It is important to understand how each area of habitat contributes to connectivity of the GER corridor, how current efforts help with maintaining that connectivity, and where we should invest effort and resources in the future.
Working with CSIRO, universities and other partners, GER has drawn together a wealth of existing mapping and knowledge that shows the importance of the Great Eastern Ranges for native plants and animals, clean water and carbon storage, and the threats to these values. This provides a broad understanding of where we should work.
All areas are not equal in terms of their potential to contribute to maintaining the connectivity of the GER. With around 60% of the GER corridor made up of lands other than protected areas, there are a multitude of options for where we should focus attention. A targeted approach to working in priority areas is needed to ensure that available efforts and resources are not spread too thinly.
GER considers four factors when considering where to work:
- Biological values – The contribution made by the landscape to maintaining the habitats and species found in the GER corridor and the ecological processes it supports. These processes include regional distinctiveness and species diversity, local resilience of ecosystems and native species and natural processes.
- Connectivity need – Areas comprising weak linkages between habitat and protected areas, where there is potential for current functional connectivity to be diminished or lost, or potential for current gaps in functional connectivity to be made worse or less retrievable in the future.
- Social opportunity – Higher priority is given to areas where there is an opportunity to build on the existing efforts of our partners by helping to promote and expand priority projects in the most important areas.
- Program contribution – Areas where there are opportunities to develop and test approaches that contribute to implementing an effective GER, and deliver outcomes in new landscapes within the GER corridor.
- Hinterland Bush Links – Local corridors connecting habitat around the Glasshouse Mountains of eastern Queensland.
- Border Ranges Alliance – A globally-significant biodiversity hotspot, comprising World Heritage listed rainforest and surrounding eucalypt forests on the NSW-Queensland border.
- Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance – Altitudinal connections linking coastal reserves with rainforest and wet sclerophyll on the Dorrigo Plateau.
- Hunter Valley Partnership – A natural ‘gap’ in the eastern ranges where the Great Divide lowers to a narrow connection made more tenuous by agricultural development and extensive coal mining.
- Kanangra-Boyd to Wyangala Link – A natural landscape corridor connecting the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with the woodlands of inland NSW.
- Southern Highlands Link – One of Australia’s longest-settled inland regions, with established agriculture separating the major national parks of the Blue Mountains and Morton.
- Illawarra to Shoalhaven – A unique natural north-south corridor linking rainforest remnants along the Illawarra Escarpment, with altitudinal connections linking to coastal reserves.
- Kosciuszko2Coast (south coast) – Australia’s largest altitudinal gradient, with forests and woodlands linking the south coast with the peaks of Mount Kosciuszko (Australia’s highest peak at 2,228 meters or 7,310 feet).
- Slopes to Summit – A western extension to Kosciuszko2Coast, linking the western fall of the Australian Alps with the Murray River and inland woodlands.
- Central Victorian BioLinks – A complex landscape of low ranges and linking habitats between the Grampians in western Victoria, and the tall forests of Gippsland in the east.
In addition to these regional partnership areas, the GER has identified a number of priority areas which act as the most important connectivity landscapes in the corridor. In early 2012, the GER carried out a ‘high level’ assessment of all landscapes in the GER based on access to data on:
- distribution of existing reserves and tenure-based connectivity instruments,
- connectivity of GER habitats,
- drought refuge areas,
- bird migration and dispersal routes,
- current vegetation condition and potential for future loss of condition at landscape scale, and
- NSW native vegetation management benefits analyses.
The assessment highlighted a number of areas which comprise apparent gaps or weaknesses in connectivity of the GER corridor. These include core habitat areas under sustained pressure from edge effect, habitat areas which form natural of fragmentation-driven bottlenecks species dispersal or migration, landscapes with potential for continued loss in condition with associated erosion of functional connectivity. The GER has so far identified 20 of the most important landscapes and corridor connections to guide investment. Similar work is ongoing with partners in Queensland and Victoria to define priorities there.