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Australian Heritage Database
Places for Decision
Class : Natural



Identification

List:

National Heritage List

Name of Place:

Porongurup National Park

Other Names:




Place ID:

105982

File No:

5/01/081/0035

Primary Nominator:

104311 Australian Heritage Council

Nomination Date:

09/07/2007

Principal Group:

Vegetation communities

 




Status




Legal Status:

09/07/2007 - Nominated place

Admin Status:

03/06/2008 - Assessment by AHC completed

 




Assessment










Recommendation:

Place meets one or more NHL criteria

Assessor's Comments:




Other Assessments:

:

 




Location




Nearest Town:

Mount Barker

   Distance from town (km):

15

   Direction from town:

E

Area (ha):

2620

Address:

Mount Barker Porongurup Rd, Mount Barker, WA, 6324

LGA:

Plantagenet Shire WA

Location/Boundaries:
About 2620ha, 15km east of Mount Barker.

Assessor's Summary of Significance:
The Porongurup National Park is a place of exceptional biological and ecological significance. The Park has one of the richest concentrations of plant species in Australia with more than 700 native plant species within the park of 2,621 hectares. The place is also highly endemic for a wide array of plant species, and represents an important remnant of the rich flora of south west Western Australia in a largely cleared agricultural landscape. Examples of plant groups which contribute to this outstanding richness and endemism include: heaths (Epacridaceae) especially beard-heaths (Leucopogon); peas (Fabaceae) notably flame-peas (Chorizema) and also bitter-peas (Daviesia and Bossiaea), and poison-peas (Gastrolobium); native myrtles (Myrtaceae); pimeleas (Thymelaeaceae), notably rice flowers (Pimelea); sundews and pitcher plants (Nepenthales); bloodroots, conostyles, kangaroo paws and their allies (Haemodorales); and banksias and grevilleas (Proteales). It is also important for richness in lilies, orchids and allies (Liliales), notably native lilies (Anthericaceae), irises and allies (Iridaceae), and orchids (Orchidaceae).
 
The Porongurup Range has acted as a refuge for invertebrate species. The granite outcrops of the Park provide damp refuges for Gondwanan relictual species, which are more closely related to groups in mountainous areas of eastern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and other Gondwanan continents, than to the surrounding lowlands in the region. The Porongurup National Park is significant at a national scale for endemism and richness in spiders, in particular primitive trapdoor spiders (mygalomorphs). These have a Gondwanan distribution, for example some genera have a restricted distribution in Australia, but are also found in southern Africa, and are thought to be a relict of Jurassic times when Africa was joined to Australia 140 million years ago.
 

Draft Values:

Criterion

Values

Rating

A Events, Processes

The south-west of Western Australia is one of only 34 internationally significant hotspots for biodiversity (Myers et al. 2000), and the Porongurup National Park is an important remnant of the flora of the south-west, with exceptional richness and endemism of species, particularly plant species. A minimum of 700 vascular plant species have been recorded within the park of 2,621 hectares, indicating a high concentration of species. (Keighery 1993, CALM 1999, ANHAT 2008). The place is one of the richest and highly endemic areas in Australia for a wide array of plant species including heaths (Epacridaceae) especially beard-heaths (Leucopogon); peas (Fabaceae) notably flame-peas (Chorizema) and also bitter-peas (Daviesia and Bossiaea), and poison-peas (Gastrolobium); native myrtles (Myrtaceae); pimeleas (Thymelaeaceae), notably rice flowers (Pimelea); sundews and pitcher plants (Nepenthales); bloodroots, conostyles, kangaroo paws and their allies (Haemodorales); and banksias and grevilleas (Proteales). It is also important for richness in lilies, orchids and allies (Liliales), notably native lilies (Anthericaceae), irises and allies (Iridaceae), orchids (Orchidaceae), and flax-lilies and allies (Phormiaceae) (Keighery 1993, ANHAT 2008).
 
The granite outcrops of the Porongurup NP provide damp refuges for Gondwanan relictual species. The Porongurup NP is significant at a national scale for endemism and richness in spiders, in particular primitive trapdoor spiders (Mygalomorphae), including trapdoor spiders (Idiopidae) brushless-legged trapdoor spiders (Migidae), two-doored trapdoor spiders (Actinopodidae), and funnel-web spiders (Nemesiidae). These have a gondwanan distribution, for example genera of the Migidae family have a restricted distribution in Australia, but are also found in southern Africa, and are thought to be a relict of Jurassic times when Africa was joined to Australia 140 million years ago (Main 1993, ANHAT 2008).

AT

Historic Themes:

Nominator's Summary of Significance:
The Porongurups contain a major vegetation remnant of the botanically rich south west Australian biome. The place holds a significant diversity of plants, 709 native species, in a relatively small area (less than 3,200ha).

Notably diverse plant groups include beard-heaths (Leucopogons), flame-peas (Chorizema) and bitter-peas (Daviesia and Bossiaea), orchids, banksias and hakeas and mountain bells (Darwinia). Plant diversity is highest especially in lower and open scrub and open forest areas of jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and marri (E. calophylla), which are remnants of the surrounding countryside now extensively cleared. The place is also notable for holding outliers of karri forest (E. diversicolor), which is a function of its 670 metre elevation and granitic substrate, which acts as a refuge for moisture loving species.

The place is one of the largest granite massifs in Western Australia and amongst the oldest in the world. South-west Australian granitic mountain tors, including the Porongurups, are of evolutionary interest supporting relict plant species, and the Porongurup Ranges reflect this in holding outlier karri forest (E. diversicolor), and at least nine endemic plant species, along with Gondwanan relict invertebrates such as trapdoor spider (myglomorphs) species (Neohomogona bolganupsis and Moggridgea sp.), unusual land snails and a giant earthworm (Megascolex sp.).

The ranges' dramatic mountain scenery and spectacularly colourful wildflower displays attract thousands of visitors each year.

The place also holds eight of the thirteen internationally recognised southwest Australian endemic bird species.

Description:
 
The Porongurup Range is spectacular in the surrounding landscape, its massive granite domes rising dramatically from the plains. This rugged forest ‘island’ contrasts with the largely cleared surrounding countryside and agricultural land patterns. The Porongurup National Park encompasses the majority of the Porongurup Range. Birdwatchers, photographers, botanists and wildflower enthusiasts are attracted to the Porongurup National Park by the beauty and diversity of the landforms and wildlife. The proximity to urban centres in the southwest including Albany and Mt Barker also makes it a popular destination for visitors.
 
The Porongurup National Park is located in the Shire of Plantagenet, 35 kilometres north of Albany in the south of Western Australia. The Park covers an area of about 2,621 hectares although the range itself is 3,200 hectares in size. The granite domes of the Porongurup Range are clearly visible from the coast around 30 kilometres to the south, as well as further inland from the Stirling Range 25 kilometres to the north. The Porongurup Range is 12 kilometres long and three kilometres wide, with the highest point of 670m at Devil’s Slide. Other summits include Marmabup, Wall’s Summit and the Rock of Gibraltar at the western end of the range and Morgan’s View, Nancy Peak and Twin Peaks in the centre.
 
The Porongurup National Park lies within the traditional lands of the Minang group of the Nyungar people (Green 1984; South Australian Museum 2006). Although the importance of the Porongurups in Nyungar cosmology is documented (Colbung & Montrose 1994), neither the Porongurup National Park nor Stirling Range National Park has been subject to a systematic archaeological survey (CALM, 1999). However, accounts of Minang society (Hallam 1975; Meagher 1974; Anderson 1984) indicate such sites are likely to occur in the area.
 
The Porongurup National Park is the largest inland remnant between the coast and the Stirling Range and one of the largest granite massifs in Western Australia (Beard 1981). It is also among the oldest mountain ranges in the world. It owes its formation to the massive tectonic forces that have shaped the southern and western coasts of Australia. The range formed about 1,184 million years ago, the likely result of a collision between the Australian and Antarctic landmasses (Black et al 1992, Abbott 1980). It is representative of the Archaean plateau of Western Australia. The range consists of gneisses and granites formed of porphyritic biotite granite and adamellite. Over time the softer sediments surrounding the granite have eroded, forming the peaks, domes and ravines visible today. Outcropping granite rocks on the south coast of Western Australia are characterised generally by diverse and endemic plant species, and the diversity of microhabitats has enabled the persistence of species beyond their main range in the face of climatic fluctuations (Hopper et al. 1997).
 
At various times the Porongurup Range has been isolated as a true island, most recently during the Eocene period (55 million years ago) when the sea reached as far as the Stirling Range (Olver 1998). Evidence for this can be found in bands of laterite which are located throughout the south-west of Western Australia. Areas of deep sand similar to that found to the north and east of the range are also evident.
 
The Porongurup Range has a Mediterranean climate with cool to mild winters and warm, sunny summers (CALM 1999). Conditions become cooler and more humid higher up in the range. Typically, the northern slopes of the range receive 840mm of rainfall whereas the windward, southern slopes receive 900-1000mm (Olver 1998). Most rainfall is received between May and October although at times, occasional snow may fall on the taller peaks for short periods during winter and spring. Most drainage lines flow north or south, with Bolganup Creek and Cockatoo Creek the only significant creeks.
 
The Plantagenet Shire is among the most extensively cleared shires in South-Western Western Australia (Griffin 1995). Only two small areas of uncleared land abut the boundary of the Porongurup National Park. Wheat-growing, grazing, forestry and more recently vineyards have altered the appearance of the areas adjoining the park and have had an impact on the plants and animals that live there.
 
The Porongurup Range possesses a rich floral diversity. Researchers have identified 822 vascular plant taxa comprising 709 natives and 113 weeds (Keighery 1999). The majority of plant species can be found in the laterite soils of the lower slopes. The largest families are the Cyperaceae (31 natives, 2 exotics), Orchidaceae (57 natives, 1 exotic), Poaceae (17 natives, 17 exotics), Asteraceae (38 natives, 16 exotics), Epacridaceae (31 natives), Mimosaceae (21 natives), Myrtaceae (44 natives), Papilionaceae (47 natives, 11 exotics) and the Proteaceae (52 natives) (Keighery 1999). There are five species and five sub-species endemic to the Porongurup Range including the EPBC listed Villarsia calthifolia and Apium prostratum subsp. Porongurup Range (CALM 1999, Keighery 1999). Five species are confined to the boundary of the National Park – Brachysema subcordatum, Hibbertia bracteosa, Billardiera granulata, Apium prostratum ssp. nov and Villarsia calthifolia (Keighery 1989). In addition, at least 26 species occur at the inland margin of their ranges (CALM 1999).
 
The Porongurup Range has been recognised by Beard (1979) as a separate vegetation system from other vegetation systems in the south-west – the Porongurup System (CALM 1999). The system is characterised by bare massive domes surrounded by karri forest.
 
There are four major plant communities in the Porongurup National Park – tall open forest (wet sclerophyll); open forest (dry sclerophyll); lithic complex (granite outcrops); and low open woodland. Karri forest dominates the tall open forest area, where the deep red soil known as karri loam and the high rainfall sustains the population (Beard 1981, NatureBase 2007). The karri forest is believed to have survived as a disjunct population in the Porongurup Range for over 5,000 years and is floristically different from the main areas of karri forest some 50 kilometres to the south-west (Barrett 1996, CALM 1999).
 
The open forest, located on the lower slopes in sandy, duplex or lateritic soils, is dominated by jarrah and marri trees. The main understorey species in this area includes wattle (Acacia leioderma), beard heath (Leucopogon revolutus) guinea flower (Hibbertia spp.) bitter pea (Bossiaea linophylla) and grass trees (Xanthorrhoea preissii) (Abbott 1982). At levels near 300m, where drainage is hindered, the open forest changes to open scrub dominated by banksias (Banksia littoralis), native myrtles (Agonis theiformis and Astartea fascicularis) and Kunzea recurva (Abbott 1982).
 
Along the rock rills and glades of the granite outcrops, scrublands, sedges and herbs dominate (Smith 1962). Most of the species endemic to the Porongurup Range are found in these areas. Granite outcrops in the South West Botanical Province, of which the Porongurup Range is the largest, support the highest levels of plant diversity, compared with any other granite outcrop in Western Australia (Hopper 1997).
 
A swamp dominated by Melaleuca preissiana is located on the western margin of the National Park and extends beyond the boundary. Minor communities including mallee heath, Eucalyptus tetragona and small areas of E. decipiens grow along Millinup Road. Higher up in the Porongurup Range regular cloud and fog cover provide an ideal environment for lichen, mosses and small flowering plants. Fifteen species of lichen and 300 species of fungi have been recorded in the Porongurup National Park (Herford 1996).
 
The varied topography of the Porongurup Range provides habitat for a wide variety of vertebrate species. The mammal species in the National Park include the western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus), brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecular), pygmy possum (Cercartetus concinnus), mardo (or yellow-footed antechinus – Antechinus flavipes leucogaster), mooti (or bush rat – Rattus fuscipes fuscipes), quenda (or southern brown bandicoot – Isoodon obesulus fusciventer) and honey possum (Tarsipes rostratus). The honey possum is the only representative of the family Tarsipedidae, and is found only in the coastal plain heaths of south-west Western Australia (Olver 1998, Herford 1996). Seventy-one bird species including the red-eared firetail (Emblema oculata) and Baudin’s black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus baudinii) are also found in the park (Herford 1996). In addition, at least 17 reptile species are known to inhabit the park including King’s skink (Egernia kingii), the southern heath monitor (Varanus rosenbergi) and the marbled gecko (Phyllodactylus marmoratus) (Herford 1996). Several tree frog and southern frog species are also evident (Herford 1996).
 
A number of vertebrate species are listed under federal and state legislation as vulnerable or in need of special protection. The western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus occidentalis), crested shrike tit (Falcunculus frontatus whitei) and Baudin’s black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus baudinii) are all recorded on the EPBC list of threatened flora and fauna species (EPBC Act 1999). Another listed species, the Noisy Scrub-bird was released into the Porongurup National Park in July and August 2006 as part of a translocation program.
 
The cool, wet mountain gullies of the Porongurup Range provide a refuge for a diversity of invertebrate species. A number of species have strong Gondwanan affinities, including the endemic trapdoor spider (Neohomogona bolganupensis), land snails (Bothriembryon spp.) and giant earthworm (Megacolex sp.) (Olver 1998, Herford 1996). Other species like the social crab spider (Diaea socialis) have outlying populations in the range (Olver 1998). Many of the relict species present in the Porongurup Range and in neighbouring Stirling Range are more closely related to invertebrate species found in mountainous areas of eastern Australia or on other Gondwanan continents than to the drier, low-lying areas surrounding the two ranges (Olver 1998). Other relict species found in the Porongurup Range include velvet worms (Oncophora), and an undescribed carnivorous snail (Paryphantidae sp). Land snails in particular, are an important indicator species of areas of moist refugia over long periods.
 
The Porongurup Range has the highest species richness and greatest abundance of spiders compared with other mountainous sites in south-west Western Australia. Twenty-seven species are found in the Porongurup Range compared with 26 from Bluff Knoll and 22 species from Mt Lindesay, both located in the Stirling Range National Park (Barrett 1996).
 
The spectacular seasonal wildflowers and the variety of outdoor activities draw thousands of tourists to the Porongurup National Park each year. Its conservation and management has strong support from among the local and wider community.
 

Analysis:
 
The nomination of the Porongurup Range was initiated by the Australian Heritage Council. The comparative analysis includes criteria (a), (e), (h) and (i). No specific claims were made for Indigenous values against the criteria. However, Indigenous stories are associated with the place, and are considered below in criterion (i).
 
Criterion (a)
The place has outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place’s importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia’s natural or cultural history
 
Much of the Earth's species diversity is concentrated into a few relatively small areas. Thirty-four regions have been internationally identified as ‘biodiversity hotspots’, which together cover only 1.4 per cent of the Earth's land surface but contain nearly half of all plant species and a third of all terrestrial vertebrate species. These ‘biodiversity hotspots’ are based on the richness of species and on the occurrence of endemic species per area. The south-west of Western Australia, which is renowned throughout Australia and internationally for its species diversity and endemism, is one of these regions, and to date the only one in Australia (Myers et al. 2000; Mittermeier et al. 2004). The region has an estimated 8,000 plant species, and of these, at least 75 per cent are endemic (Hopper 1992, Hopper et al. 1996).
 
The South-West Botanical Province is one of only five ‘hotspots’ with Mediterranean-type ecosystems in the world, and rivals the exceptional species diversity found in the Cape Floristic region of South Africa, the California Floristic province of North America, and the Mediterranean Basin of Europe. Of more than 5,570 vascular plant species found here, nearly 2,950 are endemic (about 53 per cent). Impressive plant endemism in south-west Australia is attributed to millions of years of isolation from the rest of Australia by the country's vast central deserts. Extreme climate shifts and poor soils have also promoted specialisation of the region's flora.
 
The south-west hot spot incorporates the Porongurup National Park, as well as a number of other national parks including the larger Stirling Range National Park which is listed in the National Heritage List under criterion (a), and is located immediately to the north, the Fitzgerald River National Park in the south-east of the region and the Lesueur National Park north of Perth (which are both under assessment for the National Heritage List).
 
Flora:
 
Porongurup National Park constitutes a major centre of plant species richness, having one of the richest concentrations of plant species in Australia with more than 700 native plant species within the park of 2,621 hectares. This compares well with Stirling Range National Park, an area of 115,000 hectares which has about 1,500 plant species recorded. Stirling Range National Park is more than 43 times the size, with just over double the number of plant species, and is considered to be an important remnant, recognised for its richness and endemism of plant species (Comer et al. 2001, Hopper et al 1996). The only other areas in Australia apart from a few select sites in the south-west that have comparable species richness and endemics, include an area in the wet tropics near Cairns, and an area on the border between NSW and Queensland.
 
A great diversity of plant species occurs in the park, due to the topographic diversity and range of microhabitats. An analysis was done using the Australian Natural Heritage Assessment Tool (ANHAT). In this analysis, the Mount Barker mapsheet, which encompasses the boundary of the Porongurup National Park, falls within the top one per cent of all 1:100 000 mapsheets across Australia for species richness and endemism for a number of plant families and genera. As not all plant families can be analysed in ANHAT, and as the Porongurup National Park is considerably smaller than the Mt Barker mapsheet, the analysis was complemented by using a full plant species list for the park (Keighery 1999, ANHAT 2007). The Porongurup National Park is the largest reserve on the Mt Barker mapsheet.
The Mt Barker area ranks exceptionally high for both richness and endemism values of vascular plants in general (ANHAT 2008). It ranks fourth in the country for Streptobionta (vascular plant) richness, behind the Swan coastal plain and Perth area. It is also among the top nine mapsheets in the country for vascular plant richness and endemism, rivalling the area around Stirling Ranges and Albany, an area of the wet tropics adjacent to Cairns in Queensland, around the Swan coastal plain and Perth, and an area around Lesueur National Park to the north of Perth. Effectively, along with the Stirling Range and Albany area, it is in one of the four major nodes of plant richness and endemism in the country.
 
Porongurup National Park is important for its endemism and richness in a wide array of plant species including heaths (Epacridaceae) especially beard-heaths (Leucopogon); peas (Fabaceae) notably flame-peas (Chorizema) and also bitter-peas (Daviesia and Bossiaea), and poison-peas (Gastrolobium); native myrtles (Myrtaceae); pimeleas (Thymelaeaceae), notably rice flowers (Pimelea); sundews and pitcher plants (Nepenthales); bloodroots, conostyles, kangaroo paws and their allies (Haemodorales); and banksias and grevilleas (Proteales). It is also important for richness in lilies, orchids and allies (Liliales), notably native lilies (Anthericaceae), irises and allies (Iridaceae), orchids (Orchidaceae), and flax-lilies and allies (Phormiaceae) (ANHAT 2008, Keighery 1999).
 
Invertebrates:
 
At various times the Porongurup Range has been isolated as a true island, most recently during the Eocene period (55 million years ago) when the sea reached as far as the Stirling Range (Olver 1998). The Porongurup Range has acted as a refuge to invertebrate species, and many of the species here are recognised as Gondwanan, such as species of spiders, insects and land snails, which are more closely related to groups in mountainous areas of eastern Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and other Gondwanan continents, than to the surrounding lowlands in the region (Olver 1998). Species from wetter Gondwanan times have been able to survive here in part because the moist granite outcrops provide an ideal refuge environment.
 
The ANHAT analysis (2008) indicates that the Porongurup National Park is significant at a national scale (it is amongst the top 1 per cent of places around Australia) for endemism and richness in spiders, in particular primitive trapdoor spiders (Mygalomorphae), including trapdoor spiders (Idiopidae) brushless-legged trapdoor spiders (Migidae), two-doored trapdoor spiders (Actinopodidae), and funnel-web spiders (Nemesiidae). These have a Gondwanan distribution, for example genera of the Migidae family have a restricted distribution in Australia, but are also found in southern Africa, and are thought to be a relict of Jurassic times when Africa was joined to Australia 140 million years ago (Main 1993). As a further comparison, in a survey of spiders in mountainous areas of the south west of Western Australia (Barrett 1996), the Porongurup Range was found to have the greatest species richness and the greatest abundance of spiders, and rivals the Stirling Range National Park, which is also recognised for its diversity and endemism of spiders.
 
A further analysis (ANHAT 2008) shows that the Mount Barker mapsheet is one of the richest places in Australia for land snails, particularly for species within the Bulimulidae family, which represents one of the dominant land snail and slug families in Australia. The richness of land snails is significant not only in itself, but because land snails have been demonstrated as an indicator species of areas of moist refugia over long periods, in addition to being indicative for areas that are significant for narrow range endemic invertebrates. These land snails have strong Gondwanan affinities. However, there is not enough evidence to determine whether the land snail richness of the mapsheet is reflected within the boundary of the Porongurup National Park. For other fauna, the Porongurup National Park was not found to be more than of regional or state-level significance.
 
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