Native Vegetation and Fauna

>  East Gippsland CMA

The extent, continuity and diversity of native vegetation make East Gippsland nationally significant as a reservoir for temperate zone biodiversity.

The East Gippsland region contains a diversity of native vegetation types reflecting the range of landscapes from the coast to the Great Dividing Range. On the plains are extensive heathlands, woodlands and forest; in the foothills there is a wide belt of dry and damp forest; whilst in the highlands tall wet forests transition to subalpine and alpine vegetation (EGCMA, 2013). Clearing being only significant in the plains of the Gippsland Lakes hinterland, the Monaro tablelands and the isolated valleys and floodplains of the major rivers (EGCMA, 2013).

A note on fauna

The natural environments and dependent fauna of East Gippsland are already responding to climate change. Species are moving to higher elevations in alpine regions, some species’ ranges are expanding southward to cooler climates, migratory birds are arriving earlier and departing later, and breeding seasons are occurring earlier.

The key threats to fauna are broadly similar to those associated with terrestrial habitat, with particular concern associated with the impact of pest plants and animals, altered fire regimes and loss of habitat quality. East Gippsland's Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan therefore uses terrestrial habitat as a surrogate for fauna, and does not develop adaptation or mitigation measures specifically for fauna species, for the following reasons:

  • fauna were not analysed as a separate class of asset in the RCS asset structure; and,
  • the specific species-by species nature of climate change impacts on fauna.

A strategic Gippsland Lakes Hinterland Vegetation Plan is being prepared by the EGCMA at present, to address the following priority objective from the East Gippsland RCS "Targeted improvement of the condition, security, diversity and connectivity of native vegetation”. Fauna habitat will be a significant beneficiary of the implementation of this plan.

Asset vulnerability

In East Gippsland, the most vulnerable native vegetation communities were assessed as being rainforests, wet or damp forests, and rocky outcrop and escarpment scrubs (Spatial Vision & Natural Decisions, 2014). These results are due to both the sensitivity of these systems to changing climate and a poor adaptive capacity.

Table 1. Highest potential vulnerability for broad vegetation communities that have a freehold land interface in East Gippsland (Spatial Vision & Natural Decisions, 2014).

Asset name

RCS Landscape Area




East Coast

Gippsland Lakes & Hinterlands





East Coast

Far East Catchments

Gippsland Lakes & Hinterlands

Gippsland Lakes Upper Catchment



Wet or Damp Forests

Far East Catchments

Gippsland Lakes & Hinterlands

Gippsland Lakes Upper Catchment


Rocky Outcrop or Escarpment Scrubs


Gippsland Lakes & Hinterlands

Gippsland Lakes Upper Catchment


Montane Grasslands, Shrublands or Woodlands, Red Gum Grassy Woodlands


Far East Catchments

Gippsland Lakes Upper Catchment

Gippsland Lakes & Hinterlands


Herb-rich Woodlands

East Coast

Gippsland Lakes & Hinterlands


Potential adaptation options

Potential adaptation options for native vegetation are set out in Table 2 below and have formed the basis of analysis for development of this Plan.

Table 2. Potential adaptation options for native vegetation in East Gippsland.

Climate Change Variables

Reduced and more variable rainfall


Increased temperatures, and extreme heat


Increased intensity and frequency of rainfall events (including flooding)


Increased frequency of fire


Storm surge and sea level rise

Protect high quality remnants as reservoirs of regeneration potential


Weed control to improve quality and condition


Increase species diversity through targeted revegetation


Reduce pressure from over-browsing by domestic stock and macropods

Improve connectivity through targeted revegetation and remnant management


Increase size of remnant patches with buffer planting

Increase extent and connectivity of riparian and floodplain vegetation to reduce impact of extreme events

Match burning / fire regimes to tolerable fire intervals.


Increase effort in recovery programs to assist with rehabilitation of burnt habitats.

Map where new areas will be and plan appropriately for migration of habitats

Mitigation Options

In East Gippsland a number of options are appropriate to sequester carbon in native vegetation. It is important to recognise that different options are linked to different motivations and priorities.

These options include:

  • Environmental plantings with a primary focus on improving natural resource management outcomes such as water quality, erosion reduction and habitat improvement
  • Human-induced (natural) regeneration is sometimes a cost-effective option for restoring land in concert with a change in land management or land use
  • Agroforestry plantings which aim to generate environmental benefits while also enabling sustainable harvesting of trees for timber products
  • Commercial plantings where the primary aim is timber production.

Biodiversity benefits are often highest (due to better soil and moisture availability) in riparian zones, where much of the current revegetation effort associated with improving waterway health in East Gippsland has been successfully focused.

Commercial forestry is best suited to high-rainfall areas. Commercial plantings are likely to accumulate carbon fastest, but are also the most likely to be harvested, so may ultimately stabilise at lower levels of sequestered carbon than permanent plantings in lower rainfall areas. This suggests that high rainfall plantings will give the best short-term benefits but that slower-growing plantings subject to minimal harvesting may take over as good long term sinks for carbon (Polglase et al., 2011).

It is also important to appreciate interactions between revegetation, water and climate change. The potential impacts of climate change include reduced runoff, stream flow and ultimately, security of water supply, due to lower rainfall and higher evaporation. Even where rainfall does not change significantly, higher potential evaporation will still contribute to net decreases in runoff. As has been demonstrated in other high rainfall catchments, revegetation will reduce runoff independently of climate change, but will add to the losses caused by climate change (Jones et al., 2006). The potential for adverse impacts, such as reduced water yield, increased risk of wildfire and reservoirs for pest plant and animal invasion should be considered in the context of revegetation programs.

While reforestation for carbon outcomes has received much attention in recent years, Polglase et al. (2011) concluded that under current or plausible future market and policy conditions few areas are economically viable for carbon forests in Australia and that additional incentives may be needed to target tree establishment in areas which will have other environmental benefits, such as biodiversity. Furthermore, where carbon plantings are likely to be more economically viable, other land uses are also likely to outcompete them.

Increasing the amount of native vegetation plantings can in some cases lead to increased pressure from pest animals, such as deer and foxes, and pest plants, together with potential for elevated fire risk in some instances. These factors need to be further evaluated when considering the feasibility and risk of environmental plantings on freehold land.

For more information on climate change pressures on native vegetation, please see the East Gippsland Regional Catchment: Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan.