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The Ipswich environment:

The Ipswich environment is made up of 3 broad vegetation communities; dry vine forests, open forests and woodlands, and alluvial plains, wetlands and watercourses. Contained within these 3 broad communities are 18 distinctly different vegetation community sub-types, making 21 Regional Ecosystems for the area. Regional Ecosystems are classified as a vegetation community within a bioregion that is consistently associated with a particular combination of geology, landform, soil type and vegetation. Each individual ecosystem plays host to a wide range of biodiversity all equally important to the overall health of the system, more than 1257 species of native plants have been identified in the region along with 552 of animals. This includes mammals (60), reptiles (84), birds (248), fish (41), amphibians (29) and insects (90)(21). The regions ecosystems play a vital role in continuing local populations of the nationally significant brush tailed rock wallaby, platypus, kookaburra and koala as they create habitat.

 Having a diverse range of ecosystems and a large council boundary, you would think the local environment would have untouched areas of thriving biodiversity. Unfortunately this is not the case, since European settlement over 79% of the natural vegetation has been cleared causing severe losses to the number of species present and their abundance in the natural environment (2). Of the 21 Regional Ecosystems within Ipswich, 11 are officially classified as Endangered, 9 are classified as Of Concern and 1 is still awaiting classification. So of our 21 Regional Ecosystems 20 are classified as being damaged to the point of needing regeneration and 1 is still to be defined. Statistically speaking the condition of the unclassified system does not bode well for a positive outcome.

 Even though the remnant vegetation has been heavily cleared and damaged it still harbours many impressive and functional ecosystems. This doesn't mean they are out of harm's way though; a large number of native friends are in the firing line. 275 plant species and 45 wildlife species are officially classified as Regionally Significant. 14 plant species and 10 wildlife species are classified as Rare. 9 plant species and 6 wildlife species are classified as Vulnerable. 4 plant species are classified as endangered, when a species gets classed as endangered it means they may become extinct if current threats continue(8).

The Remnant Vegetation of Ipswich:

Remnant vegetation simply describes patches of native trees, shrubs, grasses and other flora which remain following the vast historical clearance of native vegetation. It can be of any shape or size and occurs on all land holdings, whether it is private, public or zoned otherwise(8). All of the remnant vegetation should considered of equal importance, whether it be a small patch of native gums, acacias and pines in a backyard to a designated national park. Every patch is ensuring some habitat, nourishment or shelter to our native species.

The future of our remnant vegetation largely lies with us as approximately 90% of remnant bushland in SEQ is privately owned(8). So as a collective unit, the people of Ipswich own 9/10 of every native patch of scrub, bushland or forest left! This is largely due to the historical and current development of Ipswich. Due to the limited historical knowledge we had of the land, many European land clearing practices were utilized by the government and they introduced schemes and incentives to encourage vegetation clearing in property development plans. As a result of this oversight over 79% of the natural vegetation has been cleared for urban, rural, commercial or industrial development and due to mismanagement large portions of the remaining remnant vegetation have become highly degraded (8).

Our native animals are becoming far and few between, something we read about more than we actually see anymore. This is predominantly linked with the decline in remnant vegetation. Our native animals rely on remnant vegetation for food, shelter and breeding sites. Much of this habitat is contained within the understory, the shrub layer and the groundcover plants beneath the canopy trees. Unfortunately the understory has often been perceived as a threat due to its potential for harbouring dangerous wildlife and 'pests', rather than a place of habitat. Even today the understory is often referred to as 'scrub' or 'rubbish' and zoned to be cleared out. If we want to hand on a quality lifestyle and environment to future generations, the current generations need take some ownership and challenge current practices to regenerate our wider backyard. If we stopped thinking our backyards finished at the fence line, the local environment would be in a better condition.

Remnant vegetation along the Brisbane River bank, Karalee, QLD

The Value of Remnant Vegetation:

The value of remnant vegetation is much higher than we acknowledge, as without it, the balance of nature ceases to exist. This balance plays an overarching role in providing for all living things, including humans. Each individual plant within these remnant communities are providing the basis of life, absorbing energy from the sun to generate oxygen, providing nutrients and nourishment, providing shade and habitat, and setting water into the landscape. The benefits of remnant bushland are numerous, it;

  • removes carbon from the atmosphere and retains it within the vegetation
  • generates cooler microclimates for surrounding areas
  • provides habitat for wildlife and allows free movement for wildlife between isolated bushland reserves
  • increases property value
  • maintains local water quality and constant water flow within streams
  • aids in the survival of native flora and fauna
  • provides food for seed foragers
  • provides a place of peace and quiet to observe nature
  • protects the soil from degradation
  • provides habitat for predators to act as natural pest controls
  • provides habitat and nectar for pollinators
  • provides natural air conditioning
  • maintains local rainfall patterns (8)

To think all of these necessities for life, which now have a heavy economic and environmental toll to provide, are freely given by maintaining the current remnant bushland. Think of the positive consequences that would occur if the wider remnants were regenerated!

Identifying healthy remnant vegetation providing habitat for native species does not require a botany or horticulture degree. All that is required is some basic knowledge of your native trees, an understanding of the basic needs for life and some time to wander. A healthy remnant vegetation community providing habitat will show;

  • canopy and understory is showing signs of regeneration
  • no sign of dieback of the vegetation
  • free of weeds and introduced species
  • contains fallen logs and branches
  • contains old trees with hollows (this takes a new gum approximately 30-35 years to develop)
  • harbours a range of biodiversity
  • the natural tree cover remains
  • abundant native wildlife (8)


Due to the continuing encroachment of human development and activity into the natural environment there are continuous threats to our remnant vegetation. The current major threats to our native plants and animals, and the reasons our populations are continuously declining are;

  • land clearance
  • weeds
  • over grazing
  • residential development
  • illegal dumping
  • pollution
  • fire
  • fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and fungicide applications
  • land degradation
  • waterway degradation (8)

These threats are considered some of the main contributors to enabling a series of processes identified as causing a decline in local species. 3 main processes have been identified;

  • Habitat Loss: when the native vegetation disappears, along with the animals that live there.
  • Habitat fragmentation: when the remnants are so small and far apart that the wildlife cannot move between them. Among other issues it promotes inbreeding causing plants and animals to die out.
  • Habitat degradation: when the remnant vegetation is invaded by weeds, has the understory removed, has modified levels of nutrient within the soil, or adjoins human activity (8).

 Lantana in flower, Karalee Bushland Reserve, Karalee, QLD

Broad Vegetation Communities of Ipswich

Dry Vine Forests:

Since European settlement the dry vine forests around Ipswich have been heavily cleared for agriculture, pasture, and residential development and timber products. It has been held in disdain for quite a period time due to its dense scrub layer consisting of twining or scrambling plants and prickly, thorny shrubs. Isolated patches are all that remain within the region, with only 2.4% of the original forest remaining; these patches are classified as Endangered (8).

The Dry Vine Forests of Ipswich contain 5 Regional Ecosystems, 4 are classified as endangered and 1 is classified as Of Concern. A number of native fauna use this vegetation type for habitat including the black-breasted button quail, bush stone-curlew, glossy black cockatoo, black striped wallaby, brush-tailed rock-wallaby and brigalow scaly foot (18).

By taking note of the species that have been classified as significant within the region we can ensure some distribution of the species in our backyards and continue the biodiversity that is associated with them. A number of Rare, Endangered, Vulnerable and Regionally Significant floral species have been identified in the Dry Vine Forests of Ipswich (10);

  • Vulnerable: Brush Sophera (Sophora fraseri), Lloyds Native Olive (Notelaea lloydii), Boonah Tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis tomentella)
  • Rare: Baileys Cypress (Callitris baileyi), Grease Nut (Hermandia bivalvus), Large Leaf Chainfruit (Alyxia ilicifolia ssp. magnifolia)
  • Endangered: Flinders Plum (Poutera cerwah)
  • Regionally Significant: Velver Bean (Cassia tomentella), Thorny Yellow Wood (Zanthoxylum brachyacanthum), Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla), Banana Bush (Tabernaemontana pandacaqii), Koda (Ehretia acuminata), Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminiodes)

As Dry Vine Forests usually contain many different species of tree growing in the one forest they are broken into sub-types based on their predominant species. There are 2 predominant Dry Vine Forest types in Ipswich; 1) Vine Thickets and 2) Hoop Pine Scrubs;

1) Vine Thickets:

The Vine Thickets that occur around Ipswich are generally found at higher elevations on dry rocky slopes. They can be found around Rosewood, Flinders Peak and Spring Mountain. Brigalow dominated Dry Vine Thickets are found lower down and are characterised by a dense canopy of Brigalow, with few other canopy species. They are generally found on gently undulating land with grey cracking clay soils, under 150m in elevation (10).

2) Hoop Pine Scrubs:

Due to the favouring of Hoop Pine as a premium wood species there are only 2 areas where Hoop Pine Scrubs can be found remaining in the Ipswich region. These remnants of Hoop Pine Scrub occur around Flinders Peak and Spring Mountain (10)

Solitary Hoop Pine, Karalee, QLD

Open Forests and Woodlands:

Open forest and Woodland communities are extremely variable and consist of numerous community types. The vegetation is largely mixed eucalypt forest, predominantly made of Spotted Gum and Narrow-leaved Ironbark with sporadic patches of Gum-Topped Box also occur in the region. As the canopy foliage only covers 50%-80% of the sky they are the iconic sunlit gum tree forests of the Queensland bush (19). The Flinders Peak/Greenbank area contains the largest remaining lowland eucalyptus forest in SEQ (9). A number of native fauna use this vegetation type as habitat including the Spotted Pardalote, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Koala and Greater Glider (19).

Remnant Open Eucalypt Forest, Karalee Bushland Reserve, Karalee, QLD

A number of Rare, Endangered and Vulnerable floral species have been identified in the region (9);

  • Endangered: Native Coelus (Plectanthus habrophyllus) 
  • Vulnerable: Slender Milkvine (Marsdenia coronata), Lloyd's Native Olive (Notelaea lloydia)
  • Rare: Plunkett Mallee (Eucalyptus cutisii), Baileys Indigo (Indigofera baileyi)

Wetlands, Alluvial flats and Watercourses:

Most residents living in Ipswich will appreciate the connection our region has with the local watercourses and wetlands as we are part of the Bremer River Basin and have the Brisbane River along the northern boundary.

Wetlands are amongst the most productive ecosystems in the world providing a wide range of services that support, sustain and provide for the needs of the many inhabitants. They are also the most easily affected by human expansion and activity due to the ability of water to take particles and residues long distances through the system. The Bremer Basin Communities have several Regional Ecosystems, of which four are classified as Endangered and two are classified as Of Concern (17). While being the most productive it also supports some of the largest regional biodiversity due to it holding water. There are 31 known species of local amphibians consisting of the Hylidae Family (12 species), Myobatrachidae Family (12 species) and Limnodynastidae Family (6 species). This includes the tusked frog which is classed as vulnerable (1). The Ipswich Wetlands also contain 3 species of flora with Conservation Significance; Prickly Wattle (Acacia ambylygona), Bumpy Ash (Flindersia schottiana), Swamp Tea Tree (Melaleuca tamariscina ssp. irbyana) (17).

The clearing of vegetation within the catchment has permanently changed its makeup, causing a continuous issue with species decline. The presence (or absence) of native flora and fauna is a reflection of the conditions of the surrounding environment, many local species act as biological indicators of the overall health of a catchment and its waterways (2).  As a stark reminder, in Australia since the time of record keeping we have already had at least 114 known species extinct in our wetlands (20).

Some of the common species which can be regularly seen along our waterways are;

Common Flora of the Ipswich waterways: Cheese Tree (Glochidian ferdinandi), Willow Primrose (Ludwigia octovalvis), Sandpaper Fig (Ficus coronata), Mat Rush (Lomadra longifolia), Wild May (Leptospermum polygalifolium), Weeping Bottlebrush (Melaleuca viminalis), Creek Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii), Queensland Bluegum (Eucalyptus tereticornis), Brisbane River Lily (Crinum pedunculatum) (2)

Weeping Bottlebrush, Karalee Boat Ramp, Karalee, QLD

Common Fauna of the Ipswich waterways: Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa), Purple Spotted Gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa), Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus leseurii), Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), Scarlet Percher Dragonfly (Diplacodes haematodes), Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) (2)

Seven vegetation communities have been identified throughout the Ipswich Wetlands Community. These include 1) Swamp Tea Tree, 2) Paper Bark, 3) Queensland Blue Gum, 4) Riparian and 5) Freshwater Wetland.

1) Swamp Tea Tree Community: The Swamp Tea Tree community was officially classed as a Critically EndangeredEcological Community due to only 3% of the original area remaining in the region. It is characterized by the presence of Swamp Tea Trees and usually occur as thickets about 8-12m high underneath an open canopy of eucalypt trees. Typical Eucalypts include the Narrow-leaved Ironbark, the Silver-leaved Ironbark, Grey Box and Forest Red Gum. They usually consist of a sparse understory, comprising grasses, sedges and herbs with few shrubs or vines present. It grows on poorly draining clay soils and can be found on the grey, cracking soils of the Bremer Basin. A variety of plants and animals make their homes in the Swamp Tea-tree Community, including the nationally threatened Slender Milkvine plant. The vegetation community provides shelter and nesting sites for a range of bird species. On the ground, numerous fallen logs provide shelter for reptiles and other animals while temporary ponds provide breeding habitat for frogs and other pond life. Koalas, echidnas and wallabies are also found in the Swamp Tea-tree Forest. (5)

2) Paperbark Tea Tree Community:  The Paperbark Tea Tree community while robust in the wider Australian community and across the globe (it is an invasive species in US where its common name is the Punk Tree), in our local region it is exclusively found in the alluvial sandstone soils of Six-Mile and Sandy Creek. It grows in silty or swampy soils commonly found in seasonally inundated plains and swamps or along estuary margins. The Paperbark Tea Tree can also be found as a canopy species amongst Queensland Blue Gum and Swamp Box. The flowers provide a rich source of nectar for a wide range of insects, bats and bird species including the scaly-breasted lorikeet. The flowers are also consumed by the grey-headed flying fox and the little-red flying fox. (6).

3) Queensland Blue Gum Community: The Queensland Blue Gum community is the dominant community amongst the local alluvial flats. It's hardiness to the local environment has allowed it the widest range of latitudes of any Eucalypt species; from South Papua to South-East Victoria (7). The understory generally consists of Maidens Wattle, Red Ash and native grasses, though Weeping Bottlebrush and some rainforest species occur. Narrow-leaved Ironbark, Gum-Topped Box and Pink Bloodwood co-occur in some areas and become more dominant in the foothills and slopes (17).

4) Riparian Communities: The riparian zone describes the interface between land and a river or stream. Due to the human expansion along rivers and waterways extensive areas of the local Riparian communities have been removed or severely degraded. The vegetation in this community can be broadly divided into two groups, Eucalypt emergent and rainforest. The most common is the Eucalypt Emergent Community. The canopy is predominantly Queensland Blue Gum with the under story dominated by River She-Oak, Weeping Bottlebrush and Matt Rush. The Riparian Rainforest Community has a canopy consisting of Black Bean, Bush Cherry and Three-veined Cryptocarya with a dense understory of rainforest shrubs, small trees, vines, ferns and sedges (17).

5) Freshwater Wetlands: The freshwater wetlands community can be found in areas with deep alluvial soil and a high water table. The wetlands across the Ipswich region have been highly degraded due to heavy pastoral use and human impacts. The common species include Water Couch, Water Primrose, Spike Rush, Frogmouth and a number of Lily species (17).

(Top) Riparian Community, Karalee Bushland Reserve, Karalee, QLD