Biodiversity in Cessnock
Cessnock’s local biodiversity is significant both locally within the Hunter Valley, but also within NSW and nationally. The area supports more than 65 threatened species of plants and animals, including 9 endangered ecological communities. To find out more about these threatened species the Office of Environment has some fantastic resources including a document listing threatened species identified in the Cessnock Biodiversity Management Plan.
The reasons the area is significant for biodiversity are many including:
- It is on a migration path for many Australian birds (as well as overseas migratory birds)
- The area supports a particularly temperate climate and may become a ‘refuge’ for species impacted by climate change and droughts
- The area is an intersection of a number of bioregions where ecosystems from the coast, the inland and the north and south of NSW all meet
- Significant forested areas (corridors) exist in the area and connect Yengo, Wollemi, Watagan and Werakata National Parks
- The area supports the largest remnants of vegetation on the Hunter Valley floor (The biodiversity of the valley floor is distinct from that found on the steeper slopes and mountains of the Watagan and Mt Royal Ranges to the south and north of the Valley)
One of the reasons large remnants of lowland forests exist in Cessnock Local Government Area (LGA) is during the early 20th century, mines created timber reserves to supply their ‘pit props’. These timber reserves were later turned into State Forests, National Parks and private holdings. Elsewhere in the Lower Hunter, these reserves were not created and much of the valley floor has been cleared for development with only small remnants of native vegetation remaining. The remaining bushland areas in Cessnock are effectively living remnants of what used to cover the Hunter Valley floor.
Due to the above factors, the Cessnock LGA contains a very diverse range of avifauna, including a high proportion of threatened and declining woodland bird species such as the Regent Honeyeater (as pictured above) as well as species more commonly found west of the divide. Unfortunately awareness of the importance of Cessnock’s bushlands is low and these areas are regularly subject to illegal logging, illegal dumping, fires, motor bikes and other. All of these activities impact on the health of bushland areas and affect their ability to provide for the needs of native fauna.
- Illegal logging reduces species diversity. Large trees which are often targeted for removal are more likely to contain hollows which fauna use for shelter and breeding. Large trees also in general produce more nectar. Both the Regent Honeyeater and Swift Parrot require nectar in their diets and these birds, both of which are critically endangered, can often be found in the LGA when large nectar rich trees such as the Spotted Gum are flowering.
- Illegal dumping can change water flows in an area, contribute to erosion and potentially contaminates the soil. It often brings in weed species, hinders revegetation and can potentially kill plants that support wildlife.
- Fires particularly, when they are very intense, have a devastating impact on all types of fauna particularly small animals such as insects. Fire will directly kill many animals but will also lead to indirect long term effects such as stress and loss of habitat, territories, shelter and food. Deliberately lit fires in Cessnock LGA in the summer of 2017/18 significantly reduced the population of Mistletoe – a very important food source for Regent Honeyeaters.
- Motorbikes cause erosion, soil compaction and hinder revegetation. Bike riders also inadvertently introduce invasive and/or weed species and diseases into the bush (from unwashed bikes and also clothing). Tracks (established ones and unauthorised new tracks) result in less canopy cover, more light and disturbed soil – perfect conditions for weed growth.
Cessnock has some distinctive and special places that support various biodiversity features on private and public land. Examples include nationally recognised heritage sites of Bow Wow Gorge and Ellalong Lagoon, the Watagan, Werakata, Wollemi and Yengo National Parks and the Sugarloaf Range. Some of these lands have been set aside for specific conservation management purposes.
Just as special and important are the unprotected bushland reserves found throughout the LGA. These living remnants are in serious need of our attention as a community and from all those that visit, operate and reside in the Cessnock LGA. Our collective aim needs to support local and regional biodiversity, whilst working to achieve a sustainable and healthy environment for our community and for future generations.