The conservation value of Bush Heritage reserves

Published 20 Jun 2003 

Phil Cullen, Bush Heritage landscape ecologist, summarises the conservation values of the reserves.

In the 12 years since its establishment, Bush Heritage has grown from being a Tasmanian-based organisation with two small reserves totaling 241 ha, to being the nation’s most widely supported organisation with a mission to  purchase private land for conservation.

It now has 14 reserves across four states and protects a total of 131 228 ha. A defining point in this development was the purchase of Carnarvon Station in central Queensland. This was a very exciting time for both our supporters and staff.

Carnarvon represented a move into the big league. Our two post-Carnarvon purchases, Chereninup Creek Reserve and, most recently, White Wells Station (now the Charles Darwin Reserve) in Western Australia, have again more than doubled our land holdings.

For a relatively young organisation, Bush Heritage now owns and manages an impressive area. So, is the acquisition of big spreads of land really contributing to the conservation of Australia’s unique biodiversity?

To answer this question I have prepared a table that summarises the specific conservation values of each of our reserves (see below). By necessity, much of the interesting detail is missing so, by way of compensation, I have listed what I consider to be some the conservation highlights of each reserve.

There can be little doubt that the Bush Heritage reserves, whether large or small, make a significant contribution to biodiversity conservation. Of the 104 plant communities that are reserved, 47 are of conservation significance (i.e. they have been largely lost through land clearing or are poorly represented in State reserves).

From our survey work we know that the Bush Heritage reserves support at least 56 plant species and 54 animal species of conservation significance. These figures will undoubtedly increase as more thorough surveys are completed, particularly of the Chereninup Creek and Charles Darwin reserves.

The table also illustrates the important contribution that small reserves can make to biodiversity conservation. Landscape-scale properties, such as Carnarvon Station, tend to overshadow our smaller reserves. However, these relatively small areas often represent one of the last places where good conservation for a species or community can be achieved. They are often worthwhile complements to adjacent State reserves and provide opportunities for our supporters to visit and enjoy the areas that they've helped to protect.

At 432 ha the Tarcutta Hills Re-serve (NSW), for example, has one of the best remnants of grassy white box woodland (nationally endangered) in the nation and supports species such as the swift parrot (nationally endangered) and the squirrel glider (nationally vulnerable).

The South Esk Pine Reserve supports one of the best stands of the rare Callitris oblonga (South Esk pine) and six other significant species of plants that were once widespread in the dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands of Tasmania.

Chereninup Creek Re-serve (WA), and a forthcoming purchase in the same district, will contribute effectively to a regional conservation initiative, the Gondwana Link project, which aims to recreate habitat links across the south-west region of Western Australia.

One of the other less-well-championed values of the reserves is their importance in protecting whole, operating healthy ecosystems. Not only do they safeguard the myriad of living things in the ecosystem, most of which we are barely aware of, but they also maintain and retain healthy soils, and clean air and water.

In addition they act as species ‘banks’, where animals and plants, from the smallest to the largest, live in safety and from where they can recolonise into the surrounding country once the landscape is repaired.

As more and more areas are protected through your ongoing generosity, we'll continue to protect an ever-expanding number of Australia’s rare and threatened animals and plants.

This is an exciting and fulfilling prospect. Keep up the great work!

Reserve Date protected Area (ha) No. of
of significance 
Plant species of
Fauna of
Liffey River 1990 105 7 1 2 Eucalyptus viminalis forest,
white goshawk 
Drys Bluff 1990


6 1 2 Eucalyptus ovata forest,
white goshawk 
Fan Palm 1993 8 1 1 19 1 fan palm forest,
Brogo 1995 120 8 4 7 dry grassy forest and
dry rainforest 
Erith Island* 1996 412 10 0 7 relatively undisturbed
island habitat 
Kojonup 1996 333 5 1 5 2 wandoo woodland,
declining woodland birds 
Friendly Beaches 1997 120 9 4 3 coastal heathlands and
intact dune system 
South Esk 1998 7 1 1 7 Eucalyptus ovata-Callitris
oblonga woodland  
Goonderoo 1998 593 8 8 6 native grasslands, brigalow
woodland, woodland birds 
Tarcutta Hills 1999 432 3 1 13 grassy white box woodland,
declining woodland birds 
Burrin Burrin 1999 411 4 3 dry grassy eucalyptus forests 
Currumbin 1999 4 1 0 6 1 threatened rainforest plant species 
Carnarvon 2001 59,051 17 6 4 9 grasslands, grassy woodlands
and vine thickets 
Chereninup Creek# 2002 877 12 8 3 kwongan heath, woodland,
mallee fowl 
Charles Darwin Reserve# 2003  68,619 12 8 5 8 york gum, salmon gum and
gimlet woodlands 
Total   131,228 104 47 56 54  
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