Maria Cofinas, Colin Creighton
National Land and Water Resources Audit, 2001
ISBN 0 642 37128 8
Photo: John Neldner
Queensland's flora is diverse reflecting both an array of environments and species-rich communities such as the rainforests and coastal heathlands. Queensland vegetation is best recognised by the rainforests, littoral communities and adjoining island and barrier reef environments of the Wet Tropics. The biogeography of the State is complex with a wide range of temperate, sub-tropical, tropical, monsoonal, marine and arid environments.
The eucalypt woodlands, tussock grasslands, eucalypt open woodlands, acacia shrublands, hummock grasslands and acacia forests and woodlands cover the greatest area in Queensland. Eucalypt woodlands and open woodlands occur on the east coast from Cape York Peninsula to the border with New South Wales. Western Queensland is dominated by tussock and hummock grasslands and acacia shrublands. Acacia forests and woodlands occur throughout Queensland (Figure 25, Table 20).
Cape York Peninsula
This bioregion consists of gently undulating plains and plateaus with a tropical monsoon climate. Eucalypt woodlands and eucalypt open woodlands dominate Cape York Peninsula.
- Western areas are dominated by melaleuca forests and woodlands, while closer to the coast a range of low closed forests, mangroves, wetlands occur.
- Extensive areas of rainforest and eucalypt open forests occur on the eastern coast.
Major land uses are grazing of native pastures, nature conservation (e.g. Lakefield, Mungkan Kandju, Cape Melville, Jardine and Iron Range National Parks) and some native forestry.
The Wet Tropics region in the tropical east coast of northern Queensland contains rugged mountain ranges.
- Dominated by large areas of rainforests and vine thickets with eucalypt open forests.
- The low lying coastal plains support melaleuca and eucalypt communities.
- Tussock grasslands are scattered throughout the region.
Twenty-four percent of the bioregion has been cleared-large areas have been cleared inland for dairying and on the coastal plains for dryland (sugar cane) and irrigated cropping. Large areas of rainforest are protected in National Parks and state forests within the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.
Central Mackay Coast
This bioregion has high rainfall, coastal lowlands hills and ranges.
- Dominated by eucalypt woodlands, eucalypt open forests, and rainforest and vine thickets.
- The coastal plains support a range of melaleuca, low closed forests and woodland communities, eucalypt woodland, eucalypt open forests, mangroves, samphires and sedgelands.
Major land uses are nature conservation (e.g. Eungella National Park), state forests, cattle grazing, and dryland and irrigated cropping for sugar cane on the lower lying plains. Thirty-one percent of the bioregion has been cleared.
This bioregion contains undulating to hilly land with some rugged ranges and plateaus. It has a warm to hot climate.
- Dominated by eucalypt woodland and open woodland with significant patches of rainforest and vine thickets.
- It contains small areas of acacia forests and woodlands and tussock grasslands and a large area of eucalypt open forests in the east.
The region is mainly used for cattle grazing with some horticulture and cropping and small localised areas of grazing of modified pastures.
Sugar cane, Mackay, Qld
Photo: Maria Cofinas
This bioregion extends slightly into the Northern Territory.
- Extensive alluvial plains are dominated by large areas of mangroves, grasslands, eucalypt open forests and tropical eucalypt woodlands moving into tussock (blue grass-Dichanthium) grasslands, hummock (spinifex) grasslands, melaleuca and acacia forests and woodlands and eucalypt woodlands further inland.
The majority of the region is used for extensive cattle grazing with some nature conservation (e.g. Staaten River National Park). The littoral and estuarine communities of marine plains adjoining the Gulf of Carpentaria are extensive and support major fisheries including prawn, barramundi and shark.
Mount Isa Inlier
This bioregion consists of stony hills and ranges with a hot arid climate.
- Dominated by hummock grasslands, eucalypt open woodland, low closed forests and closed shrublands, other forests and woodlands and acacia open woodlands.
- Small areas of acacia forests and woodlands, tussock grasslands and eucalypt woodlands occur.
Major land uses are extensive cattle grazing and conservation (e.g. the Riversleigh World Heritage Area).
Mitchell Grass Downs
Extending into the Northern Territory, this bioregion consists of undulating plains with deep heavy clay soils and an arid hot climate.
- Dominated by Mitchell grass (tussock grasslands), acacia forests and woodlands and open woodlands in the central and western area; eucalypt woodlands and open woodlands, acacia shrublands, low closed forests and closed shrublands; and chenopods and samphires along water courses.
Clearing of acacia forests and woodlands and chenopods has occurred in the eastern part of the region. Major land uses are extensive cattle and sheep grazing and some nature conservation.
This bioregion extends into the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales and is characterised by low hills and braided river systems with an arid climate of very dry hot summers and short dry winters.
- The vast braided floodplains are dominated by widespread hummock and tussock grasslands, chenopod and samphire shrublands, low closed forests and closed shrublands and acacia shrublands.
- Eucalypt woodlands and open woodlands occur along watercourses and many wetlands are present.
- The north-east part has widespread areas of acacia forests and woodlands and open woodlands.
The major land use is extensive cattle grazing with some nature conservation.
This bioregion extends into the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales and consists of arid dune fields and sand plains.
- Dominated by hummock grasslands, acacia shrublands and other forests and woodlands.
Major land uses are grazing and nature conservation (including the Simpson Desert National Park).
This bioregion extends into New South Wales and is characterised by flat to gently undulating plains. It has summer dominant rainfall with increasing winter rain towards the south.
- Large areas of mulga shrublands, acacia forests and woodlands with eucalypt woodland, eucalypt open woodland, callitris, eucalypt low open forests and chenopod and samphire communities along watercourses are present.
The major land use is cattle and sheep grazing with some nature conservation. The eastern part of this region has undergone a large degree of clearing for grazing of native and modified pastures. Vegetation cleared includes eucalypt woodlands and open woodlands, casuarina forests and woodlands and acacia forests and woodlands.
Darling Riverine Plain
This bioregion extends into New South Wales and is characterised by alluvial fans and plains. The climate is hot and dry in the west, less dry in the east.
- Extensively cleared with remnant eucalypt open woodlands, eucalypt woodlands, eucalypt tall open forests and low closed forests and closed shrublands.
Major land uses are grazing, and dryland (cereals) and irrigated (cotton) cropping.
This bioregion extends largely into New South Wales.
- Extensively cleared and remaining vegetation is dominated by eucalypt woodland and small pockets of eucalypt open forests.
The major land use is grazing with some forestry and nature conservation in small areas.
South East Queensland
This bioregion is characterised by hills and ranges, alluvial valleys and coastal dunes with a subtropical to temperate climate in the south.
- Remaining native vegetation includes rainforests and vine thickets and eucalypt open woodlands with small areas of eucalypt woodlands.
- Lower lying coastal plains include heath, melaleuca, grasslands, rainforest and vine thickets, eucalypt open forests, other forests and woodlands and mangrove communities.
Major land uses are grazing, state forests and plantations, nature conservation (including the Fraser Island World Heritage Area), urban development and irrigated and dryland cropping. The region has been substantially cleared (57%) for grazing, agriculture and urban development.
Brigalow forest, near Tambo, Qld
Photo: Murray Fagg
Brigalow Belt South
This subcoastal belt extends into New South Wales and has a subtropical to temperate (hot summer) climate in the south.
- Dominated by eucalypt woodland, with acacia forests and woodlands in the west.
- Rainforest and vine thickets, heath and eucalypt open woodlands are scattered throughout with small pockets of eucalypt open forests.
- Grasslands, melaleuca communities and mangroves occur on the coast.
The region has been substantially cleared with major land uses of grazing, state forests, nature conservation (including Carnarvon National Park), cropping (dryland cereals and cotton, legumes and oilseeds), grazing on modified pastures and some irrigated cotton in the south. The major vegetation groups cleared are acacia forests and woodlands, eucalypt woodlands, eucalypt open woodlands, tussock grasslands and rainforests and vine thickets.
Brigalow Belt North
This subcoastal belt occurs east of the Great Dividing Range and includes the Fitzroy and Burdekin Rivers. It has a subtropical, dry winter climate.
- Dominated by eucalypt woodland, eucalypt open woodland, acacia forests and woodlands and patches of eucalypt open forests, rainforest and vine thickets and tussock grasslands.
- Coastal communities include melaleuca, acacia open woodlands, mangroves and samphires.
This bioregion has been substantially cleared (47%). The major land uses are grazing of native and modified pastures, native forestry, dryland and irrigated cropping and some nature conservation. Cropping in the south is mainly for cereals and irrigated sugar on the coast near Townsville. Major vegetation groups cleared are acacia forests and woodlands, eucalypt woodlands, eucalypt open woodlands and patches of tussock grasslands, rainforests and vine thickets, eucalypt open forests and melaleuca communities on the coast.
This region in central northern Queensland consists of sand plains with a hot, dry climate.
- Dominated by eucalypt woodland and open woodland with scattered occurrences of acacia forests and woodlands and small areas of hummock and tussock grasslands, eucalypt open forests and wetland communities.
Large areas have been cleared (12%) to south and north. Major land uses are grazing of native and some modified pastures, small areas of nature conservation (e.g. White Mountains National Park) and a very small area of cropping in the east.
|Major vegetation group||Present||Pre-European|
|Eucalypt open woodlands||134,421||165,065|
|Acacia forests and woodlands||91,534||182,089|
|Chenopod shrubs, samphire shrubs and forblands||81,944||82,070|
|Melaleuca forests and woodlands||70,014||72,173|
|Other forests and woodlands||49,266||49,692|
|Acacia open woodlands||36,734||39,861|
|Eucalypt open forests||35,150||62,646|
|Tropical eucalypt woodlands/grasslands||20,653||20,684|
|Rainforest and vine thickets||19,558||30,055|
|Mangroves, tidal mudflats, samphires and bare areas, claypans, sand, rock, salt lakes, lagoons, lakes||15,143||15,442|
|Other grasslands, herblands, sedgelands and rushlands||4,771||4,963|
|Callitris forests and woodlands||4,134||5,601|
|Casuarina forests and woodlands||1,545||11,951|
|Low closed forests and closed shrublands||445||449|
|Eucalypt tall open forests||429||3,976|
|Eucalypt low open forests||111||111|
|Mallee woodland and shrublands||14||14|
|Note: * in order of greatest to smallest area.|
Eighteen percent (30.4 million hectares) of Queensland's native vegetation has been cleared, mainly in the coastal lowlands and floodplains from Cairns south to the New South Wales border and in the inland Brigalow Belt. Queensland has one of the largest areas of cleared land in Australia.
Major vegetation groups most affected are:
- rainforest and vine thickets;
- eucalypt open forests communities in far north Queensland and south-east Queensland; and
- eucalypt woodland, eucalypt open woodland, acacia forests and woodlands, casuarina forests and woodlands in the Brigalow Belt.
The rate of clearing in Queensland has increased from 289,000 ha/yr from 1991 to 1995 to 340,000 ha/yr from 1995 to 1997.
The State-wide average annual remnant vegetation clearing rate for the 1997 to 1999 period was 446,000 ha/yr. The regional ecosystem remnant clearing from 1997 to 1999 occurred on freehold tenures (70%), leasehold tenures (29%) and other tenures (1%).
The areas with the highest remnant vegetation clearing rates from 1997 to 1999 are largely within the central and southern areas of the Brigalow Belt and the adjacent eastern area of the Mulga Lands bioregions. In the four bioregions where the vegetation survey and mapping is completed, 58% of the State's remnant vegetation cleared from 1997 to 1999 occurred in the Brigalow Belt bioregion, 12% in the Desert Uplands bioregion, 2% in the Southeast Queensland bioregion, and 0.4% in the New England Tableland bioregion (Accad et al. 2001).
The majority of remnant vegetation cleared during this time was of eucalypt open woodlands and woodlands dominated by poplar box (Eucalyptus populnea), coolibah (E. coolabah) or silver-leaved ironbark (E. melanophloia).
The Queensland Herbarium is continually updating vegetation information and holds the most current vegetation mapping for Queensland.
Grazing by stock is also a significant factor in changes to the species composition and structure of the native vegetation. The extent and impacts of these changes is not fully understood or mapped (Boulter et al. 2000).
An assessment of landscape health in Queensland which includes factors of clearing, grazing, feral animals and weeds provides a summary on a subregional basis of the landscape stresses (NLWRA 2001c).
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