Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES)
Nationally threatened species and ecological communities are plants, animals and habitats that have been identified as being at risk of extinction. These species and ecological communities are then officially listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EBPC Act). This Act is the law that protects and manages nationally and internationally important animals, plants and places — once listed, they are defined in it as “Matters of National Environmental Significance”.
Any action that is likely to have a significant impact on listed threatened species and ecological communities under the EPBC Act must be referred to the Federal Minister and undergo an environmental assessment and approval process. The Federal Government also provides funding to a range of organisations to help manage threats to listed plants and animals.
Recovery Plans may be developed for threatened animals, plants and ecological communities listed under the EPBC Act. They set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of a species and how to support its recovery.
Any person may nominate a native species, ecological community or threatening process for listing under any of the categories specified in the EPBC Act. For more information about the EPBC Act and threatened species and ecological communities, go to the EPBC website.
Queensland threatened species
In addition to the nationally listed species and habitats, Queensland has its own list of threatened species. In Queensland, they are listed under the Nature Conservation Act, 1992, and they fall into three categories:
- Extinct in the wild
Currently the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has responsibility for managing and conserving threatened species in Queensland via the Nature Conservation Act 1992. However, a range of different user groups and individuals within all levels of government, the community and industry sectors undertake activities relating to threatened species.
The Department’s Threatened Species Unit manages, facilitates and coordinates activities relating to the conservation and protection of threatened flora and fauna in Queensland. For more information on threatened species in QLD, go to the EHP website for threatened species.
Threatened species and ecological communities in the Wet Tropics
In the Wet Tropics region, there are almost 50 threatened animal species, more than 200 threatened plant species and three threatened ecological communities (Mabi Forest, Broad Leaf Tea-tree and Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets).
Recovery Plans have been developed for the following Wet Tropics species and ecological communities:
- Cave-dwelling bats (Rhinolophus philippinensis, Hipposideros semoni and Taphozous troughtoni)
- Giant Filmy Fern (Chingia australia)
- Mabi Forest
- Magnificent Brood Frog
- Mahogany Glider [Recovery Plan Document] [Recovery Plan Story Map]
- Northern Bettong
- Stream Dwelling Rainforest Frogs of the Wet Tropics
- Southern Cassowary
- Spectacled Flying Fox
- Spotted-tailed Quoll
Recovery plans are yet to be prepared for these two endangered ecological communities:
- Broad Leaf Tea‑tree (Melaleuca viridiflora) woodlands in high rainfall coastal north Queensland
- Littoral Rainforests and Coastal Vine Thickets of eastern Australia
Some key threatening processes affecting the Wet Tropics are also recognised under the EPBC Act:
- Loss and degradation of native plant and animal habitat by invasion of escaped garden plants, including aquatic plants
- Predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs
- Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi)
- Infection of amphibians with chytrid fungus resulting in chytridiomycosis
- Invasion of northern Australia by gamba grass and other introduced grasses
- Loss of terrestrial climatic habitat caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases
- The biological effects, including lethal toxic ingestion, caused by cane toads
An overview of threatened species & ecological communities in the Wet Tropics region can be found on the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s website.
Across Australia, a range of partners including State Government, Local Government, community groups, industry research organisations and regional NRM bodies such as Terrain work to improve the condition, extent and connectivity of threatened species habitats across the landscape. In the Wet Tropics, these partnerships are long standing and have resulted in much greater focus of effort in the management and protection of our precious threatened species. The Walter Hill Ranges project is an example of multiple groups working together to restore connectivity from the coastal lowlands at Mission Beach to the southern Atherton Tablelands at Ravenshoe to facilitate movement of rainforest species, including the endangered Southern Cassowary. Click on the link for more information about this project.
Focused and strategic effort
Three of the Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) that receive focused attention in the Wet Tropics are:
- Mabi Forest on the Atherton Tablelands
- The Southern Cassowary
- The Mahogany Glider
Some common threats across all three of these MNES include:
- Habitat loss and fragmentation
- Incompatible landuse (eg. for housing or agricultural development)
- Feral and domestic animals
- Weed invasion
- Extreme climatic events, including cyclones, wildfire and climate change
- Fragmentation from transport and infrastructure easements
Community passion and motivation for action is a large driver behind this effort. Recovery planning (through Recovery Teams) is one of the opportunities for a wide range of community partners to come together to agree on the most appropriate, feasible and effective actions taking into consideration the local social, economic, cultural and environmental context. Recovery teams meet regularly to share information, coordinate activity and provide advice to government and other authorities.