Biodiversity publications archive

Native vegetation clearance, habitat loss and biodiversity decline

An overview of recent native vegetation clearance in Australia and its implications for biodiversity
Biodiversity Series, Paper No. 6

Andreas Glanznig, Biodiversity Unit
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, June 1995

Northern Territory

Historical context

It has been estimated less than two per cent of the woody vegetation of the Northern Territory has been cleared (Scanlan et al 1991, p.8).

This clearance has taken place mostly over the last two decades for localised urban development and creation of fruit blocks around Darwin, the establishment of some Pinus caribaea var hodurensis plantations on Melville Island, and more intensive use of pastoral leases in the Daly Basin, specifically Tipperary Station near Lichfield and in the Finniss River Basin (Kestel Research and VICDCE 1990, p.26).

Figure 10: Extent of native vegetation clearance in the north of the Northern Territory, 1984-94

Figure 10: Extent of native vegetation clearance in the north of the Northern Territory, 1984-94

Note: The approximate boundaries of the study area range from the coastline in the north west to Pine Creek in the south, and to South Alligator River on the east.

Source: Ahmad, W., Northern Territory University (1995)

A significant extent of native grassland communities have been substantially modified.

Recent and current situation

Limited, but significant clearing of woody native vegetation is occurring in the Territory. The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory includes an estimate that about 16 280 ha were cleared in 1989-90 (Wheaton, NT Department of Land, Housing and Local Government, pers comm cited in NGGIC 1994). This is an averaged figure based on clearing estimated to have been undertaken in the period 1983-93 on pastoral leasehold land (see also Gillard et al, 1989).

A comprehensive regional study of native vegetation clearance using Landsat multispectral scanner data has been undertaken recently by the Northern Territory University. The approximate boundaries of the study area as shown in Figure 10 ranged from the coastline in the north-west to Pine Creek in the south, and to the South Alligator River in the east. The initial results of the post classification comparison of the 1984 and 1994 data reveal that a minimum of 40 806 ha (0.88 per cent of the study area) of native vegetation were recently cleared. Major clearing took place in the Tipperary area (northern half included in the study), and the region north of Litchfield and south west of Reynolds River (Ahmad 1995, pers comm).