A submission lodged with the Office of Environment and Heritage nominates Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area as an Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. The data on biodiversity overwhelmingly supports that the SCA merits such recognition.
An Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value (AOBV) is a special area that contains irreplaceable biodiversity values that are important to the whole of NSW, Australia or globally. The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) provides legal protections for AOBVs, recognising these areas will represent the most valuable sites for biodiversity conservation across NSW. How the SCA meets or exceeds the criteria is summarised here.
Read the full submission: Mt Canobolas SCA AOBV Nomination – Medd & Bower
State, National and Global Significance
Mt Canobolas is an inselberg supporting relict montane and sub-alpine flora, moss and lichen communities that include many endemic species, and that are compositionally distinct from those in all other high altitude areas of NSW and Australia. Despite a paucity of scientific investigation, Mt Canobolas is known to support within a remarkably small area an array of vascular plants, lichens, insects, a Velvet Worm and a planarian that occur nowhere else in Australia or globally. The number of species recognised as unique to Mt Canobolas is expected to grow considerably with further research. There can be no doubt that Mt Canobolas is a hotspot of endemism within NSW and Australia, of global significance.
Significant Contribution to the Persistence of Threatened Species and Ecological Communities
With a known biota in excess of 800 species, the SCA has a rich and unique biodiversity including three threatened ecological communities and 16 threatened species listed under State and/or Commonwealth conservation Acts. One of the threatened ecological communities, the Endangered Mt Canobolas Xanthoparmelia Lichen Community is endemic to Mt Canobolas volcanic complex and depends on the SCA for its survival. The threatened species comprise two plants, six mammals and eight birds. One of the threatened plant species, Prostanthera gilesii (Giles’ Mintbush), is listed as Critically Endangered, occurs only in the SCA and is dependent on the SCA for survival in the wild. The other, Eucalyptus canobolensis (Silver-leaf Candlebark), is listed as Vulnerable under the BC Act and Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The only viable populations of this species occur in the SCA. Another seven species endemic to the SCA would undoubtedly meet the criteria for listing as threatened under the BC Act if they were to be nominated. Accordingly, Mt Canobolas SCA supports a high concentration of unique and threatened biodiversity, such that it merits recognition as an AOBV.
Significant Contribution to the Persistence of Irreplaceable Biological Distinctiveness
The biodiversity of the Mt Canobolas SCA is demonstrably distinctive The biodiversity of the Mt Canobolas SCA is demonstrably distinctive and irreplaceable. Despite limited scientific research, it is clear that the SCA has high levels of endemicity, even though few taxonomic groups have been subject to in-depth study. By definition endemic species occur nowhere else and consequently are irreplaceable. So far, ten taxa comprising five plants, four lichens and a Velvet Worm are recognised as endemic to Mt Canobolas. Further plant species occurring on the mountain are currently under investigation and considered likely to be new endemic species. The distinctiveness extends to the ecological communities in the SCA, which typically differ in vegetation composition from analogous communities in high altitude areas along the Great Dividing Range (GDR) to the east. The ecological communities on Mt Canobolas are characterised by the presence of E. canobolensis (Silver-leaf Candlebark) as a canopy dominant and the absence of other species that typically occur in similar montane or sub-alpine communities on the eastern tablelands, such as E. radiata (Narrow-leaved Peppermint) and E. robertsonii (Robertson’s Peppermint), perhaps reflecting the relictual nature of the SCA vegetation, its more inland location and consequent climatic differences. The rock plate Xanthoparmelia lichen community, which is unique, listed as Endangered (BC Act) and endemic to Mt Canobolas, is also irreplaceable.
Significant Contribution to the Persistence of Ecological Processes or Ecological Integrity
Mt Canobolas vegetation has high ecological integrity and resilience. The SCA has recovered to climax condition from a long history of light grazing, and from past wildfires. The vegetation on Mt Canobolas provides an excellent example of vegetation community adaptation to ecological drivers at the landscape and geographical scales. The montane and sub-alpine communities of Mt Canobolas are at the western extremity of these vegetation types on the NSW CT. The vegetation has responded in several ways to significant differences in climate between Mt Canobolas and the Great Divide to the east. These include the changes in community composition mentioned above, but also climate-driven changes whereby the Tablelands Basalt Endangered Ecological Community occurs at higher altitudes on Mt Canobolas than it does on the eastern tablelands, likely due to climatic differences arising from the more inland location. Mt Canobolas provides extensive opportunities for gaining an understanding of landscape and geographical scale ecological drivers on vegetation communities and biodiversity in general.
Significant Contribution to Outstanding Ecological Value for Education or Scientific Research
The importance of Mt Canobolas as a centre of endemism is becoming increasingly evident to the scientific community. Research on various cryptogams, vascular plant taxa and invertebrates in the SCA is being, or has been, undertaken by the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University (bryophytes), Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney (Prostanthera gilesii), Botany School at the University of New England, Armidale (various flowering plants), Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University (lichens), David Jones (Associate of the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, Canberra) (orchids), National Museum of Victoria (insects), Australian National Insect Collection, Canberra (beetles), The Australian Museum Sydney (insects) and the Biosecurity Collections Unit of NSW DPI in Orange (moths). The SCA provides abundant opportunities for further taxonomic research. The less vagile plant and animal communities on Mt Canobolas have evolved over millions of years in relative isolation. This has resulted in recognisably distinct assemblages that differ from communities in similar environments elsewhere. Accordingly, the biodiversity of Mt Canobolas provides examples of the ecological and evolutionary responses of an entire landlocked island biota to isolation, longitudinal displacement and climatic gradients, providing many fertile avenues for research and education.
The declaration of an area may relate to, but is not limited to, protecting threatened species or ecological communities, connectivity, climate refuges and migratory species
Because of the large altitudinal range (900 to 1400 m) within the SCA and the connecting vegetated ridges to the surrounding lower lands, Mt Canobolas has high importance as a potential climate refuge. As temperatures warm, native vegetation communities characteristic of the lower altitudes surrounding the mountain and their biota may follow their favoured climatic conditions upwards within the volcanic complex. Given there is no other similar high altitude land system within the western Central Tablelands, Mt Canobolas assumes critical importance for the survival of the distinctive biodiversity of the volcanic complex in a warming world. The submission concludes that the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area meets the criteria for Areas of Outstanding Biodiversity Value.
Photo credit: Large Bird Orchid Photo by Helmut Berndt