Coolibah-Black Box Woodland

Coolibah-Black Box Woodland is the name given to the threatened ecological community Coolibah – Black Box Woodlands of the Darling Riverine Plains and the Brigalow Belt South Bioregions. This community occurs on floodplains in the western part of the region. It is characterised by a dominant eucalyptus overstorey (Coolibah [Eucalyptus coolabah] / Black Box [Eucalyptus largiflorens]) and a grassy understorey.

Unfortunately large areas of this woodland have been cleared across our catchment and remaining fragments are listed as endangered. The woodland and its waterways provide an essential home to many of our catchments' most threatened species.

Coolibah-Black Box Woodland is listed as an endangered ecological community under both the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act).

Activities which affect the condition or extent of Coolibah-Black Box Woodland may require consent or approval.

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Where does the community occur?

In the Border Rivers-Gwydir catchment Coolibah-Black Box Woodland occurs on floodplains roughly west of the Newell Highway. The community is distributed from central western NSW to central northern Queensland.

Identification

Coolibah-Black Box Woodland has a canopy of widely spaced Coolibah and/or Black Box trees with a mid-storey of shrubs and a ground layer of grasses and herbs.

Healthy Coolibah-Black Box Woodland typically has widely spaced trees, of different ages and sizes, a high diversity of grass species, fallen timber and hollow trees.

Under the EPBC Act there are specific criteria to identify Coolibah-Black Box communities. You should refer to the listing advice for the exact identification criteria.

A patch must be at least 5ha and have a tree canopy cover of at least 8%. The patch must have trees of either Coolibah or Black Box. Some of the trees must have a diameter at breast height greater than 30 cm or hollows (dead or live trees). If trees have been coppiced then some trees must have a diameter greater than 20 cm.

At least 10% of the ground cover must be native grasses, herbs, saltbush or low shrubs and at least half of the ground cover must be native species. 

Coolibah-Black Box Woodland is a very dynamic and resilient community. During drought and after floods it may have different species dominating the ground layer than during other times. The composition of the ground layer will vary between grass-dominated, saltbush dominated and shrub-dominated depending on the conditions.

Threats

Clearing – of both the overstorey and understorey is a major threat to both the extent and the condition of this community. When the woodland understorey is removed, through cultivation for crops or pasture development, the community suffers greatly to the point it cannot be regenerated.

Grazing – by domestic and feral animals can remove the ground cover species.

Changing the groundwater or the flooding and drying regime – can kill mature trees and prevent regeneration.

Herbicide or defoliant drift – from spraying in adjacent paddocks will kill or reduce the health of trees and shrubs.

Weeds – such as Lippia (Phyla canescens), Johnson grass (Sorghum halapense) and African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) compete with the ground layer plants and prevent regeneration.

Feral animals – particularly pigs can destroy ground layer plants and shrubs and introduce weeds. Foxes and cats prey on native animals.

Other threats – include salinity, mining, housing development, the effects of fragmentation and climate change.

Management

The aim of management of Coolibah-Black Box Woodland is to maintain or increase the extent of the community and to maintain or improve its condition.

  • It is recommended that you do not clear Coolibah-Black Box Woodland patches, even under permissible exemptions from the Native Vegetation Conservation Act.
  • Provide long-term protection for patches through landholder agreements with the Border Rivers-Gwydir CMA or conservation agreements with the Office of Environment and Heritage or the Nature Conservation Trust.
  • Do not cultivate in or near patches of this community and avoid opening new tracks, table drains or trenches through stands in good condition.
  • Increase the area of this community through revegetation and assisted natural regeneration.
  • Prevent herbicide or defoliant drift onto patches of Coolibah-Black Box Woodland by spraying when there is no wind or planting buffers of resistant trees (e.g. Belah).
  • Adopt selective and rotational grazing practices and avoid grazing when ground layer plants are flowering and setting seed (usually spring to midsummer).
  • Allow occasional flooding and avoid permanent inundation. Restoring hydrological regimes requires coordinated efforts of landholders and government at a regional scale.
  • Manage weeds in and around existing patches of woodland. Avoid creating soil disturbances that favour weeds.
  • Increase species diversity by introducing seedlings of other species from adjacent or similar patches.

Ecosystem function: how healthy woodlands work for you

Healthy Coolibah-Black Box Woodlands provides a wide range of benefits that are called 'ecosystem services'. These include traditional services like grazing for livestock, but also other services such as:

  • capture of solar energy
  • soil formation and cycling
  • nutrient cycling
  • water capture, filtration and delivery to water bodies
  • pollination
  • pest management (e.g. reducing pest pressure on crops)
  • habitat for fauna, notably hollow dwelling fauna which utilise hollows in old Coolibah, River red gum and Poplar box trees
  • regional climate buffering
  • shade and shelter (e.g. for livestock)
  • breakdown and absorption of wastes
  • a sense of place
  • scenery

Further Information

Look for "Coolibah-Black Box Woodlands of the Darling Riverine Plains and the Brigalow Belt South Bioregions" on the Australian Government Threatened Species and Ecological Communities website:
http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/index.html

NSW Threatened Species
http://www.threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au

Contact the Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority at
02 6728 8020 or visit our website at http://www.brg.cma.nsw.gov.au

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