- Ecological significance of Brereton St Woodland (a small remnant of woodland which assists in the connection between Red Hill and the Hughes/Garran woodland). See report here.
- Conservation values of the Federal Golf Club lease. See report here.
This statement of significance was prepared by Dr Michael Mulvaney and is current to January 2013.
Red Hill contains one of the largest remaining remnants of its woodland type, anywhere. It supports one of the highest diversities of woodland plants recorded in South-eastern Australia, and is habitat for 32 threatened, rare or regionally uncommon plant, bird, bat, lizard or grasshopper species. It supports large populations of 13 of the threatened or uncommon species. It is a prominent wooded back-drop to the Parliamentary Triangle and contains historic red-flowering plantings, which Walter Burley Griffin directed to be planted to enhance Red Hill’s landscape value. Exposures of metamorphic hornfels and tonalite are a regionally significant examples of their type and an important educational feature
Full Statement of Significance
Red Hill supports one of the largest remaining remnants of endangered Yellow Box – Blakley’s Red Gum grassy woodland in Australia. This woodland type once covered over 25,000 square kilometres, in a belt stretching from Melbourne to South Queensland. Over 90% of this vegetation belt is now cleared (1).
The woodland on Red Hill is a component of the White Box – Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands, which was listed nationally as critically endangered on 17 May 2006 (2). Yellow Box – Red Gum Grassy Woodland has been listed as endangered in the ACT since 19 May 1997 (3).
Yellow-Box Red Gum woodland has been highly fragmented and generally exists as isolated patches smaller than 5ha in area (4). “In terms of size, connectivity, diversity and condition, the ACT remnants are exceptional, especially the presence of larger patches (over 100 ha) in good condition.” (5) There are no Yellow Box – Red Gum remnants greater than 100ha in Victoria or the Murray catchment of NSW (6), and there are no remnants of 200ha or greater in southern NSW (7). Remnants greater than 200ha are extremely rare. There are only four remnants left in Australia of 1000ha or more and all are in the ACT (8).
Red Hill supports a Yellow Box -Red Gum woodland of about 275ha. It is a vital component of the second largest Yellow Box -Red Gum woodland remnant in Australia that covers about 1,200ha from Red Hill to East O’Malley- Symonston-Mugga Lane and Callum Brae. Although Hindmarsh Drive will be a barrier to some species, most woodland plant and animal species will be able to disperse across this highway.
Because of its relatively large size and that much of the understorey is in good condition, Red Hill supports one of the highest native plant diversities recorded in a Yellow-Box – Red Gum woodland remnant anywhere in Australia. 196 native woodland species have been recorded on Red Hill.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service has a data-base of plant species records from about 800 grassy ecosystem (grassland + grassy woodland) sites across south-eastern NSW and the ACT. Fewer than 5% of these sites have a recorded plant diversity of over 100 species (9). It is relevant that remnants of particularly high quality have been targeted in the surveys.
Given the size and diversity of its endangered woodland it is not surprising that Red Hill supports important populations of many uncommon, rare or threatened species:
- Over 5,500 plants of the nationally endangered daisy the Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides) occur on Red Hill in five main locations. This is the third largest of the 13 known ACT populations of this species and the seventh largest of the 46 known national populations (10). Scattered over the Hill are about 500 plants of Swanson’s Silky Pea (Swainsonia sericea) which is listed as vulnerable in NSW (11) and is even rarer in the ACT (12).
- The ACT Flora and Fauna Committee has established a list of regionally rare species, protected under ACT legislation. Including Button Wrinklewort and Swanson’s Silky Pea, 17 of the rare species occur on Red Hill. In a regional context Red Hill contains major populations of Yellow Burr Daisy (Calotis lappulacea), Smooth flax-Lily (Dianella longifolia spp longifolia), Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata), Tick Bush (Indigofera adesmiifolia), Austral Trefoil (sub-shrub with sweet-pea like flowers Lotus australis), Bristly Cloak Fern (Cheilanthes distans) and Sickle Fern (Pellea falcate). Red Hill supports smaller populations of the rare Large Tick-trefoil (Desmodium brachypodum, a large clover like plant with small pink pea flowers arranged on a long spike), Yam Daisy(Microseris lanceolata), a fireweed (Senecio hispidus),Notched Swainson-pea (Swainsona monticola), Bunch Grass (Aristida behriana), Berry Saltbush (Einadia hastate),Narrow Plantain (Plantago gaudichaudii) and Five Corners (Styphelia trifolia). Sixty-seven of the plant species on Red Hill, which equates to a third of all plant species present, are considered by the Commonwealth to be important species within the Yellow Box – Red Gum woodland ecological community (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2006) Species list for the EPBC Act policy statement – White box – yellow box – Blakely’s red gum grassy woodlands and derived native grasslands – last updated 22 May 2006). Rehwinkel (2007) established a list of highly significant species, which are the rarest species within several hundred woodland and grassland remnants surveyed within the ACT and surrounding NSW. Eighty-eight of these species occur on Red Hill (Rehwinkel R. (2007) A Method to Assess Grassy Ecosystems Sites: Using floristic information to assess a site’s quality. NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change), thus around 40% of the plant species that occur on Red Hill are regarded as regionally significant.
- · The invertebrate fauna of Red Hill is yet to be surveyed, but as a large woodland patch it is likely that Red Hill would support populations of invertebrate species of conservation significance. On 22 October 2006 three females of the threatened flightless Perunga Grasshopper (Perunga ochracea), were observed near Davidson’s Trig. This grasshopper has an X across its back, blue “shoe” colouring at the extremity of its feet and reduced wings. The Grasshopper was previously observed in the early 1990s, behind Calthorpe’s House, and in 2008 on the slope above the Golf Course Road (18).
- Red Hill is known habitat to many threatened, declining or regionally uncommon woodland birds. However Red Hill’s woodland bird population is in decline, species that were abundant 25 years ago are now rare. The decline is probably due to several factors including: the general decline of woodland birds across south-eastern Australia; the reduction of a woody weed cover from 20% to under 5%, underscrubbing of eucalypt and wattle regrowth because of increasing fire protection requirements and loss of the key breeding habitat for the remnant with the building of housing adjacent to creek-lining woodland at East O’Malley. Nevertheless, there are a few woodland bird species that maintain a large population on Red Hill, several significant species continue to breed sporadically on the Hill, while, given its relatively large size and connectivity, Red Hill may be important to the recovery of woodland birds in the ACT.
- Since 1997 regular surveying has indicated that Red Hill maintains a steady population of 12-14 family groups of the Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata), with annual breeding events. This bird is listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW (14). Monitoring of woodland sites within the ACT (including Red Hill), by the Canberra Ornithologist Group indicates an increase of this bird in woodland remnants in ACT, however it is still regarded as an uncommon though widespread species.
- The ACT is a stronghold for the Gang Gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) which breeds on Red Hill. Outside of the ACT the Gang Gang has suffered a 44% reduction in reporting rate over the last 20 years and is listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW (14). There are at least six nesting trees within the Red Hill woodland, all which appear to be utilised each year.
- The ACT is also a regional stronghold of the Scarlet Robin (Petroica multicolor) and Flame Robin (Petroica phoenicea), both of which are listed as vulnerable in NSW. From April to June the Scarlet Robin is a regular visitor to the Hill, while the Flame Robin is an occasional visitor.
- Several birds listed as threatened in the ACT occasionally breed on the hill. These include the Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) which bred in 2009 in vegetation on edge of the Golf Club and the White-winged Triller (Lalage sueurii), Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata) both of which were last recorded as breeding at East O’Malley in the spring before this area was developed. Both have in earlier times bred elsewhere on the Hill. A pair of Little Eagles (Hieraaetus morphnoide) regularly bred in a nest tree at East O’Malley and foraged over Red Hill, most days. Since the development of East O’Malley, only a lone individual bird is occasionally sighted on Red Hill. The Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), a small black cockatoo with red tail feathers, is listed in vulnerable in NSW and has been recommended for vunerable listing in the ACT. This cockatoo is an occasional visitor that feeds on the Hill’s Casuarina cones.
- There are a further five woodland birds that are considered by the Canberra Ornithologists Group as rare or uncommon in the ACT region and which occasionally breed on Red Hill. These species are Painted Button Quail (Turnix varia – young birds observed in 2006 and 2007 near lookout summit), Double-barred Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii -nest observed in 2008), Dollar Bird (Eurystomus orientalis – dependent young observed 2007), White-browed Woodswallow (Artamus personatus – courtship display observed 2009) and Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala lucopsis – nest building observed in 2009).
- Most of Red Hill is composed of metamorphic rock, but Silurian volcanic rocks outcrop behind Garran in the south-west of the Nature Park. The nationally vulnerable and aptly named Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) has twice been recorded under Red Hill’s volcanic rocks. This legless lizard feeds on ants and moves through their burrows. It is rarely seen and even in known habitat many hundreds of rocks have to be overturned to locate it. Red Hill is likely to support a viable but small population of this lizard (17).
The red soil of Red Hill is caused by weathering of rocks called hornfels. Hornfels are created when sedimentary rock is metamorphosed, without melting, by contact with very hot, molten rock. Red Hill contains some of the best exposures of hornfels in the region and is an important geological education site (20). The best examples of hornfels on Red Hill are the hard rock outcrops between the summit restaurant and the golf course access road, in the old quarry 50m south-west of the restaurant and rock outcrops above Strickland Street, Deakin. A boulder of Tonalite, volcanic rock formed deep under the ground, is exposed above the Golf Club Road and is a regionally important example of its type.
Hornfels is a hard rock and very weathering resistant. This explains why Red Hill remains as a fairly flat and long ridge rising above surrounding plains. In designing Canberra, Walter Burley Griffith saw Red Hill as an important landscape element, with the prominent ridge-line forming the backdrop to the Parliamentary Triangle.
Ninety year old plantings on Red Hill are another important association with Walter Burley Griffin and also with the ACT’s first Government Nursery Chief, Charles Weston. By the end of the nineteenth century much of the higher vegetation on Red Hill had been cleared. Burley Griffin called for replanting and the cessation of grazing. Grazing continued until 1997, but plantings occurred from 1917 until the early 1920s. Burley Griffin’s replanting schemes for Canberra’s hills had different coloured shrubs on each of the hills. Mt Ainslie was to be pink, Mt Pleasant white and of course Red Hill was to be planted with red flowering plants. About 5,000 plants of Callistemon citrinus (Crimson Bottlebrush) and Grevillea rosmarinifolia (Rosemary Grevillea) were planted under Weston’s direction. The Bottlebrush were planted in rows just to the east of the kiosk. The original plantings can still be observed as bottlebrush is able to resprout following fire. The Grevillea was planted adjacent to the summit road, just above the Golf Course road junction. Grevilleas are killed by fire, but the plantings have set seed so that these red flowering plants also remain on Red Hill.
1. Listing advice for White Box – Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands – 2006, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts p9
4. Gibbons P. and Boak M. (2000) The Importance of Paddock Trees for Conservation in Agricultural Landscapes. A discussion paper for consideration by the Riverina Highlands Regional Vegetation Committee. (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service).
5. Listing advice for White Box – Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands – 2006, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, p.5
6. Davidon I. Woodland Management Notes for the Murray Catchment. NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, 2005 and the nomination document of Yellow Box Red Gum woodland for listing as an endangered ecological community.
7. Rainer Rehwinkel, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Grassy Ecosystems research Officer, Personal Communication, 2006.
8. ACT Government 2004 Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy. Action Plan No. 27. (Environment ACT, Canberra), Chapter 5.
9. Rainer Rehwinkel, NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Grassy Ecosystems research Officer, Personal Communication, 2006.
10. Population number from 2012 count of this endangered daisy on Red Hill. Counts of other populations are available in the Recovery Plan for the species prepared by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (2010).
12.Crawford I. (1995). Rare or Threatened Vascular Plants in the ACT Region. Unpublished report for Parks, Conservation and Lands.
13.Ibid and see note 7
17. Reid J.R.W. (1999) Threatened and Declining Birds of the NSW Sheep-Wheat Belt. A report to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
18. Osborne W. and Jones S. (1995) Recovery Plan for the Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella). ACT Parks and Conservation Service Technical Report 10. Note: This lizard was also sighted during an activity of Red Hill Regenerators in 1999.
19. The Grasshoppers were observed during weeding activities of Red Hill Regenerators, photographs were taken during the 2006 observation and the identity of the grasshopper confirmed by Environment ACT.
20. Owen M. 1987. Geological monuments in the Australian Capital Territory. Australian Heritage Commission.