An ecological community contains a canopy which is the really tall trees, a mid-canopy which is smaller trees, shrubs and ground covers including orchids. The special combination of these elements provide a unique habitat for the wildlife that utilise these areas as their home.
Anyone who has walked through a forest knows that if you tread lightly, you experience something amazing. You notice the insects that have evolved over millennia with their host species of plants. They don’t often recognise the weeds as they have only been around for a couple of hundred years.
Not that long ago, in the Westleigh Park bushland you would have noticed a richer diversity of plants and animals.
Slowly, systematically this is being destroyed.
Mountain bike tracks have a lot of negatives for the greater community. They remove all of those complex elements in these rare ecological communities. As the plant complexity is simplified so is the wildlife.
They are also one-directional so that mountain bikers can move safely at speed. There is no safe scope for shared use of a track, walkers are in the way. If the issue was tracks for kids then the few tracks that already existed would have sufficed.
This issue is much greater than Westleigh Park as it highlights the removal in 2016 of any protection of endangered species. Short-sighted people decided that you can put a monetary value on our threatened plants and animals and pay some money into a fund. However this fund cannot offset the damaged to critically endangered species because they cannot be found else where.
Westleigh Park Bushland contains significant areas of the Critically Endangered Ecological Community (CEEC) Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest (STIF) and the Endangered Ecological Community (EEC) Duffys Forest.
The best practices guidelines for STIF available on the Dept of Planning and Environment website says “All native plants in an EEC are protected under legislation; care must be taken not to harm them.”
However Hornsby Shire Council is allowing the STIF vegetation to be destroyed as can be seen by the extensive network of mountain bike tracks built over the 6 years since HSC has had custody of this area of land.
This is an outrage, but close examination of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act implemented in 2016 reveals that it has stripped away any legislative protection. A DA will assess the value of the damage done and an amount of money will be paid into the Biodiversity Conservation Trust. The forest will continue to be destroyed and we are all the poorer for the loss of our natural environment.
Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest
The Sydney Turpentine–Ironbark Forest is listed as a critically endangered ecological community under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act).
Only 0.5% of it original extent is still intact. The Powerful Owl and Glossy Black-Cockatoo rely, in part, on the mature trees in Turpentine-Ironbark Forest as they provide nest hollows (New South Wales Scientific Committee 2000a).
Five tree species that occur in the tallest tree layer of Turpentine-Ironbark Forest—Syncarpia glomulifera (Turpentine), Eucalyptus saligna (Sydney Blue Gum), Corymbia gummifera (Red Bloodwood), Angophora costata (Sydney Red Gum) and A. floribunda (Rough-barked Apple) provide food resources (nectar and pollen) for the Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) (Law et al. 2002). The Grey-headed Flying Fox is also known to utilise canopy trees, lower trees and the tall shrub layer of open forest vegetation for warming and cooling under a range of wind and day temperature conditions (Buchanan 1985).
STIF originally extended over 26,000 hectares west to Guildford, and north of Parramatta River from Ryde to Castle Hill. It also occurs on the shale ridge caps in the Hornsby Plateau. Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forests are dominated by majestic Turpentines (Syncapria glomulifera), which grow to a height of 60m and may live 500 years. The trunk of a mature tree trunk can soar to 45m before branching and may measure 1.5m in diameter at its base. The thick brown bark is fibrous, with deep vertical furrows, and the leaves have distinctive grey hairs on the underside. It is not a eucalypt, so the seed pods it produces are very distinctive. Its flowers are creamy white and make a great display from September to November. Les Robinson, author of Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney, says the docks in London were made of Australian Turpentine. The trees are pollinated by native and European bees, moths and flies, and the flowers are food for Grey-headed Flying Foxes.
Ironbark is the common name used for several eucalypt species. Those that grow in STIF include Broad-leaved Ironbark (Eucalyptus fibrosa) and Grey Ironbark (Eucalyptus paniculata). Broadleaved Ironbarks grow to 35m and their branches spread about 10m. The trunk has deeply furrowed dark gray bark, and the leaves are dark grey-green and broader than other ironbarks’. The flowers are creamy white, and the dense, strong wood was valued for lumber. The sap, locally called kino, was used by the Cadigal and Wangal peoples to keep fishing lines from fraying, and also by the early settlers for ink. These trees flower from November to January.
The Duffys Forest is listed as endangered under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act).
It is an open-forest or woodland community dominated by Red Bloodwood Corymbia gummifera, Black Ash Eucalyptus sieberi, Smooth-barked Apple Angophora costata, and frequently a stringybark E. capitellata or E. oblonga. Other understorey species include Myrtle Wattle Acacia myrtifolia, Hairpin Banksia Banksia spinulosa, Rusty Velvet-bush Lasiopetalum ferrugineum, Crinkle Bush Lomatia silaifolia, Broad-leaf Geebung Persoonia levis, Apple–berry Billardiera scandens, Wiry Panic Entolasia stricta, Twisted Mat-rush Lomandra obliqua, Micrantheum ericoides and Xanthorrhoea media.
Estimated original extent was approximately 1450 ha, of which less than 16%, or approximately 240 ha, remains. It occurs in association with shale lenses and lateritic soils in Hawkesbury Sandstone.
As well as the CEEC and EEC Westleigh Park is home to some threatened flora and Explore Your Area on the Atlas of Living Australia reveal the following species within 1 km of the site: Overall there are 709 plant species including many rare and threatened species:
- Melaleuca deanei (Vulnerable EPBC Act, BC Act)
- Darwinia biflora (Vulnerable EPBC Act, BC Act)
- Epacris purpurascens var. purpurascens (Vulnerable BC Act)
- Galium australe (Endangered BC Act)
- Lasiopetalum joyceae (Vulnerable EPBC Act, BC Act)
- Rhodamnia rubescens (Critically endangered EPBC Act, BC Act)
- Tetratheca glandulosa (Vulnerable BC Act)
The Warada Ngurang Nursery loves to collect seeds for propagation from this special area and many orchids are found in the area.