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Biodiversity in Byron Shire

Biodiversity in Byron Shire 5.86 MB

An introduction to the biodiversity of Byron Shire and to the legislative basis provided for its conservation by the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.

Biodiveristy in Byron Shire

Byron Shire has extremely high biodiversity at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels. The Shire is centred in the Wet Subtropics Bioregion, an area of great ecological significance. This is one of the richest and most diverse regions for fauna and flora in Australia and is exceeded, or equalled, only by the south west of Western Australia and the Wet Tropics in Far North Queensland.

The New South Wales far north coast is centred in a region with the highest frog, snake and marsupial diversity per unit area of land in Australia.  The region’s bird diversity is second only to the Wet Tropics. Over half the state’s plant species occur here in the northeast corner. Species from tropical and temperate zones intermingle here with many reaching their southern and northern distributional limits respectively in the region (Byron Flora & Fauna Study 1999). 

A combination of high rainfall, mild climatic conditions and variation in topography, geology and altitude interact to support a diverse range of ecosystems including rainforest, wet and dry sclerophyll forest, grasslands, paperbark swamps, wetlands, sedgeland, mangroves, saltmarsh, heath, marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Cybim Margil Swamp Source: D. Milledge

Byron Shire supports amongst the highest number of threatened species in New South Wales. Approximately 70 plant species and 90 animal species recognised as vulnerable or endangered are known to occur in the Shire. On the one hand this reflects the region's status as a hotspot for biodiversity in Australia, but on the other, it reflects adverse consequences of land use over the past 160 years. 

For instance, species centred on the Mt Warning Caldera have been particularly threatened from clearing and logging of rainforests, particularly in the fertile lowlands.  Other species are listed as threatened because they have particular habitat requirements such as needing hollows in old trees to nest/roost, requiring beaches/estuaries to nest, feed and roost (which are being increasingly disturbed by humans), or only feed from certain plants e.g. Koala and Glossy Black-Cockatoo.

There are also a number of endangered ecological communities represented in the Shire.  For example only about 5 ha remain of the Byron Bay Dwarf Graminoid Clay Heath, which as the name suggests is unique to Byron Bay.