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Stirling Range National Park, Chester Pass Rd, Cranbrook, WA, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Natural
Legal Status Listed place (15/12/2006)
Place ID 105818
Place File No 5/01/073/0001
Summary Statement of Significance
Stirling Range National Park is one of the top ranking places across Australia for biodiversity. The place represents one of the most important remnants of the rich flora of the south-west, in an area that is predominantly cleared for agriculture. The Stirling Range provides an example of the extraordinarily diverse flora of the south-west, and over 1500 species have been recorded in the Park, which represents almost one fifth of all the flora species found in the south-west. The Stirling Range also exemplifies the abundance of endemic species found in the south-west, with 87 species being found solely within the Park.
 
The Stirling Range is one of the most important areas in Australia for eucalypt richness and endemism. Examples of other plant groups which are of outstanding richness and endemicity at Stirling Range include the epacrids, the Fabaceae (the peas), and genera within the Myrtaceae, including Darwinia (mountains bells), Melaleuca, and Verticordia (feather flowers). The Stirling Range also has particularly high species richness and endemicity within the Proteaceae, including for dryandras, banksias, and hakeas.
 
Stirling Range has a diverse array of relict endemic invertebrates, many of which are recognised as Gondwanan, and many of the species here are more closely related to groups in mountainous areas of eastern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and other Gondwanan continents, than to the surrounding lowlands in the region.  Deeply incised south-facing gullies provide refuge for Gondwanan relictual species such as ancient trapdoor spider species (mygalomorphs), and species of land snail, and other relict invertebrate species, including scorpions, pseudoscorpions, earthworms and primitive isopod crustaceans. The Stirling Range is one of most important areas in Australia for endemic mygalomorph species, and is also one of the richest areas for land snails, particularly within the Bothriembryon genus. The richness of land snails is significant not only in itself, but because land snails have been demonstrated as an indicator species of areas of moist refugia over long periods.
 
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
The south-west of Western Australia is one of only 34 internationally significant hotspots for biodiversity (Myers et al. 2000), and the Stirling Range National Park is a very important remnant of the flora of the south-west, with exceptional richness and endemicity of species, particularly for plant species (Comer et al. 2001, Hopper et al 1996). For example, the place is one of the richest areas in Australia for families such as Myrtaceae, including the eucalypts, and Proteaceae, including dryandras, banksias, and hakeas  (Keighery 1993, ANHAT 2005). A minimum of 1,500 plant species have been recorded within the park of 115,000 hectares (Keighery 1993, CALM 1999, Paczkowska & Chapman 2000), and there are also 87 recorded endemics, or species that are found nowhere else (CALM 1999, Keighery 1993).
 
Deeply incised south-facing gullies provide refuge for Gondwanan relictual species such as ancient trapdoor spider species (mygalomorphs), and species of land snail, and other relict invertebrate species, including scorpions, pseudoscorpions, earthworms and primitive isopod crustaceans  (Thomson et al. 1993; Comer et al. 01, ANHAT 2005). The Stirling Range is one of most important areas in Australia for endemic mygalomorph species, and is also important for land snail richness, particularly within the Bothriembryon genus  (ANHAT 2005).
Criterion D Principal characteristics of a class of places
Stirling Range National Park is one of the top ranking places across Australia representing areas of richest biodiversity (ANHAT 2005, CALM 1999, Hopper et al. 1996, Keighery 1993, Paczkowska & Chapman 2000). The place represents one of the most important remnants of the rich flora of the south-west (Hopper et al 1996).
 
The Stirling Range National Park provides an example of the extraordinarily diverse flora of the south-west, and over 1500 species have been recorded in the Park, which represents almost one fifth of all the flora species found in the south-west. The Stirling Range also exemplifies the abundance of endemic species found in the south-west, with 87 species being found solely within the Park (CALM 1999, Keighery 1993).
Description
Stirling Range National Park is located in the south-west of Western Australia, 48 kilometres north of Albany. Rising out of the surrounding plains and extending for 62 kilometres within the Park, Stirling Range is a prominent landmark that is clearly visible from up to 60 kilometres away. The range consists of a series of isolated jagged hills and peaks rather than a continuous range. A small area in the Hamilla Hills to the north-west of the main range is also part of the Park. Stirling Range contains Bluff Knoll
(1 095 m), the highest mountain in southern Western Australia, and four other peaks that exceed 1 000 metres. The Park is situated on the southern edge of the Yilgarn Craton. This ancient (2 500 - 2 900 million yrs old) bedrock is the remains of part of the original continental land mass. Stirling Range is composed mainly of metamorphosed sandstones and shales, which were laid down as part of an ancient sea. The soils are of low to extremely low fertility due to the great age of the landscape, and the low levels of phosphate in the parent rocks (AHC 2001, CALM 1999 & 2005).

Situated within a largely cleared agricultural landscape, Stirling Range National Park stands out as an island of bushland. It supports a rich and varied flora of more than 1 500 species, 87 of which are found nowhere else. Spectacular and colourful wildflower displays in spring attract many interstate and overseas visitors. Of particular note is the exceptional variety of mountain bells or darwinias (11 species), eucalypts (45 species) and orchids (more than 120 species). Five major vegetation communities occur within the Park, namely thicket and mallee-heath on the higher ground; woodlands, wetlands and salt lake communities on the lower slopes and plains (AHC 2001, CALM 1999 & 2005, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
Thicket grows on all the major peaks and on the Hamilla Hills and is a mass of flowering shrubs in spring, growing to a maximum height of 3 m. It contains many of the species that are endemic to the Stirling Range such as the Stirling Range woollybush (Adenanthos filifolia), Stirling Range banksias (Banksia solandri), feather-leafed banksia (B. brownii) and Dryandra species. Many of the dominant species are killed by fire, so fire history has an influence on the height and structure of the community. Much of this community, particularly plants in the Proteaceae family, including banksias and grevilleas, is susceptible to dieback disease (CALM 2005, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
Mallee-heath is the most common community of the Stirling Range. On the peaks and slopes it is dominated by mallee jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata). On the lower slopes Albany blackbutt (E. staeri) or spearwood mallee (E. doratoxylon) may replace jarrrah as the dominant species.
 
Woodlands occur in two forms: low woodland (trees 5-10 m high) and woodland (trees up to 26m). The woodland communities are generally lower down the slope, and grade into low woodland with increasing altitude. Much of the low woodland is dominated by jarrah and marri (Corymbia calophylla). Woodland may be dominated by a range of eucalypt species, including jarrah, marri, wandoo (E. wandoo), and flat-topped yate (E. occidentalis). Another less common type of woodland, found on deep sandy soils, is dominated by banksia species (CALM 1999, Keighery 1993, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
Wetland communities include sedge swamps, the largest being Pillenorup Swamp; and samphire communities, which fringe some of the salt lakes.
 
The Park also contains a number of minor but distinctive plant communities and habitats, including rock screes, herbfields on open rock slabs and cliffs, and peaty bogs.  In the lowland areas there are freshwater claypans, granite rock herbfields, and permanent and temporary creeklines, many of which have distinctive plant communities associated with them.
 
The climate is warm Mediterranean; rain falls mainly in winter while summers are dry. Snow falls on the highest peaks several times each year. Rainfall varies from less than 500 mm annually in the north-east to 600 mm in the south-west and increases with altitude to about 1000 mm near Coyanarup Peak and Bluff Knoll. Most of the surface water flow in the Stirling Range ceases in summer during the dry season. However, a few permanent pools and springs that are fed by groundwater discharge can be found along some of the rivers and their tributaries. Groundwater salinity is usually high. On the north-eastern side, there is a semi-permanent water supply below the slopes of Coyanarup Peak. Other creeks and drainage lines, such as the deep gullies below Pyungoorup Peak, are ephemeral with flows primarily associated with winter rains (CALM 1999, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
The numerous plant species and vegetation communities and the varied topography of the Park provide shelter and food sources for many different bird species. More than 140 species of birds are known from the Park including a number of parrots, honeyeaters and smaller bush birds such as robins, whistlers, fairy-wrens and thornbills.
 
Of the 36 species of native mammals believed to have existed in the Stirling Range at the time of European settlement, only 20, including the numbat (re-introduced to the Park in 1999) have been recorded in the Park in the last 25 years. Current residents include the western pygmy-possum (Cercatetus concinnus), honey possum (Tarsipes rostratus), western brush wallaby (Macropus irma), western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) and several species of bats, marsupial mice and native rodents (ANHAT 2005, CALM 1999 & 2000, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
Although no comprehensive surveys of invertebrates have been conducted, a number of species known to occur within Stirling Range National Park are of particular interest because they are Gondwanan relicts, whose closest relatives are found in wetter mountainous areas of eastern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. These include a number of trapdoor spiders including the endemic palisade spider (Neohomogona stirlingii). Land snails too, inhabit the moist uplands of the Range as does a species of giant earthworm (Megascolex sp.). Like the trapdoor spiders and land snails, it is a relict species and depends on very wet soil and shaded sites (CALM 1999, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
At least 26 species of plants and 9 species of animals that are listed as threatened under State or Commonwealth legislation are found in Stirling Range National Park. Plants include the pea Nemcia lehmanii, which was presumed extinct until a population was rediscovered in the Stirling Range in 2000, and several other species that are critically endangered in Western Australia and endangered nationally such as Gilham’s bell (Darwinia oxylepis), the Stirling Range dryandra (Dryandra montana) and the small-flowered snottygobble (Persoonia micranthera). Nationally threatened animals recorded in the Park include the endangered Carnaby’s cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris), the vulnerable western whipbird (Psophodes nigrogularis oberon) and the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) (ANHAT 2005, CALM 1999 & 2000, DEH 2005).
 
The Stirling Range is highly regarded in southern WA as an iconic landmark feature that protrudes from the flat plains and is visible from a long distance and dominates the vista from all directions. The vegetation of low flora with high diversity is renowned for its natural beauty. The regional community identifies with the range.
 
History
During the Late Holocene, it is believed that Aboriginal groups in the south west dispersed from the coast in the winter and moved into the interior, exploiting roots, tubers, and marsupials (Hallam 1987, Meagher 1974, Anderson 1984, Gibbs 1987), and Stirling Range is ideally located for such subsistence activities during the winter months.
 
The Mineng and Goreng people originally lived in and around the Stirling Range and surrounding country. In cold weather they wore kangaroo skin cloaks reaching nearly to the knee. They also built small, conical huts in wet weather. Sticks were placed in the ground and bent to form a cone, then threaded with paperbark, rushes or leafy branches. They told many stories about the Stirling Range and in many of them the mountains are referred to as dangerous (CALM 2005, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
Bluff Knoll located within SRNP is called Bular Mial (many eyes) or Bala Mial (his eyes) by Nyoongar people, depending on the intent of the speaker. This was because the rocks on the bluff were shaped like the eyes of the ancestral master spirit that are visible on the mountain. The peak is often covered with mists that curl around the mountain tops and float into the gullies. These constantly changing mists were believed to be the only visible form of the Noyt (meaning spirit) (CALM 2005, Thomson et al. 1993).
 
The Stirling Range was first recorded by Matthew Flinders on the 6th January 1802 during his exploration of the southern coast of Australia in the Investigator. Flinders mentions the range when in the vicinity of  Cape Knob: ‘Inland we see irregular shaped mountains’ and later on the same day: ‘The irregular shaped mountains still in sight being 7 leagues inland, and these entirely distinct, are beginning to shew themselves. Except these we see nothing inland.’ (Flinders 1802).  The Stirling Range was named 33 years later in 1835 by surveyor John Septimus Roe, who described them as ‘remarkable and elevated peaks’. Septimus named the range after Captain James Stirling, who was the first Governor of Western Australia (CALM 2005, Jenkins 1980).
 
The area was declared a national park in 1913, at a time where the dominant culture was towards clearing the bush and converting it to farmland (CALM 2005).
 
Condition and Integrity
The Park has experienced a number of extensive fires during the past 20 years, some caused accidentally, some deliberately lit and others resulting from escapes of planned fires. Most of the eastern third of the park was burnt in 1991 and over 37 000 ha in the centre of the Park was burnt in 1996 and 1997. Lightning strikes occur regularly, mainly during the summer months. Lightning was responsible for the 1996 and 1997 fires and also for one in 1999 which again burnt 2 000 ha in the central area of the Park. Some areas of vegetation that have not been burnt for more than 50 years remain, mainly in the south-east of the Park and are important as biological reference areas.
 
Dieback disease, caused by the soil-borne fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi, has been widespread throughout the Park since the 1970s and is a serious threat to the diversity of plant species. Dieback generally affects woody shrubs with plants of the Proteacea family such as banksias especially susceptible. The pathogen thrives in waterlogged soils that are common within the Park. Virtually all tracks in the Park are now infected along at least part of their length, with the higher and more accessible peaks being particularly affected. The disease has had a dramatic impact on plant communities within the Park, changing both their structure and species composition. To minimize the further spread of dieback, access restrictions were introduced in 1994. Disease-free areas within the Special Conservation Zone are closed to vehicles and walkers unless they have an access permit for scientific or management purposes.
 
Two other plant diseases caused by fungi - canker and Armillaria dieback - also occur in the Park. Canker has caused the decline of some plant species such as Banksia coccinea but is not seen as a major threat at present. Armillaria dieback has had a major impact on wandoo plant communities in some areas of the Park. Weeds are largely confined to road verges, amenity areas and some drainage lines.
 
The Park has a number of facilities, including tracks and roads, carparks, camping and picnic areas, and a visitors’ centre.
 
Condition Statement taken primarily from the Stirling Range Management Plan (CALM 1999).
 
Location
About 115,920ha, Chester Pass Road, 11km east of Cranbrook, comprising National Park Reserve A14792, National Park and Water Reserve 1090, and that part of the national park surrounding Hamilla Hill being Location 7094.
Bibliography
Australian Heritage Commission, 2001. Stirling Range National Park, Register of the National Estate place report.
 
Australian Heritage Database (AHDB) website, Stirling Range RNE record, accessed December 2005.  http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl
 
Australian Natural Heritage Assessment Tool (ANHAT), 2005. Analysis of the 1:100,000 Borden and Tambellup mapsheets. Department of Environment & Heritage, unpublished.
 
Brooker M.I.H. and Kleinig D.A.,1990. Field Guide to Eucalypts. Vol. 2 South Western and Southern Australia. Inkata Press, Melbourne and Sydney.

CALM, 1999. Stirling Range and Porongurup National Parks Management Plan 1999-2009. Management Plan No 42. Department of Conservation & Land Management; National Parks & Nature Conservation Authority, Perth.

CALM, 2000. Declared Threatened Fauna Occurrence in CALM Regions (Wild Populations). Department of Conservation & Land Management, Western Australia.

CALM, 2005.  Stirling Range National Park. Conservation and Land Management website.  Accessed May 2005 and 11 Jan 2006.
http://www.calm.wa.gov.au/national_parks/previous_parks_month/stirling_range.html
 
Chippendale, G.M., 1973. Eucalypts of the Western Australian goldfields (and the adjacent wheatbelt). Department of Primary Industry, Forestry & Timber Bureau. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Comer, S., Gilfillan, S., Grant, M., Barrett, S., & Anderson, L., 2001. Esperance 1 (ESP1 – Fitzgerald subregion) in May, J.E. & McKenzie, N.L. (eds) (2003) A Biodiversity Audit of Western Australia’s 53 Biogeographical Subregions in 2002. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.
 
Context, 2004. Inspirational Landscapes. Volume 4 Assessment Method Report. Prepared for the Australian Heritage Commission.
 
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Crocker, R. & Davies, B., 2005a. Identifying Inspirational Landscapes - Stage 2 Volume 1: Main project report.  Draft report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Robin Crocker and Assoc., April 2005.
 
Crocker, R. & Davies, B., 2005b. Identifying Inspirational Landscapes - Stage 2 Volume 2: Preliminary place reports and assessments.  Draft report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Robin Crocker and Assoc., April 2005.
 
Department of Environment & Heritage, 2005. Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 - List of threatened species and communities.
 
Dix, W. and Meagher, S.J., 1976. Fish Traps in the south-west of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Vol 4, pp 171-87.
 
Dortch, J., 1996. Late Pleistocene and recent Aboriginal occupation of Tunnel cave and Witchcliffe Rock Shelter, south-western Australia. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1996, Vol II, pp 51-60.
 
Flinders, M., 1802. Journal on the Investigator, Jan. 1801-July 1802 (Vol. 1). Matthew Flinders electronic archive, State Library of NSW website:  http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/flinders/archive.html Accessed 11 Jan 2006.
 
Flood, J.  1995.  Archaeology of the Dreamtime: The story of prehistoric Australia and its people. Angus and Robertson.
 
Hopper, S.D., 1992. Patterns of diversity at the population and species levels in south-west Australian mediterranean ecosystems. in R.J. Hobbs (ed) Biodiversity of Mediterranean Ecosystems in Australia. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton. Pp 27- 46.
 
Hopper, S.D., Harvey, M. S., Chappill, J. A., Main, A. R., and York Main, B., 1996. The Western Australian biota as Gondwanan heritage - a review. In S. D. Hopper, J. A. Chappill, M. S. Harvey and A. S. George (eds) Gondwanan Heritage: past, present and future of the Western Australian biota. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton.

Jenkins, C.F.H., 1980. The National Parks of Western Australia.
 
Keighery, G.,1993. Mountains of Mystery - Flora List for the Stirling Range National Park. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Como, WA.
 
Main, B.Y., 1993. Spiders and Other Invertebrates in C. Thomson, G, Hall & G. Friend (eds) Mountains of Mystery, Department of Conservation and Land Management, Como, WA.
 
Main, B. Y., 1996. Microcosmic biogeography: trapdoor spiders in a time warp at Durokoppin. In S. D. Hopper, J. A. Chappill, M. S. Harvey and A. S. George (eds) Gondwanan Heritage: past, present and future of the Western Australian biota. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton.

May, J.E. & McKenzie, N.L. (eds), 2003. A Biodiversity Audit of Western Australia’s 53 Biogeographical Subregions in 2002. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.
 
McKenzie, N.L., May, J.E. & McKenna, S., 2003. Bioregional Summary of the 2002 Biodiversity Audit for Western Australia. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Perth.
 
Mittermeier, R.A., Gil, P.R., Hoffman, M., Pilgrim, J., Brooks, T., Mittermeier, C.G., Lamoreux, J. & da Fonseca, G.A.B., 2004.  Hotspots Revisited; Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrail Ecoregions. CEMEX, Mexico City, Mexico.
 
Mulvaney, J. and Kamminga, J., 1999. Prehistory of Australia. Allen and Unwin.
 
Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., da Fonseca, G.A.B. & Kent, J., 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, Vol 403, pp 853-858.
 
Paczkowska, G. & Chapman, A.R., 2000. The Western Australian Flora. A Descriptive Catalogue. Published by the Wildflower Soc. of WA, WA Herbarium, CALM and the Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority, Perth.
 
Pearce, R.H. & Barbetti, M., no date.  A 38 000 year old site at Upper Swan WA. Archaeology in Oceania, vol. 16(3), pp 173-78.
 
Stanisic, J. & Ponder, W.F., 2004. Forest snails in eastern Australia – one aspect of the other 99% in D. Lunney (ed) Conservation of Australia’s Forest Fauna (second edition). Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, NSW.
 
Thomson, C., Hall, G., & Friend, G. (eds.), 1993. Mountains of Mystery A Natural History of the Stirling Range. Dept. of Conservation & Land Management, Como.

WA Department of Indigenous Affairs and the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Anthropological Research, 2005.  Indigenous Cultural Heritage Research in the Stirling Range National Park, Project 2005-06.
 
White, J.P. & O'Connell, J.F., 1981 A Prehistory of Australia, New Guinea and Sahul. Academic Press.
 
Wilson, G.D.F., 2003. Environmentally Significant Sites in Australia, based on evidence from the Phreatoicidea (Crustacea, Isopoda). Unpublished report to Department of Environment & Heritage.
 

Report Produced  Fri Aug 22 14:10:16 2014