Biodiversity in Victoria

Conservation areas can help protect flora and fauna by excluding damaging activities. In 2010, there were 2,945 parks and reserves in Victoria covering about 4 million hectares or 18% of the state.

In 2010, all 37 Victorian flora and fauna communities listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1998 were represented in parks. However, most were represented in only one, or less than five parks.

The most recent monitoring results were included in the 2013 State of the Environment report, and are set out below.

Conservation of Victorian ecosystems and species

  • In 2010, 15 out of Victoria’s 28 bioregions had less than 20% of their area within parks, and eight of these had less than 10%. Only seven bioregions had conservation levels of 50% or higher.
  • Most of Victoria’s ecological vegetation divisions have less than 50% of their total area protected in parks, with six having less than 25% of their area in the parks system.
  • Conservation areas are increasing both on public and private land. Between 2008 and 2012, the area of land under private conservation agreements increased from 212,000 to 242,000 hectares.

A bioregion is a geographically distinct area based on common climate, geology, landform, native vegetation and species information. For example, in Victoria, the Riverina, the Volcanic Plain and the Alps are distinct bioregions

Threatened species

  • Expert advice indicates that there is an overall decline in threatened species and populations because of habitat loss and fragmentation, and ongoing degradation of remaining habitat.
  • A total of 294 vertebrate fauna species across all habitats were listed on the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria, 2013. A further 50 species were listed as critically endangered, 57 endangered, 84 vulnerable and 64 near threatened.
  • All vertebrate groups have a considerable proportion of their extant species listed as threatened, including 22% of terrestrial mammals, 19% of birds, 30% of reptiles, 43% of amphibians and 55% of freshwater fish.
  • Between 2007 and 2013 the number of critically endangered vertebrate species increased by 13, endangered by five, and vulnerable by 12. The period also saw the extinction in the wild of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot which was critically endangered in 2007.
  • Some threatened species are showing signs of recovery, with eight improving their conservation status and three removed from the threatened species list as a result of species population increases.
  • There remains a large number of species whose population trend is inconclusive, unclear or variable.
  • As at 2009, one invertebrate species had become extinct and another five species extinct in Victoria. A further 127 species were listed as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable, seven species were listed as near threatened, and 38 were poorly known.
  • At the time of publication of the 2013 State of the Environment report, the most recent advisory list for plants was released in 2005. Since then the overall trend is one of decline. In 2005, 51 species of flora had become extinct from Victoria, with a further 778 species listed as vulnerable or endangered, 838 species as rare, and 305 were poorly known. (A new advisory list for plants [PDF] was released in 2014.)

Extent and condition of Victoria’s native vegetation

  • Although assessments are improving, it is difficult to determine trends because of methodology changes.
  • The most significant losses of vegetation in Victoria have occurred in native grasslands, grassy woodlands and box ironbark forests.
  • Vegetation quality is generally stable on public land and in largely intact landscapes, but likely to be declining on private land and in fragmented landscapes.
  • Victoria’s extended drought and increase in large fires are likely to have significantly impacted on vegetation quality in the short term.
  • Between 2006–07 and 2011–12, the annual total area of state forest harvested ranged between 7,900 and 11,600 hectares or between 0.3% and 0.4% of the total state forest area.
  • Fire salvage operations increased between 2007 and 2011. Fire salvaging can be detrimental to biodiversity by removing important habitat.

Native vegetation extent in Victoria, as at 2010
Source: DEPI

 

Pest plants and animals

  • Pest plants are considered one of the major factors in the loss of biodiversity. Statewide information on the number of introduced species has not been updated since the 2008 Victorian State of the Environment report. Consequently, it is not possible to determine changes in the number of pest plants and animals since 2008.
  • Predatory pests have impacted at least 47 species of threatened fauna in Victoria.
  • Coordinated ongoing management can have positive outcomes for biodiversity. For example, fox management programs have led to an increase in the number of  Southern Brown Bandicoots and Long-Nosed Potoroos in these areas. 

Fire and its impact on Victoria’s ecosystems

  • Fire is a natural part of Australia’s environment and its effects on flora and fauna can be both positive and negative, depending on a number of factors, such as frequency, intensity, season, extent and type of fire..
  • In 2012, 40% of native vegetation was estimated to be below the minimum tolerable fire interval, or TFI, with 3% above the maximum TFI.  Around 18% of native vegetation assessed was within the target TFI to maintain vegetation communities, while the TFI could not be calculated for 39% of native vegetation due to data constraints. 

Main image: Pierre Pouliquin