Biodiversity and Bushcare
- Written by Adam Gatt Penrith City Council (02) 4732 7777 (02) 4732 7958 firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au 601 High St Penrith NSW 2750 Australia
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What is biodiversity?
Biological diversity or biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. It includes the animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms and the ways in which they combine and interact.
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
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 and supporting biodiversity.
Biodiversity is protected through mechanisms including:
- State and Federal legislation
- State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) – Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas (2017) – The Vegetation SEPP works together with the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, the Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016 and Council DCPs to create a framework for the regulation of clearing of native vegetation in NSW.
- International treaties and conventions
- Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy
- Greater Sydney Local Land Local Strategic Plan
- Penrith City Council's Local Environmental Plan, Development Control Plan and the City Strategy.
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:
- Priority conservation areas and flora and fauna corridors are protected and improved.
- Accurate mapping of areas rich in biodiversity.
- Landowners retain and manage native vegetation.
- Community awareness and involvement in biodiversity conservation and protection.
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 as Natural Resource Sensitive Lands in our LEP. They 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. Additional corridors exist that have been identified by various government agencies and community groups.
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:
- Greygums Reserve
- Cranebrook Plan of management
- Jamison Creek Riparian Corridor Plan of Management
- Werrington Reserve Riparian Corridor Plan of Management
- Our River Masterplan and Vegetation Management Plan
- Our River Draft Plan of Management for Tench Reserve, River Road Reserve and Weir Reserve (pdf 2.9MB)
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
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’ 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:
- NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (replacing the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995)
- Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
Under legislation there are strict controls over how threatened species are managed, including picking, clearing, damaging, handling, and even restoring or undertaking studies. Much of this is regulated by the Office of Environment and Heritage. To find out more about threatened species visit the Office of Environment and Heritage Threatened Species website.
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 Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 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||BC Act||EPBC Act|
|Cumberland Plain Woodland||Critically endangered||Critically endangered|
|Shale Sandstone Transition Forest||Critically endangered||Critically endangered|
|Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest||Endangered||Critically endangered|
|Cooks River/Castlereagh Ironbark Forest||Endangered||Critically endangered|
|Castlereagh Scribbly Gum Woodland||Vulnerable||Endangered|
|Castlereagh Swamp Woodland||Endangered||-|
|Agnes Banks Woodland||Critically endangered||Endangered|
|Shale Gravel Transition Forest||Endangered||Critically endangered|
|River-Flat Eucalypt Forest||Endangered||-|
|Sandstone Woodlands and Gully Forests||Not listed||Not listed|
You can download 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 removing 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 if safe to do so after pruning off the limbs.
If you do have to remove a mature tree that has hollows, you can keep the hollows and attach them to other trees to provide habitat and homes for our native animals.
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 is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in Australia and has been listed as a Key Threatening Process under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and the Cth Environment Protection and Biodiversity conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) .
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 Penrith (including lopping of individual trees) is regulated. See our Tree & Vegetation Removal page for details.
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:
- Council's Weeds fact sheet
- Department of Primary Industries (DPI) weeds lists – list of weeds that have been identified as a biosecurity risk in the region. You may be required by law to manage these weeds on your property.
- Greater Sydney local Lands Service – administers the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015 and parts of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 . Works across a number of Council areas including Penrith.
- Hawkesbury River County Council – assists in managing weeds in the region.
- DPI weed definitions – understanding weed classifications.
- Weeds Australia – weed identification and information.
- Sydney Weeds Committee – resources and other information.
- Stop the Spread – important weeds of Western Sydney
- Gardens Escapes – What weeds do you have in your garden?
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
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.
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.
Greater Sydney Local Land Services are responsible for coordinating pest animal management under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2016. You can fine more information on their Pest Control pages.
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
- 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.
Bushcare is 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 such as 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.
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.
Projects and Activities
Cranebrook Wetland and Bushland Restoration Project - Mountain View Reserve
In July 2013, Council was successful in receiving $1.8 million in funding from the Australian Government to undertake a restoration project over four years. The project aimed to restore a regionally significant wetland (“Wetland 156”) and adjacent Cumberland Plain Woodland bushland. The project has improved the quality of water entering the Penrith Lakes and the Hawkesbury-Nepean System, and increased 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. Improving community access and appreciation of the reserve has also been a key objective.
The approximately 10 hectares of the Critically Endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland bushland is located on the slopes above the wetland. There are impacts such as 4WD and trailbike tracks, weeds and dumping throughout the bushland, as well as stormwater impacts. Endangered Pimelea spicata and the Cumberland Plain Land Snail are found in the bushland as well.
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 a Penrith Lakes Upper Catchment study completed by Council this February. The wetland currently supports regenerating Castlereagh Swamp Woodland Community and Swamp Oak Flood Plain Forest, which are both listed as Endangered Ecological Communities (EEC’s). The wetland has been impacted by changes to the hydrology and other impacts from the surrounding catchment. Other impacts include weeds, stormwater pollution and lack of native vegetation. The endangered Diamond Firetail Finch has been found in the vegetation of the wetland.
See the map of the project site, between Nepean St, Camelot Drive and Soling Crescent, east of Castlereagh Rd.
The following activities have been undertaken as part of the project:
- Preparation of a Vegetation management Plan for the Critically Endangered bushland and wetland and the engagement of Bush Regeneration Contractors to undertake bush regeneration activities in the reserve including weed management, erosion control, native plantings and habitat enhancement.
- Design and construction of a raingarden along Soling Crescent to treat stormwater
- Fencing of the reserve to reduce access by trailbikes and 4WDs but facilitate pedestrian access
- Design and construction of a large treatment wetland to treat stormwater from the catchment
- Repair of the bush track and installation of steps along the bush track to assist with managing erosion and improve access.
- Construction of a walking path along the wetland and bushland interface that connects up with the existing walking path network.
- Installation of interpretive signage around the reserve and wetland
- Installation of metal sculptures throughout the reserve and wetland
- Planting of over 70,000 native plants throughout the bushland and wetland areas.
- Installation of 10 habitat boxes for native animals in the bushland.
- Began construction of a viewing platform at the top of Mountain View Reserve and began the construction of a bird hide in the wetland.
- Officially named the reserve (following community consultation) to “Mountain View Reserve” in 2015.
- Started and maintained a volunteer Bushcare group at the site to help care for the bushland.
- Undertook several community planting days as well as other community activities.
- Installation of bins and dog poo bag dispensers.
Download the Cranebrook Wetland and Bushland Restoration Project brochure for more information or contact Council on 4732 8055.
Find out more about the biodiversity of Mountain View Reserve here.