Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist in referral, environmental assessment and compliance issues, refer to the Listing Advice and/or Conservation Advice and Recovery Plan. The Listing and/or Conservation Advice define the national ecological community and may include Key Diagnostic Characteristics, Condition Thresholds, Priority Research and Conservation Actions and additional considerations.
In addition, for recovery planning, mitigation and conservation information, refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice.


EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Critically Endangered
Date Effective 15 Apr 2005
Listing and Conservation Advices For ecological communities listed from 2013 onwards, there is no separate listing advice. Instead, the advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee regarding the listing status of the ecological community and recommendation regarding a recovery plan are contained within the Conservation Advice.
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Quensland (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2005c) [Listing Advice].
Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008zu) [Conservation Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans
Policy Statements and other Information Sheets Information Sheet on Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Quensland (Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005d) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of Legislative Instruments Inclusion of ecological communities in the list of threatened ecological communities under section 181 of the EPBC Act 1999 (05/04/2005) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005n) [Legislative Instrument].
Indicative Distribution Map(s) Map of Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland (Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005e) [Indicative Map].
Distribution Map Community Distribution Map

This map has been compiled from datasets with a range of scales and quality. Species or ecological community distributions included in this map are only indicative and not meant for local assessment. Planning or investment decisions at a local scale should seek some form of ground-truthing to confirm the existence of the species or ecological community at locations of interest. Such assessments should refer to the text of the Listing Advice, which is the legal entity protected under the EPBC Act.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The name of the ecological community is 'Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland'. The community occurs in a very restricted area, and no other community names are known for it.

The dominant species, Melaleuca irbyana, was previously known as Melaleuca tamariscina subsp. irbyana, but was described as a separate species in 1999 (see Craven & Lepschi 1999).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The current conservation status of 'Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland', under Australian and State Government legislation, is as follows:

National: Listed as a Critically Endangered community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth) 2007a).

Queensland: The listed Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community is based on two regional ecosystems—Regional Ecosystem 12.9-10.11 and Regional Ecosystem 12.3.3c (see Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005). Both these regional ecosystems are considered Endangered under the Vegetation management Act 1999 (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a, b).


Two nationally vulnerable plant species (see table below) are known to be associated with Swamp Tea-tree Forest of South-east Queensland (Porche 2001; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a). The dominant species in the ecological community, Melaleuca irbyana, and the legume Indigofera baileyi which may occur in the forest (Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000), are also listed as Rare in Queensland (see table below).


Scientific nameCommon nameStatus National1Status Queensland2
Stemmacantha australisAustral Cornflower, Native ThistleVulnerableVulnerable
Marsdenia coronataSlender MilkvineVulnerableVulnerable
Melaleuca irbyanaBush House Paperbark, Bushhouse Tea Tree Rare
Indigofera baileyi  Rare


1. Status under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth) 2007c)

2. Status under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 (Queensland) (Queensland Government 2006)

No nationally threatened animal species are known to occur in the ecological community (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005). One bird species considered Rare in Queensland (see table below) has been recorded in the community (Vickers 2004).


Scientific nameCommon nameStatus National1Status Queensland2
Melithreptus gularisBlack-chinned Honeyeater-Rare


1. Status under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth) 2007c)

2. Status under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 (Queensland) (Queensland Government 2006)

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Swamp Tea-tree Forest of South-east Queensland usually comprises low open to closed forest, closed scrub or thickets dominated by Melaleuca irbyana (Swamp Tea-tree) with or without an emergent tree layer of scattered eucalypts, and occasionally as Eucalyptus woodland in which M. irbyana forms a distinct understorey stratum (see Similar Communities). It is restricted to South-eastern Queensland within the local government areas of Beaudesert, Boonah, Esk, Ipswich, Laidley and Logan (Porche 2001; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005).

Geomorphology and landforms

Swamp Tea-tree forest is restricted to Quaternary alluvial plains and Cainozoic and Mesozoic sediments (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a, b). It occurs on level ground to slightly elevated areas on alluvial plains and their edges, and on the sides, saddles and tops of low rolling hills in areas with impeded drainage (Johnston 1979; Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998; Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000; Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) 2005; Ryan 2008).

Swamp Tea-tree forest generally does not grow along water courses or within permanent swamps/wetlands, but is commonly associated with areas that experience periods of "scattered inundation" for several weeks after summer rainfall as a result of perched water tables, in locations where runoff flows overland rather than in distinct drainage lines (Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998; Ipswich City Council 1998).

Soils

Swamp Tea-tree forest is associated with seasonally cracking clay soils (Boulton et al. 1998; Porche 2001) known as Tea Tree Clays. These soils have been described by Harms (1996) and Noble (1996) as brown to dark grey, heavy, coarse structured cracking clays with a surface pH of 5.6 to 6.0 that are low in nutrients. The subsoils are dark grey to dark brown, highly erosive and highly saline, strongly sodic, and dominated by magnesium. Since the soils are heavy in texture, they have poor drainage and frequently become waterlogged after heavy rainfall, sometimes for prolonged periods.

Tea Tree Clays are associated with flat plains with wide swampy depressions, and older alluvial plains and terraces (Harms 1996; Noble 1996). Localised, small depressions and mounds (gilgai) are often present (Johnston 1979; Cooper et al. 1995; Harms 1996; Noble 1996).

In Moffat Park, Swamp Tea-tree forest was reported to grow on low-lying, heavy clay loam soils (Vickers 2004).

Rainfall

Average annual rainfall in areas where Swamp Tea-tree forest occurs has been reported as 853–924 mm (Purga Nature Reserve and Logan City, 7 km from Moffat Park; Vickers 2004).

Melaleuca irbyana trees often have multiple trunks (Cooper et al. 1995; McDonald et al. 1999), possibly a result of regrowth from damaged trees stumps (Cooper et al. 1995). Cooper and colleagues (1995) noted that the trees have brittle branches which break off, and that the trees are prone to falling over during wind storms (possibly because they have a shallow root system and due to the shearing impact on the roots of wetting and drying of the clay soils in which they grow). Trees with living, horizontal stems readily send up new vertical trunks.

Because of the above characteristics, Swamp Tea-tree forest may contain much fallen timber and small clearings where trees have fallen (or have been logged) (Cooper et al. 1995). Cooper and colleagues (1995) note that fallen timber is likely to provide a variety of habitats for fauna and is thus an integral part of the natural ecology of the community.

The composition of the ground layer is reported to vary with the degree of waterlogging of the soil (Johnston 1979) and the level of shading within the vegetation (Cooper et al. 1995). Cooper and colleagues (1995) noted that Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass) may be more common in sites where Melaleuca irbyana has invaded adjacent Eucalyptus woodland.

Prior to European settlement, fire may have maintained a sharp boundary between Swamp Tea-tree forest and eucalypt-dominated woodland by destroying M. irbyana seedlings invading the latter (Cooper et al. 1995). Boulton and colleagues (1998) noted that the natural distribution of the species was probably determined by a combination of soil type, moisture availability and fire.

Emergent eucalypts in the ecological community are reported to provide important habitat for koalas, especially Eucalyptus tereticornis (Queensland Blue Gum) and E. crebra (Narrow-leaved Ironbark) which are favoured as feed trees (see Boulton et al. 1998).

Swamp Tea-tree thickets provide shelter and nesting habitat for birds (Cooper et al. 1995). The dense canopy of Melaleuca irbyana trees creates a particularly favourable environment for nests because of the protection it provides from weather and birds of prey (Cooper et al. 1995).

Bird species such as Melithreptus albogularis (White-throated Honey-eater) and Smicrornis brevirostris (Weebill) forage in both emergent eucalypt trees and M. irbyana trees, but only use Swamp tea-tree forest if emergent eucalypts are present (Cooper et al. 1995). Other bird species, such as Falco peregrinus (Peregrine Falcon), Daphoenositta chrysoptera (Varied Sitella) and Coracina novaehollandiae (Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike) primarily use eucalypt trees emergent from the M. irbyana canopy (Cooper et al. 1995).

In wetter areas where Swamp Tea-tree forest is reported to grow along drainage channels, scattered rainforest species may be present in the ecological community either in the canopy or as shrubs. These species include Alectryon diversifolius (Scrub Boonaree), Canthium odoratum (Shiny-leaved Canthium), Capparis sarmentosa (Native Caper), Carissa ovata (Currant bush), Denhamia pittosporoides (Veiny Denhamia), Flindersia collina (Crow's Ash) and Geijera salicifolia (Brush Wilga) (Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998).


The two main descriptive studies of Swamp Tea-tree forest are Cooper and colleagues (1995) and Boulton and colleagues (1998). Vickers (2005) studied reproductive characteristics of Melaleuca irbyana.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Swamp Tea-tree forms low open forest, low closed forest, closed scrub or thickets 8–12 m high (Johnston 1979; Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a, b). Low open forest may be more typical of disturbed areas or around the edges of thickets (Cooper et al. 1995).

Taller trees may be absent or emerge from the Swamp Tea-tree canopy. Common emergent species are Eucalyptus crebra (Narrow-leaved Ironbark), Eucalyptus melanophloia (Silver-leaved Ironbark), Eucalyptus moluccana (Grey Box, Gum Topped Box), Eucalyptus tereticornis (Forest Red Gum, Queensland Blue Gum) (Cooper et al. 1995; Bean et al. 1998; Boulton et al. 1998; Porche 2001) and Corymbia citriodora (Lemon-scented Gum) (Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a, b). Ipswich City Council (1998) noted that the two ironbark species generally occur on higher areas and Forest Red Gum on alluvial flats. Eucalyptus seeana has also been reported to occur as an emergent tree (e.g. McDonald et al. 1999; Vickers 2004) although this species is more commonly associated with lighter soils (Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research 2006). Casuarina glauca (Swamp Oak), Acacia harpophylla (Brigalow) or other tree species may also be present occasionally (Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a, b).

A shrub layer is usually absent from the vegetation (Johnston 1979; Cooper et al. 1995) although the shrub Ozothamnus diosmifolius (Sago Bush) may be present (Cooper et al. 1995; Porche 2001; Ipswich City Council 1998). The epiphytic orchid Dockrillia linguiformis (previously called Dendrobium linguiforme; Clements & Jones 2007) and mistletoes such as Notothixos incanus may occur in the thickets, and the vine/twiners Parsonsia straminea (Monkey Vine; Strawpod) and Jasminum suavissimum (Native Jasmine, previously called J. simplicifolium subsp. suavissimum) are often associated with them (Johnston 1979; Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998; Porche 2001, 2005).

The ground layer is generally sparse but comprises a moderately diverse range of native forbs, twiners, grasses, sedges and ferns that reflect the shady environment and clay soils on which the community grows (Boulton et al. 1998). The species composition varies with the degree of water logging (Johnston 1979) and disturbance (Cooper et al. 1995). Frequent and/or dominant grass species include Cymbopogon refractus (Barbed Wire Grass), Dichelachne micrantha (Shorthair Plumegrass), Paspalidium caespitosum (Brigalow Grass), P. distans and Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass), the sedges Carex inversa (Knob Sedge), Cyperus gracilis and C. trinervis, the graminoid Dianella revoluta (Blueberry Lilly) and the fern Cheilanthes sieberi (Mulga Fern). Forbs commonly present in the ground layer include Achryanthes aspera (Chaff Flower), Alternanthera denticulata (Lesser Joyweed), Brunonia australis (Blue Trumpet), Chrysocephalum apiculatum (Yellow Buttons), Lagenifera gracilis (Rosette Daisy), Mentha satureoides (Native Pennyroyal), Eremophila debilis (Amulla, previously called Myoporum debile), Plantago debilis (Wild Sago), Plectranthus parviflorus (Cockspur Flower) and Lobelia purpurascens (White Root). (Johnston 1979; Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998; Ipswich City Council 1998; McDonald et al. 1999; Porche 2001, 2005; Donatiu et al. 2002).

Fauna

At least 36 bird species have been reported to occur in Swamp Tea-tree forest, and include forest species that move within the forest vegetation, and woodland or grassland birds that only frequent the interface between the forest and adjacent more open vegetation (Cooper et al. 1995). The birds include insectivores (including whistlers, flycatchers and thornbills) (Cooper et al. 1995) and nectar feeding species (Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000). Common insectivorous species include Rhipidura fulginosa (Grey Fantail), Pachycephala pectoralis (Golden whistler), P. rufiventris (Rufous Whistler), Acanthiza chrysorrhoa (Yellow-rumped Thornbill) and Petroica rosea (Rose Robin) (Cooper et al. 1995).

Mammals recorded in Swamp Tea-tree forest include Koalas, Short-beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) and Wallabies (Cooper et al. 1995; Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000; Porche 2001, 2005).

Although fallen logs provide favourable habitat for ground-dwelling reptiles (Porche 2001), Cooper and colleagues (1995) recorded few reptiles in Swamp Tea-tree forest and commented that the vegetation appeared to be a poor environment for reptiles generally because of the papery bark of the trees and the seasonal inundation of the soil.

A number of frog species are associated with swampy pools that develop after heavy rain (Porche 2001). Frog species recorded in Swamp Tea-tree forest include Crinia parasignifera (Beeping Froglet), Limnodynastes tasmaniensis (Spotted Marsh Frog) and Litoria caerulea (Green Treefrog) (Cooper et al. 1995).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

On the margins of Quaternary alluvial plains, Swamp Tea-tree forest may grade into open forest or woodland vegetation dominated by Eucalyptus moluccana, E. tereticornis, E. crebra, E. siderophloia and Corymbia intermedia (Regional Ecosystem 12.3.3b; see Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007a). While Melaleuca irbyana is normally absent from this regional ecosystem, it may sometimes be present as an understorey in Eucalyptus woodland in areas where the woodland is adjacent to Swamp Tea-tree forest (Ryan 2008). In such areas the overall structure of the vegetation changes in response to subtle changes in elevation, with Eucalyptus woodland with an M. irbyana understorey occurring slightly upslope of M. irbyana low open forest with scattered emergent eucalypts. Where Eucalyptus woodland with a clear Melaleuca irbyana understorey occurs as an intergrade/buffer zone adjacent to Swamp Tea-tree forest, it has very close affinities with the latter (Ryan 2008). It is thus best considered part of the Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community.

In north-eastern NSW Melaleuca irbyana occurs in forest communities with Melaleuca nodosa and M. sieberi. The mixture of melaleuca species present distinguishes this vegetation from the Swamp Tea-tree Forest of South-east Queensland (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Swamp Tea-tree Forest of South-east Queensland occurs in an arc from west to south of Brisbane, mainly in the Morton Vale and Lockrose areas, Calvert to Harrisville areas, and North Maclean and Jimboomba areas (Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) 2004).

The community is located in the Moreton Basin subregion (Accad et al. 2006) of the South Eastern Queensland biogeographic region (IBRA region; see Department of Environment and Water Resources 2007b).

The extent of occurrence of Swamp Tea-tree Forest in 2007 was about 703 ha (comprising 368 ha from Queensland Government regional ecosystem mapping and 335 ha from local government data; Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2007), compared with an estimated pre-European extent of about 2474 ha (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005).

Occurrences of Swamp Tea-tree forest on Cainozoic and Mesozoic sediments (Regional ecosystem 12.9-10.11) on freehold land are estimated to have decreased by about 8.5 ha/year between 1997 and 1999, remained steady between 1999 and 2001, then decreased by 2 ha/year between 2001 and 2003 (Accad et al. 2006).

Based on the estimate of pre-European extent of occurrence, the Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community can be considered naturally very restricted.

The updated regional ecosystem data from the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency relating to the Swamp Tea-tree Forest (regional ecosystems 12.3.3c and 12.9-10.11; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007c) indicated that the two largest patches of Swamp Tea-tree forest were 21 ha and 23 ha in size, the former on the alluvia, the latter on sedimentary substrates. This data also showed that 93% of all patches were less than 10 ha in area, and 77% less than 5 ha in area.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community can be considered severely fragmented, as a distribution map of the community (Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) 2004) indicates it occurs as isolated patches that are dispersed across the landscape. Cooper and colleagues (1995) and Boulton and colleagues (1998) note that because of extensive clearing of the community in the past, Swamp Tea-tree forest remnants in the Ipswich area survived as small isolated fragments surrounded by pasture and degraded eucalypt woodlands.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2005) considered patches of Swamp Tea-tree Forest to be in good condition if all components of the vegetation structure (Melaleuca irbyana mid canopy, emergent eucalypts and an understorey of herbs and vines) are well represented.

Cooper and colleagues (1995) noted that an absence of emergent Eucalyptus trees may be caused by past logging, and considered dominance by Bothriochloa decipiens (Pitted Bluegrass) in the ground layer generally to be a sign of disturbance. Cooper and colleagues (1995) assumed the vegetation was regrowth if the M. irbyana trees were small and Bothriochloa decipiens was dominant in the ground layer. However Cooper and colleagues (1995) also noted that most (and perhaps all) of the tea tree remnants in their study probably consisted of regrowth, and that "the variation in crown structures and tree densities may reflect differing human impacts over 150 years of white settlement"

Under Queensland law, Melaleuca irbyana regrowth with < 50% crown cover would be excluded from regional ecosystems 12.3.3c and 12.9-10.11 (see Neldner et al. 2005). While technically not part of these two regional ecosystems on which the Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community is based, Melaleuca irbyana regrowth has high conservation/habitat value in providing corridors between and buffers for mature Swamp Tea-tree vegetation (Porche 2008) and 'vegetation reservoirs' for re-establishment of the listed ecological community.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Remnant Melaleuca irbyana thickets and low open forest have been mapped in south-eastern Queensland as part the Queensland Government's Regional Ecosystem mapping (Environment Protection Agency (Qld) 2006). Vegetation containing Melaleuca irbyana has been mapped at 1:25 000 scale in Beaudesert Shire (Logan City Council 2001) and in the Bremer Basin, Ipswich Shire (Boulton et al. 1998), and habitat mapping for the species also completed within the Logan City Council area (Logan City Council 2003). This mapping includes sites with more than 20 trees/site. Local government mapping may include M. irbyana regrowth (e.g. see Boulton et al. 1998), as well as Eucalyptus woodland with scattered M. irbyana trees (Ryan 2008) that is not part of the listed Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community.

The Melaleuca irbyana low open forest on sedimentary substrates component of Swamp Tea-tree forest (i.e. Regional Ecosystem 12.9-10.11) is included in a GIS vegetation map prepared for SEQ2001 (Landscape Assessment, Management and Rehabilitation Pty Ltd 2000). The map is based on 1:25,000 mapping for Boonah, Ipswich, Laidley and Logan local government areas and 1:50,000 mapping for Esk. Swamp Tea-tree forest is included within broad vegetation map group AR2 (Casuarina glauca and/or Melaleuca irbyana) which equates to the more detailed map layer units 10 for Logan, 3B for Boona, 3 for Laidley, 18a for Esk and 12 for Ipswich.

Melaleuca irbyana remnants in Moffat Park (Logan City Council area) and Camp Cable Reserve (Beaudesert Shire) were monitored regularly during 2001–2002 as part of the 'Conservation of Melaleuca irbyana low open forest in remnant bushland' project (see Conservation Advice). Anderson (2007) noted that this monitoring is no longer carried out.

Management strategies in the management plan for Purga Nature Reserve (Ipswich City Council 1998) include bi-annual monitoring (February and August) of the health of the Swamp Tea-tree community, including individual trees and regrowth levels. Porche (2008) also indicated that fuel loads at six fire monitoring plots located within the reserve are monitored twice yearly.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Past threats

Swamp Tea-tree forest has been extensively cleared in the past for improved pastures and rural residential development (Boulton et al. 1998; Porche 2001), and also to expand coal mining (Cooper et al. 1995). Eucalyptus trees associated with the ecological community have also been logged for a century or more, and led to Eucalyptus trees being very widely spaced in, or absent from, the vegetation (Cooper et al. 1995).

Harms (1996) notes that in the past the branches of Melaleuca irbyana trees were harvested and used for shade material and the bark used in plant nurseries. Cooper and colleagues (1995) noted that harvesting for brush supplies no longer remained a pressure as other species of tea-tree were specially cultivated for this purpose.

Current threats

The main current threats to the Swamp Tea-tree forest include clearing for rural residential development, timber harvesting/tree cutting, grazing, invasion by weed species and feral animals and inappropriate fire regimes (Logan City Council 2001, 2003; Porche 2001; Greening Australia 2003; Boyes 2004b; Vickers 2004; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005; Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) 2007b). Vandalism, rubbish dumping, horse riding, livestock trampling and grazing are also considered threats to the ecological community (Logan City Council 2001, 2003).

Clearing

In the mid to late 1990s Cooper and colleagues (1995) and Boulton and colleagues (1998) considered clearing the greatest threat to Swamp Tea-tree forest. Clearing results in loss and fragmentation of the vegetation and increased edge effects through disturbances relating to adjacent land use. The effects of fragmentation may also be exacerbated by unsustainable management of remaining stands of the community (Vickers 2004).

Grazing

Partial clearing of Swamp Tea-tree Forest can facilitate stock access to it (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005) for feeding and shelter during hot weather and storms (Cooper et al. 1995). Heavy grazing can result in loss of biodiversity of groundcover species, prevent regeneration of seedlings, reduce the foliage cover of canopy trees and encourage weed invasion (especially of pasture grass species) (Boulton et al. 1998). Browsing of the foliage of sapling Melaleuca irbyana trees (Porche 2001) may also adversely affect regeneration of the species (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005).

Weeds

More than 40 species of introduced plants are known to have established in Swamp Tea-tree forest, and many are tolerant of the shaded understorey conditions or colonise the edge of patches (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005). Weeds of particular concern include Lantana camara (Lantana) and L. montevidensis (Creeping Lantana) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005; Logan City Council 2001, 2003). Other weed species commonly associated with Swamp Tea-tree Forest include Bryophyllum tubiflorum (Mother-of-millions), Opuntia stricta (Prickly Pear) and Echinochloa colona (Awnless Barnyard Grass) (Cooper et al. 1995; Ipswich City Council 1998; Porche 2001). Cooper and colleagues (1995) considered Mother-of-millions could pose a long-term threat to many Swamp Tea-tree forest remnants.

Non-herbaceous weeds also recorded in areas containing Melaleuca irbyana include Asparagus spp, Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor Laurel) and Passiflora suberosa (Corky Passion Vine) (Ipswich City Council 1998; McDonald et al. 1999; Donatiu et al. 2002).

Cooper and colleagues (1995) considered weeds would pose a bigger problem within remnants located in urban areas if residents dumped garden waste containing seeds and cuttings into Swamp Tea-tree forest remnants.

Timber harvesting

Boulton and colleagues (1998) reported that Melaleuca irbyana trees in the Bremer Basin continued to be selectively cleared at the time of their study because they were perceived to be of little economic or pastoral value.

Felling of emergent Eucalyptus trees can cause significant damage to the tree canopies in Swamp Tea-tree forest, although Melaleuca irbyana trees "appear to be adapted to survive damage, and they regenerate quickly" (Cooper et al. 1995). Cooper and colleagues (1995) noted the loss of emergent eucalypt habitat from logging caused a greater adverse impact on the community than physical damage to M. irbyana trees because of the reliance of bird species and koalas on emergent eucalypts (see Description). The loss of perching, food and shelter provided by emergent eucalypts decreases overall habitat diversity within Swamp Tea-tree forest (Porche 2001).

Feral animals

Feral animals such as the Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis), Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Brown Hare (Lepus capensis) and Feral Dog (Canis familiaris) are known to occur in Swamp Tea-tree Forest (Cooper et al. 1995; Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005) and may cause some adverse impacts (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005).

Potential threats

Mining

Walloon Coal Measures in the Bremer Basin targeted for mining sometimes coincide with areas supporting Swamp Tea-tree forest (Boulton et al. 1998). An extract from the 1998 update of the WESROC Subregional Plan (WESROC 1998) noted that coal resources suitable for open cut mining were present below Melaleuca irbyana vegetation on the alluvial plains of the Bremer River, thus creating the potential for conflicts between conservation and mineral extraction.

Climate change

Roberts (2008) noted that the survival of Melaleuca irbyana seedlings was sensitive to soil moisture availability, and suggested that drier conditions resulting from global warming may threaten the species through creating less than optimum growing conditions for it.

Although Vickers (2004) considered that Melaleuca irbyana requires disturbance such as flood or fire to instigate new growth to sexual maturity, she also hypothesised that a major fire or flood event could lead to localised extinction of the species. While not stated in Vickers (2004), this suggests she felt severe fire or floods could lead to the death of all M. irbyana plants in the affected areas.

Melaleuca irbyana is recognised as being a long-lived species with a slow juvenile growth phase, which means young plants are particularly susceptible to disturbance including from grazing (Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2005).

The species can resprout vegetatively after fire from charred stems and root stocks (Cooper et al. 1995; Vickers 2004; Roberts 2008) and after clearing (involving slashing, dozing, soil ripping and burning) (Boulton et al. 1998) to form dense thickets. Ipswich City Council (1998) noted the species has a "remarkable capacity to sucker from old root systems", while Roberts (2008) commented that low trees "will reshoot in a short time with monotonous regularity" after slashing. Roberts (2008) also noted that any seed capsules present on Melaleuca irbyana trees during fire are destroyed by the intense flames of the burning foliage.

Cooper and colleagues (1995) reported that M. irbyana often germinated prolifically around the edges of thickets and hence allowed it rapidly to invade new sites. Research by Vickers (2004) indicated the species had a low soil seed store, that fallen seed had a poor germination rate (below 5%), and that fire/heat and smoke treatment did not stimulate seed germination. In contrast, seed collected from trees in the wild and germinated in a nursery in a moist peat moss-coarse sand-perlite seed mix showed a 100% strike rate with no seed pre-treatment (Roberts 2008). Roberts (2008) suggested that good moisture and correct seasonal and climatic conditions would be required to allow M. irbyana seeds to germinate naturally in Swamp Tea-tree forest vegetation.

Vickers (2004) concluded that M. irbyana is a facultative seeder whose primary regeneration strategy is through vegetative means such as resprouting, suggesting the species requires some level of disturbance, flood or fire to instigate new growth into sexually mature plants. Vickers (2004) commented that the most favourable frequency of such events for seedling growth and resprouting is not known. Experiments to test the impact of fire, lopping and felling of trees on regeneration were inconclusive because of drought conditions at the time and a short measurement period (Vickers 2004). From experience with fire in stands of M. irbyana, Roberts (2008) noted that while individual trees resprout vegetatively after fire, regular burning will not stimulate regeneration from seedlings.

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Ipswich City Council has developed a management plan for Purga Nature Reserve (Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000) to help ensure the reserve is managed to protect the Melaleuca irbyana vegetation located there.

Logan City Council is reported to have prepared a recovery plan for Melaleuca irbyana that describes its distribution, habitat requirements, threats and existing conservation measures in the local government area (see Kellogg Brown and Root Pty Ltd 2002).

The Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires (Boyes 2004a) includes the Swamp Tea-tree Forest ecological community to help conserve populations of Melaleuca irbyana in these areas.


The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2005) considered the priority recovery and threat abatement actions for Swamp Tea-tree Forest of South-east Queensland to be:

  • preventing further clearing or fragmentation of the community through local council zoning and/or the development of conservation agreements or covenants with landholders
  • identifying and fencing the highest quality remnants to minimise adverse impacts
  • managing weeds within existing remnants.

These actions should include protection from grazing, mining, urban encroachment and industrial and infrastructure development (Boulton et al. 1998).

Other recommended actions include:

  • preventing the felling of eucalypts growing within or adjacent to Swamp Tea-tree remnants (Cooper et al. 1995; Boulton et al. 1998)
  • retaining fallen timber within remnants, especially on private land (Cooper et al. 1995)
  • establishing bushland linkages between remnants (Boulton et al. 1998).

Logan City Council helps protect vegetation dominated by Melaleuca irbyana through local laws and planning requirements, and protection and management in parks and reserves (Logan City Council 2007).

Ipswich City Council has implemented partnership agreements between the council and private landholders to help protect Swamp Tea-tree forest in the Ipswich local government area (e.g. see Ipswich City Council 2007).

Tran and Wild (2000) note that the fire management plan for Logan City suggests fire exclusion as the most appropriate fire regime to protect Melaleuca Forest including that dominated by Melaleuca irbyana. Boulton and colleagues (1998) also recommended that fire be excluded from Swamp Tea-tree forests. This contrasts with the hypothesis of Vickers (2004) that the species may benefit from periodic fire (see Threats).

The 140.5 ha Purga Nature Reserve, near Ipswich contains 33 ha of Melaleuca irbyana vegetation (Vickers 2004) comprising 17 ha of swamp tea-tree forest and 16 ha of mixed swamp tea tree and forest red gum community (Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000). This is the largest remnant area of Melaleuca irbyana (see Vickers 2004). The Natural Area Management Plan Purga Nature Reserve (Ipswich City Council 1998) provides the management framework for the ecological community. The management objectives (Conservation, Parks and Sport 2000; see also Ipswich City Council 1998) include:

  • managing and enhancing the swamp tea tree forest and other native vegetation communities
  • protecting native flora and fauna from further degradation by fire, weeds, grazing and feral animals
  • ensuring natural drainage patterns are not artificially altered.

The 14.5 ha Moffat Park, near Logan, contains vegetation dominated by Eucalytpus seeana, Melaleuca irbyana and M. nodosa. M. irbyana grows mainly on the southern side of the park in an almost pure stand (Vickers 2004).

Two remnant patches of Swamp Tea-tree forest totalling about 10 ha are located at the Mutdapilly Dairy Research Station (Montgomery Watson 2001). They comprise regenerating forest approaching maturity in Block 3 and an "earlier successional copse" in Block 4. Although not formally reserved, both areas are managed for their conservation values by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (Montgomery Watson 2001). Management actions include fencing the areas from cattle (the larger 6 ha area in Block 3 in about 2002, and remaining 4 ha area in Block 4 in 2005) and some weed control for Lantana (Chataway 2007).

Gum Tips Nature Refuge, near Ipswich, contains Melaleuca irbyana low open forest on sedimentary substrates (Regional Ecosystem 12.9-10.11; Queensland Government 2005). The refuge's primary purpose is to protect koala habitat (Beattie 2005).

Small areas containing Melaleuca irbyana trees are also located in Camp Cable Reserve in Beaudesert Shire and Moffat Park in the Logan City Council area (Logan City Council 2001, 2003), and in the "flagstone" area in Beaudesert Shire (Anderson 2007).

A Melaleuca irbyana Recovery team containing representatives from Beaudesert Shire Council, Ipswich City Council, Logan City Council, Greening Australia and the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (Anderson 2007) was established as part of a NHT funded project 'Conservation of Melaleuca irbyana low open forest in remnant bushland' (Logan City Council 2001). The project focussed on remnants in Moffat Park (Logan City Council area) and Camp Cable Reserve (Beaudesert Shire). Management and restoration activities carried out as part of the project in 2001 and 2002 (Logan City Council 2001, 2003) included:

  • fencing to protect remnants of the Melaleuca irbyana ecological community in Moffat Park
  • collecting Melaleuca irbyana seed, propagating seedlings and planting seedlings out in both areas
  • identifying and mapping remnants, identifying other significant species, identifying exotic plants that posed a threat to the vegetation, weed control and rubbish removal in both areas.

The Recovery Team was disbanded on completion of the project (Anderson 2007).

Groups such as the Jimboomba Bushcare Group and Greening Australia have been active in conservation and restoration activities in the past in the Beaudesert Shire (e.g. see Greening Australia 2003). Although the Jimboomba Bushcare Group has not been active recently (Roberts 2008), Greening Australia continues to carry out restoration activities in Melaleuca irbyana vegetation. These include negotiating with landholders in the Rosewood region to establish conservation covenants over areas of M. irbyana regrowth which they aim to manage actively for up to 20 years to achieve self-sustaining communities (Maxwell 2007).

The Moggill Koala Hospital Association carries out works at Gum Tips Nature Refuge to protect and enhance Melaleuca irbyana low open forest there (Wilson 2005).

For the legal definition of the ecological community please refer to the listing advice and other documents under Legal Status and Documents.

Accad, A, Neldner, VJ, Wilson, BA, and Niehus, RE (2006) Remnant Vegetation in Queensland. Analysis of remnant vegetation 1997-1999-2000-2001-2003, including regional ecosystem information. Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Anderson, M (2007) Personal communication, December 2007. Natural Area Coordinator, Natural Area Management Unit, Parks Branch, Logan City Council, Logan City.

Bean, AR, Sparshott, KM, McDonald, WJF and Neldner, VJ (Eds) (1998) Forest ecosystem mapping and analysis of South-eastern Queensland Biogeographic Region. A. Vegetation survey and mapping. Report for Queensland CRA/RFA Steering Committee. Queensland Herbarium, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, and Environment Australia, Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, Brisbane, accessed 30 October 2007, Version 2 (EH 1.2 Part A), http://www.daff.gov.au/rfa/regions/qld/environment/vegetation.

Beattie, P (2005) New Nature Refuge saves Koala habitat. Queensland Government Media Release 21 March 2005, accessed 13 December 2007, http://statements.cabinet.qld.gov.au/MMS/StatementDisplaySingle.aspx?id=39975.

Boulton, SC, Kingston, MB, Turnbull, JW, (1998) Bremer Basin Vegetation Study for Ipswich City Council. ECOGRAPH Ecological and Geographical Information Systems Consultants, Limpinwood via Murwillumbah.

Boyes, B. (2004a). Regional Ecosystem Management Principles for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland. Appendix A to the Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland 2003-2008. Version 2, 5 March 2004. Lockyer Catchment Association (LCA) Inc., Forest Hill, accessed 13 December 2007, http://bruceboyes.net/doc/Recovery_Plan_Appendix_A_Version_2.pdf.

Boyes, B. (2004b). Descriptions, Habitat and Threats for the Significant Species and Ecological Communities of Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland. Appendix B to the Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland 2003-2008. Version 2, 5 March 2004. Lockyer Catchment Association (LCA) Inc., Forest Hill, accessed 13 December 2007, http://bruceboyes.net/doc/Recovery_Plan_Appendix_B_Version_2.pdf;.

Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research (2006) Eucalyptus seeana Fact Sheet. EUCLID Eucalypts of Australia (CD; third edition), Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Canberra.

Chataway, R (2007) Personal communication, November 2007. Senior Research Officer, Mutdapilly Dairy Research Station, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Peak Crossing.

Clements, MA and Jones, DL (2007) Australian Orchid Name Index (16/2/2007). Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research website, accessed 13 November 2007, http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/cd-keys/orchidkey/Aust-Orch-Name-Index-07-02-16.pdf.

Conservation, Parks and Sport (2000) Purga Nature Reserve. Department of Conservation, Parks and Sport, Ipswich City Council, Ipswich, Queensland.

Cooper, S, Walker B and Low, T (1995) Conservation survey, status and management of Melaleuca irbyana and freshwater wetland communities. Unpublished report prepared for Ipswich City Council, Ipswich, 86 pages.

Craven, LA and Lepschi, BJ (1999) Enumeration of the species and infraspecific taxa of Melaleuca (Myrtaceae) occurring in Australia and Tasmania. Australian Systematic Botany 12(6): 883

Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) (2004) Map of Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland. Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth), accessed 13 November 2007, http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/communities/maps/pubs/swamp-tea-tree-forest-map.pdf.

Department of Environment and Heritage (Commonwealth) (2005) Information Sheet on Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland. Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth), accessed 13 November 2007, http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/pubs/swamp-tea-tree-forest-information-sheet.pdf.

Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth) (2007a) EPBC Act List of Threatened Ecological Communities. Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth), accessed 12 November 2007, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publiclookupcommunities.pl.

Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth) (2007b) An Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA). Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth), accessed 13 November 2007, http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/nrs/ibra/version4-0/spatial/index.html.

Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth) (2007c) Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Environment and Water Resources (Commonwealth), accessed 13 November 2007,http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/sprat.pl.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (Commonwealth) (2007) Unpublished data from the Environment Resources Information Network. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra.

Donatiu, P, Roberts, B, Gasteen, D and Moran, A (2002) Melaleuca irbyana site at Camp Cable Road. Unpublished list from Logan City Council.

Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) (2006) Regional ecosystems: Introduction and status. Queensland Government, accessed 13 December 2007, http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/biodiversity/regional_ecosystems/introduction_and_status/.

Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) (2007a) Regional Ecosystem Description Database, Version 5.1: Regional ecosystem 12.3.3. Queensland Government, accessed 13 December 2007, http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/projects/redd/index.cgi.

Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) (2007b) Regional Ecosystem Description Database, Version 5.1: Regional ecosystem 12.9-10.11. Queensland Government, accessed 13 December 2007, http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/projects/redd/index.cgi.

Environmental Protection Agency (Qld) (2007c) Unpublished polygon data for regional ecosystems 12.3.3c and 12.9-10.11. Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Greening Australia (2003) Conservation of Melaleuca irbyana low open forest. Bushcare Support 2003 Greening Australia Case Studies, accessed 14 December 2007, http://live.greeningaustralia.org.au/NR/rdonlyres/63014F70-1820-44B9-A126-61C31B0705E4/915/Melaleucairbyana.pdf.

Harms, BP (1996) Field Manual. In KE Noble (Ed.) Understanding and Managing Soils in the Moreton Region, Queensland Department of Primary Industries Training Series QE96003, Queensland.

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Ipswich City Council (2007) Ipswich runners up in Landcare Awards. Media Release 24 August 2007, Ipswich City Council, accessed 30 October 2007, http://www.ipswich.qld.gov.au/about_council/media/view_release/?id=1118&action=viewMediaRelease.

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EPBC Act email updates can be received via the Communities for Communities newsletter and the EPBC Act newsletter.

This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Swamp Tea-tree (Melaleuca irbyana) Forest of South-east Queensland in Community and Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed 2014-08-21T15:20:46EST.