What is an Ecological Community?
An ecological community is a naturally occurring group of native plants, animals and other organisms that are interacting in a unique habitat. Its structure, composition and distribution are determined by environmental factors such as soil type, position in the landscape, altitude, climate and water availability.
The native plants and animals within an ecological community have different roles and relationships that, together, contribute to the healthy functioning of the environment. Protecting native communities also supports ecosystem services such as clean air, clear land and clean water. These all contribute to better productivity of our land and water, which benefits people and society.
An ecological community may be listed as critically endangered if the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) determines it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in Australia in the immediate future.
Most of us live in Endangered Ecological Communities
On the Western Shores of Pittwater we have not just one, but three ecologically endangered communities.
Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest
Nearly all of us live in the endangered Spotted Gum Forest.
While Littoral Rainforest in NSW is found at locations along the entire NSW Coast only 1% of the original cover remains between Ballina and Bermagui. Happily small pockets of it persist on the Western Shores near waterfalls and streams.
Littoral rainforest is generally a closed forest, the structure and composition of which is strongly influenced by proximity to the ocean. The plant species in this ecological community are predominantly rainforest species and vines may be a major component of the canopy. These features differentiate littoral rainforest from sclerophyll forest or scrub, but while the canopy is dominated by rainforest species, scattered emergent individuals of sclerophyll species, such as Angophora costata, Banksia integrifolia, Eucalyptus botryoides and E. tereticornis occur in many stands.
Coastal Saltmarsh occurs at the head of Morning Bay. This ecological community occurs in the intertidal zone on the shores of estuaries and lagoons that are permanently and intermittently open to the sea. Saltmarsh occupies the high tide zone on sheltered foreshores and species composition will vary depending on the elevation and frequency of inundation. As with mangroves, coastal saltmarsh have historically been undervalued and considered by many to be boggy swamps and wastelands and as a result many have been drained, reclaimed, become degraded or completely lost.
Coastal Saltmarsh provides four very important and basic roles; provides habitat, provides food, acts a a buffer and filter of nutrients and is a carbon sink. Saltmarsh provides habitat and shelter for fish, juveniles and smaller fish species, especially when inundated. These areas also provide habitat for many other fauna species including, birds, bats and aquatic and terrestrial insects and invertebrates. They can also provide an important summer feeding and roosting area for migratory wader birds.
Some of the plant species found in Coastal saltmarsh include; Baumea juncea (bare twig-rush), Juncus kraussii (sea rush), Sporobolus virginicus (marine couch), Ficinia nodosa (knobby club-rush), Somolus repens (creeping brookweed), swamp weed, Suaeda australis (austral seablite) and Zoysia macrantha (prickly couch).
As well as Morning Bay you can find this community at Dee Why Lagoon Wildlife Refuge, Winnererremy Bay, Careel Bay, Refuge Cove, Saltpan Cove and Winji Jimmi.
Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest Profile
Scientific name: Pittwater and Wagstaffe Spotted Gum Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered Ecological Community
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 22 Feb 2013
Profile last updated: 07 Sep 2017
General structural form is open-forest but may now exist as woodland or remnant trees. The tree canopy layer is characterised by Spotted Gum Corymbia maculata and Grey Ironbark Eucalyptus paniculata and is associated with Smooth-barked Apple Angophora costata, Red Bloodwood Corymbia gummifera, Broad-leaved White Mahogany E. umbra, Grey Gum E. punctata, Turpentine Syncarpia glomulifera, Bangalay E. botryoides, and Rough-barked Apple Angophora floribunda.
Occurs entirely within the Pittwater Local Government Area, on the Barrenjoey Peninsula and Western Pittwater Foreshores. Remnants are typically small and on private property, however there are a few remnants in Council reserves and one remnant within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Habitat and ecology
- Occurs in association with shale derived soils with high rainfall on lower hillslopes on the Narrabeen Group – Newport Formations on the Barrenjoey Peninsula and western Pittwater Foreshores.
- Assemblage diversity must take into account species likely to be present in the soil seedbank.
- Structural form is typically open-forest but may now exist as woodland or remnant trees.
- Floristic composition and structural diversity influenced by the remnant size, disturbance history and fire severity and frequency.
- Habitat loss and degradation due to urban development including encroachment.
- Encroachment from urban areas including illegal and legal tree and understorey removal, planting of exotic species and weed invasion.
- Inappropriate fire regime being a combination of lack of fire and too frequent fires due to arson and hazard reduction burns.
- Stormwater and soil erosion.
- Disturbance from recreational users, including unauthorised visitor access; rubbish dumping, illegal trails, illegal mountain bike tracks, and walkers.
- Introducing and spreading of disease including phytophthora and myrtle rust.
- Weed invasion, including multiple asparagus species, mickey mouse weed, bitou, privet, crofton weed, lantana, mixed woody weeds and garden escapes.
- Lack of knowledge about extent, composition and condition beyond the areas mapped for this toolbox.
Activities to assist this species
- Remove rubbish.
- Control stormwater and soil erosion.
- Introduce measures to control unrestricted access and/or inappropriate use.
- Manage weed infestations.
- Protect areas of habitat from clearing and further fragmentation.
- Restore degraded habitat using bush regeneration techniques.