy beaches,
marine wetlands, extensive calm water mud flats, kelp forests, intertidal sandy flats, estuarine wetlands and sand dunes, seagrass,
salt marsh and mangrove forest habitats.
South Australia's waters are amongst the most biologically diverse in the world. They provide habitat for a massive variety of
plants and animals, including internationally and nationally important species such as Southern Right Whales, Australian Sea
Lions, dolphins and Leafy Seadragons. Our waters support more than 6000 invertebrate species, 1200 types of algae, 350 fish
species, 16 breeding seabird species, 33 mammal species and 12 seagrass species. In the Southern Ocean, 75% of the red algae,
85% of the fish species and 95% of seagrasses are found nowhere else in the world, giving them local, national and international
significance. In comparison, the Great Barrier Reef shares more than 80% of its fish, coral reefs and other marine organisms with
other countries in the tropics.
The Marine biome contains the bioregions of:
North Spencer Gulf
Spencer Gulf
St Vincent Gulf.
Habitat is the natural environment where an animal, plant or organism lives. An animal’s habitat includes a place to shelter and
rear young and a reliable source of food and water. A plant’s habitat will have conditions suited to growing and reproducing,
such as an adequate supply of nutrients, space, light and water.
Each living thing has its own unique habitat requirements within an ecosystem. For example, koalas spend most of their time in
the canopy of gum trees. Their habitat does not include small shrubs, as they cannot eat the leaves, nor find adequate shelter
from predators.
Species also vary in their space requirements. Sometimes this relates to the animal’s size. For example, hopping mice occupy
very small territories, while kangaroos roam much larger areas. It can also depend on climate or the availability of food and
water. As an example, the Red Kangaroo roams over large areas of arid Australia in search of grasses and plants. Its local
distribution is often influenced by the availability of food, which is why, after a wet season, kangaroo numbers can grow rapidly
in an area.
Animals often live and use more than one habitat type. Migratory species are an excellent example of this. Some species of
water birds live in different places during different seasons and fly enormous distances to access seasonal food resources.
Connectivity encompasses the ways in which bioregions connect with each other that includes species and ecological processes
interacting across different habitats or bioregions. Nature corridors provide important connections between fragmented and
isolated habitats and are important for a number of reasons, such as maintaining species diversity, assisting migration and
providing animals with room to move if the health of their habitat is changed. For these reasons it is critical to conserve
connectivity both within and between bioregions.
Another aspect of connectivity is recognising and understanding how we are all connected to and dependent on each other and
the earth. Urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the previous 99% of human history, people lived a nomadic or
agrarian existence in natural habitats. Currently more than 50% of the global population lives in urban areas and this figure is
increasing every year, putting more pressure on biodiversity and ecological systems.
Because most of us live highly modified environments and are often removed from the original sources of our food and water,
we lack an appreciation of how we are all interconnected with ecosystems. It is now better understood that the interconnections
between each other and the natural world are vital to our lives and wellbeing.
Nature is composed of integral often complex systems encased within other, larger systems. The biosphere (the whole planet) is
a self-regulating closed system. Changes that occur within systems can affect not only the immediate system but also the
systems nested within them and the larger systems around them. Within these systems communities of species are in dynamic
relationships networking with each other and their environment. There is a continuous cyclic exchange of resources in the
system as well as a continuous flow of energy from the sun. Each species in an ecosystem is needed to continue the entire food
web. If these complex biological relationships break down, our basic needs, including our survival as a species, may not be met.
Within an ecosystem, energy flows from one organism to another. Food chains or webs are used to provide a simple illustration
of the flow of energy and connections in ecosystems. Interruption of the patterns or connections in food webs and chains by
depletion or removal of any of the components may result in the collapse of the entire system. This means ecosystems need to
be supported in an integrated, systematic way.
In a food chain, trophic levels refer to a specie’s feeding position in the food chain (such as primary producers, herbivores,
carnivores) and help represent energy availability. They are usually portrayed as a pyramid with producers on the bottom and
carnivores at the top. Each level illustrates the energy requirements for a particular species; energy requirements are much
greater for those species towards the top of the pyramid than those towards the bottom. For example, each tonne of Great
White Shark requires energy from not only 10 tonnes of Sea Lion, but also 100 tonnes of fish and 1000 tonnes of krill (therefore
all these animals are below the shark in the trophic pyramid).
Primary producers, such as algae, cyanobacteria and green plants, contain the most energy in the ecosystem, because almost all
food chains begin with the sun providing energy for the process of photosynthesis. As we progress towards the top of the food
chain, energy is progressively lost.
3. Biodiversity
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of all species on earth. It is the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their
genes, and the terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems of which they are a part. Biodiversity is essential for the existence and
wellbeing of all species.
Biodiversity encompasses all the range of variations (diversity) within populations, species and their genes, and all the various
networks of systems (relationships) between species, landscapes, water systems and the planet’s atmosphere. All life depends on
the health of these systems to survive.
Between 10 and 100 million species are believed to exist on earth, however only about 1.8 million of these have been described
and we are rapidly losing species as natural systems are compromised.
Australia is one of 17 countries recognised as being ‘mega diverse’. These countries collectively contain around two thirds of the
world’s biodiversity. Biodiversity evolves in a range of diverse ecosystems over a long period of time. Indigenous plants and
animals are part of dynamic systems of co-evolution. One well-known Australian example is the way Koalas have evolved to feed
only on selected Eucalyptus leaves.
Endemic species are those that are unique to one area or country. Australia has one of the highest levels of endemism in the
world, with most plants and animals being unique to Australia. This means that in Australia:
93% of amphibians
89% of reptiles 85% of plants
83% of mammals 50% of birds
90% of fish and insects
are found nowhere else in the world.
The ancestors of the Australian old endemic group of rodents, which include Hopping Mice and Stick-nest Rats, arrived in
Australia around five million years ago. Rodents are the only terrestrial mammals to make this crossing without the assistance of
Perhaps the largest single factor contributing to Australia’s high rate of endemism is geographic isolation. The native species
that live here today (including our marsupials, reptiles, frogs, bats and parrots) are descendants of groups that were present in
Australia when it was part of Gondwana - the super continent that included Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, South America,
Africa, Madagascar, Arabia and the Indian subcontinent - before it became isolated 45 million years ago.
Our unique geography defines South Australia and includes such delicate features as the 560 million year old Ediacara fossil
impressions in sandstones from the Flinders Ranges, the oldest known marine animals on earth; and the outstanding 100 million
year old opalised dinosaur (Pliosaur) fossil skeleton from Coober Pedy. A fossil mammal site with World Heritage status is in
Naracoorte. This rich heritage is an integral part of the culture and beliefs of South Australian Aboriginal groups and reflected in
their dreaming stories.
We are all dependent on the biodiversity of the natural environment and healthy ecosystems for the resources we need to
survive. There are two kinds of natural resources, biotic and abiotic.
Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere and are living and organic matter and the materials that derive from them.
They are renewable if used at a rate where they can regenerate. Examples include:
food – which originates from plants, animals and other living organisms.
shelter – our homes are constructed of and contain many natural resources such as wood and fibre.
clothing - natural fibres derived from plants (for example, cotton and hemp) and animals (silkworms, sheep and
alpacas are used to make clothes, for example).
fossil fuels – such as coal and petroleum are made of decomposed animal and plant matter. As well as using
petroleum as fuel and to generate electricity, we make many products from it, including plastics, fertilisers, pesticides,
herbicides and detergents.
The sun gives us energy, light and heat. We tend to identify energy sources as being petroleum and electricity but the real
source of energy for earth is the sun. Life on earth cannot exist without it.
medicines - most medicines are either extracted from plants or animals or are chemical copies of natural remedies.
Researchers test a wide variety of plants and animals in a search for new medicines. Throughout the world over 20,000
species of plants have been reported to have medicinal benefits.
Abiotic resources are those that come from non-living, non-organic material. Except for water, abiotic resources are
not renewable. Examples include:
water - the water cycle is the way water circulates from the land to the sky and back again, purifying it as part of the
air - green algae, cyanobacteria and plants produce the oxygen we breathe. Forests and oceanic algae provide
valuable carbon sinks and help to purify the air.
land – land use describes the ways we use the land, such as farming, forestry, housing and industry. Land use varies
from area to area. Land degradation and clearing has reduced the land available for the original ecosystems. The
challenge is to enhance biodiversity by managing the land carefully so that we can undertake activities in some areas
whilst also leaving some land in its original state.
soil - agriculture is dependent on healthy soil. Micro-biodiversity describes the millions of soil bacteria and other
organisms that are necessary for soil fertility, nitrogen fixing and a healthy soil structure. These tiny organisms are
incredibly abundant, with up to 100 million bacteria in only one gram of soil.
metals and minerals - including iron, copper, silver, salt, sand and clay - are part of our everyday lives.
Much of South Australia’s economy is based upon the use of natural resources and this provides our quality of life. As well as
providing tangible benefits, biodiversity also provides many intangible benefits, such as places for relaxation, recreation,
inspiration and learning which contribute to our sense of health and wellbeing. Life’s richness and wonder is intrinsically linked
to how intact and diverse the biodiversity is in our surrounding environment. Consequently how we look after our biodiversity
will impact on the quality of life for future generations.
Australia is a spectacular country with people visiting from all over the world to see our unique landscapes and wildlife.
Examples in South Australia include viewing whales at the Head of the Bight, kayaking with Bottlenose Dolphins at Port
Adelaide, and getting close to a range of Australian fauna at Cleland Wildlife Park.
In order to identify the known species on the planet, scientists use a system called the Classification Hierarchy. In this system, a
species is grouped with similar species in the upper levels (for example, ‘kingdom’ is at the top separating plants from animals)
and these groupings become more specific at each level. The final level refers only to the individual species. There are seven
levels (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species – although levels may be further divided into sub-levels for
some organisms (for example, some closely related organisms are classified into sub-species). There is a specific name at each
level (and sub-level) for each organism.
To make things simpler in everyday conversation, either a common name (the name most of us know and use) or a scientific
name is used. The scientific name uses the genus and species category of an organism to identify it. It is always written in italics
with the genus name capitalised followed by the species name in lower case letters. For example, humans (our common name)
are sometimes referred to as Homo sapiens - our scientific name.
Naming the Great White Shark
Below illustrates the full classification for the species with the common name Great White Shark. Using this information, we can
determine that the scientific name of the Great White Shark is Carcharodon carcharias:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Sub-phylum: Vertebrata)
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Lamniformes
Family: Lamnidae
Genus: Carcharodon
Species: carcharias
From this classification, we can see that the Great White Shark is not related to the bony fish as it is in the class Chondrichthyes,
which includes sharks and rays. Bony fish, such as tuna and goldfish are in the class Osteichthyes.
4. Threats
Our bioregions and biodiversity face a variety of threatening processes, most of which are influenced by people. These include loss,
fragmentation and degradation of habitat; the spread of invasive species; unsustainable use of natural resources; climate change;
inappropriate fire regimes and changes to the aquatic environment and water flows. We need to minimise threats to protect the
stability and longevity of South Australia’s biodiversity.
The biodiversity of life provides for our needs and wants. However, as a result of settlement – both from Aboriginal peoples and
since European colonisation – we have significantly altered our landscapes, resulting in the need to manage things more closely.
Our growing demand for the earth’s resources is greater than its ability to replenish them or deal with the waste we create. As a
consequence, many ecosystems, and the biodiversity they support, are being threatened or destroyed at an alarming rate.
Diverse ecosystems are more resilient and able to cope with negative impacts. In a diverse ecosystem if one species is lost there
is likely to be another species to replace its role in the ecosystem.
The conservation of biodiversity is a regional, state, national and international concern. Australia is a signatory to the
Convention on Biological Diversity (http://www.cbd.int/convention). The Convention’s three main goals are to conserve
biodiversity, use parts of biodiversity in sustainable ways, and to share the benefits of genetic resources in an equitable way.
The biggest single threat to biodiversity is the loss or degradation of habitat. The loss of South Australia’s native plant and
animal species since the arrival of European settlers is alarming. Our state’s extinction rate is one of the highest in Australia.
Since European settlement, an estimated 73 species have become extinct in South Australia. More than 1000 species are listed as
threatened (at risk of extinction in the future) at the state level under South Australia's National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. At
the national level, around 200 South Australian plant and animal species are listed as threatened under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The criteria used to define threatened species in South Australia are generally based on categories and definitions from the
IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria and include Endangered (including Critically Endangered and Extinct) Vulnerable and
Rare species. The Rare category criteria are consistent with current IUCN definitions for the Near-threatened category, and
encompass species in decline and those that naturally have a limited presence.
South Australia's biodiversity is under threat from a number of impacts. All of the impacts have, to some extent, been as a result
of human behaviour. The threats include:
habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation
invasive species
unsustainable use and management of natural resources
changes to the aquatic environment and water flows
changing fire regimes
climate change.
Breaking-up a continuous habitat into smaller remnant pieces is called ‘habitat fragmentation’, which is arguably the most
common cause of extinctions around the world. Globally the clearance of rainforests is well known, however habitat
fragmentation also occurs in South Australia. For example, when Europeans first settled on the Eyre Peninsula, the region was
covered in mallee and sheoak woodlands, which provided a home for many species. The habitat was fragmented by people
clearing patches of mallee and woodlands for agriculture, housing, roads and mining, and by domestic stock grazing. No areas
were left large enough to sustain populations of native animals.
With ongoing clearance and fragmentation, vegetation becomes degraded or is totally lost, limiting opportunities for natural
regrowth. If a plant or animal occupies a specific niche that is destroyed in the ecosystem, the species may become threatened.
If there are other threats, such as climate change, then an animal may even become critically endangered or extinct.
Trees, especially at the tops of hills and rises, are crucial for keeping salt below ground level and preventing it from entering
streams and rivers. So when land is cleared there is a significant risk of dryland salinity, which is destroying significant parts of
our South Australian landscape. Dryland salinity has devastating impacts on both biodiversity and the economy.
Clearing bushland also accelerates soil erosion, as the roots of plants holding the soil together are removed and no longer keep
the soil intact and stable.
Europeans introduced many plants and animals which have seriously affected the state’s biodiversity. Introduced plants that
have become weeds include Bridal Creeper, Blackberry, olives, thistles, Polygala, Aleppo Pines, Bone Seed and Boxthorn. They
compete with native species for space and nutrients. A fungus (Chytridiomycosis) is a potentially fatal skin disease of
amphibians, which affects South Australia’s native frogs. The disease has been implicated in the mass die-offs and species
extinctions of frogs in the past 15 years, but its origin and its true impact on populations remains uncertain and is under
With limited predator pressure or in the absence of natural predators, introduced animals such as cats, foxes, rabbits, goats, deer
and camels, can potentially become feral and compete with native animals for habitat, food and water.
In coastal waters, invasive species, such as the Caulerpataxifolia seaweed, have been introduced through ballast water or on the
hulls or anchor ropes of vessels.
Introduced species of freshwater fish that compete with native fish for food and habitat include European Carp, Eastern
Gambusia, Redfin Perch, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Tench.
Population growth and economic demand has led to the unsustainable use of many of our natural resources. This obviously has
great impact on the organisms directly and ecosystems generally. For example, intensive fishing has led to reduction in wild fish
stocks; erosion and polluted run-off has led to a major reduction in the size of coastal sea-grass beds which are major breeding
areas for many marine species; and the removal of old-growth trees for timber and land clearance has significantly reduced the
availability of nesting hollows for many animal species.
Enhancing and restoring the health of the River Murray is one of the state's highest priorities. Progressively reduced river flows,
rising saline groundwater, water over-allocation, and inappropriate land management practices along the river corridor all
contribute to the ailing health of the river. As such, the River Murray is under serious threat and the current levels of extraction
throughout the river system cannot be sustained.
Just like surface water systems, over-extraction of groundwater or changing land uses in the catchment can negatively affect
wetlands, vegetation, mound springs, cave ecosystems, springs, mangroves, river pools, billabongs and perched swamps. South
Australian examples include the nationally endangered Fleurieu Swamps and Piccaninnie Ponds.
South Australia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because of its tendency towards drought, but it is difficult
to predict exactly what the impacts of climate change will be as they differ by bioregion. The Commonwealth Scientific Industrial
Research Organisation (CSIRO) has predicted that it is likely to get hotter and drier with fewer rainfall events and less overall
rainfall but more extreme. Even though droughts are considered a natural event, climate change may cause an increase in their
severity and frequency. Species struggling to cope with other threats, such as habitat fragmentation, may be pushed to
extinction during a severe drought.
Climate change exacerbates the existing impacts and threats to biodiversity. It will also create new challenges by changing the
distribution ranges of plants and animals; disrupting ecological processes such as pollination; predator-prey interactions;
reproduction; and altering water and fire regimes. Many species in South Australia rely on fire to complete their life cycles. For
example, fire stimulates banksia seeds to sprout.
There are a number of other vulnerabilities including:
Small population size and low survival rates. Populations dwindle when few juveniles in a population survive to
adulthood. This is why particular animals, such as marine turtles which have a high predation rate of their young, need
additional protection.
Diseases - such as Phytophthora which threatens many native plants and Chytridiomycosis which has been linked to
worldwide declines in amphibian populations.
Soil compaction and trampling threaten some rare native plants and animals, such as the Pernatty Knobtail Gecko, by
destroying their burrows and making burrowing difficult.
Illegal collection, including smuggling, of our rare and threatened wildlife.
Pollution, especially from plastics, which harms marine and desert animals through entanglement, laceration,
suffocation, and ingestion.
Uncontrolled fire, which kills many plants and animals, and can significantly reduce available habitat.
5. Conservation
South Australia has developed a world class reserve system to conserve the diverse habitats and ecosystems found in our state’s
land and marine bioregions. There are many other programs that actively conserve and improve our state’s biodiversity which occur
both on public and on private land. It is important to work across the entire landscape for conservation benefit, not just in parks or
existing areas of native vegetation.
As we learn more about biodiversity and the complexity of the ecological systems we depend on for life, we are improving our
conservation strategies. Effective strategies need to be holistic in approach and to take into account the interconnectedness of
social, environmental and economic systems. For example, there is, apart from the impacts upon biodiversity, an enormous
financial and social cost in the deterioration of environmental systems.
Across South Australia, and the world, there are teams of people working on recovering many important plants and animals that are
endangered (on the edge of extinction). There are conservation programs in South Australia for such species as the Orange-bellied
Parrot, the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo and the Black-footed Rock-wallaby. South Australia is committed to developing protected
areas on the land and within its coastal waters. South Australia’s coastal waters are now protected by 19 Marine Parks
(http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/marineparks/home) which will help to safeguard and conserve the precious biodiversity that exists
within the sea. On the land, special parcels of bush land and habitat are protected by National Parks, Conservation Parks, Private
Reserves and Indigenous Protected Areas (www.parks.sa.gov.au/).
South Australia has eight, diverse types of parks:
National Parks: Areas considered being of national significance due to wildlife, natural features of the land, or Aboriginal or
European heritage.
Conservation Parks (CP): Areas protected for the purpose of conserving wildlife or the natural or historic features of the land.
Game Reserves: Areas set aside for conservation of wildlife and the management of game for seasonal hunting.
Recreation Parks: Areas managed for public recreation and enjoyment in a natural setting.
Regional Reserves: Areas proclaimed for the purpose of conserving wildlife or natural or historical features while allowing
responsible use of the area's natural resources.
Wilderness Protection Areas: Land set aside under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992-8 to protect natural and remote areas.
Conservation Reserves: Land set aside for conservation of natural and cultural features under the Crown Land Management Act
Marine Parks: Areas set aside to preserve the biological diversity of the state's coastal, estuarine and marine environments while
allowing ecologically sustainable use of the area's natural resources.
There are additional protected sites in South Australia that have attained national and international status under the Ramsar
Convention on Wetlands (www.ramsar.org/) and the National Heritage List
The National Reserve System (NRS) is Australia’s ‘national’ network of parks, reserves and protected areas and is an important
part of the national effort to conserve biodiversity. It forms the nation's natural safety net against our biggest environmental
challenges: climate change and declining water resources. South Australia’s parks, Indigenous Protected Areas and conservation
areas on private land make a significant contribution to the National Reserve System, with 21.4% of the state protected.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is the principal Commonwealth legislation for establishing
and managing protected areas.
Under the Caring for our Country Program, the Australian Government has committed $180 million to build-up the National
Reserve System over five years.
The System includes more than 9,700 protected areas covering 13.4 per cent of the country - over 103 million hectares. This
percentage varies from one bioregion to another depending on identified priorities but the system is currently focusing on
building bioregion representation to address the key gaps in comprehensiveness at the national scale. Another priority is the
protection of ecosystems that are currently poorly reserved or not protected at all. Therefore, in addition to government-owned
and managed protected reserves, there are non-government, private landowners and indigenous communities that can own
and/or directly manage protected areas.
Marine Parks, also known as marine protected areas, protect marine biodiversity. The creation and effective management of
marine reserves is widely regarded, both nationally and internationally, as one of the most effective mechanisms for maintaining
the long-term health and productivity of our oceans. The reserves will help ensure that Australia's diverse marine environment
remains healthy, productive and resilient.
Marine parks help to protect the long term health of the marine environment by conserving and protecting marine life, including
fish, plants and other animals, the habitats they rely on (e.g. seagrass meadows, reefs and mangrove forests), and important
natural processes and life-support systems. Sanctuary zones reduce pressures on food webs by prohibiting the removal of plants
and fish in selected areas, resulting in more natural habitats and increased populations of marine creatures. Sanctuary zones act
as refuges for plant and animal species that also help scientists and resource managers to understand the impacts of human
activities in nearby areas being managed for sustainable use.
A protected area is an area of land or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity.
Protecting ecosystems in national parks is not enough on its own to conserve our biodiversity. Effective recovery and protection
of a species requires the removal of pressures on biodiversity that impact upon native species, Threats from feral plant and
animal species (such as weeds like blackberries and animals such as foxes and rabbits), vegetation clearance and degradation of
water systems can result in significant loss of natural habitat.
Operation Bounceback is an example of an ecological restoration program being carried out in the Flinders Ranges National Park
and surrounding properties. It has increased the regeneration of native plants by controlling goats and reducing rabbit
populations (through the release of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease and the destruction of rabbit warrens). Threatened
species, such as the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, have benefited because there is less competition for food.
Research prior to action is important, as it provides vital information to help identify and manage threats. For example, research
on the threatened Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby included an investigation of whether removing the introduced predators and
competitors of this species would help the wallaby’s population. The results of the investigation indicated that this was a good
idea and so efficient methods for controlling the pest species were implemented.
In addition, conservation programs must make a direct link between the habitat, the species being managed and the actions
being carried out. For example, not only does the Glossy Black-Cockatoo benefit from restoration and re-establishment of its
Drooping Sheoak feeding habitat, it also needs its individual nesting trees identified and protected, and predators prevented
from preying on fledglings. A community monitoring and planting program along with the establishment of nesting boxes in
suitable trees has been instrumental in halting the decline of this cockatoo. The entire life cycle of a species, as well as the
impact of actions on surrounding environment, needs to be considered before taking action.
By removing threats and restoring habitats, population sizes and ranges will often increase. Results of habitat monitoring also
indicate that the reintroduction of species is possible. A number of successful reintroduction programs have been carried out in
South Australia, including Brush-tailed Bettongs at Venus Bay on the Eyre Peninsula and Stick-nest Rats on Reevesby and St
Peter Islands.
In many places where habitat has been removed, damaged or significantly altered, natural recovery is possible. However, this
can be a lengthy process. Active revegetation and pest control programs support habitats to recover more quickly. In the
Flinders Ranges reclamation techniques are used to prevent erosion, increase filtration of water into the soil and provide a
sheltered bed for the germination of seeds.
Naturelinks is a landscape-scale management program that incorporates a whole-of-ecological-community approach to
biodiversity conservation by managing and restoring large areas of habitat across the state. Building connectivity across the
landscape at this scale will help species to survive and adapt to threats such as climate change, fire and drought. The
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is working with conservation organisations, landholders and local
communities to restore and manage these broad biodiversity corridors on both public and private land.
The areas now occupied by the suburbs of Fulham and Lockleys in Adelaide’s western suburbs once supported a large wetland
known as the Reedbeds that were fed by the Torrens and Sturt Rivers. In 1934, because the regular flooding of the area
inconvenienced landholders, the State Government agreed to construct a flood channel through the sandhills directly to the sea.
This had unforeseen impacts; nutrients from the land led to a decline in the vast seagrass beds in St Vincent Gulf, resulting in
habitat loss. In addition, the loss of seagrass allowed more wave energy to reach the shore, exacerbating the erosion of the
extensive dune system along Adelaide’s coast.
In 1996, a project was developed to start to replace some of the natural values that had been lost. A rock weir was created to
maintain a large pool of still water. Shallow, gently graded banks were constructed to encourage growth of reeds, rushes and
sedges. Native plants, indigenous to the area, were planted and secured snags and partly submerged logs were strategically
placed within the permanent water pool to provide habitat and refuge for fish and birds.
As well as providing habitat for wildlife and an attractive place for the community to enjoy, the restored wetland improves water
quality by trapping sediments and nutrients from the catchment before they reach the gulf.
Wetlands can also be a source of stormwater harvesting, providing a water resource for sports grounds, parks and gardens, and
agriculture. Waterproofing Northern Adelaide and Waterproofing the South are stormwater harvesting initiatives.
Water-sensitive urban design promotes the sustainable use and re-use of water in urban development and buildings. This type
of design integrates the total water cycle and water from all sources, including rainwater, storm water, groundwater, mains water
and waste water, into urban development and building processes
In South Australia’s south-east, the restoration of wetlands is focused on restoring high-value sites on private and public land.
Restoration sites are chosen because they have good potential for restoration, support species' environmental values,
complement existing habitat or a combination of these factors.
In some areas, controlled burning is used to help restore habitat. Many native trees, shrubs and grasses depend on fire to
regenerate. Some have thick woody seedpods that need to be burnt before they can open and release their seeds. Others have
buds in stems or under the ground that re-shoot and flourish after fire. Some native species have seeds that respond to the
chemicals in smoke that triggers them to germinate when there is less competition from other understorey plants. Prescribed
burns help native plants continue their natural cycles in the absence of bushfire.
Prescribed burns are also used to protect ecological values. Habitat fragmentation can leave populations vulnerable to local
extinction after very large bushfires. Creating buffers of recently burned areas, for example burning vegetation alongside roads,
can help contain bushfires when they occur.
Mallee eucalypts have adapted to cope well with fire. In order to encourage the regeneration of long unburnt mallee
bushland, the Eastern Plains Fire Trial, for example, on Kangaroo Island is undertaking a number of controlled burns in
areas of mallee habitat. This trial will enhance our understanding of the role of fire intensity and seasonality in the
regeneration process and improve fire management programs.
5.8.1 Caring for our Country
Caring for our Country (http://www.nrm.gov.au/index.html) is a Federal funded initiative. Caring for our Country aims to
achieve an environment that is healthy, better protected, well-managed, resilient and provides essential ecosystem services in a
changing climate. Caring for our Country funds projects across the country to achieve national targets in improving biodiversity
and sustainable farm practices. The funding supports regional natural resource management groups, local, state and territory
governments, Indigenous groups, industry bodies, land managers, farmers, Landcare groups and communities.
5.8.2 Natural Resource Management (NRM) Council and Boards
Our Place. Our Future. State Natural Resources Management Plan, 2012 – 2017 sets a long term vision and goals, with priorities
identified for the next five years for South Australia. The Natural Resources Management (NRM) Council has responsibility for
preparing and maintaining the State Natural Resources Management Plan.
South Australia's eight regional NRM boards play a role in engaging communities and working with the State Government to
decide NRM priorities, develop regional plans, and work on initiatives in their region. The NRM boards are:
Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges
Alinytjara Wiluara
Eyre Peninsula
Kangaroo Island
Northern and Yorke
South Australian Arid Lands
South Australian Murray-Darling Basin
South East
5.8.3 National Parks and Wildlife Council
The South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Council is the State's peak advisory body on parks and wildlife. A full list of the
functions of the Council is contained in section 19C of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.
5.8.4 Other groups
Many groups and individuals support conservation initiatives. Searching the web with key words will bring up current projects.
There are many ways to become involved and improve biodiversity. The following are some search phrases:
Threatened species
Bird conservation
Biodiversity programs
Conservation programs
Friends of (Botanic Gardens, the Earth)
Marine and coastal conservation
Nature conservation
World Wide Fund for Nature.
6. Resources
Detailed fact sheets about the bioregions help us to learn more about and appreciate each bioregion’s unique biodiversity in terms
of not only flora and fauna but cultural and geological dimensions. The fact sheets encourage exploration and connection to South
Australia’s unique bioregions and include ideas for restoring and enhancing South Australia’s biodiversity.