Natural Heritage of Range


 

 

biodiversity – Flora, Fauna & Vegetation Communities

 

on Helena and Aurora Range (Bungalbin)

 

 

Species richness and endemism

 

A search on NatureMap (Department Environment and Conservation (DEC)* website in December 2011) within a 10 km radius of the approximate centre of Helena and Aurora Range included a list of 131 animals, 434 plants and two fungi.  The number of animal and plant species specifically on Helena and Aurora Range will be less than these figures.  For example a smaller area search (search by polygon around Helena and Aurora Range) revealed a total of 411 plants species, however, this list would still include species from the sandplain nearby to the north and east of Helena and Aurora Range.  

 

Flora

The total number of flora species located at Helena and Aurora Range was 303 native species in 1995 (Gibson et al. 1997) and increased to 379 native plant species in 2008 (Department of Environment and Conservation, 2008).

Botanical surveys on Helena and Aurora Range have found new species, some of which are endemic to Helena and Aurora Range while others are endemic to several BIF ranges. Without these botanical surveys the flora of Helena and Aurora Range would remain unknown. 

Among the 379 native plant species recognised as occurring on Helena and Aurora Range in 2008, six were listed as endemic to the range.  To date, there are five known endemic species on Helena and Aurora Range (see Significant Flora List).   Since 2008, based on current knowledge, one new species can be added to the list of endemic species (Acacia sp. Bungalbin (JJ Alford 1119)) and two are no longer found to be endemic, where one species, Neurachne annularis, was found to also occur on Mt Manning and another species no longer considered to be a distinct taxon (Echinopogon ovatus var. pubiglumis now considered to be Echinopogon ovatus).    

In 2008, there were also 10 potentially new species, still to be described.  By the end of 2011 there were still at least three plant species to be described on Helena and Aurora Range.  Now, towards the end of 2012 there are two undescribed species (Spartothamnella sp. Helena and Aurora Range (PG Armstrong 155-109) and Acaia sp. Bungalbin Hill (JJ Alford 1119)).  Both species have been given a Priority conservation status (see Significant Flora List).  Acacia sp. Bungalbin Hill, so far, has only been found on Helena and Aurora Range.  For those of us who are curious or interested, the reason the phrase name for each of these species is Helena and Aurora Range or Bungalbin Hill is that the phrase name is referring to the location where the plant specimen representing each species was collected from followed by who collected it given in parenthesis.

As the knowledge of the flora on Helena and Aurora Range and the broader region has grown, so has the number of plants recognised as rare.  In the early 1980s no rare species were known from Helena and Aurora Range and few Priority species.  By 1995/1997 one rare species was recognised on Helena and Aurora Range and 10 Priority species. In 2007, two rare species and 12 Priority species were recognised from Helena and Aurora Range.  Gibson (et al. 2007) found that within an area of 646kmof Helena and Aurora Range there were two DRF and 11 Priority 1 species.  By December 2011, the number of Priority species had increased to 13 (see Significant Flora List) (including less one plant species that is no longer recognised as a Priority, plus three species now considered to have Priority status).

 

Summary of rarity of Flora

 

Two Threatened Flora (T)1 (Declared Rare - Extant), occur on Helena and Aurora Range. 

These are Tetratheca aphylla subsp. aphylla (T) and Leucopogon spectabilis (T), both of which are endemic to Helena and Aurora Range, being only known to occur on this range.  Both grow from the fissures or cracks within the rocky outcrops of Helena and Aurora Range.  Very few plant species grow out of the rocky outcrops, a place where there is very little soil and where water availability can be in short supply or very restricted during the summer months.

Tetratheca aphylla subsp. aphylla was collected for the first time during the biological survey by Ken Newbey and Hnatiuk in 1979 (Newbey and Hnatiuk, 1985) and Leucopogon spectabilis for the first time by Brendan Lepschi, Neil Gibson and Michael Lyons in 1995.  Their work was published in 1997 (Gibson et al. 1997).

In addition to Helena and Aurora Range having two Threatened Flora, this range currently has 14 Priority Flora1 of which at least three appear to be endemic to the range (Lepidosperma bungalbin, Bungalbin Swordsedge, Acacia adinophylla and Acacia sp. Bungalbin Hill (JJ Alford 1119)). 

Two of the Priority species have yet to be formerly described and have been given a phrase name in the interim (Spartothamnella sp. Helena and Aurora Range (PG Armstrong 155-109) and Acaia sp. Bungalbin Hill (JJ Alford 1119).  One Priority species was described and published in 2012, Mirbelia ferricola (Butcher, 2012).  Another three of the Priority species were formerly described and named in 2007 (Leucopogon spectabilis, Lepidosperma bungalbin and Neurachne annularis, published in the WA Herbarium Journal, Nuytsia2). 

 

Threatened or Priority plant species dependent on BIF habitat include the two threatened plant species Tetratheca aphyllassp. aphylla and Leucopogon spectabilis, plus Dryandra arborea (also known as Banksia arborea), Stenanthemum newbeyi, Acacia adinophylla, Acacia shapelleae (formerly Acacia sp. Bungalbin Hill (JJ Aford 1119), Mirbelia ferricola, Grevillea georgeana, Lepidosperma ferricola, Lepidosperma bungalbin and, at least within Helena and Aurora Range, Neurachne annularis.

 

The list of Rare and Priority Flora in WA is dynamic and, each year is reviewed, based on new records and knowledge of the Western Australian flora.  Plant species may be added, taken off or their status changed.  The list of plant species given in the Significant Flora List for Helena and Aurora Range is based on a NatureMap search conducted in December 2011.  The Significant Flora List will be updated as soon as possible following any changes.

 

 

 

Fauna

A survey of reptile and small mammal fauna of the Bungalbin Hill area (Helena and Aurora Range), during 1979 to 1981, stated: “This virtually undisturbed habitat contains a rich fauna including five dasyurid marsupial species, and 51 species of reptiles including 13 species of geckoes, the highest number recorded for any surveyed site in the Eastern Goldfields District (Henry-Hall1990)” (quoted in Goldfields Region Management Plan December 1994).

The reptile and mammal fauna is considered to be rich and diverse .... although none are endemic to Helena and Aurora Range, some have restricted distributions and several are endemic to Western Australia.

 

 

Summary of Rarity of Fauna

 

One Threatened (Rare)3 Fauna occurs in the area of Helena and Aurora Range; the Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata) plus four conservation significant species; a short range endemic species the Tree-stem Trapdoor Spider (Aganippe castellum) (P4; Priority 4), Peregrine Falcon (SP; Specially Protected)3 Rainbow Bee-eater and Fork-tailed Swift (both under International agreement as a migratory species)3.

 

Some fauna species are considered to be dependent upon BIF habitat.  The Strategic Review (2008) identified 11 fauna species likely to be significantly dependent on BIF ranges. 

These are species that probably would not occur in the area if the BIF range was not present

Eight of the species likely to be significantly dependent on BIF ranges (five bird species and two mammal species) are known to occur on Helena and Aurora Range.  They are:

Peregrine Falcon (SP)

Little Woodswallow

Western Yellow Robin

Golden Whistler

Shy Hylacola

 

Woolley’s Pseudantechinus

Long-tailed Dunnart

 

(NOTE:    SP= Specially protected, P4 = Priority 4)3

 

The Peregrine Falcon and Little Woodswallow would be considered the most dependent on the BIF range as they nest on or in the banded ironstone outcrops.  

A full list of known fauna species on Helena and Aurora Range is given in Fauna List.

 

Invertebrates – study conducted by RP MacMillan as part of the Helena and Aurora Range Biological survey conducted in 1997 (Lyons and Chapman, 1997). A list of insects found is provided in the Fauna List.

Insects (and other invertebrates) are often not included in Biological surveys.  This is in part due to only a small portion of the native insect fauna of Western Australia being identified to species level and that there are few people available with the expertise to collect and identify insects to family and genus level.  It may also be fair to say that the insect fauna in Western Australia (and Australia) is vast and the task of describing and naming all the insect fauna, even with one group, is several life times worth of work.  In Western Australia, the great diversity of plants (new species still being found) adds to the complexity of the insect fauna, as there are indications that some insect species have just the one plant species as a host, or a groups of species are sometimes dependent on a particular genus of plants.

 

Short-range endemics – a study was conducted for the Public Environmental Review (PER) for the proposed J5 and Bungalbin East iron ore project.

Troglofauna and Stygofauna - A study of Troglofauna was conducted near the range (to the south) by Bennelongia Environmental Consultants for Polaris Metals Pty Ltd in 2010.  This study included one site (Vela) that appeared to be just off the main range of Helena and Aurora to the south. More recently, a Troglofauna survey was conducted for the Public Environmental Review (PER) for the proposed J5 and Bungalbin East iron ore project.

 

 

Unique plant communities

Plant communities on the banded ironstone formation (BIF) ranges differ from those on the surrounding flats.  As early as the 1970s when John Beard did his broad scale vegetation mapping of this area, he grouped his vegetation units on the banded ironstone ranges separately, as part of the ‘Bungalbin System’ (made up of thickets and shrublands, usually dominated by sheoaks and acacias and the occasional tree such as Dryandra arborea (Tree Dryandra) or eucalypt). The vegetation units on the flats or valley systems adjacent were grouped together as part of the ‘Jackson System’ (made up of eucalypt woodlands, particularly Salmon Gum and Gimlet) (Beard 1972).  There are also shrublands further afield on sandplain country, however, they include quite different species from the banded ironstone ranges.

 

 

There is one Priority Ecological Community (PEC) listed for Helena and Aurora Range:

 

Helena and Aurora Range vegetation complexes (banded ironstone formation)

Threats: iron ore mining.   Priority 1

Source:  Department of Environment and Conservation Reference no.: 01-0511EC. 

 

The PEC on Helena and Aurora Range has been determined based on the unique flora communities occurring on this BIF landform.  The vegetation types present within the Helena and Aurora Range PEC have yet to be fully described and mapped.

 

 

geodiversity  - Geology and Landscape of

 

Helena and Aurora Range (Bungalbin)

 

The banded ironstone formation (BIF) ranges were described in the Strategic Review (2008) as having significant and potentially unique landscape and geodiversity values as they are:

o      isolated

o      ancient ranges

o      in a predominantly flat landscape

 

In addition, Helena and Aurora Range is Near Pristine and provides (to date) 360º views (to the horizon) of natural undisturbed vegetation.

The Strategic Review also states that the removal of entire or portions of BIF ranges has irreversible, permanent effects.  Waste dumps, a by-product of mining, do not provide habitat comparable to the removed BIF range.  This has a direct effect on plants and animals dependent on BIF range habitat (landform/geology and the plants and fauna that coexist on).  Geological processes that are affected or changed by the removal of BIF ranges include; run off from the BIF range, changes in wind and exposure patterns, nutrient and soil input.  Other biological processes that are affected or changed include introduction of weed species and changes in the abundance of key plant and animal species.

A recommendation in Guidance Statement 6 (EPA 2006) stated that examples of BIFS be retained partially or in their entirety as it is impossible to reconstruct BIF.

As early as 1985, the concept of conserving landform was discussed in Dell et al. (1985).  Eight landform units were identified from surveys within the Jackson and western half of Kalgoorlie map sheets, of which four were noted as not being represented within reserves [in 1985] including the landform category: “Hill (banded ironstone formation)”. 

 

 


 

NOTES AND EXPLANATI​ONS

1   The list of Threatened and Priority Flora in Western Australia is overseen by the WA State Government’s Department of Environment (currently Department of Conservation and Environment (DEC)) under the WA Wildlife Conservtaion Act 1950.  Flora that are considered to be threatened (or rare) and their distribution and abundance is well known are listed as Threatened (T) (or listed as Rare (R)).  Flora that are considered to be Threatened (based on existing records), yet their distribution and abundance are not well known are given a Priority Status (P1, P2, P3 or P4).  The definitions of the conservation codes of plants is provided on the DEC website.  A summary of the conservation codes is given below: 

Threatened Flora (T) (Declared Rare Flora - Extant)

Priority 1 (P1) (Taxa known only from a few records - inadequately surveyed - none on lands managed for conservation, appear under immediate threat from known threatening processes)

Priority 2 (P2) (Taxa known only from a few records - inadequately surveyed - some records on land managed for conservation, appear under threat from known threatening processes)

Priority 3 (P3) (Taxa known from a number of records, or few though widespread records - inadequately surveyed - known threatening processes exist and could affect them)

Priority 4 (P4) (Taxa that are rare - adequately known - not threatened  OR  Taxa that are Near Threatened - adequately surveyed)

 

2 The taxonomic work published in Nuytsia (2007) was possible with the allocation of funds to three taxonomists (Juliet Wege, Kelly Shepherd and Ryonen Butcher) to work on undescribed BIF plant species (and included the work of other specialist taxonomists) as part of DEC’s Saving Our Species biodiversity conservation initiative.  A total of 95 new plant species were described and published of which 36 occur on BIF ranges, including 4 from Helena and Aurora Range (Leucopogon spectablis (T),Lepidosperma bungalbin (P1), Lepidosperma ferricola (P1) and Neurachne annularis (P3)) .

 

3  The list of conservation significnat fauna in Western Australia is overseen by the WA State Government’s Department of Environment (currently Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), (formerly Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and previously Conservation and Environment (DEC)) under the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950. A summary of the conservation codes for fauna is given below.

 
"Threatened Fauna" (Schedules 1-4)
Schedule 1  Fauna that is rare or likely to become extinct - critically endangered fauna.
Schedule 2  Fauna that is rare or likely to become extinct - endangered fauna.
Schedule 3  Fauna that is rare or likely to become extinct - vulnerable fauna.
Schedule 4  Fauna that is presumed to be extinct
Schedule 5  Birds that are subject to international agreements - protection of migratory birds
Schedule 6  Fauna that are of special conservation need - species dependent on ongoing conservation and intervention
Schedule 7  Fauna that is in need of special protection - other than for reasons above (Schedule 1-6)
 
 
Priority 1 (P1) (Taxa known only from a few records - inadequately surveyed - none on lands managed for conservation, appear under immediate threat from known threatening processes)

Priority 2 (P2) (Taxa known only from a few records - inadequately surveyed - some records on land managed for conservation, appear under threat from known threatening processes)

Priority 3 (P3) (Taxa known from a number of records, or few though widespread records - inadequately surveyed - known threatening processes exist and could affect them)

Priority 4 (P4) (Taxa that are rare - adequately known - not threatened  OR  Taxa that are Near Threatened - adequately surveyed)

 


 

References

 

Beard JS (1972) The vegetation of the Jackson Area, Western Australia. Vegmap, Perth.

Bennelongia Environmental Consultants (2011) Yilgarn Iron Ore Project: Troglofauna Surveys. Report prepared by Andrew Trotter for Polaris Metals Pty Ltd. August 2011, Report 2011/119.

Butcher, R (2012)  Three new species allied to the 'Mirbelia viminalis group' (Fabaceae: Mirbelieae), from Western Australia. Nuytsia. 22(2), 75-92.

Dell J, How RA, Newbey KR and Hnatiuk RJ (1985) The Biological Survey of the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Part 3. Jackson-Kalgoorlie. Records of Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 23. W.A. Museum, Perth.

Department of Environment and Conservation (2008) Issues Paper. Northern Yilgarn (Mt Manning Range, Mt Elvire and Jaurdi) Conservation Reserves Management Plan, March 2008.

Department of Environment and Conservation (2008) Banded Ironstone Formation Ranges of the Midwest and Goldfileds. In Strategic Review of the Conservation and Resource Values of the Banded Iron Formation of the Yilgarn Craton. Western Australian Government.

Gibson N, Lyons MN and Lepschi BJ (1997) Flora and vegetation of the eastern goldfields ranges, Part 1: Helena and Aurora Range. CALMScience 2(3) 231-246.

Gibson N, Coates DJ, Thiele KR (2007) Taxonomic research and the conservation status of flora in the Yilgarn banded iron formation ranges. Nuytsia 17 1-12.

Gibson N, Yates CJ and Dillon R (2010) Plant communities of the ironstone ranges of south western Australia: hotspots for plant diversity and mineral deposits. Biodiversity and Conservation 19, 3951-3962.

Government Gazette (2017) Wildlife Conservation (Specially Protected Fauna) Notice 2016, pp 76-89, 6 January 2017.

Henry-Hall NJ (1990) Nature Conservation Reserves in the Eastern Goldfields, Western Australia. Report to EPA Red Book Task Force.

Keighery GJ (1980) Notes on the biology, distribution and conservation of Dryandra arborea (Proteaceae). Western Australian Naturaliste 14 212-213.

Keighery, GJ, Gibson N, van Leeuwen S, Lyons MN and Patrick S (2007) Biological survey and setting priorities for flora conservation in Western Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 55(3) 308-315.

Lyons MN and Chapman A (eds.) (1997) A Biological Survey of the Helena and Aurora Range, Eastern Goldfields Western Australia. Unpublished Report for Environment Australia, Canberra

NB. Can be viewed at the following Libraries in Western Australia: Wildlife Sciences Library, DEC WA Wildlife Research Centre, Woodvale; DEC Office, Kalgoorlie.

Payne AL, Van Vreeswyk AME, Pringle HJR, Leighton KA and Hennig P (1998) An inventory and condition survey of the Sandstone-Yalgoo-Paynes Find area, Western Australia. Agriculture Western Australia, Technical Bulletin No. 90.

Western Australian Government (2008) Strategic Review of the Conservation and Resource Values of the Banded Iron Formation of the Yilgarn Craton.

Western Australian Herbarium (2007) Nuytsia. Volume 17.

Yates CJ, Gibson N, Pettit NE, Dillon R and Palmer R (2011) The eclogical relationship and demography of restricted ironstone endemic plant species: implications for conservation. Australian Journal of Botany 59(7), 692-700.


 

* Department Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions was created on 1 July 2017 with the amalgamation of Department Parks and Wildlife, Department Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Rottnest Island Authority and Zoological Parks Authority. [Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) was separated in to two departments on 1 July 2013, Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and Department of Environment Regulation (DER)].