2 What do we know about it?

The State Natural Resources Management Plan (Government of South Australia 2012) provides an assessment of the condition and extent of key natural resources in South Australia, shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Condition and extent of key natural resources in South Australia

Key natural resource



Source: Government of South Australia (2012)

Native vegetation extent and condition



Soil condition in production areas



Geological features and landscapes



Aquatic ecosystem extent and condition



Coastal and marine ecosystem extent and condition



Status of threatened species and ecological communities



Impact of introduced species



In this section, biodiversity is discussed with reference to native vegetation, and threatened species and ecological communities. Wetlands and rivers, and their associated flora and fauna, are covered in the Water chapter.

2.1 Native vegetation

Native vegetation is a key component of South Australia’s environment. It provides habitat and a source of food for wildlife; maintains the health of land, soil and water (Williams 2005); and mitigates the impacts of a warming climate through carbon storage and climate regulation (Australian Greenhouse Office 2006, Emes et al. 2006). Native vegetation provides many economic, social and cultural benefits, and is important for Aboriginal culture (Williams 2005).

2.1.1 Native vegetation extent

Of South Australia’s 984 221.37 square kilometres in land area (DSEWPaC 2010), native vegetation covers approximately 85%. The arid northern parts (covering 87% of the state) have had minimal vegetation clearance, and approximately 96% of vegetation cover remains. Much of this is used to sustain pastoral industries and is degraded as a result.

In contrast, temperate areas (the remaining 13% of the state) with higher rainfall have experienced much higher vegetation clearing rates in the past, and only 26% of native vegetation remains in these areas. Much of the native vegetation in the southern parts of South Australia has been cleared for agriculture and human settlements since the 19th and 20th centuries (Figure 1). The remaining vegetation is now fragmented, especially in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges, where the patches are too small to support bird biodiversity (Westphal et al. 2003, 2007; Bradshaw 2012). Native forests are now estimated to cover only 9% of the state’s total area and in some areas, such as the Adelaide Plains and adjacent Mount Lofty Ranges, as little as 4% cover remains (Bradshaw 2012).

Large-scale clearing of native vegetation ceased after the introduction of the Native Vegetation Act 1991. Vegetation clearing can be undertaken under some circumstances, but it must be offset by restoration work (see Section 4.1.1). Table 2 shows statistics for vegetation clearance applications under the Act between 2009–10 and 2011–12.

Barking owl

Barbara Hardy Institute

Map of native vegetation extent in South Australia, showing the presence of native vegetation over most of rural South Australia with significantly less cover in the Greater Adelaide, Eyre Peninsula and the South East.

Source: DEWNR (2013)

Figure 1 Native vegetation extent in South Australia

Illegal clearing continues to occur. Table 3 presents the number of reports alleging clearance of native vegetation by natural resource management (NRM) region for 2011–12 and the six preceding years (see the Introduction for information about NRM regions). The number of reports received for 2010–11 is above the average recorded over the seven years of collecting data.

2.1.2 Native vegetation condition

Human enterprise has had an impact on native vegetation throughout South Australia and much of it has been modified to some degree. However, it is difficult to quantify native vegetation condition systematically on a state scale. This is due to methodological and technical issues, and to inconsistent investment of effort in monitoring and evaluation in different South Australian regions.

There is currently no standard definition for the term ‘vegetation condition’, but it has continued to grow in importance with the implementation of NRM programs throughout Australia. A number of different vegetation condition assessment methods have been developed. In South Australia, the Bushland Condition Monitoring method has been applied since 2003 in different parts of the agricultural zone (NCSSA 2010).

The method focuses on ‘lead’ and ‘lag’ indicators to track changes in vegetation condition and how these relate to management of native vegetation (NCSSA 2010). Lead indicators represent attributes of vegetation that can change soon after management of disturbance or threat reduction, while lag indicators tend to change after some time has elapsed after management intervention (O’Connor et al. 2009) (Table 4).

Table 2 Vegetation clearance statistics for South Australia, 2009–10 to 2011– 12


Clearance applications (under section 28 of the Native Vegetation Act 1991)

ha = hectare; n = number

Source: Native Vegetation Council (2012)

Degraded native vegetation
consented to clear (ha)

Scrubland refused
to clear (ha)

Individual trees
consented to clear (n)

Individual trees refused
to clear (n)















The dinosaur ant Nothomyrmecia macrops is a rare nocturnal ant found only in mallee habitat in South Australia. This predatory insect is very similar to a group of previously widespread but now extinct Cretaceous ants. The farm town of Poochera in South Australia (population 24) is perhaps the only place in the world with ant-based tourism. Nothomyrmecia was rediscovered here in the 1970s, and the area still attracts myrmecologists. The town has stencilled ants in various places along the public streets.

Table 3 Reports of illegal clearance in hectares by natural resource management region, 2004–05 to 2011–12










a CDP uses satellite imagery to detect changes in native vegetation cover.

Note: No clearing was recorded for the Alinytjara Wilurara region.

Source: Native Vegetation Council (2012)

Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges









Eyre Peninsula









Kangaroo Island









Northern and Yorke









South Australian Arid Lands









South Australian Murray–Darling Basin









South East









Change Detection Program (CDP)a











Table 4 Lead and lag indicators of bushland condition in the Bushland Condition Monitoring method

Lead indicators

Lag indicators

Feral animal impact

Total grazing pressure

Weed threat and abundance

Fallen logs and trees

Hollow trees

Primary canopy health

Recruitment of species

Fallen logs and trees

Plant species diversity

Structural diversity A: ground cover

Structural diversity B: plant life forms

Lerp damage

Mistletoe infestation

The following case study (Box 1) examines vegetation condition data from 840 sites in three South Australian regions—Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern and Yorke, and part of the South Australian Murray–Darling Basin. The results provide a snapshot of vegetation condition in the three regions based on 11 of 12 Bushfire Condition Monitoring indicators.

The South Australian Pastoral Board is required to assess the condition of land in pastoral leases at intervals of not more than 14 years. The first round of assessments was completed in 2000 and a second round, begun in 2005, is due for completion in 2014. It is not possible to report any data analysis at this time, but the Pastoral Board reported on general trends in their 2010–11 annual report (Pastoral Board 2011). The report noted that extended dry periods over the 10 years to 2010 resulted in extensive losses of bladder saltbush, and no recruitment of the species had occurred, despite some heavy rainfall events in 2009. Positive responses to rainfall events were noted with high rates of production of ephemeral stockfeed and recruitment of many shrubs such as pearl bluebush and low bluebush. Areas that were affected by severe dust storms in 2009 were showing signs of recovery.

An emerging threat to vegetation in the pastoral zone is an expansion of mining exploration and operations; however, no comprehensive data were available at the time of writing.

2.2 Threatened species and ecological communities

Threatened species are those species deemed to be at risk of extinction within the foreseeable future, under certain International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) risk assessment criteria (IUCN 2011). Different species have different levels of risk based on their biology and ecological requirements; geographic range; population size and numbers of populations; rates of range contraction and population decline; habitat quantity, quality and connectedness or isolation; and relative risks posed by threats such as predation, competition, fire and climate change.

Threatened ecological communities are threatened ‘geographically distinct assemblages of interacting native species and their associated abiotic environments’ (Bonifacio and Pisanu 2012). They are one of several ‘matters of national environmental significance’ listed under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Threatened ecological communities are not generally recognised in South Australian law; however, there are provisions under the Native Vegetation Act 1991 that protect such communities where ‘the vegetation comprises the whole, or a part, of a plant community that is rare, vulnerable or endangered’.

The conservation status of species can be assessed at four levels:

  • global—recognised through the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2012)
  • national—recognised through lists of species threatened within Australian, with lists linked to the EPBC Act
  • state—recognised in South Australia through schedules of threatened species under the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (NPW Act)
  • regional—recognised in South Australia through priority lists in regional NRM plans.

In South Australia, the assessment of conservation status is undertaken at all four levels and uses the standardised IUCN assessment criteria:

  • range of distribution
  • area of habitat occupied
  • number of populations
  • number of individuals (measured, estimated)
  • rate of population decline (measured, estimated).

As a result of these assessments, species are assigned to a standardised IUCN conservation status category of presumed extinct, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened or least concern. Although assessments in South Australia apply the standards described, the South Australian NPW Act has not yet been amended to use the contemporary IUCN categories. Instead, species that are assessed as presumed extinct, critically endangered or endangered are all included under the endangered species schedule (Schedule 7). Species assessed as vulnerable align with Schedule 8: vulnerable species. Species assessed as near threatened mostly align with Schedule 9: rare species.

South Australia’s Strategic Plan (Government of South Australia 2011) includes a target to ‘lose no native species as a result of human impacts’. The measure for this target is a set of 20 indicator species—threatened species that are representative of South Australia’s organisms and habitats, and where much effort is focused on their protection by organisations across the state. An assessment is made of trends in population abundance of each species, taking into account its population numbers, distribution, prevalence of native habitat, food sources, predators, etc. All species on the indicator list are reviewed annually (half of the list is assessed every six months). A summary of the most recent review is provided in Table 5.

Box 1 Case study: Vegetation condition in the South Australian agricultural zone

Vegetation condition is summarised for the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Northern and Yorke, and South Australian Murray–Darling Basin natural resource management regions of South Australia, using data from 2011.


Plant species diversity remains reasonably high in the majority of sites, though an average of 25–30% of species has been lost from each site. Ground cover is relatively intact, and the abundance of fallen logs and trees is good or excellent in 40–70% of sites.


Vegetation condition remains affected by grazing pressure; the most serious consequences are low recruitment of plant species and high weed threat and abundance. There is a low number of hollow trees in all regions, and low structural diversity in some regions. Tree health is poor because of dieback resulting from land management impacts.

The 2008 state of the environment report for South Australia (EPA 2008) reported the condition of native vegetation in the pastoral zone. Historically, livestock impacts have been prevalent around permanent water points, resulting in degradation of vegetation, soil disturbance and erosion. The condition of native vegetation varies from property to property, and impacts such as selective grazing by stock, grazing by feral herbivores and weeds continue.

Table A Vegetation condition in South Australia’s agricultural zone


AMLR (2009)

NY (2011)

SAMDB (2010)

Summary of regions

AMLR = Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges; NY = Northern and Yorke; SAMBD = South Australian Murray–Darling Basin


  1. Some indicators were only measured in woodlands and forests (e.g. canopy health and fallen logs and trees).
  2. Sites included represent ‘better’ native vegetation because data collection programs favour measurement in intact native vegetation (i.e. eligibility criteria for some programs exclude sites of low to very low quality).
  3. Results are highly consistent with those found through stratified random sampling of vegetation condition across vegetation types in the NY region (n = 57; Milne and Mahoney 2011).

Sources: O’Connor et al. (2009), NCSSA (2010), O’Connor NRM Pty Ltd (pers. comm, 2012)

Plant species diversity

69% of sites with good or excellent species diversity

>75% of sites with moderate to good species diversity

>70% of sites with good or excellent species diversity

Species diversity generally good; however, the abundance of species may have changed, and rare or sensitive species may be lost

Recruitment of species

Around 40% of sites with poor or very poor recruitment

57% of sites with poor or very poor recruitment

>35% of sites with poor or very poor recruitment

Recruitment is generally poor to very poor, with lowest recruitment where domestic grazing is most prevalent. This probably relates to differences in land-use type and mixed farming models in different regions

Hollow trees

69% of sites with poor numbers of hollow trees, with only 4% of sites classified as excellent

Only 40% of sites with good or excellent numbers of hollow trees

>75% of sites with very poor numbers of hollow trees

Hollow tree numbers are very poor in all regions

Total grazing pressure

91% of sites with excellent control of grazing pressure impacts

60% of sites with either poor or very poor control of grazing pressure impacts, 25% with control of grazing pressure

70% of sites with excellent control of grazing pressure impacts

Grazing pressure impact is variable (high in NY and low–moderate in AMLR and SAMDB) and probably relates to differences in land-use type and mixed farming models in different regions

Weed threat and abundance

Around 40% of sites with poor or very poor weed threat and abundance control

75% of sites with poor or very poor weed threat and abundance control

29% of sites with poor or very poor weed threat and abundance control

Weed threat and abundance is high in NY and moderate in AMLR and SAMDB. This probably relates to differences in land-use type and mixed farming models in different regions

Fallen logs and trees

Around 40% of sites with good or excellent abundance of fallen logs and trees

70% of sites with good or excellent abundance of fallen logs and trees

>55% of sites with good or excellent abundance of fallen logs and trees

Retention of fallen logs and trees is generally good

Primary canopy health

>70% of sites with moderate to very poor canopy health

70% of sites with poor to very poor canopy health

50% of sites with poor to very poor canopy health

Canopy health is generally poor, probably because of dieback from soil compaction, fragmentation and competition with weed species

Ground cover

>80% of sites with good or excellent ground cover

90% of sites with moderate or good ground cover

90% of sites with good or excellent ground cover

Ground cover is generally good, with lower cover in NY than other regions, probably relating to differences in land-use type and mixed farming models in different regions

Plant life forms diversity

77% of sites with moderate or good plant life form diversity

24% of sites with good or excellent plant life form diversity

>85% of sites with moderate or good plant life form diversity

Plant life form diversity was generally good in AMLR and SAMDB, and poor in NY. This is probably because of differences in grazing impacts in the different regions

Lerp damage

73% of sites with little or no lerp infestation

80% of sites with little or no lerp infestation

>75% of sites with little or no lerp infestation

Lerp damage is isolated to some locations and some tree species

Mistletoe infestation

All sites across the region had very low mistletoe infestation

85% of sites with very low mistletoe infestation

All sites across the region had very low mistletoe infestation

Mistletoe infestation is isolated to some locations and some tree species

Table 5 Trend in status of 20 indicator species




Total number of species

Note: For some of the indicator species, negative trends were recorded in consecutive assessments, including for the Australian sea lion, southern bent-wing bat and black-eared miner. Progress reports for the Strategic Plan 2011 (SASP Audit Committee 2012) include assessments of the causes of these trends, which include bycatch, drought and habitat destruction by bushfire.

Source: Government of South Australia (2007a)


Southern right whale

Yellow-footed rock-wallaby

South Australian mainland tammar wallaby

Southern brown bandicoot

Southern bent-wing bat

Australian sea lion



Yarra pygmy perch

Murray hardyhead



Giant Australian cuttlefish (upper Spencer Gulf population)



South Australian glossy black cockatoo

South-east Australian red-tailed black cockatoo

Black-eared miner


Mount Lofty Ranges southern emu-wren



Pygmy blue-tongue skink



Small-flowered daisy-bush

Pin-lipped spider-orchid

Hindmarsh greenhood

White beauty spider-orchid

Monarto mintbush


Total number of species





2.2.1 National lists of threatened species

The extinction rates and declines of Australia’s mammals and birds are well documented, as is the proportion of those extinctions that were South Australian species (e.g. Burbidge et al. 1988). Box 2 shows the nationally listed threatened species that have been recorded in South Australia.

Box 2 and Table 6 show that South Australia is a major centre of modern (last 200 years) species extinctions and ongoing threats to many surviving species. The high proportions of endangered, vulnerable and rare mammal and bird species still listed within the state may also reflect an ‘extinction debt’—where the future extinction of species is likely due to events in the past (Szabo et al. 2011)—which is still to reach full effect following habitat and population declines, fragmentations and isolation, and periodic random events such as fires and droughts.

There are proportionally more South Australian species of mammals, birds and freshwater fish in national lists of threatened species than other taxonomic groups (Figure 2).

Box 2 Nationally listed threatened species, as listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, that have been recorded in South Australia (as at April 2012)

Plants (115 listed)

Presumed extinct (1 listed)
  1. Senecio helichrysoides

Critically endangered (8 listed)

  1. Acanthocladium dockeri
  2. Caladenia intuta
  3. Cassinia tegulata
  4. Hibbertia tenuis
  5. Prasophyllum murfetii
  6. Pterostylis bryophila
  7. Thelymitra cyanapicata
  8. Veronica derwentiana subsp. homalodonta
Endangered (43 listed)
  1. Acacia cretacea
  2. Acacia enterocarpa
  3. Acacia pinguifolia
  4. Acacia spilleriana
  5. Acacia whibleyana
  6. Allocasuarina robusta
  7. Brachyscome muelleri
  8. Caladenia argocalla
  9. Caladenia audasii
  10. Caladenia behrii
  11. Caladenia colorata
  12. Caladenia conferta
  13. Caladenia gladiolata
  14. Caladenia hastata
  15. Caladenia lowanensis
  16. Caladenia macroclavia
  17. Caladenia richardsiorum
  18. Caladenia rigida
  19. Caladenia tensa
  20. Caladenia xanthochila
  21. Caladenia xantholeuca
  22. Dodonaea subglandulifera
  23. Eriocaulon australasicum
  24. Eriocaulon carsonii subsp. carsonii
  25. Eucalyptus paludicola
  26. Euphrasia collina subsp. muelleri
  27. Euphrasiacollina subsp osbornii
  28. Frankenia plicata
  29. Haloragis eyreana
  30. Lachnagrostis limitanea
  31. Leionema equestre
  32. Lepidium monoplocoides
  33. Olearia microdisca
  34. Prasophyllum frenchii
  35. Prasophyllum goldsackii
  36. Prasophyllum pruinosum
  37. Prostanthera eurybioides
  38. Pterostylis despectans
  39. Pterostylis lepida
  40. Pterostylis sp. Hale (R.Bates 21725)
  41. Pultenaea trichophylla
  42. Senecio behrianus
  43. Thelymitra epipactoides
Vulnerable (63 listed)
  1. Acacia araneosa
  2. Acacia carneorum
  3. Acacia glandulicarpa
  4. Acacia latzii
  5. Acacia menzelii
  6. Acacia pickardii
  7. Acacia praemorsa
  8. Acacia rhetinocarpa
  9. Asterolasia phebalioides
  10. Beyeria subtecta
  11. Caladenia brumalis
  12. Caladenia calcicola
  13. Caladenia concolor
  14. Caladenia formosa
  15. Caladenia ovata
  16. Caladenia versicolor
  17. Caladenia woolcockiorum
  18. Cheiranthera volubilis
  19. Codonocarpus pyramidalis
  20. Correa calycina var. calycina
  21. Correa calycina var. halmaturorum
  22. Corybas dentatus
  23. Dodonaea procumbens
  24. Eleocharis papillosa
  25. Glycine latrobeana
  26. Grevillea treueriana
  27. Hibbertia crispula
  28. Ixodia achilleoides subsp. arenicola
  29. Lepidium pseudopapillosum
  30. Limosella granitica
  31. Logania insularis
  32. Microlepidium alatum
  33. Olearia pannosa subsp. pannosa
  34. Phebalium lowanense
  35. Pleuropappus phyllocalymmeus
  36. Pomaderris halmaturina subsp. halmaturina
  37. Prasophyllum pallidum
  38. Prasophyllum spicatum
  39. Prasophyllum validum
  40. Prostanthera calycina
  41. Prostanthera nudula
  42. Pterostylis arenicola
  43. Pterostylis chlorogramma
  44. Pterostylis cucullata subsp. cucullata
  45. Pterostylis cucullata subsp. sylvicola
  46. Pterostylis mirabilis
  47. Pterostylis tenuissima
  48. Pterostylis xerophila
  49. Ptilotus beckerianus
  50. Pultenaea villifera var. glabrescens
  51. Senecio macrocarpus
  52. Senecio megaglossus
  53. Senecio psilocarpus
  54. Solanum karsense
  55. Spyridium coactilifolium
  56. Spyridium eriocephalum var. glabrisepalum
  57. Stackhousia annua
  58. Swainsona murrayana
  59. Swainsona pyrophila
  60. Taraxacum cygnorum
  61. Tecticornia flabelliformis
  62. Thelymitra matthewsii
  63. Xerothamnella parvifolia


Amphibians (1 listed)

Vulnerable (1 listed)
  1. Litoria raniformis Southern bell frog

Birds (39 listed)

Presumed extinct (1 listed)
  1. Dromaius baudinianus Kangaroo Island emu
Critically endangered (2 listed)
  1. Cinclosoma punctatum anachoreta
    Spotted quail-thrush (Mount Lofty Ranges subsp.)
  2. Neophema chrysogaster
    Orange-bellied parrot
Endangered (15 listed)
  1. Anthochaera phrygia
    Regent honeyeater
  2. Botaurus poiciloptilus
    Australasian bittern
  3. Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne
    Red-tailed black cockatoo (south-eastern subsp.)
  4. Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinusGlossy black cockatoo (South Australian subsp.)
  5. Diomedea epomophora sanfordi
    Northern royal albatross
  6. Diomedea exulans amsterdamensis
    Amsterdam albatross
  7. Diomedea exulans exulans
    Tristan albatross
  8. Hylacola pyrrhopygia parkeri
    Chestnut-rumped heathwren (Mount Lofty Ranges subsp.)
  9. Lathamus discolor
    Swift parrot
  10. Macronectes giganteus
    Southern giant-petrel
  11. Manorina melanotis
    Black-eared miner
  12. Pezoporus occidentalis
    Night parrot
  13. Stipiturus malachurus intermedius
    Southern emu-wren (Mount Lofty Ranges subsp.)
  14. Stipiturus mallee
    Mallee emu-wren
  15. Thalassarche chrysostoma
    Grey-headed albatross
Vulnerable (21 listed)
  1. Acanthiza iredalei iredalei
    Slender-billed thornbill (western subsp.)
  2. Amytornis barbatus barbatus
    Grey grasswren
  3. Amytornis modestus
    Thick-billed grasswren
  4. Diomedea epomophora epomophora
    Southern royal albatross
  5. Halobaena caerulea
    Blue petrel
  6. Leipoa ocellata
  7. Macronectes halli
    Northern giant-petrel
  8. Pachycephala rufogularis
    Red-lored whistler
  9. Pedionomus torquatus
    Plains wanderer
  10. Phoebetria fusca
    Sooty albatross
  11. Polytelis alexandrae
    Princess parrot
  12. Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides
    Eastern regent parrot
  13. Psophodes nigrogularis leucogaster
    Western whipbird (eastern subsp.)
  14. Pterodroma mollis
    Soft-plumaged petrel
  15. Rostratula australis
    Australian painted snipe
  16. Stipiturus malachurus parimeda
    Southern emu-wren (Eyre Peninsula subsp.)
  17. Thalassarche bulleri
    Buller’s albatross
  18. Thalassarche cauta cauta
    Shy albatross
  19. Thalassarche cauta salvini
    Salvin’s albatross
  20. Thalassarche melanophris
    Black-browed albatross
  21. Thalassarche melanophris impavida
    Campbell albatross

Fish (10 listed)

Endangered (3 listed)
  1. Craterocephalus fluviatilis
    Murray hardyhead
  2. Maccullochella macquariensis
    Trout cod
  3. Macquaria australasica
    Macquarie perch
Vulnerable (7 listed)
  1. Galaxiella pusilla
    Dwarf galaxias
  2. Maccullochella peelii peelii
    Murray cod
  3. Mogurnda clivicola
    Flinders Ranges purple-spotted gudgeon
  4. Nannoperca obscura
    Yarra pygmy perch
  5. Nannoperca variegata
    Ewen’s pygmy perch
  6. Prototroctes maraena
    Australian grayling
  7. Carcharodon carcharias
    Great white shark

Invertebrates (2 listed)

Critically endangered (1 listed)
  1. Synemon plana
    Golden sun moth
Endangered (1 listed)
  1. Euastacus bispinosus
    Glenelg spiny freshwater crayfish

Mammals (52 listed)

Presumed extinct (17 listed)
  1. Bettongia lesueur graii
    Burrowing bettong (boodie)
  2. Bettongia penicillata penicillata
    Brush-tailed bettong
  3. Caloprymnus campestris
    Desert rat-kangaroo
  4. Chaeropus ecaudatus
    Pig-footed bandicoot
  5. Conilurus albipes
    White-footed rabbit-rat
  6. Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus
    Mala (rufous hare-wallaby)
  7. Lagorchestes leporides
    Eastern hare-wallaby
  8. Leporillus apicalis
    Lesser stick-nest rat
  9. Macropus eugenii eugenii
    Tammar wallaby (South Australia)
  10. Macropus greyi
    Toolache wallaby
  11. Macrotis leucura
    Lesser bilby
  12. Notomys amplus
    Short-tailed hopping mouse
  13. Notomys longicaudatus
    Long-tailed hopping mouse
  14. Onychogalea lunata
    Crescent nail-tailed wallaby
  15. Perameles bougainville fasciata
    Western barred bandicoot (mainland)
  16. Perameles eremiana
    Desert bandicoot
  17. Pseudomys gouldii
    Gould’s mouse
Critically endangered (1 listed)
  1. Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii
    Southern bent-wing bat
Endangered (11 listed)
  1. Balaenoptera musculus
    Blue whale
  2. Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi
    Brush-tailed bettong
  3. Dasycercus hillieri
  4. Dasyurus maculatus maculatus
    Spotted-tailed quoll (south-eastern mainland population)
  5. Eubalaena australis
    Southern right whale
  6. Isoodon obesulus obesulus
    Southern brown bandicoot
  7. Notoryctes typhlops
    Marsupial mole (itjari-tjari)
  8. Perameles gunnii unnamed subsp.
    Eastern barred bandicoot (mainland)
  9. Phascogale calura
    Red-tailed phascogale
  10. Sminthopsis aitkeni
    Sooty dunnart (Kangaroo Island dunnart)
  11. Sminthopsis psammophila
    Sandhill dunnart
Vulnerable (23 listed)
  1. Arctocephalus tropicalis
    Subantarctic fur seal
  2. Balaenoptera borealis
    Sei whale
  3. Balaenoptera physalus
    Fin whale
  4. Dasycercus cristicauda
  5. Dasyuroides byrnei
  6. Dasyurus geoffroii
    Western quoll
  7. Isoodon auratus auratus
    Golden bandicoot
  8. Isoodon obesulus nauticus
    Southern brown bandicoot (Nuyts Island subsp.)
  9. Leporillus conditor
    Greater stick-nest rat
  10. Macrotis lagotis
    Greater bilby
  11. Megaptera novaeangliae
    Humpback whale
  12. Mirounga leonina
    Southern elephant seal
  13. Myrmecobius fasciatus
  14. Neophoca cinerea
    Australian sea lion
  15. Notomys fuscus
    Dusky hopping mouse
  16. Nyctophilus corbeni
    South-eastern long-eared bat
  17. Petrogale lateralis
    Black-footed rock-wallaby (McDonnell Ranges race)
  18. Petrogale xanthopus xanthopus
    Yellow-footed rock-wallaby
  19. Potorous tridactylus tridactylus
    Long-nosed potoroo
  20. Pseudomys australis
    Plains mouse (Plains rat)
  21. Pseudomys fieldi
    Shark Bay mouse
  22. Pseudomys shortridgei
    Heath rat
  23. Pteropus poliocephalus
    Grey-headed flying fox

Reptiles (9 listed)

Endangered (3 listed)
  1. Caretta caretta
    Loggerhead turtle
  2. Dermochelys coriacea
    Leathery turtle
  3. Tiliqua adelaidensis
    Pygmy blue-tongue skink
Vulnerable (6 listed)
  1. Aprasia pseudopulchella
    Flinders worm-lizard
  2. Chelonia mydas
    Green turtle
  3. Delma impar
    Striped snake-lizard
  4. Liopholis kintorei
  5. Notechis scutatus ater
    Krefft’s tiger snake
  6. Ophidiocephalus taeniatus
    Bronzeback legless lizard

Graph of the proportion of nationally listed threatened species recorded in South Australia by taxonomic group and threat level, showing that over half of the mammals on the national list, and a quarter of the plants, are presumed extinct in South Australia.

Figure 2 Proportions of nationally listed threatened species recorded in South Australia by taxonomic group, April 2012

Since the last South Australian state of the environment report in 2008 (EPA 2008), 14 species that occur in South Australia have been added to the lists under the EPBC Act:

  • nine plant species: five critically endangered (Caladenia intuta, Cassinia tegulata, Hibbertia tenuis, Thelymitra cyanapicata and Veronica derwentiana subsp. homalodonta), three endangered (Acacia spilleriana, Prasophyllum pruinosum and Pultenaea trichophylla) and one vulnerable (Acacia praemorsa)
  • four bird species: three endangered (Australasian bittern, mallee emu-wren and grey-headed albatross) and one vulnerable (fairy tern)
  • one freshwater crustacean: the endangered Glenelg spiny freshwater crayfish. This freshwater crayfish has also been added to the list of protected species under the South Australian Fisheries Management Act 2007.

Over the same period, three vulnerable plant species (Austrostipa nullanulla, Acacia imbricata and Basedowia tenerrima), one vulnerable mammal species (Pearson Island rock-wallaby), one vulnerable reptile (Pernatty knob-tail gecko) and one vulnerable bird species (Gawler Ranges thick-billed grasswren) have been de-listed from the EPBC Act list of threatened species. A further 14 South Australian taxa have also been recommended for removal from the national list of threatened birds. These recommendations are primarily due to better knowledge of distributions, population sizes or degrees of threat and, for some, because new criteria have been used to define near threatened. None has yet been removed because of recovery (see Section 4.2).


The continuing decline of Australia’s bird species has underpinned a revision of the EPBC Act list of threatened species in The action plan for Australian birds 2010 (Garnett et al. 2011). This follows earlier action plans for Australian birds (1990 and 2000). The 2010 action plan recommends new listings for 19 species or subspecies that breed in South Australia. Eight of these were already listed but are now assessed to be in a worse status category than 10 years earlier. Eleven others are listed in a threat category for the first time, including six because of recent taxonomic recognition of new subspecies of grass-wrens. The list also includes at least 14 threatened oceanic seabirds that do not breed in South Australia, but use South Australian waters. It also includes an assessment of non-breeding migratory waders for the first time, and 15 taxa assessed as threatened visit South Australian mudflats and shorelines on a regular basis.

As a follow-up analysis to the three decadal action plans for Australian birds, Szabo et al. (2012) demonstrate that South Australia has the second-worst IUCN Red List indices of species survival for continental birds of all Australian states and territories, excluding status changes driven by threats operating outside of Australia. However, their analyses also suggest that, if conservation actions had not been in place over the past decade or more, eight listed threatened bird species that occur in South Australia would now be listed (or recommended for listing) in a worse conservation status category (Szabo et al. 2102).

Yellow-tailed black cockatoo

Barbara Hardy Institute


The plight of many fish species that depend on our inland waters has come to the fore relatively recently (e.g. Hammer et al. 2009) and, as Figure 2 indicates, fish species that occur in South Australia appear to be overrepresented in the lists of those that are declining (25% of native freshwater fish species listed nationally are found in South Australia). In addition, three commercially exploited fishes that occur in South Australia—school shark, orange roughy and southern bluefin tuna—have been added to a different EPBC Act list of ‘conservation dependent’ species, acknowledging that their conservation status needs to be recognised nationally and their populations carefully managed through sustainable fisheries management practices.

2.2.2 South Australian lists of threatened species

Table 6 lists the numbers of threatened plant and vertebrate animals in South Australia as listed under Schedules 7, 8 and 9 (Threatened Species Schedules) of the NPW Act.

The threatened species schedules that Table 6 is based on have not been revised since the 2008 state of the environment report was published. This is not a reflection on actual changes in the status of threatened species in South Australia. It is primarily because revisions to the schedules require a complex legal process for gazetting, which has meant that rather than one, two, or a few species being added to, deleted from, or changed between schedules, the entire schedules are revised periodically.

Freshwater fish

Status assessments undertaken as a basis for the Action Plan for South Australia’s Freshwater Fishes (Hammer et al. 2009) have indicated that, at the state level, there are three species of freshwater fish presumed to be extinct, eight that should be listed as critically endangered, nine as endangered, nine as vulnerable and three as rare (or near threatened). Only 26 species (45%) were considered secure enough to not be recommended for listing.

Several of the small-bodied threatened fish species identified in the action plan have been added to the lists of aquatic species that are protected under the Fisheries Management Act 2007. All species await reassessment in light of much more information now being available. Amendments will need to be made to the NPW Act before any of them can be added to the South Australian Threatened Species Schedules.

Table 6 Numbers of South Australian state-listed threatened species, 2012

Status under the National Parks
and Wildlife Act 1972

(No. of South Australian native species)











  1. Includes 26 species presumed extinct
  2. Includes 26 species presumed extinct
  3. Includes 8 species presumed extinct

Note: The total number of native species within each taxonomic group used to calculate the percentage in each threat category is the same as used in the 2008 state of the environment report. Fish are not included in the table because they are not listed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.

Critically endangered and endangered (%)

161a (3)

21b (26)

34c (7)

9 (4)

0 (0)

Vulnerable (%)

196 (3)

21 (12)

32 (7)

9 (4)

4 (15)

Rare (%)

431 (7)

32 (18)

89 (19)

35 (15)

4 (15)

Total (%)

788 (14)

74 (56)

155 (33)

53 (23)

8 (30)

2.2.3 National lists of threatened ecological communities

Six ecological communities that occur in South Australia are currently listed as threatened under the EPBC Act. These are:

  • critically endangered
    • iron grass natural temperate grassland of South Australia
    • peppermint box (Eucalyptus odorata) grassy woodland of South Australia
    • swamps of the Fleurieu Peninsula
  • endangered
    • buloke woodlands of the Riverina and Murray–Darling Depression bioregions
    • grey box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) grassy woodlands and derived native grasslands of
      south-eastern Australia
    • the community of native species that depend on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin.

An additional two ecological communities in South Australia have been nominated for listing:

  • lower Murray River and associated wetlands, floodplains and groundwater systems from the junction of the Darling River to the sea
  • Kangaroo Island narrow-leaf mallee communities.

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