The Wimmera is a biodiversity hotspot, supporting a range of habitats and species, nature- based tourism and local enjoyment.

The Wimmera is a biodiversity hotspot. The region is the geographical and biological transition between temperate and arid Australia. The Great Dividing Range that defines so much of Australia’s climate and biodiversity concludes at Dyurrite (Mount Arapiles) and with it, the distribution of numerous ‘temperate’ species, like the smoky mouse (Pseudomys fumeus), southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus) and long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus).\

At the foothills of Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) the temperate montane forest and woodlands give way to the Wimmera plains to the north and the grassy woodlands and wetlands of the south-west. Formerly dominated by grassy woodlands, these areas are famed for their agricultural productivity but also support important biodiversity assets like the Wimmera grasslands, internationally significant wetlands and habitat for the critically endangered south- eastern red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne).

Map showing Victorian Land Cover Time Series ground cover classification for the Wimmera 2015-2019

Figure 13: The Victorian Land Cover Time Series ground cover classification for the Wimmera 2015-2019(25)

First Nations people moved across these landscapes seasonally, accessing plants and animals for food, fibre and medicine and employing cultural burning and other techniques to keep a mosaic of vegetation cover.

Where Dyurrite (Mount Arapiles) signifies the end of the mountains, the Little Desert National Park represents the start of Australia’s arid interior. The Little Desert region supports a vast array of biodiversity: 670 or 24% of all Victoria’s vascular plant species, more than 220 bird species and 80 nationally threatened fauna and flora species.(34)

The Little Desert National Park is the largest contiguous patch of remnant native habitat in the Wimmera, protecting just over 130,000 hectares. Across the landscape there are several medium-sized remnants, such as the northern slopes of Gariwerd (Grampians National Park) and Burrunj (Black Range State Park), Dyurrite (Mount Arapiles) along with the Tooan State Park block, Jilpanger Nature Conservation Reserve, Tallageira Nature Conservation Reserve, Gurru (Lake Hindmarsh) and Ngalpakatia/Ngelpagutya (Lake Albacutya).

Between these medium and large parks and reserves, agricultural land dominates the Wimmera landscape. Importantly, a mosaic of small stands of native vegetation and habitat patches, strips and features remain interspersed within the agricultural matrix, such as:

  • Small public land reserves and wetlands,
  • Roadside, waterway and railway corridors, and
  • Remnant vegetation, coarse woody debris, rocks, and scattered paddock trees.

These small patches of habitat are extremely important in supporting and maintaining biodiversity across the Wimmera region. Not only do they provide habitat for some biodiversity, but they also act as steppingstones and pathways for biodiversity to move through the landscape between patches of suitable habitat.

At a finer scale, the biological diversity of the Wimmera is demonstrated by the sheer number (618) and diversity of Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVC). In the upper catchment there are alpine and cool temperate rainforest vegetation communities, such as Montane Rocky Shrubland and Wet Forest, respectively. The lower catchment contains the inverse, Semi-arid Chenopod Woodland and Heathy Mallee, characteristic of the Mallee vegetation communities.

There have been 3,974 species recorded within the Wimmera region, including 3,169 plants, 61 invertebrates and 744 species of vertebrate fauna.(35) Of these species, 766 are introduced, 124 are endemic to the Wimmera and 232 have more than 75% of their modelled habitat distribution within the catchment.(36) Twelve species are officially listed as extinct or regionally extinct in the Wimmera. This figure may be higher as there are no complete records of the Wimmera’s biodiversity prior to European colonisation. A further 600 species (14%) are listed as rare or threatened with extinction(35) under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) new Threatened List.(35) (37) Additionally, 95 Wimmera species are identified as threatened under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Appendix 2 available on the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (CMA) website provides a full list of the Wimmera’s threatened species.

Functional biodiversity and ecosystems of the Wimmera are of fundamental importance to the region. Functioning habitats and ecosystems provide significant tourism opportunities. For example, tourism in the Grampians region generates an estimated $295 million in direct economic output for the five surrounding local government areas.(38) Agriculture is the dominant land use in the Wimmera and plays an important role in Victoria’s economy and Australia’s food security. The Wimmera needs healthy biodiversity and ecosystems to support these critical economic and social industries.