Reaching from central coastal New South Wales into southeast Queensland, the Eastern Australian Temperate Forests ecoregion encompasses a vast variety of substrates, microclimates, and vegetation communities. Eucalypt forests interspersed with patches of rainforest extend through much of the ecoregion, with heath and associated sandplain vegetation near the coast. The region contains three areas recognized internationally because of their biodiversity and landscape values. They include two centres of plant endemism, the sandstone area around Sydney and the Border Ranges, including the volcanic landscape of the Mt Warning Shield.
The climate in the coastal regions is humid, with high rainfall (1200 mm to1600 mm per annum). Temperate eucalypt forest dominates most of the region. Eucalypt communities along the coast are normally tall ‘wet’ forests, ranging from 30 percent to 70 percent closed canopy cover.
Littoral rainforest is a coastal rainforest. It is a distinct type of rainforest that is well suited to living in the harsh salt laden and drying wind conditions on the coast. It is now estimated that a majority of the littoral rainforest, which was in NSW 200 years ago, has been destroyed or severely degraded. Clearing, development and sand mining have attributed to this. This has led to the requirement to protect the remaining stands of littoral rainforest.
Littoral rainforests occur on sand dunes and soils derived from underlying rocks. Littoral rainforest generally occurs where protection is afforded from the direct coastal winds and they can be found in dune swales and behind hind dunes and headlands. When located in areas such as exposed headlands and dunal areas they are usually displayed as wind pruned thickets. Littoral rainforests are usually found within two kilometres of the sea but can be found further inland where there is influence from the ocean.
Littoral Rainforest Common Tree Species
Littoral rainforest tree canopy species are dominated but not restricted to the Tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis anarcardioides) and the Guioa (Guioa semiglauca). Many other trees species are found within littoral rainforests in the Ballina Shire. These can include the Lilly Pilly (Acmena smithii), Beach Alectyron (Alectyron coriaceus), Coogera (Arytera divaricata), Red Kamala (Mallotus philippensis), Hard Quandong (Elaeocarpus obovatus) and the Three-Veined Cryptocarya (Cryptocarya triplinervis).
Protection of Littoral Rainforests
Major threatening processes are continuing clearing and fragmentation of native vegetation, introduced species, and altered fire regimes. Water pollution and schemes for water use are also threats. Coastal development in New South Wales has greatly intensified over the last 20 years, and nearly the entire coastline is inhabited. Coastal development in southeastern Queensland has continued at a similar pace, with all coastal lowland vegetation affected by rapid urban expansion One study found that a third of all bushland cover in coastal southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales had been lost.
Even within protected areas, there are a number of threats to native flora and fauna, including trampling by tourists, altered fire regimes, problems of sewage disposal, and the continued spread of weeds and exotic animals. Invasive plant species include privet, camphor laurel and Lantana
Due to the fragmented nature and conservation significance of the remaining littoral rainforests, legislative protection has been afforded to them through “State Environmental Planning Policy No 26 – Littoral Rainforests” and as a listed endangered ecological community under the “Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995”.