How you can help: You can encourage others to ‘do the right thing’ in our national parks and reserves. Please report any illegal activities in national parks and reserves to police or the nearest Parks and Wildlife Service Office.
Unmanageable wildfires are probably the greatest realistic threat that could cause rapid, large-scale major ecological impacts to the World Heritage Area. In addition, inappropriate fire regimes (e.g. fires being too frequent, too infrequent, or too hot etc) can cause significant long-term changes to the nature and extent of vegetation communities, as well as giving rise to serious risks to public safety, built assets, and adjacent lands. The frequency and intensity of wild fires, especially the risk of unmanageable ‘landscape-scale fires’, is likely to increase as a result of human-induced climate change.
What is being done to manage wildfires? The majority of the WHA has been declared a ‘Fuel Stove Only Area’ to reduce the risk of escaped campfires. Fire management plans are prepared and implemented to manage risk factors so as to avoid the occurrence of unmanageable wildfires and achieve appropriate fire regimes for desired ecological and other outcomes (e.g. public safety). As yet, our knowledge of fire regimes, their consequences, and their management is rudimentary and there are risks associated with either action or inaction. Research is being undertaken to increase our knowledge about appropriate fire regimes for the World Heritage Area.
How you can help: Use a fuel stove (e.g. a Trangia) when you are in the Tasmanian bush. If you want to have an open fire, use only designated fireplaces and make sure you totally extinguish any embers when you leave. Report any wildfires or unlawful lighting of fires in national parks or reserves to the local Parks and Wildlife Service office or to the Tasmania Fire Service (phone 000).
Drought and human-induced climate change
The effects of climate change and sea level rise may be slow and difficult to identify with certainty but potential changes include the degradation and loss of alpine environments and associated communities (alpine communities contain many endemic species) which are limited in distribution in Australia; increased coastal erosion through rising sea levels (with associated loss of significant coastal Aboriginal midden sites); alteration to natural rates and magnitudes of change in the region’s drainage system and alteration in the erosive potential of the area’s rivers and streams. Over the past decade, there has been a widespread lack of regeneration of the fire-sensitive endemic pencil pine (Athrotaxis cupressoides) within the coniferous woodlands of the Central Plateau. In addition, throughout Tasmania (including the World Heritage Area) there has been a decline in the health of eucalypt woodlands. Drought and/or global warming are considered possible causes for these observations. In addition, there appears to be some evidence that coastal dune systems (which are very sensitive to sea level change) are having foredunes truncated for the first time in the last 3,000 years. This may be a result of depleted sediment supply and/or a result of rising sea levels.
Devil Facial Tumour Disease
Since the mid-1990s, there has been a widespread outbreak of Devil Facial Tumour Disease in Tasmanian devil populations in the northern and eastern regions of Tasmania. Devils affected by the disease grow obvious facial cancers and die within about three to five months. Research findings suggest that the disease is an infectious cancer spread by physical contact between devils e.g. through fighting and biting.
What is being done to manage Devil Facial Tumour Disease? A major research program is underway to better understand the disease and its impacts. The findings will guide ongoing strategies for managing wild populations and captive devils.
How you can help: If you see a Tasmanian devil affected by Devil Facial Tumour Disease—especially if it’s in the southern or western regions of the state — please report your sighting to the Nature Conservation Branch of the Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) on telephone (03) 6233 6556. The DPIW Devil Facial Tumour website provides detailed instructions about information you could record and report in the event that you find a diseased animal. But please do not touch or handle dead or sick animals.
Another way of helping the fight against Devil Facial Tumour Disease is to donate funds to the Tasmanian Devil Disease Community Appeal. This appeal guarantees that all funds raised will be used for approved research projects. (The fund is administered under the auspices of the University of Tasmania Foundation – see DPIW DFT website.)
Plant diseases and dieback
Especially the root rot disease Phytophthora. Phytophthora cinnamomi is an introduced plant pathogen that causes root rot disease in susceptible plant communities. The disease is spread by water, with human activities accelerating the spread e.g. through the movement of infected soil. Walking boots and vehicle tyres are the main carriers.
What is being done to manage Phytophthora? Because there is no effective method for the broad-scale control or eradication of Phytophthora root rot disease, management is focused on preventing the spread of the disease. Wash-down stations are installed on some walking tracks to try to stop the disease spreading into catchments that are not already infected. Hygiene procedures are required for all aircraft accessing remote areas of the WHA e.g. for track work and other management activities. Research and monitoring programs are contributing to our knowledge about the disease and its management. Public education programs and brochures assist in increasing public awareness of the disease and how to reduce the spread of the disease.
How you can help: Keep your vehicles and bushwalking gear as clean as possible. This includes tent floors, ten pegs, boots, wheels – in fact anything that comes in contact with the soil. This minimises the spread of infected soil from one location to another, and reduces the risk of spreading disease. Please use any wash-down stations that you come across and encourage others to do so too. For more information see our Essential Bushwalking Guide.
Especially marram grass, sea spurge, Spanish heath, gorse, ragwort, broom, blackberries, Canadian pond weed and holly.
What is being done to manage weeds? Weed eradication and management strategies are progressively being developed and implemented, especially for high-risk weeds such as seaspurge and marram grass. A collaborative regional approach across all land tenures is increasingly being used to address weed management issues, e.g. the highly successful West Coast Weed and Fire Strategy. Monitoring and mapping are used to detect new incursions of weeds and to track management progress and achievements.
How you can help: Join a volunteer group such as Conservation Volunteers Australia or get involved with volunteering and community partnerships through the Parks and Wildlife Service
Already established introduced species in the WHA include trout, starlings, goats, rabbits, wasps and bumblebees. Potential new establishments in the WHA include the European red fox, red fin perch, carp and Mesopotamia deer.
What is being done to manage introduced animals? The most effective management strategy is to prevent new non-native (‘exotic’) animals from being introduced into Tasmania in the first place. Once an animal has become established, it is notoriously difficult to remove it. Quarantine services play a vital role in preventing new introductions.
A major effort is currently underway to eradicate European red foxes from Tasmania and restore the State’s former fox-free status. If foxes become properly established in Tasmania, they are expected to have very serious consequences for many species of Tasmania’s native fauna, especially on the small mammals and bird species that are now either absent or virtually absent from mainland Australia due to predation by foxes. Whilst there is no evidence to date that foxes have reached the World Heritage Area, the establishment of foxes in Tasmania poses a very serious threat to the natural heritage of the whole state.
How you can help: The first step is to know which animals are native to Tasmania and which ones are introduced or feral. (See DPIW web site for details). You can also help raise community awareness of the risks of introducing non-native animals into Tasmania or of spreading introduced animals into new areas – for example, some people have unwittingly degraded the ecological integrity of some aquatic ecosystems within the World Heritage Area by unlawfully releasing trout into natural ‘trout-free’ waterways. Please report any illegal activities in national parks or reserves to the nearest Parks and Wildlife Service Office. If you see a fox in Tasmania, please immediately report the sighting to the Fox Free Tasmania Taskforce by phoning 1300 FOX OUT (1300 369 688). For more information on foxes see the DPIW web site.
Increasing tourism and visitor activities and use
Especially ecologically unsustainable levels or types of use. The number of visitors to the World Heritage Area has grown strongly over the past decade and the level of tourism development within and adjacent to the World Heritage Area has also increased. While tourism is an important component of the state’s economic future, a key issue for management of the WHA is how increasing tourism and visitation can be managed in ways that are ecologically sustainable, and that do not degrade the area’s special natural and cultural heritage values. Below are some examples of how tourism and visitor activities and use in the WHA are being carefully managed and monitored to achieve sensitive and sustainable use.
As the number of walkers in the WHA increases, a variety of environmental and social impacts can arise. These include track erosion, braiding, damage to sensitive vegetation communities, as well as social impacts such as visitors feeling the place is becoming too crowded.
What is being done to manage walker impacts? Many badly degraded and actively eroding walking tracks throughout the WHA have been stabilised, and many walking tracks in high-use visitor areas (as well as some back-country camping sites) have been ‘hardened’ to withstand high levels of visitor use. A sound scientific base of knowledge has been established to guide management towards sustainable environmental management of the entire 1000 km of the WHA walking track network. An Overland Track booking system was introduced to sustainably manage visitor numbers on this popular long-distance walking track through the WHA. A plan of management for the walk has also been prepared to guide the ongoing sensitive management of this iconic walk.
How you can help: Get a copy of the leave no trace guidelines. Being familiar with these practices will help you minimise your impacts on the environment and leave as little trace of your visit as possible, Share these tips with others and encourage everyone to ‘do the right thing’ in our national parks and reserves.
Riverbank erosion on the lower Gordon River
Wake waves from vessels (especially commercial cruise boats) can cause erosion of the riverbanks.
What is being done to manage riverbank erosion? A variety of measures have been introduced to address this issue. Some areas of the lower Gordon River were closed to commercial vessels; speed limits and licence conditions were introduced to reduce wake sizes. Research and monitoring has demonstrated the success of these management actions in halting erosion in some areas of the river and dramatically reducing the rates of erosion in other areas. Ongoing management is kept under review and adjusted as necessary in light of the findings of monitoring.
How you can help: If you are a boat owner, you can learn how to recognise riverbanks that are vulnerable to boat wake erosion and how to minimise your boat’s impact on fragile riverbanks. A guide to help boaters, Wake Up? Slow Down!, is available from the Department of Primary Industries and Water web site. Other ways in which you can help protect marine environments is provided in Information produced for yacht and boat users which identifies recommended anchorages and gives advice on speed limits, effluent disposal and other measures you can take to help protect the natural environment.
New or emerging threats associated with increasing visitation to the WHA include which require careful management include:
- Increasing mechanised access to remote areas of the WHA, e.g. all terrain vehicles (ATV’s) and quad bikes south of Macquarie Harbour and along coastal regions, and increasing use of boats and aircraft flights to access remote areas. Potential impacts include spread of Phytophthora root rot disease and disturbance of coastal Aboriginal heritage sites.
- Cruise ships, boating and diving activities in Port Davey–Bathurst Harbour. Bathurst Channel supports a unique underwater community of fragile and sensitive species which are vulnerable to disturbance from boat anchors, ship motors, and divers, as well as to increased nutrient levels. Information produced for yacht and boat users identifies recommended anchorages and gives advice for boating visitors on speed limits, effluent disposal and other measures that they can take to help protect the environment.
Development of new facilities and other infrastructure
Construction of new developments can involve the removal of vegetation, habitat and/or changes in human use which can cause direct and/or indirect impacts to reserve values.
What is being done to manage new development? A general strategy applies to the whole World Heritage Area that where facilities and other infrastructure can be located outside the WHA, they will be. This strategy helps to maintain the wilderness quality of the WHA. Any new proposals for development inside the WHA are assessed through the new proposals and impact assessment process (set out in the WHA management plan). Any major facilities inside the WHA must be consistent with the WHA management plan and the relevant site plan.
How you can help: Get involved in the management planning process for the World Heritage Area. The management plan is reviewed every 5 years, and you can contribute to the public consultation process. To find out more, go to the WHA Plan Review.
Wind and wave erosion along Tasmania’s coastline has resulted in the loss of some coastal Aboriginal heritage sites in the southwest. While much of this erosion is due to natural processes, dune blowouts can also be initiated or made worse by human disturbance e.g. by camping, quad bike use, and fires. Climate change predictions also foreshadow sea level rises which would see an increase in the rate of coastal erosion.
What is being done to manage coastal erosion? Several major conservation projects have been carried out to stabilise eroding Aboriginal midden sites along the southwest coast. This has achieved the successful conservation of a number of large midden sites.
How you can help: Be aware that some recreational activities (such as camping, quad bike use and fires) can disturb and destabilise coastal dune vegetation cover and damage Aboriginal heritage sites. Please protect these sensitive environments and encourage everyone to minimise their impacts in coastal environments.
Lack of maintenance or active conservation of historic heritage
(such as historic huts and significant sites).
What is being done to manage this threat? Conservation assessments, plans and maintenance schedules are being developed and put in place. A Community Huts Partnership Program fosters community participation and partnership in the care of historic public huts.
How you can help: Get involved with volunteering and community partnerships with the Parks and Wildlife Service. For more information go to our volunteer pages.
Regulation of river flows by hydroelectric power generating operations
has been associated with unnatural erosion of lake and river banks, and changes to the hydrologically significant ‘meromictic’ lakes adjacent to the Gordon River. Changes to flow regimes in the Gordon River under Basslink hydro power generation operations require careful management to minimise potential impacts.