Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee
Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) Woodland: a nationally-threatened ecological community
What is the KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland ecological community?
The KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland is a unique type of mallee community defined by Eucalyptus cneorifolia (Kangaroo Island narrow-leaved mallee) as the dominant tree canopy species. Several other eucalypt species may be present in the community, but are never the most common species. The understorey is made up of a range of native shrubs and herbs which vary in density and species composition depending on site and soil characteristics. This community has been listed as Critically Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland is endemic to eastern Kangaroo Island and has a strong association with roadside vegetation and the agricultural landscape, often existing as shelterbelts for grazing livestock and is known for forming arbours above roadways which have become somewhat of a cultural icon of Kangaroo Island.
Why is this community important?
KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland is home to many plant species that occur nowhere else in the world. Over 250 plant species have been recorded in the community, including 31 species that are listed as threatened, either nationally or in South Australia, such as the small-flower daisy-bush (Olearia microdisca). The community also provides habitat for many native birds, reptiles and mammals including the nationally threatened Southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus subsp. obesulus).
Figure 1 to the right: The nationally threatened small-flowered daisy-bush (Olearia microdisca)
Why does the community need national protection?
Historically, large areas of KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland have been cleared for agriculture. Remaining patches are highly fragmented, small in size and vulnerable to threats such as weed invasion and changes in fire severity and frequency. It’s estimated that this community has declined in extent by more than 90 per cent, currently occupying an area just over 7,800 hectares in size.
It’s important to note that the dominant tree species, Eucalyptus cneorifolia itself is not nationally threatened. The listing only applies to intact patches of native vegetation that have E. cneorifolia as the dominant tree canopy species.
Are all KI Narrow-leaved Mallee patches nationally threatened?
No, only vegetation patches that meet the minimum condition thresholds set out by the EPBC Act 1999 are considered nationally threatened. Patches not meeting the minimum thresholds are considered too degraded for the purposes of protection under national environment law. Generally, patches that have a width of 60 metres or more qualify as the listed community, while patches that are less than 60 metres wide are excluded from the listing.
What’s being done to manage the KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland?
Natural Resources Kangaroo Island is currently working to recover KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland through the Kangaroo Island Narrow-leaved Mallee Restoration Project, funded through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program. Actions to date include:
- Mapping the extent of the listed community to fill previous gaps in knowledge
- Identifying populations of threatened plants to better inform management decisions
- Recording the condition of roadside KI Narrow-leaved Mallee using HD video to identify change over time
- Working with landholders to help protect remnant patches of KI Narrow-leaved Mallee Woodland by funding stock exclusion fencing, and increasing the extent and connectivity of the community by funding revegetation works
Figure 2: KI Narrow-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia) Woodland.