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  • Biodiversity and Bushcare

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  • Biodiversity in Penrith

    What is biodiversity?

    Biological diversity or biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. It includes all the animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms, and the way they combine and interact with each other. Biodiversity is considered at three levels:

    • Species diversity is the number of species and their relative abundance in a defined area.
    • Genetic diversity is the variety of genes contained in all the species in a given area.
    • Ecosystem diversity is how the species in a given area interact with each other, and with their environment, to form complex networks.

    Council is committed to the principles of sustainability – ensuring a high quality of life for all, now and in the future, through economic growth, environmental protection and social equity. The protection and conservation of biodiversity is part of the process of achieving a sustainable future for the City.

    See our Biodiversity fact sheet (accessible pdf 116KB)

    Why is biodiversity important?

    Biodiversity provides essential ecosystem services that make life on earth possible.

    Healthy functioning ecosystems are necessary to:
    • maintain the quality of the air we breathe and water we drink
    • regulate our climate
    • cycle nutrients
    • control pest plants, animals and diseases
    • Pollinate crops
    • Provide food, clothing, medicines and shelter.
    Research has shown that pockets of natural areas in urban landscapes improve the mental and physical health and wellbeing of the local community and that people who have greater interaction with nature are generally healthier. Natural areas contribute to our City’s cultural identity and are important for recreation.

    Protecting biodiversity

    Biodiversity is protected through mechanisms including:

    Our local efforts to protect the valuable biodiversity in our City are detailed in our Penrith Biodiversity Strategy (pdf 3.2MB) and Biodiversity Action Plan (pdf 175KB). Read our Bush Regeneration fact sheet (pdf 236KB).

    Adopted by Council in 2004, the Penrith Biodiversity Strategy helps improve and protect Penrith’s valuable biodiversity. The Strategy was incorporated into the City Strategy in 2013. The overarching Biodiversity Policy of the City Strategy is to ‘protect the native biological diversity of the City’. The City Strategy outlines 4 Council goals to achieve this:

    1. Priority conservation areas and flora and fauna corridors are protected and improved.
    2. Accurate mapping of areas rich in biodiversity.
    3. Landowners retain and manage native vegetation.
    4. Community awareness and involvement in biodiversity conservation and protection.

    Biodiversity Corridors

    Animals and plants need to be able to move between patches of bushland to breed, feed, find shelter and exchange genetic material. Cleared land, houses and roads often prevent this and over time can lead to extinction of native plants and animals. Corridors help animals and plant material migrate from one habitat island to another. For smaller species, these corridors may also be a place to live, not just a pathway. Biodiversity corridors can be bushland, waterways, wetlands, native grasslands, or any other type of native habitat that provides a link to other patches of native habitat.

    In Penrith, biodiversity corridors have been identified that connect most of our larger patches of bushland across the LGA. Extra consideration is given to conservation of flora and fauna in these areas and there may be restrictions on what activities can occur.

    Plans of Management

    Council is responsible for managing 274 ha of local bushland. To effectively manage and protect Penrith’s bushland, and to comply with our statutory obligations, Council has prepared Bushland Plans of Management for areas under our care. These documents outline the objectives for each reserve and provide a framework for ongoing management of the bushland. They consider the aesthetic, recreational, educational and scientific values of the reserves to our community and seek to maximise these values in a way that improves and maintains biodiversity and threatened species in the long term.

    The following Plans of Management have been prepared for Bushland reserves in Penrith:

    Penrith's local bushland & biodiversity
    Bushland is the storehouse for biodiversity, whether it's a large reserve or a small corner of a local park. Even the average suburban backyard can be teeming with life, particularly if native vegetation has been kept or planted. Download our ‘What’s in your backyard?’ fact sheet (248KB pdf)

    Penrith is lucky to have some large areas of native bushland still remaining. Our City supports about 17% of the remaining bushland on the Cumberland Plain in Western Sydney. Some of these areas are part of the national reserve system, forming National Parks, Nature Reserves and Regional Parks under the care and control of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Significant areas of bushland are on private land.

    Bushland and native vegetation provides essential habitat for our native animals and plants. Penrith is home to at least 132 species of native fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals and over 200 native bird species. Over 500 native plant species and 13 vegetation communities (see below) can also be found in our City. Many of these plants and animals are endangered and need extra protection. These are all supported by our remaining bushland and other natural areas (including wetlands and rivers).

    Threatened species

    ‘Threatened’ means that the species is under threat to such an extent that it is vulnerable to extinction in the near future. Legislation is in place to protect threatened species and threatened species or communities are a conservation priority and need additional consideration in any planning process. Almost all the vegetation remaining in Penrith, and some flora and fauna species are considered to be threatened under State or Federal legislation.

    Key legislation is:

    Vegetation communities

    Penrith City sits on the Cumberland Plain. The Cumberland Plain, located over most of western Sydney, comprises gently undulating plains and low hills formed on sediments of the Wianamatta group of shales, as well as alluvial deposits along rivers and floodplains. These unique, heavy clay soils are moderately fertile and have resulted in a distinctive type of vegetation of eucalypt woodland with a grassy understory. This contrasts with the vegetation of the sandstone plateaus that have very few species in common with the grassy woodlands of the Cumberland Plain.

    About 85% of the vegetation on the Cumberland Plain has been cleared for residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial use and the pressure from development on the remaining patches is high. There are several different vegetation communities within the Penrith area, all associated with the Cumberland Plain. The most dominant is Cumberland Plain Woodland which is listed as critically endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity conservation Act 1999. Only 8.5% of its original extent is left, and what does remain is under extreme pressure. The vegetation communities found in the Penrith area are outlined below:

    Vegetation Community TSC Act EPBC Act
    Cumberland Plain Woodland Critically endangered Critically endangered
    Shale Sandstone Transition Forest Critically endangered Critically endangered
    Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest
    Critically endangered -
    Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest Endangered Critically endangered
    Castlereagh Scribbly Gum Woodland
    Vulnerable Endangered
    Castlereagh Swamp Woodland Endangered -
    Agnes Banks Woodland Endangered Endangered
    Shale Gravel Transition Forest Endangered Critically endangered
    River-Flat Eucalypt Forest Endangered Endangered
    Sandstone Woodlands and Gully Forests
    Not listed Not listed
    Freshwater Wetlands Endangered -



    You can download broad, indicative vegetation maps from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

    Mature trees are important

    In NSW, there are at least 46 mammals, 81 birds, 31 reptiles and 16 frogs that are reliant on tree hollows for shelter and nests. Hollow bearing trees are critical to their survival. Hollows in eucalyptus trees generally take from 140-300 years to develop, so you generally only see them in large, old trees.

    The number of hollow-bearing trees in Western Sydney, including Penrith, has fallen drastically since European settlement due to clearing, firewood collection, changed fire regimes and other urban impacts. In many places where there is still bushland, the vegetation is fairly young, recovering from past disturbance, so trees have not yet had the chance to develop hollows. In urban and rural residential landscapes, mature, hollow-bearing trees can sometimes still be found in parks, yards and along roads. Unfortunately, concern over risk to humans and property from falling branches has led to removal or pruning of many mature and hollow-bearing trees.

    Dead trees also provide essential habitat for our native fauna. They provide perching and roosting sites for many birds, especially birds of prey such as eagles and hawks. It is up to our whole community to work together to protect and retain mature, hollow-bearing trees and stags in Penrith.

    You can do this by:

    • not clearing mature trees
    • locating development to retain mature trees over immature trees
    • pruning off risky branches rather than removing the entire tree and
    • leaving dead trees standing after pruning off the limbs.

    Threats to biodiversity
    There are many threats to our biodiversity and natural areas. Many are a legacy of past land uses and activities, such as clearing for agriculture, but there are many more we continue to face from urbanisation and ongoing clearing. Penrith lies on the edge of a global city, and urban expansion must be managed in a sustainable way.

    Vegetation Clearing

    Vegetation clearing is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in Australia and has been listed as a Key Threatening Process under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    Clearing of native vegetation has:

    • caused widespread fragmentation of ecological communities
    • reduced the viability of ecological communities by disrupting ecological functions
    • resulted in the destruction of habitat and loss of biological diversity, and
    • led to soil and bank erosion, increased salinity and loss of productive land.

    Clearing is still a big concern in Penrith through development, subdivision and other, often illegal, activities. The clearing of bushland and vegetation in urban areas (including lopping of individual trees) is regulated under:

    • Local Environmental Plans (LEPs), which may specify when development consent is required for clearing
    • Development Control Plans (DCPs) - provide details to support the LEP. Enforceable under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act)
    • Tree preservation orders
    • State Environmental Planning Policy No 19 - Bushland in Urban Areas.
    • Other legislation:
      • National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
      • Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
      • Water Management Act 2000
      • Fisheries Management Act 1994
      • Rural Fires Act 1997
      • Heritage Act 1977
      • Noxious Weeds Act 1993
      • Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    Both the Penrith LEP and DCP provide for the protection of native vegetation in the Penrith LGA. Under the LEP and DCP, you must not ringbark, cut down, top, lop, remove, injure or willfully destroy any tree or other vegetation without Council permission. Where the vegetation is native, clearing includes shrubs, ground covers or wetland plants. Failure to obtain permission can lead to fines (maximum penalties can be over $1 million) and legal action under the EP&A Act.

    Weeds

    Weed invasion is an ongoing threat to our natural areas, as well as to agriculture and human health. They can cause asthma and other health issues, and can reduce the productivity of agricultural land, as well as be poisonous to livestock. In our bushland areas, weeds smother natural vegetation and out-compete native plants for space, light and water. Weed invasion can alter fire regimes which can lead to risks to life and property, and they change nutrient cycling, animal diversity and hydrology. Weeds are considered a primary threat to the survival of endangered 341 plant and animal species in NSW.

    Weeds spread mainly by:

    • escaping from gardens – be aware of what you plant if you live near bushland or waterways.
    • stormwater and waterways - water carries weeds to new areas and into bushland.
    • dumping – dumping landscaping materials and garden waste (such as lawn clippings) introduces new weeds to bushland areas and waterways.

    For more information on weeds, identification and management see:

    Stormwater and Wastewater

    When it rains, water flows down our streets and roads (all our hard surfaces), picking up any rubbish, nutrients and other pollution as it goes. This water eventually makes its way into the ocean, waterways or bushland. This is known as stormwater, and unlike sewage, stormwater is not treated before it goes into our natural areas. As the Penrith region becomes more developed and gets more hard surfaces, stormwater runoff becomes a bigger issue.

    What’s in our stormwater?

    • oils and grease from our roads, parking lots and driveways
    • fertilisers and pesticides from our gardens
    • dirt and soil from garden and building activities
    • detergents from washing cars on the road or driveways
    • litter and rubbish
    • weeds.

    These pollutants impact on the quality and health of our bushland and rivers by:

    • changing the hydrology of water ways – flash flooding.
    • increasing the amount of water in soils which our native plants aren’t used to
    • eutrophication of water ways (increased nutrients leading to algal and weed growth)
    • increasing turbidity from sedimentation – sunlight can’t penetrate the water.

    For more information visit our waterway health page.

    Waste water from septic systems and on-site sewage management systems can also impact on native vegetation if they're not managed properly, by increasing:

    • the amount of water in the soil (water logging)
    • nutrients – native plants are sensitive to high nutrient levels
    • weed invasion due to changes in the above conditions.

    To find out more about appropriate management of these systems see our on-site sewage management page.

    Pest Animals

    Australia's native plants and animals adapted to life on an isolated continent over millions of years. Since European settlement they have had to compete with a range of introduced animals for habitat, food and shelter. Some have had to face new predators. These new pressures have had a major impact on our biodiversity, as well as our soil and waterways. Feral or pest animals have few natural predators or diseases in Australia and many have high reproductive rates. Human modifications to the environment have helped them thrive by providing food sources, fresh water, and habitat.

    Pest animals that have a significant impact on native biodiversity around Penrith include:

    More information on pest animals in Australia can be found at http://www.feral.org.au/pest-species/.

    What can I do?

    There are many things you can do to help protect bushland and biodiversity in Penrith:

    • Keep native vegetation on your property, including large native trees.
    • Plant a native garden to create habitat and attract small birds and other wildlife - read our Plant for Success fact sheet (accessible pdf 223KB)
    • Know what weeds are in your garden and stop them spreading.
    • Join a local volunteer Bushcare group.
    • Get outdoors and appreciate nature! Go for a bushwalk, walk along the river or go for a picnic.
    • Install a rainwater tank to catch stormwater runoff from your roof.
    • Don’t wash dirt, leaves or grass clippings down the drains - wash your car on the grass
    • Don’t fertilise if it’s going to rain.
    • Don’t tip your grass or garden clippings into the bush.
    • Don’t feed the birds! This can lead to aggression and encourages exotic birds.

  • Local bushcare groups

    Bushcareis a fun, social volunteering activity that started in the suburbs of Sydney in the 1980s. This environmental volunteer work (sometimes called Urban Landcare) occurs mostly on public land: bushland, wetlands and around waterways managed by local councils or NSW government agencies. Volunteers are trained and guided by qualified staff to undertake bush regeneration activities to protect our bushland areas and improve the Penrith area.

    Bushcare is a great way to meet other people in your neighbourhood, have fun and keep active whilst helping to protect your local environment at the same time.

    • meet more people in your neighbourhood
    • have fun and keep active 
    • help protect your local environment.

    Bushcare Groups around our City are looking for new members. People of all ages can help with bushcare, and no experience is necessary. Find out more in our bushcare volunteering fact sheet (pdf 236KB) or contact Council's Bushland Management Officer on 4732 8088 or email parks@penrithcity.nsw.gov.au.

    Or complete this online form to register your interest in volunteering.

    See map, meeting times and contact details for Penrith City bushcare and landcare groups (pdf 1.1MB).

  • Projects and Activities

    Cranebrook Wetland and Bushland Restoration Project

    In 2013, Council secured $1.8 million in funding through the Australian Government's Caring for Our Country program for a restoration project over 4 years in Cranebrook, north of Penrith. We aim to restore a regionally significant wetland ("Wetland 156") and adjacent Critically Endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland bushland, to improve the quality of water entering the Penrith Lakes and Hawkesbury-Nepean system, and increase the amount and quality of habitat for wetland flora and fauna. It will also improve the condition and resilience of the bushland and increase its extent through bush regeneration, revegetation and associated activities.

    See the map of the project site (pdf 3.35MB), between Nepean St, Camelot Drive and Soling Crescent, east of Castlereagh Rd.

    The bushland is located on the slopes above the wetland area and covers approximately 10 hectares. This bushland has suffered impacts from tracks and trails, weeds, dumping and stormwater. The threatened species Spiked Rice Flower (pimelea spicata) and the Cumberland Plain Land Snail are found in this bushland. Wetland 156 lies on the flat area below the bushland and has been identified as significant by Sydney Regional Environmental Plan 20 and as a priority area in the 2013 Penrith Lakes Upper Catchment study. The wetland currently supports regenerating Castlereagh Swamp Woodland Community and Swamp Oak Flood Plain Forest, both listed as Endangered Ecological Communities (EECs). The wetland has been affected by urban development, clearing and other impacts including weed invasion, stormwater pollution and lack of native vegetation.

    Download the Cranebrook Wetland and Bushland Restoration Project brochure (pdf 612KB) for more information or contact Council on 4732 8055

    Werrington Reserve Fauna Survey

    Council has engaged ecologists to undertake a native animal survey and habitat assessment in Werrington Reserve over October-December2015. They will be looking out for what types of native animals call the reserve home or use it for foraging. We expect that we will find tiny “microbats” and maybe some gliders, as well as birds, lizards and frogs. Werrington Reserve provides important linkages to South Creek as well as being an essential refuge for native fauna from the surrounding urban development. The results of this survey will be used to inform habitat improvement activities in this reserve such as the use of habitat boxes, logs and bush rock.

    If you are local to Werrington Reserve you may notice some unusual activity in the reserve, please do not be alarmed. Activities may include:

    • Use of spotlights at night to spot animals
    • Bird and frog call playback
    • Cameras and tracking devices in the trees
    • People working in the bush and along waterways during the day and night.

    We encourage you to report any vandalism you may see of the equipment during this period via the contact details below. We are also encouraging you to let us know if you have seen any unusual native animals in the reserve. You may have seen some bats, possums and gliders out at night, or heard frogs calling after rain or during summer.

    For more information, please contact Council’s Senior Biodiversity Officer on 4732 7912 or jenna.hore@penrith.city.

Have your say

Community input is important


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Community input is important

Find us on
Penrith City Council (02) 4732 7777 (02) 4732 7958 council@penrithcity.nsw.gov.au 601 High St Penrith NSW 2750 Australia