Beecroft Peninsula

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Beecroft Peninsula is the apparent island northeast of Jervis Bay Territory

Beecroft Peninsula is the spectacular northern headland of Jervis Bay. On the western and southern sides of the peninsula steep sandstone cliffs rise dramatically out of the ocean, up to 91m at its southernmost point, Point Perpendicular. White sandy beaches are found along the northern, eastern and southern sides interspersed with numerous intertidal reefs.

Beecroft Peninsula encompasses an area of about 5250ha south of the town of Currrong, approximately 200 km south of Sydney and is divided between the State of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT section was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1915, as part of the Jervis Bay lands transferred by New South Wales to federal control to provide the national capital with access to the sea.[1] While the bulk of this land was established as a separate Jervis Bay Territory when the Australian Capital Territory was granted self-government, the portion on the Beecroft Peninsula remains part of the ACT. The ACT portion of the peninsula consists of a strip of land around the southern edge of the peninsula, which is the northern headland of Jervis Bay. However, the historic Point Perpendicular lighthouse (and its grounds) constructed in 1899 at Point Perpendicular, which is the southern tip of the peninsula and at the northern entrance to Jervis Bay, remains an exclave of New South Wales territory within the ACT's exclave.[2][unreliable source]

Point Perpendicular at the tip of Beecroft Peninsula with Jervis Bay in the background. Photo by Vera Wong

A large part of the peninsula, approximately 4200ha including both NSW and ACT portions, is under the administration of the Royal Australian Navy for use as a live-firing range and is known as Beecroft Weapon Range. Access to the weapons range is restricted to the public at certain times. The public enjoy the peninsula for its stunning views, camping at Honeymoon Bay, walking, fishing, boating, and rockclimbing.


Geology[edit]

Beecroft Peninsula is the best example of a Permian cliffed coast in New South Wales. The peninsula is a remnant of a Permian sandstone and siltstone plateau, overlain with a patchy veneer of Tertiary and Quaternary sand and gravel deposits. The eastern coast consists of almost continuous cliffs, rising up to 91 m at Point Perpendicular and erosion processes have created caves, blowholes, small peninsulas, clefts, arches, and stacks such as the Drum and Drumsticks. The western coast dips gently into the bay with several low cliffs and sandy beaches. The peninsula is connected to the mainland at its northern end by the Carama Isthmus, a sand swamp, which is 211m wide, at its narrowest width, at low-water mark.[3][4]

Beecroft Peninsula occurs near the southern boundary of the Hawkesbury Sandstone geological unit. Accordingly, the place has a high number of flora and fauna species at the limit of their distribution.

Biodiversity[edit]

Flora[edit]

The vegetation on the Beecroft Peninsula is a complex mosaic of heathland, eucalypt forest, and rainforest, mangroves, saltmarsh and swamps.[5][6][7] The most widespread vegetation community is heath and this area of heath is the largest remaining on the south coast of New South Wales.[7]

There are 573 plant species occurring in eight major and 27 minor vegetation types. Heathland dominated by heath banksia (Banksia ericifolia) and scrub she oak (Allocasuarina distyla) occurs over approximately 50% of the peninsula. Other heath communities dominated by narrow-leaved bottlebrush (Callistemon linearis) and Lepidosperma filiforme are restricted to the northwest. Shrubland communities are dominated by scrub she oak, heath banksia, tick bush (Kunzea ambigua) and Leptospermum epacridoideum. The regionally uncommon she oak shrubland is widespread on the peninsula. Open forest communities dominated by several eucalypts, rough barked apple (Angophora floribunda) and black she oak (Allocasuarina littoralis) are restricted to deep soils in sheltered positions. There are three forest communities; littoral rainforest, swamp oak (Casuarina glauca) forest, and turpentine (Syncarpa glomulifera) forest restricted to a single site at the head of Plutus creek. Woodland communities dominated by bloodwood (Corymbia maculata), silvertop ash (Eucalyptus sieberi), coast tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum), Leptospermum trinervium and saw banksia (Banksia serrata) are associated with sand dunes. Swamp communities dominated by jointed twig-rush (Baumea articulata), swamp paper-bark (Melaleuca ericifolia) and common reed (Phragmites australis) occur in depressions adjacent to creeks. A small area of grey mangrove (Avicennia marina) occurs near Chinaman's beach. A sedgeland dominated by slender twine-rush (Leptocarpus tenax) and Ptilothirix deusta is restricted to the north western of the peninsula.[7]

Beecroft Peninsula supports two plant species that are listed as vulnerable both nationally and in New South Wales, the coastal mint bush Prostanthera densa[8] and the magenta lilly pilly (Syzygium paniculatum).[9] Littoral rainforest is a nationally critically endangered ecological community.[10]

Fauna[edit]

Twenty-three native mammal species have been recorded on the Beecroft Peninsula.[11] The non-flying mammalian community is relatively impoverished in diversity and includes the brown antechinus (Antechinus stuartii), bush rat (Rattus fuscipes), the common ringtailed possum (Psuedochelrus peregrinus), the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), long-nosed bandicoot (Parameles nasuta), the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), the red-necked wallaby (M. rufogriseus) and the swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolour).[12] There are eight species of bat including the vulnerable large footed myotis (Myotis macropus).[13]

One hundred and twenty-six bird species have been recorded, including 12 species of honeyeater, the endangered eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus),[14] the vulnerable ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus),[15] two pairs of the vulnerable powerful owl (Ninox strenua),[16] and the vulnerable masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae).[17] Thirty-five bird species are protected by international bird treaties (JAMBA, CAMBA, and the Bonn Convention) including the endangered pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)[18] and the vulnerable sooty oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus).[19]

Nineteen species of terrestrial reptile have been recorded, including six species of skink and six snake species, including the death adder (Acathophis antercticus), which may be declining in southern NSW. The common scaly-foot (Pygopus lepidopodus), a legless lizard, occurs on the peninsula, this species is recognised as the most primitive of the legless lizards and has strong Gondwanic associations Twelve species of amphibian have been recorded from streams and swampy areas.[11]

Conservation and Management[edit]

In recognition of its outstanding natural, cultural and historic values which encompasses a diverse range of vegetation, rare plant, bird and mammal species and sites of Aboriginal and historical significance, Beecroft Peninsula was listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List in 2004 giving it protection by commonwealth environment legislation. Its reservation as a firing range has meant that very little of the original vegetation in the area has been cleared and remains in relatively good condition, despite periodic localised short-term damage by military exercises, providing a wide diversity of good quality habitat for native fauna.[11]

The Beecroft Peninsula is currently managed by the Department of Defence’s Shoalhaven Environment Team.[20] There is no current management plan for the area.

Littoral rainforest[edit]

The nationally critically endangered littoral rainforest community is found on the western side of the peninsula and is a remnant of coastal rainforests that were once extensive in southern Australia.[10] It contains several species near the southern limit of their distribution; these include ribbonwood (Euroschinus falcata var.falcata), brown pine (Podocarpus elatus), coast canthium (Canthium coprosmoides), deciduous fig (Ficus superba var. henneana), flintwood (Scolopia braunii), celery wood (Polyscias elegans), and Cissus sterculiifolia.[7] The rainforest also contains a mixture of sub-tropical and temperate rainforest species. As such, this community is significant in the study of the latitudinal shift from sub-tropical to temperate forests.[11] The littoral rainforest behind Long Beach is a well-preserved example of rainforest on sand - a rare vegetation type in New South Wales. Littoral rainforest is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, weed invasion, inappropriately placed paths and inappropriate fire regimes. Important management options include protecting and restoring remnants, relocating paths, removal of invasive weeds and hazard reduction burns in the vicinity of the forest area.[10] There is no recovery plan for this community type.

Small mammals[edit]

From 1993 to 2002 a study was conducted on the peninsula that measured the response of the small and medium-sized mammal populations to continuous fox control. The bottle-necked entrance to the otherwise ocean-ringed peninsula make for ideal geography for fox control. The most surprising result of the study was the appearance of the long-nosed bandicoot which had never previously been recorded from Beecroft Peninsula, despite surveys.[4] Remains of the bandicoot are however found in relatively recent Aboriginal middens.[12] The long-nosed bandicoot not only appeared on the peninsula but increased significantly in abundance from the time it was first recorded in 2000. Similarly, the bush rat had also never been recorded and appeared in the fauna surveys after the commencement of fox control. A third species, the common ringtailed possum, showed a significant increase in abundance as a result of the fox control study. The brown antechinus, the black rat, the brushtailed possum and the sugar glider showed no significant change in abundance.[4]

This nine year fox control study on Beecroft Peninsula[4] provides compelling evidence that small to medium-sized ‘critical weight range’ mammal populations have been driven to extinction or near extinction by fox predation and recover when the ongoing predation pressure of foxes is removed.[21][22] This conclusion is supported is further supported by the retention of most of original vegetation on the peninsula so historical mammal decline was not due to the common cause of habitat destruction.

Eastern bristlebird[edit]

The eastern bristlebird is a nationally endangered small, brownish bird approximately 200 mm in length, cryptic and ground dwelling living in low dense vegetation cover.[23] In 2000, the eastern bristlebird had not been recorded from the Beecroft Peninsula for over a century and re-establishment of extinct populations was identified as an important recovery action for the species.[14] During 2003-2005, 45 birds were successfully translocated from the Bherwerre Peninsula, on the opposite side of Jervis Bay, to the Beecroft Peninsula.[24][25] The reintroduction has shown medium-term success; in 2012 the Beecroft population had grown to 94 birds.[25] The eastern bristlebird recovery plan identifies habitat fragmentation, widespread and frequent fires and predation as threatening processes and appropriate fire management of habitat, feral predator control, controlling invasive weeds as very high priority.[14]

Eastern ground parrot[edit]

The eastern ground parrot is a distinctive, bright grass-green, long-tailed, ground-dwelling parrot of the coastal and sub-coastal heaths, reaching 30 cm long. It is a rare and iconic endemic of coastal and sub-coastal heathlands in southern Australia including the Beecroft Peninsula where there is an estimated maximum population size of 450 individuals. A long term study of ground parrot habitat found that the species occurs in long-unburnt habitat and that fire should not be used to manipulate the ecological functioning of habitat for the persistence of ground parrot population.[11][25] Frequent and widespread fire had been identified as a threat to the eastern ground parrot and management recommendations include exclusion of fire for at least 7 years after a fire.[15]

Environmental Threats[edit]

Like most natural reserved land areas in Australia, the Beecroft Peninsula and its biodiversity are threatened by predation by introduced feral species and invasive plants. Five species of feral mammal have been recorded, including the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), feral cat (Felis cattus), black rat (Rattus rattus), rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and house mouse (Mus domesticus).[12] Foxes are a significant threat to the peninsula’s non-flying small mammal population.[4]

Low soil fertility on Beecroft Peninsula means that few weeds species can grow except in cleared areas and they do not usually enter undisturbed vegetation.[26] There are 23 weed species on the peninsula and the major species are Senecia Madagascariensis, Protoaparagus aethiopucus and Kalanchoe tubiflora.[11]

Erosion is responsible to localised habitat degradatiom as there are many secondary vehicular tracks that have become severely eroded following major rains and side tracks have been created through heath communities in places where original roads have become impassable.[11] Fire frequency, some of which are started by naval exercises, may adversely impact on some the plants and animals.[25]

Aboriginal Heritage[edit]

Archaeological evidence demonstrates that Aboriginal occupation of the Beecroft Peninsula extends back at least 7000 years.[11] This undoubtedly underestimates the time that Aboriginal people have lived in the area because radiocarbon dates obtained from nearby coastal sites elsewhere in New South Wales demonstrate occupation back to 20 000 years.[27]

Beecroft Peninsula is of particular significance to the Jerinja and Wreck Bay Aboriginal communities as part of their traditions. Their stories describe the movement of ancestral beings, including Bundoola, Spandula, the Bip Bip women and others, as they formed the landscape, people and the law. The Beecroft Hill area, the Devils Hole area, the Drum and Drumsticks area and the Duck Hole area form part of these stories while the southern part of Jervis Bay has strong cultural associations for women. The stories of the activities of ancestral beings create links with neighbouring regions and Aboriginal people with traditional links to the area say that Jervis Bay is the birthplace of the thirteen tribes of the south. There are a large numbers of middens mainly located near the beaches on the southern and western sides of the Peninsular that contain evidence of past patterns of Aboriginal exploitation of marine resources. Other sites providing evidence of past Aboriginal activity in the area include rockshelters with occupation debris, artefact scatters, grinding grooves, ceremonial grounds and rock shelters with paintings and stencils on the walls.[11][27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Commonwealth law still requires that the national capital have access to the sea: See the Seat of Government Act 1908 [1], section 4.
  2. ^ Although ACT lands on the Beecroft Peninsula are shown on official and other detailed maps of the area, it is not widely known that this area forms part of the ACT. This is probably because the area has no permanent residents, being reserved as a live firing range for the Royal Australian Navy. However, retention of this strip of coastline ensures ongoing compliance with the legal requirement, as set out in section 4 of the Seat of Government Act 1908, that the ACT "shall ... have access to the sea". The Point Perpendicular lighthouse, at the very tip of the Peninsula, is a small exclave of NSW territory cut off from the main part of NSW by the ACT land. A good online GIS map showing the Beecroft Peninsula, and those areas which are part of the ACT, can be found at the website of the Shire of Shoalhaven, the adjacent NSW municipality. This is the URL (NSW lands shown in yellow, ACT and JBT lands shown in pink): http://maps2.shoalhaven.nsw.gov.au/imaps/. The area of ACT land on the Beecroft Peninsula is clearly shown in the New South Wales Roads Directory (Map 177, grid ref. S 2), which is published by the National Roads and Motoring Association and is based on NSW Department of Lands maps. Several other maps showing the boundaries of the ACT exclave on the Beecroft Peninsula are available online, for example: http://www.exploroz.com/Places/24482/NSW/Longnose_Point.aspx
  3. ^ Australian Geological Survey Organisation.1995. Geoscience and environmental map of Jervis Bay Territory and Beecroft Peninsula, viewed on 23 April 2015, http://www.ga.gov.au/metadata-gateway/metadata/record/gcat_16391
  4. ^ a b c d e Dexter, N., P. Meek, S. Moore, M. Hudson and H. Richardson. 2007. Population Responses of Small and Medium Sized Mammals to Fox Control at Jervis Bay, Southeastern Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 13: 283-292.
  5. ^ Adam, P. and P. Hutchings. 2010. The saltmarshes and mangroves of Jervis Bay. Wetlands (Australia) 6:58-64.
  6. ^ Clarke, P. J. 1993. Mangrove, saltmarsh and peripheral vegetation of Jervis Bay. Cunninghamia 3:231-254.
  7. ^ a b c d Skelter, N. and P. Adam. 1994. Beecroft Peninsula vegetation survey. Report for the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Department of Defence.
  8. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Villous mint bush – profile, viewed on 17 April 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10676
  9. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Magenta lilly pilly – profile, viewed on 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10794
  10. ^ a b c Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 2015. Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets of eastern Australia: a nationally threatened ecological community, viewed on 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/19747170-3fd3-4930-9ca5-6ca89508b571/files/littoral-rainforest.pdf
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Department of Environment 2015, Beecroft Peninsula in Australian Heritage Database, viewed on 16 May 2015, http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;search=place_name%3Dbeecroft%2520%3Bkeyword_PD%3Don%3Bkeyword_SS%3Don%3Bkeyword_PH%3Don%3Blatitude_1dir%3DS%3Blongitude_1dir%3DE%3Blongitude_2dir%3DE%3Blatitude_2dir%3DS%3Bin_region%3Dpart;place_id=105539
  12. ^ a b c Dexter, N. and P. Meek. 1998. An analysis of bait-take and non-target impacts during a fox-control exercise. Wildlife Research 25:147-155.
  13. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2104. Southern Myotis – profile, viewed on 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10549
  14. ^ a b c Office of Environment and Heritage. 2012. National Recovery Plan for Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus, viewed on 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/7ca9c6cc-7225-4ca5-af9a-80bb28e47ae7/files/eastern-bristlebird-recovery-plan.pdf
  15. ^ a b Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Eastern Ground Parrot – profile, viewed on 16 May 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10608
  16. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Powerful Owl – profile, viewed on 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10562
  17. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Masked Owl – profile, viewed 12 May 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10820OE
  18. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Pied Oystercatcher – profile viewed on 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10386
  19. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage. 2014. Sooty Oystercatcher – profile viewed 27 April 2015, http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10385
  20. ^ Department of Defence. 2015. Welcome to Beecroft Weapons Range, viewed on 24 April 2015, http://www.pointperp.com/PDF/Welcome_to_Beecroft_Weapons_Range.pdf
  21. ^ Woinarski, J. C., A. A. Burbidge, and P. L. Harrison. 2015. Ongoing unraveling of a continental fauna: Decline and extinction of Australian mammals since European settlement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:4531-4540.
  22. ^ Burbidge, A. and N. McKenzie. 1989. Patterns in the modern decline of Western Australia's vertebrate fauna: causes and conservation implications. Biological Conservation 50:143-198
  23. ^ Baker, J. 1997. The decline, response to fire, status and management of the eastern bristlebird. Pacific Conservation Biology 3:235.
  24. ^ Bain, D., K. French, J. Baker, and J. Clarke. 2012. Translocation of the Eastern Bristlebird 1: radio‐tracking of post‐release movements. Ecological Management & Restoration 13:153-158.
  25. ^ a b c d Baker, J., R. J. Whelan, L. Evans, S. Moore, and M. Norton. 2010. Managing the Ground Parrot in its fiery habitat in south-eastern Australia. Emu 110:279-284.
  26. ^ Ingwersen, F. 1976. Vegetation of the Jervis Bay Territory. Australian Government Publishing Service.
  27. ^ a b Zakharov, J. 2010. A review of Aboriginal cultural factors for the Jervis Bay area, New South Wales. Wetlands (Australia) 6:9-18.

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 35°02′37″S 150°48′19″E / 35.04349°S 150.80521°E / -35.04349; 150.80521