The King Island Flora: a field guide (2002) - $15.00. This easy to use guide with wonderful photographs of King Island plants can be purchased from Currie Newsagency, The Trend, or KINRMG (by post or from KINRMG office).
An addendum has been published and is available for free from KINRM or KIRDO, 5 George Street.
The Native Vegetation of King Island, Bass Strait- a guide to the identification, conservation status and management of the island's native vegetation and threatened plant species (2002) can be downloaded, or purchased from KINRM.
King Island's native vegetation is important for the protection of many plant and animal species.
The native vegetation of King Island provides homes to:
Of course native vegetation also improves water quality, provides shelter to stock and pasture, and is an important part of the scenic character of King Island – benefiting residents, tourists and property values!
Only about one third of King Island is still covered in native vegetation.
Three quarters of the remaining native vegetation on King Island is on private property.
Private land owners on King Island have a special role in undertaking the care and protection of native vegetation.
Native Vegetation Communities on King Island
King Island has 28 broadly defined native vegetation communities, including forest and woodland communities, scrubs, grasslands, heathlands, wetlands, spray zone coastal complex and salt marsh.
Much of the island's open flat to undulating plains would have once supported dense forest, woodland, scrub and heath communities but now little native vegetation remains, except in the island's far north-east and south where areas of relatively pristine vegetation can still be found.
Tall wet sclerophyll forest dominated by Tasmanian blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus ssp. globulus, was once widespread on the plateau in the island's south-east, but most has been cleared for farming. There now only remains a relatively small number of eucalypt dominated forest remnants on King Island. These E. globulus ssp. globulus and Brooker's gum, E. brookeriana, dominated remnants generally feature an understorey of wet sclerophyll species e.g. manfern, Dicksonia antarctica, rough dogwood, Pomaderris apetala, tea-trees, Leptospermum scoparium and paperbarks e.g. Melaleuca ericifolia, and M. squarrosa.
These communities provide nesting sites for the white-bellied sea eagle and habitat for various animals such as the echidna, the lesser long-eared bat, long-nosed potoroo, and many different birds like the golden whistler, Tasmanian thornbill, various honeyeaters and the yellow-tailed black cockatoo.
Dry heathy forest dominated by white gum, E. viminalis ssp. viminalis, occurs on nutrient poor sandy soils near the coast.
Blackwood, Acacia melanoxylon, forests occur locally on the incised banks of major streams, and represent the wettest community on the island. Swamp paperbark, Melaleuca ericifolia, dominated forests occur in areas of poor drainage, heavy soils and with a low fire frequency. These forests have a dense canopy growing generally 10 to 25 metres, with single trees often reaching more than 30 metres high. The species diversity can be low because of the dense canopy. The shrub layer may include the rare and protected austral mulberry, Hedycarya angustifolia; blueberry ash, Elaeocarpus reticulatus; and a species rare on the island musk daisy bush, Olearia argopyhlla.
These forest communities provide habitat for fauna such as the common brushtail possum, eastern pygmy possum, the rare brown thornbill, southern boobook and many other birds.
Scrub dominated by Leptospermum or Melaleuca species is geographically widespread on poorly drained siliceous sites in the island's interior, and is generally an early successional stage of forest on more fertile substrates. Fire plays an important role in
determining both the structure and floristic composition of scrub vegetation. Shrub species such as necklace sheoak, Allocasuarina monilifera; silver banksia, Banksia marginata; manuka, Leptospermum scoparium, and scented paper-bark, Melaleuca squarrosa, store their seed in the canopy and release it after the fire has passed. Seedling regeneration of shrubs is often dense following fire-stimulated release of seed from mature individuals. Removal of the canopy and litter by fire encourages the establishment pteridophytes (e.g. screw fern, Lindsaea linearis; swamp selaginella, Selaginella uliginosa; narrow comb fern, Schizaea fistulosa), geophytes (e.g. Drosera species, several orchid species) and other herbs (e.g. hairy mitrewort, Mitrasacme pilosa; tiny bladderwort, Utricularia lateriflora). Bracken (Pteridium esculentum) is common on drier sites, and may dominate species-poor sites which have a history of frequent low intensity burns.
King Island Scrub provides habitat for fauna including the echidna, the ringtail possum, wallabies and many different bird species such as dusky robin, grey shrike-thrush, Bassian thrush, and various honeyeater, whistlers and cuckoos.
Wet King Island Scrub provides habitat for Bennett's wallaby, the smooth froglet, brown tree frog, tiger snake and a variety of birds like the New Holland honeyeater and grey shrike-thrush.
The scrub 'subunit' of the King Island sedge-heath-scrub complex is prone to frequent fires, both natural and man-made. Sedgelands and heathlands occur on flat undulating plains. Sedgelands are dominated by sedges, grasses, irisies and lilies. Sedgelands are robust habitats and develop first after fire or other disturbance, but they commonly develop into heathland after having been unburnt for 2 to 3 years. Heathlands are frequently dominated by low shrubs with small hard or prickly leaves e.g pink beard-heath, Leucopogon ericoides; prostrate guinea-flower, Hibbertia prostrata. Heathlands a require fire frequency of between 10 and 30 years to maintain their biodiversity.
These two plant communities provide habitat for fauna such as the swamp rat, the common froglet, the swamp antechinus, and Richard's pipit.
The structure and species composition of King Island's unique coastal vegetation is influenced by substrate type, fire history and exposure to the prevailing salt laden westerly winds. A number of distinct plant communities fringe the islands coastline, including tussock grassland, halophytic herbfield, coastal heath, and scrub characteristic of swales and backdunes.
Vegetation structure and composition of the rocky coastline is influenced by exposure of sites to surge and salt spray. The sparse halophytic herblands of the littoral fringe include sea celery, Apium prostratum; and bower spinach,Tetragonia implexiconia. These give way to windpruned heaths such as cushion bush, Leucophyta brownii; and sea box, Alyxia buxifolia, and grasses, such as coastal spear grass, Austrostipa stipoides; and Australian salt grass, Distichlis distichophylla, on more protected sites and as altitude and distance inland increase.
The many sand dunes that fringe the west and east coasts, and often extend inland as much as 6 kilometres, are referred to as the 'dune system'. Vegetation is affected by onshore salt-laden winds, the shaping of dunes by waves and wind, soil development in hollows, grazing and fire. The sand dunes support heath, shrub and woodland on sites sheltered from high salinity and physiological drought by landform (e.g. swales) or distance from the coast, and not subjected to frequent cool burning or other disturbance.
Wetlands such as swamps, marshes, lagoons and the swampy margins of lakes are covered by still waters for at least four months of the year. Some wetlands with coastal landforms have been formed by the natural damming or deflection of drainage lines by shifting sands of the coastal rim of dunes. Many of these have been drained or modified by agriculture, so few remain in good condition. Small wetland systems occur inland of the dune systems. Some of these communities are of national and international significance, such as the Tufa herbfields at Boggy Creek and Bungaree Lagoon which is the only known Tasmanian locality for the aquatic wetland community dominated by small-fruit water-mat, Lepilaena bilocularis.
Wetlands are havens for birds like the swamp harrier and various waterfowl species and provide important habitat for the eastern banjo frog, the striped marsh frog and the green and gold frog, which is vulnerable to extinction. Lowland copperhead snakes may also be found in swampy areas.
Saltmarsh occurs locally on saline estuarine flats - at times inundated by the sea, but where little wave action occurs and therefore sediments can accumulate. The Sea Elephant and Yellow Rock estuaries are important aras of saltmarsh vegetation. The Sea Elephant River saltmarsh occupies flats up to 5 kilometres from the river mouth.
The saltmarsh of the Sea Elephant River estuary is of particular conservation significance because it is used by many migratory birds, some of which are rare or threatened like the orange-bellied parrot, which uses the saltmarsh vegetation e.g. shrubby glasswort, Sclerostegia arbuscula; and beaded glasswort, Sarcocornia quinqueflora, for feeding and the adjoining vegetation for roosting.
The information on this page has been drawn from:
The Native Vegetation of King Island, Bass Strait - a comprehensive guide to the identification, conservation status and management of the island's native vegetation and threatened plant species (2002), Richard W. Barnes, Fred Duncan & Chris S. Todd
King Island Flora: a field guide (2002) plus addendum - published by and available from KINRM or KIRDO, 5 George Street.
Fauna of King Island - A Guide to Identification and Conservation Management, Edited by Richard Donaghey 2003.
Excerpts from The Fauna of King Island – A guide to identification and conservation Management, Edited by Richard Donaghey 2003 and King Island Biodiversity Management Plan, 2012
The aquatic fauna of King Island’s streams and wetlands - By Peter E. Davies, Katie Brown, Rodney Walker, Laurie Cook
Introduction - King Island has a wide range of freshwater aquatic environments including rivers and streams and ephemeral and permanent wetlands (ponds, swamps, lagoons). The fauna of these environments is not well known, and the writing of this chapter required some new sampling to be done. As a result we now know that the island has many species (more than 140) of aquatic macroinvertebrates, including burrowing crayfish, aquatic insects, freshwater crabs and snails, as well as eight species of freshwater fish ....
Freshwater fish of King Island
King Island's freshwater fish fauna consists of six species: the Southern Shortfin Eel (Anguilla australis), Climbing Galaxias (Galaxias brevipinnis), Trout Galaxias (Galaxias truttaceus), Common Galaxias (Galaxias maculatus), Southern Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca australis) and Congolli (Pseudaphritis urvillii). The migratory Australian Grayling (Prototroctes maraena) has been recorded from the Ettrick River (Backhouse et al. 2008), but its current status is unknown.
Invertebrates on King Island – By Peter McQuillan
Several thousand species of invertebrates live on King Island, representing the largest proportion of the animal fauna. A few may be endemic to the island, but island populations of even widespread species are likely to be genetically different from those on the mainland and hence are an important component of Australia's biodiversity. Insects and their relatives perform essential ecological services such as nutrient recycling, soil conditioning, pollination and seed dispersal of flowering plants and help regulate the numbers of other invertebrates. To a large extent, the insect fauna resembles that of the lowlands of north-western Tasmania. Indeed, King Island was attached to Tasmania as a peninsula as recently as 12,000 years ago when sea levels were much lower. Unlike for vertebrates, there have been limited studies of the island's invertebrate fauna. Until further collections are made, only a broad impression of this fauna can be gained from the few publications which mention the island's invertebrates, together with insights from the fauna of similar habitats in northern Tasmania.
From KIBMP: Little is known about the invertebrate diversity on King Island. The lack of baseline data on invertebrates makes it difficult to discuss population trends or to propose management strategies. However, it is likely that habitat loss and fragmentation has had an impact on their abundance and diversity. The Southern Hairy Red Snail (Austrochloritis victoriae) is the only invertebrate currently listed under the TSP Act that is known to occur on King Island (Table 1). This snail is known only from the northeastern coast on King Island and southern Victoria, south of the Great Dividing Range (Smith & Kershaw 1981). Until 1996 the Southern Red Hairy Snail was considered extinct in Tasmania. It lives in damp areas with well-developed paperbark, tea tree and Banksia scrub (Bonham 2009).
CHAPTER 5 Biogeography and ecology of the vertebrate fauna of King Island - Richard Donaghey, Jim Nelson, Rodney Walker and Wyn Jones
The Bass Strait land bridge disappeared about 11,000 years ago, leaving Tasmania and King Island geographically separated from continental Australia. Continental islands like King and Flinders have fewer species than nearby Tasmania and Victoria. ……
The frogs of King Island closely reflects that found in far north-west Tasmania.
Frogs are the only order of amphibians living in Australia. Four families occur naturally, whereas one introduced toad represents the only member of the true toad family. There are about 150 species of frogs in Australia. Eleven species inhabit mainland Tasmania, including three endemics. Six species occur on King Island. The six frogs found on King Island are two tree frogs, the green and golden frog (Litoria raniformis) and brown tree frog (Litoria ewingi); two marsh frogs, eastern banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerili) and striped marsh frog (Lymnodynastes peroni) and two froglets, the common or brown froglet (Crinia signifera) and smooth froglet (Geocrinia laevis). ....
....The life histories of the six species of King Island frogs separate into three distinct groups. One group, the tree frogs and the common froglet, have non-foamy egg masses placed in water and aquatic larvae. The smooth froglet has non-foamy egg masses placed on land and aquatic larvae. Its relatively large eggs laid on land are later flooded with water, and the larvae then develop. The third group, the two species of marsh frogs, have foamy egg masses placed in water and aquatic larvae ....
....The breeding seasons of the six King Island frogs fall into three groups. The common froglet and brown tree frog breed all year, the smooth froglet breeds in summer–autumn, and the green and golden frog and striped marsh frog breed in spring–summer. Only male frogs call, and their calls are most obvious during their mating seasons when they generally call near or in water. Often there is a chorus of several species by late spring, but each species can be identified by its own distinctive call.
Reptiles: snakes and lizards
King Island has a relatively low diversity of reptiles compared to the Australian mainland. It is home to only nine reptile species, comprising three species of snakes and six of lizards. The reptile fauna comprises species that are commonly found in northwest Tasmania: White's Skink (Liopholis whitii), Blotched Bluetongue (Tiliqua nigrolutea), Southern Grass Skink (Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii), Metallic Skink (Niveoscincus metallicus), Tasmanian Tree Skink (Niveoscincus pretiosus), Eastern Three-lined Skink (Acritoscincus duperreyi), White-lipped Snake (Drysdalia coronoides), Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus humphreysii), and the Lowland Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus). The Tasmanian Tree Skink is the only Tasmanian endemic reptile species found on King Island.
The terrestrial vertebrate fauna on King Island is dominated by birds, with 164 species recorded. Fifty are non-passerines, 36 are passerines, 12 are breeding or resident marine and shorebirds, 39 are irregular migrants and visitors, 14 are migratory shorebirds and gulls and terns, and 24 are resident and visiting marine birds.
King Island supports a number of endemic subspecies such as the Brown Thornbill, Green Rosella, Yellow Wattle Bird (Anthochaera paradoxa kingi), Dusky Robin (Melanodryas vittata kingi), Black Currawong (Strepera fuliginosa colei) and Scrubtit. King Island is also home to 10 of Tasmania's 12 endemic resident breeding birds (Green & McGarvie 1971).
The endemic King Island Emu (Dromaius ater) is presumed to be extinct (listed under TSP Act) and the Glossy Black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), Gang-gang (Callocephalon fimbriatum) and the Forty-spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus) are considered to belocally extinct on King Island (Donaghey 2003). Seven species are currently listed as threatened under State and/or Commonwealth legislation.
King Island is an important stopover point for a number of migratory species during their passage over Bass Strait. Migratory species which regularly use the Island include the Orange-bellied Parrot, Swift Parrot, Ruddy Turnstone and Red-necked Stint.
Twelve mammal species are recorded for King Island. Native mammals include the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Swamp Antechinus (Antechinus minimus), Common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), Eastern Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus), Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus), Tasmanian Pademelon (Thylogale billardierii), Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus), Lesser Long-eared Bat (Nyctophilus geoffroyi) and Gould's Wattled Bat (Nyctophilus gouldi).
The Spotted-tailed Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus maculatus) was seen until the 1950s and is now considered to be locally extinct and local populations of the Wombat (Vombatus ursinus ursinus), and Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonina) became extinct shortly after European settlement.
Fossil records from the last interglacial period of the Pleistocene include modern wombats, kangaroos and wallabies. The larger kangaroos did not survive on any of the Bass Strait islands in the post-glacial period since there were insufficient grasslands to support a breeding population which eat large quantities of grass. The 12 terrestrial native mammal species that still occur on King Island are two monotremes (platypus and echidna), one dasyurid (swamp antechinus), three possums, three macropods (rednecked or Bennetts wallaby, Tasmanian pademelon and long-nosed potoroo), at least two resident bats and one native rat.
Native mammals that appear to be rare with very restricted distributions on King Island are swamp antechinus (Antechinus minimus), eastern pygmy possum, long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus) and the bats, the lesser long-eared bat (Nyctophilus geoffroyi) and Gould's wattled bat (Nyctophilus gouldi). All these mammals appear to be more sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation and hence are vulnerable to local extinction. These mammals have special habitat needs. The eastern pygmy possum and the two bat species require hollows and cracks in trees as roosts and den sites as well as nearby native forests and scrub for foraging. Swamp antechinus and long-nosed potoroo may require large forest remnants for their survival.
Three bat species have been recorded from King Island. One species, the grey-headed flyingfox (Pteropus poliocephalus), is a visitor from mainland Australia. The other two bat species, lesser long-eared bat and Gould's wattled bat, appear to be rare, but this may be an artefact of inadequate surveys.
Extinctions of birds on King Island
The King Island emu (Dromaius ater) seems to have been the first extinction on the island as a direct result of human hunting. Commercial sealers, who arrived in 1802, used trained dogs to hunt the bird for food. Its small size (1,365 mm tall) and weight (up to 22.7 kg) compared to the mainland form (D. novaehollandiae) led Baldwin Spencer to describe it as a distinct species in 1906. Grey goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae) was recorded by the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria after their visit in 1887. Two birds, which were killing young turkeys, were shot in 1912. There have been no further reportings of this bird on the island. Glossy black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) once occurred on the island but disappeared in about 1920 after extensive fires. Gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) was once plentiful when large areas of eucalypt forest existed. Forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus) was collected by the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria during their 1887 visit, but there are no other records.
Extinctions of mammals on King Island
Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) – hundreds of docile elephant seals on the north-east beaches were slaughtered by sealers, and the species was exterminated from King Island by early in the 19th century. Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) – in 1802 the log books of the Lady Nelson recorded the existence of wombat on the island, but the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria failed to find any during their 1887 visit, suggesting that the animal died out some time before the beginning of the twentieth century. Tiger cat (Dasyurops maculatus) – common at the time of early settlement, the tiger cat was wiped out as a direct result of persecution. Early settlers destroyed it at every opportunity as it killed their poultry and damaged the skins of game animals by following snare lines and feeding on the animals caught there. No animals have been seen on the island since 1923.
For further information download the full document Fauna of King Island - A Guide to Identification and Conservation Management, Edited by Richard Donaghey 2003.
Strepera fuliginosa colei
Length: 47-49 cm
Identification: Familiar large, black bird with massive, black bill; bright yellow eye and white tips to wings and tail.
Habits: Singles, pairs, winter flocks. Omnivorous diet of fruit, insects, carrion and small vertebrates. Forages on beaches amongst seaweed and on ground in pastures and forests. Forages on branches and in foliage. Distinctive voice.
Habitat: Wet and dry eucalypt forest and woodland, paperbark and blackwood swamp forest, coastal heath and scrub, beaches, pastures, homestead gardens.
Builds large stick nest in forks of paperbark, blackwood and eucalypt trees.
Range and Status: Widespread but patchily distributed. Range has contracted in recent decades. King Island population is an endemic subspecies. Considered locally common in 1960's with winter flocks of 150. Population in decline. An uncommon to rare breeding resident. Conservation status Vulnerable (3).
Special Management: Monitor population in winter to determine population size and winter habitat. Monitor population in spring-summer to determine density of breeding pairs and breeding habitat and location. Study breeding ecology of forest raven and interactions with black currawong where they coexist.
Length: 55-65 cm
Identification: Unmistakable, large black cockatoo with large yellow panel in long tail and yellow ear patch. Male: Bill blackish and eye-ring reddish-pink. Female: Bill whitish, eye-ring grey and brighter yellow ear-patch.
Habits: Pairs, family trios, flocks of up to 50 or more in autumn-winter. Forages at all levels of vegetation from ground to tree canopy. Feeds on seeds and extracts wood-boring insect larvae by ripping open branches and trunks of trees. Flies with slow flapping flight. Twists and glides through trees exposing yellow tail panel.
Habitat: Dry and wet eucalypt forest, King Island scrub, coastal heath, exotic conifer plantations and shelter. Extracts seeds of Allocasuarina and Banksia in scrub and heath and seeds from cones of Pinus radiata. Nests in large, deep, often vertical, hollows in trunks of large, old trees.
Range and Status: Widespread. Uncommon breeding resident. High conservation status. King Island population may be declining.
Special Management: Monitor size, age and sex of population in autumn-winter. Erect nest-boxes.
Acanthiza pusilla archibaldi
Other name: King Island brown thornbill
Length: 10 cm
Identification: Sexes alike. Olive-brown upperbody with diagnostic olive-buff flanks; greyish undertail and bold blackish streaks on grey throat and breast. Red eye.
Similar species: Common Tasmanian thornbill has white flanks and undertail.
Habits: Singles, pairs. Actively forages for insects in ground layer vegetation, understorey shrubs and small trees.
Habitat: Drier wet scrub and eucalypt woodland with Leptospermum scoparium at Pegarah State Forest, open farmland at Loorana.
Probably nests on ground or in low understorey vegetation like the brown thornbill on the Tasmanian mainland.
Range and Status: Very restricted range. Recorded in Pegarah State Forest in 1968 and at Loorana in 1971. Thought to be extinct but recently one bird seen in 2001-02 at Pegarah State Forest.
Conservation status: Critically Endangered (3).
Special Management: Continue to search for birds at Pegarah State Forest and nearby to confirm presence and attempt to determine population size.