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Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy

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Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

Cape York Peninsula Land Use Strategy
Abrahams, H., Mulvaney, M., Glasco, D., & Bugg, A.
Office of the Co-ordinator General of Queensland
Australian Heritage Commission, March 1995


Areas of Conservation Significance on Cape York Peninsula

Part C - Conservation Values that are Species Specific or Point Location Based

16.0 Areas of biogeographic and evolutionary significance

Sub-criterion A1 (significance for demonstrating importance in the evolution of Australian flora, fauna landscapes or climate) has been assessed by considering a number of biogeographic attributes of the Peninsula that illustrate important components of the evolutionary history of the region. Gondwanic affinity, endemism and links with the environments of New Guinea have been considered. The assessment has identified plants and animal species that are of biogeographic or evolutionary significance and then determined areas on the Peninsula where these species are concentrated.

16.1 The Gondwanic Element

Permian plant fossils in the Cooktown and Little River areas indicate that about 250 million years ago there was a Glossopteris forest on at least part of Cape York Peninsula (Bultitude et al 1991, White 1961). Similar fossils occur across Australia and the southern continents, which at that time were joined together to form the super continent Gondwana. By about 50 million years ago all connections with the other southern continents were severed as Australia drifted north towards the Asian continental plate. During this time Australia became more arid and an autochthonous (or indigenous) element of the Australian biota (derived from the Gondwanic stock) evolved with the changing conditions.

Although Glossopteris is now extinct, a relic gondwanic element has persisted in the Australian biota. This element is typified by taxa that are generally confined to moist, cool closed forests, have not greatly diversified into genera or species, and which have close relatives in other southern lands, such as New Zealand, South America or New Caledonia.

Within the CYPLUS study area there are at least 104 plant species (Appendix 6) that belong to the relict Gondwanic element, and which also have a location recorded within the CYPLUS flora data set of Cofinas et al (1994). Gondwanic species were identified by reference to Barlow (1981), Rainforest Conservation Society (1984), Keto and Scott (1989), Clifford and Simon (1981), Page and Clifford (1981) and Hoogland (1972). Species belonging to this element include 95 species which are members of primitive angiosperm families (Annonaceae 11, Eupomatiaceae 2, Hernandiaceae 3, Lauraceae 57 - not including Litsea or Cinnamomum, Monimiaceae 15, Myristicaceae 3, Winteraceae 2, Austrobaileyaceae 1, Himantandraceae 1). Other relic plants include orchids belonging to the Arthrochilus, Corybas and Calochilus genera, members of the Araucariaceae and Podocarpaceae families, and members of the Proteaceae genera Carnarvonia and Placospermum.

Species considered to belong to the ancient Gondwanic element are distributed across Cape York Peninsula (Figure 16.1) but are concentrated in areas of rainforest, particularly the Wet Tropical Forests in the south-east and in the McIlwraith Range area (Appendix 8). The Wet Tropical Forests within the CYPLUS area are the northern most part of a forest type that is of international significance as the habitat of numerous relic species that provide understanding on the origin, evolution and dispersal of flowering plants (Rainforest Conservation Society 1984). There are nineteen families of primitive angiosperms remaining worldwide; of these, thirteen occur within the Wet Tropics area, (ten within the CYPLUS area). Thirteen of the relic plant species within the CYPLUS area only occur within the Wet Tropical Forests, including all of the Austrobaileyaceae, Himantandraceae and primitive Proteaceae. There are also several relic and primitive vertebrate species which are only found within the south-east of the CYPLUS study area, including the frogs Taudactylus acutirostris, Litoria nannotis, and Litoria rheocola, and Bennett's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus).

The McIlwraith Range area contains an important northern extension of the Gondwanic element, with several relic species having disjunct populations in the area. Relic species that occur both in the McIlwraith and Wet Tropical Forests include the plants Bubbia semecarpoides, Podocarpus elatus, and Corynocarpus cribbianus. The area also contains several endemic and primitive plant species or subspecies, including Rhodamnia sp. aff blairiana, Beilschmiedia sp. "McIlwraith Range", three microhylid frogs and a primitive gecko (Keto & Scott 1989).

Vegetation classes on Cape York Peninsula that are important habitat for Gondwanic plant species can be identified through interrogation of the CORVEG database of Neldner and Clarkson (1994). This data-base contains species lists for 1844 sites on the Peninsula. Forty-five species that belong to the Gondwanic element were recorded at the CORVEG sites. Vegetation classes with a richness of Gondwanic species include:

The distribution of these classes on the Peninsula is shown on Figure 16.2, while the number of Gondwanic species recorded for each vegetation class is given in Appendix 9.

Outside the McIlwraith and Wet Tropics area, Lydia and Andoom Creeks have evolutionary significance as the habitat of Austrobates rivularis, considered to be a relic line of water strider and a "missing link" between water striders living in freshwater and seawater. The insect allows some understanding of the evolution of sea skaters, the only truly oceanic insects.

16.2 The Intrusive Element

About 15 million years ago Australia collided with the Sundaland plate, allowing an intrusive (largely Indo-Malay) element into the Australian flora. As the vegetation of the Indo-Malay area has largely been rainforest since the time of the collision, much of the intrusive element is comprised of a rainforest element, and is concentrated in Australian rainforests. There are at least 103 plant taxa occurring on Cape York Peninsula which are considered to belong to the intrusive element and which also have a location recorded within the CYPLUS flora data set of Cofinas et al (1994) Appendix 6 lists the 103 plant species. Intrusive species were identified through reference to Barlow (1981), Rainforest Conservation Society (1984), Clifford and Simon (1981), Page and Clifford (1981) and Hoogland (1972). The distribution of these species on Cape York Peninsula is shown in Figure 16.3.

Although Lockerbie Scrub on the tip of Peninsula is the closest large Australian rainforest area to the Indo-Malay province, it does not support the largest number of species belonging to the intrusive element (Appendix 8). The mid-Peninsula rainforests are the area of highest concentration while the Wet Tropical Forests, within the CYPLUS study area, also support a relatively large number (53) of intrusive plant species. Climatic conditions have varied dramatically during the last 15 million years. It is considered that during extremely wet periods, rainforest would have extended over much of the east coast of Cape York Peninsula forming a belt almost continuous with that of New Guinea. However, during arid times the rainforest is thought to have contracted back to high mountain areas, with the McIlwraith range and the Wet Tropical Forests area being particularly important refugium (Kikkawa et al 1981).

Analysis of the distribution of the sixty-two intrusive species within the CORVEG database indicates that in addition to the mid-Peninsula rainforests and Lockerbie Scrub, the beach rainforests of the east coast also contain a richness in intrusive species. Semi-deciduous notophyll or mesophyll vine forest are particularly important habitat of intrusive species. In total five vegetation classes stand out as being particularly rich in intrusive species, when compared to all other vegetation classes on Cape York Peninsula. These classes, in order of richness are:

The distribution of these classes on the Peninsula is shown on Figure 16.4, while the number of intrusive species recorded for each vegetation class is given in Appendix 9.

Continental movement and changing climatic conditions also resulted in changing geography. The southern part of New Guinea has always been a part of the Australian continental plate. The collision of the plates resulted in the formation of high relatively young mountains in New Guinea (Galloway & Loffler 1972). These mountains have been a refuge and source of invasion and re-invasion into Australia of rainforest species of either a Gondwanic or Indo - Malayan origins (Barlow & Hyland 1988).

16.3 Extra-Continental Endemic Species

The link between the biota of Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea is well demonstrated by the plants and animals that have an Australian distribution limited to Cape York Peninsula, but which also occur in New Guinea (see Appendix 6 for a list of the plant species). These species are likely to be relatively recent arrivals to Australia. There are at least 21 plants species that fall into this category (Flora Malesenasia, P. Forster, A. Bean, and B. Simon (Queensland Herbarium, pers. comm. 1994). Nearly all of the plants have widespread distributions across the northern half of the Peninsula, with the greatest concentration of these species occurring in the mid-Peninsula rainforests (Appendix 8 - BVG 2).

There are 16 bird species which within Australia are restricted to Cape York Peninsula, but which also occur in New Guinea. These species have a similar distribution to that of the above plants. Thirteen of the species are only known from the northern half of the Peninsula, with their highest diversity occurring in the mid-Peninsula rainforests (Kikkawa 1993, Blakers et al 1984, Winter & Lethbridge 1994). The seven extra-continental mammal species also have a similar distribution. It is considered that the large dry and hot plains south of the McIlwraith Range have been a major obstacle to the spread of rainforest biota. Thus many species, particularly those of a New Guinea origin, reach their southern distribution limit in this area (Keto & Scott 1989, Kikkawa et al 1984, Barlow 1984), and the mid-Peninsula rainforests are of particular significance in demonstrating the relationship between intrusive New Guinean elements and the autochthonous Australian biota.

The fish species of the mid-Peninsula rainforests also have a strong affinity with New Guinea, though the strongest relationship is with the Jardine River where 63% of the fish species are common between the two countries (Herbert et al 1994). There is also a relatively large New Guinean element amongst the caddisfly (Trichoptera), mayfly (Ephemeroptera) and dragonfly (Odonata) faunas of the Jardine River system (Wells & Cartwright 1993).

These similarities in river fauna are thought to relate back to one or more periods of lower sea levels, when the rivers of southern New Guinea and the Gulf of Carpentaria all drained into a freshwater inland sea in what is now the Gulf of Carpentaria (Herbert et al 1994).

The rainforests of the northern Peninsula, particularly those at Lockerbie comprise a significant number of invertebrates that are shared with New Guinea. For example 84% of the butterfly species known from the Lockerbie Scrub also occur in New Guinea (Monteith 1974), including the only mainland Australian record of the Papua New Guinea Morphinae subfamily (Nymphalidae) (Valentine & Johnson 1995).

The twenty-two extra-continental amphibians and reptiles are not rainforest species and have a different distribution to that of the plants, birds and mammals. Instead, these species are widespread across the Peninsula, or are confined to the northern tip or nearby islands. Twelve of the fifteen species of frogs known from the heathlands area are also found in New Guinea (Cohen & Williams 1993), while thirty-two of the fifty-one reptiles are shared (Couper et al 1993). The heathlands is an area of high concentration for amphibians and reptiles that also occur in the New Guinea lowlands.

Although New Guinea and Australia have been broadly connected by land for much of the last 1 million years, the intrusion of species into Australia has been restricted by the general unsuitability of the dry climate of northern Cape York Peninsula for the biota of New Guinea, which has largely consisted of species adapted to rainforest and other wet habitats (Walker 1972).

Nevertheless, the biota of the northern half of Cape York Peninsula, particularly the Jardine River, Lockerbie and Iron Range - McIlwraith Range areas, are of significance because of their biogeographic and evolutionary relationships to New Guinea. Within Australia, this relationship is at its strongest on the Peninsula (Kikkawa et al 1981).

16.4 Extra-Continental Plant Species

The importance of rainforest, particularly that in the northern half of the Peninsula, in demonstrating biogeographic connections outside of Australia, is further highlighted by the distribution of all plant species on the Peninsula that also have a distribution outside of Australia. A list of extra-continental species on Cape York Peninsula was established by Neldner and Clarkson (1994) (see Appendix 6). As indicated in Figure 16.5 these species are widespread across the Peninsula. The CORVEG data-base contains distribution records of 223 native species that occur on Cape York Peninsula and also outside of Australia. The greatest species richness of these species is in the following habitats:

The distribution of these classes on the Peninsula is shown on Figure 16.6, while the number of extra-continental species recorded for each vegetation class is given in Appendix 9.

16.5 Endemic Species

Because each new species evolves in one particular, restricted area, its distribution may be limited by the barriers that surround its area of origin. Each such area will, therefore, contain organisms that are found there and nowhere else; these organisms are said to be endemic to that area.

The number of endemic species that an area contains will be influenced by the degree of physical and ecological boundaries (its isolation) and by its stability over time, as with time more and more organisms will evolve within an area (Cox & Moore, 1980). Thus isolated islands and mountain tops are frequently relatively rich in endemic species. In areas that have been isolated for a long time, species tend to become more and more different from their relatives in other areas, so that stable and well isolated areas tend to contain not only endemic species, but genera and in some cases whole families that only occur within that area.

Endemic species are of conservation significance because of their restricted distributions, and the understanding that they can provide to evolutionary and biogeographical processes. Areas with a high level of endemism, either in terms of numbers of taxa or the evolutionary distinctiveness of the taxa, are important components of a region's biodiversity.

16.5.1 Endemic plant species

Plant species endemic to Cape York Peninsula were determined through searching the following data-bases: the Census of Australian Vascular Plants, Queensland Vascular Plants, Flora of Australia, Mangrove Atlas, Northern Territory Herbarium Data, Australian-wide Rare and Threatened Plants, Australia-wide "landcover" data (Eucalyptus, Callitris, Acacia, Casuarina, Hakea, Melaleuca, Poaceae) and all Queensland Herbarium data from Census of Australian Vascular Plants regions 45 (Cook), 53 (North Kennedy) and 43 (Burke). This provided a list of plant species which within Australia have only been recorded in the CYPLUS study area (between longitudes 1460 E and 1410E and latitudes 16.50S and 9.50 S). Species with an extra-continental distribution were then removed from this list.

There are only three endemic genera and no endemic plant families on Cape York Peninsula. The endemic genera include Jedda (Thymelaeaceae), Normanbya (Arecaceae) and Wodyetia (Arecaceae). Jedda multicaulis is known only from the eastern edge of the Kimba Plateaux. Normanbya normanbyi is restricted to the wet tropics area, while Wodyetia bifurcata is restricted to the Melville Range - Bathurst Bay area. The restricted distribution and genetic isolation of these species means that all their habitat is of national conservation importance.

In total 264 plant species were identified as being endemic to Cape York Peninsula (See Appendix 6). In addition, there are probably something like 40 - 100 currently undescribed taxa which are probably endemic to the Peninsula, and several endemic species whose precise locations are unknown (partly after Cofinas et al 1994). Even allowing for undescribed and poorly recorded species, the number of endemics is not outstandingly high in a national comparison of similar sized areas. For example, there are at least 527 angiosperm species endemic to South-west Western Australia (Rye 1982). Nevertheless, Briggs and Leigh (1990) include Cape York Peninsula as one of five areas in Australia noted for their richness in endemic species. The other areas were the south-western province of W.A, northern Northern Territory, coastal regions of south Queensland and NSW, and highlands in south-east NSW and north-east Victoria. Certainly there are areas on Cape York Peninsula, such as the McIlwraith-Iron Range area, where the level of endemism at the species level is high in a national context.

It is also relevant that the level of endemism within Australia is considered to be high on a global scale (DEST 1994).

The distribution of endemic species within the broad vegetation groups found on the Peninsula is given in Appendix 10, while the broad distribution is shown on Figure 16.7. Appendix 10 was created through selecting the 169 851 plant record points from the ERIS specimen database held by ERIN, and then creating a point coverage of only those records of endemic species. This point coverage was then intersected with the polygon coverage for vegetation groups. It should be noted that the table was constructed using only the dominant vegetation group within a polygon, so that vegetation classes that occur in small patches (such as vine thickets) may have been grouped into an inappropriate BVG. Additionally BVG's with broad dominant distributions may have more endemic species allocated to them than actually is the case. Another problem with the data is that not all of the records within the ERIS database are as precise as the variation in vegetation group distribution that occurs on the Peninsula. For example, a record described at the accuracy of minutes of latitude and longitude may not reliably indicate a distribution within ridge-top or valley vegetation groups. Even so, the ERIS database does allow general conclusions to be made particularly for those groups that have a restricted distribution. Bearing the deficiencies of the data in mind, the vegetation groups supporting the largest number of endemic species are the closed-forests of the McIlwraith-Iron Range region (BVG2), Gallery closed-forests (BVG6) and woodlands and tall woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus tetrodonta on deeply weathered plateaus and remnants (BVG16). In terms of numbers of species per total area the Closed-forests of the Wet Tropics region (BVG1) and the eucalypt open-forests of the Wet Tropics region (BVG14) are the outstanding groups.

Information on the number of endemics recorded only from a particular BVG or for which only 5 or less records exist (rare endemics) is also provided in Appendix 10.

Although the area of Wet Tropics Forest in the CYPLUS study area is best viewed as the northern part of a much larger vegetation complex, there are at least 61 plant species within the Wet Tropic Forest that have not been recorded south of the 160 30 ' S latitude. In addition there are at least 10 species of plants that are endemic just to that part of the Wet Tropics Forest north of 160 30 'S. These are Endiandra monthryra, Endiandra bessaphila, Beilschmiedia collina, Cryptocarpa leucophyllus, Cryptocarpa bellendenk, Cryptocarpa corrugata, Endiandra wolfei, Endiandra leptodendra, Cryptocarpa angulata, and Cryptocarpa lividula. The frog Cophixalus exiguus is also a Wet Tropical Forests endemic species that is only known from within the CYPLUS study area (Nix & Switzer 1991).

The CORVEG data-base, where actual site records are tied to a particular vegetation class, does not have the deficiencies of the ERIS database, and although not as comprehensive as the ERIS data-base it provides the means by which habitats of particular importance to endemic species can be confirmed and identified. The CORVEG data-base provides distribution information on 100 of the plant species endemic to Cape York Peninsula. Vegetation communities particularly rich in these endemic species are all rain/vine forest communities. Thus it appears that it is the vine thicket patches within the northern Eucalyptus tetrodonta woodlands that are of importance to endemic species rather than the woodlands themselves.

Those vegetation classes that support particularly high levels of endemic species are, in order of species richness;

The distribution of these classes on the Peninsula is shown on Figure 16.8, while the number of endemic species recorded for each vegetation class is given in Appendix 9.

16.5.2 Endemic vertebrate species.

Winter and Lethbridge (1994) identify forty terrestrial vertebrate species that are endemic to Cape York Peninsula (Appendix 7). In addition to these species, Godman's Rock Wallaby (Petrogale godmani) is largely restricted to the CYPLUS area, but also occurs just outside the boundary in the Mt Carbine area, while an undescribed frog only known from Cape Melville is likely to be classified as an endemic species. The most important habitats for endemic vertebrate species are rainforest and boulder mountains and cliffs.

Eight endemic species are restricted to the boulder/cliff habitat. These species and their important habitat are:

In addition, Godman's Rock Wallaby is largely confined to the rock piles and cliffs of the south-eastern uplands. In contrast to animals, plant endemism is not high in the rocky outcrop habitat.

Ten species are confined to rainforest. The Cape York Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuaries occultus), Scrub Rocket Frog (Litoria longirostris), Cape York Nursery Frog (Cophixalus peninsularis) and the Northern Nursery Frog (Cophixalus crepitans) are known only above 500m on the McIlwraith Range. The Cinnamon Antechinus (Antechinus leo), a monitor (Varanus teriae), and three skinks (Cryptodactylus louisiandensis, Carlia coensis and Carlia rimula ) are confined to the McIlwraith - Iron Range area. The Cape York Melomys (Melomys capensis) is widespread in rainforests and vine thickets in the north of the Peninsula.

The skink Emoia longicauda is found mainly in rainforest edges, clearings, secondary regrowth and dense streamside vegetation in the north of the Peninsula and the islands of Torres Strait (Cogger 1992).

The burrowing skink, Anomalopus pluto is found in the extreme north-east of the Peninsula in open forests, monsoon forests and heaths and on the Glennie Tableland (Covacevich 1992).

The Cape Bedford - Cape Flattery dune fields are the only known habitat of the endemic skinks, Lerista ingrami and Ctenotus rawlinsoni. The dune field is also a habitat of the skink, Carlia dogare which is also known from Lizard Island.

Other endemic species with restricted distributions include: the skinks Lygisaurus tanneri and Ctenotus nullum which have distributions in the south east of the study area and the frog Cyclorana australis from grasslands in the Coen - Silver Plains area.

Figure 16.10 shows habitat of probable significance for endemic vertebrates. Actual locations of recorded occurrences are provided as a separate GIS coverage (Figure 16.9). Important habitat was identified through use of the CYPLUS geological coverage (Black Mountain, Cape Melville and Cape Bedford - Cape Flattery dune field), and the vegetation class coverage of Neldner and Clarkson (1994). All closed-forest, low closed forest and closed scrub of the McIlwraith Range has been included with in the coverage, which also includes all the vegetation class polygons in which Ctenotus quinkan, Carlia parrhasuus, Petrogale coenensis, Petrogale godmani, Emoia longicauda, Anomalopus pluto, Lygisaurus tanneri, Ctenotus nullum, or Cyclorana australis have been recorded. Thus Figure 16.10 generally plots the vegetation patches in which an endemic species has been recorded. A problem with this approach is that the accuracy of the recorded location (provided by the observer) may not be of high enough precision to be sure that the given location and hence vegetation polygon that it has been recorded at was in fact the place at which it was observed. This needs to be borne in mind when the endemic vertebrate coverage is being interpreted or interrogated.

16.5.3 Endemic invertebrate species.

The location of endemic invertebrates was determined through searching the records from the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) Database. This data-base included the records of the 22 505 identified insect specimens, collected on Cape York Peninsula as part of the CYPLUS project NR17. A selection was made of those species that are only recorded from north of 16 degrees 30'S on Cape York Peninsula. It was not possible to distinguish between those invertebrate species that are Australian endemics and those that also occur outside of Australia. Due to time constraints the search was limited to certain insect groups that were reasonably well represented in the data-base.

Endemic species identified (see Appendix 11) include five species of dragon and damselflies (Odonata), two stoneflies (Plecoptera), nine termites (Isoptera), forty-two grasshoppers and katydids (Orthoptera), twenty-three beetles (Coleoptera), fifty-nine moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) and fifty-five wasps (Hymenoptera). The list was checked by relevant experts of the Australian National Insect Collection. Dr S.P. Kim provided locational information on an additional list of 14 endemic flies (Diptera: Lauxaniidae), while Dr. T. Edwards provided locational information on an additional 49 Lepidoptera species.

Figure 16.11 plots the distribution of invertebrate endemic species. Areas in which endemic species are concentrated include the Mt Webb - Hopevale area, the vicinity of Coen, McIlwraith Range, Iron Range, Weipa, Batavia Downs, the Heathlands and Lockerbie - Somerset area. To a large extent this distribution mirrors collecting effort (see Zborowski et al 1994), though there are some well-collected areas such as sites at Split Rock (13 km south of Laura), Hann River and Rokeby Homestead which do not contain large concentrations of endemic insects. These last three areas are all woodlands in the southern half of the Peninsula.

Figure 16.12 plots those invertebrate endemic species that are only known from one or two records, while Figure 16.13 plots those endemic species that are only known from one location. Though further survey work will undoubtedly find other locations of some of these species, all of the recorded sites for these rare and endemic species should be considered as of conservation significance, until proven otherwise. Areas from where several rare and endemic insect species are known include Mt Webb, McIlwraith Range, Iron Range, the Heathlands, the Bamaga - Somerset area and the permanent insect trap sites of NR17 that are in the vicinity of Coen and Batavia Downs.

16.6 Disjunct Species

Disjunct species have widely separated populations. These disjunctions can be caused by events of long distance dispersal, but commonly represent remnant isolated populations of a once continuous population during different climatic and geographical situations.

Plant species with disjunct distributions on Cape York Peninsula were determined through searching the ERIS specimen database version 2.2 and two publications: - Hnatiuk R.J. (1990) Census of Australian Vascular Plants, AGPS Press; and Brock, J. (1988) Top End Native Plants.

At the time of assessment (Jan 1994), the ERIS database contained:

Species recorded within the Cook Region of CAVP, and not occurring within the adjoining areas of North Kennedy and Burke, but occurring in any other region of CAVP, were determined to have a disjunct distribution. This list was then checked against the CYPLUS flora data set of Cofinas et al. (1994). Expert comment was then sought on the accuracy of the list. The following people provided comment; Mr J. Clarkson, Mr P. Forster, Mr A. Bean, and Mr B. Simon (Queensland Herbarium), Mr C. Dunlop (NT Herbarium), Dr G. Hope (Australian National University), Mr L. Craven (Australian National Herbarium), Dr B. Jackes (James Cook University), and Mr P. Stanton (Qld National Parks and Wildlife Service).

One hundred and thirty four species with disjunct distributions were identified (Appendix 6). The majority of disjunctions (about 80%) occur across northern Australia. Most of the disjunct species have distributions within many of the broad vegetation groups, but as illustrated in Figure 16.14 do not tend to occur in the south-west and central Peninsula areas. The number of disjunct species in each broad vegetation group is given in Appendix 8. Those species with eastern Australian disjunctions are not concentrated in a particular broad vegetation group but do tend to occur on the eastern side of the Peninsula, outside of Eucalyptus tetrodonta and Eucalyptus hylandii woodlands.

The CORVEG database of Neldner and Clarkson (1994) contains distribution records of 81 species that have a disjunct distributions on Cape York Peninsula. About one third of all of the disjunct species have been recorded in the monsoon thickets of the Northern Territory (Liddle et al 1994) and it is the vine thickets on the Peninsula which have a richness in disjunct species. The greatest richness within a vegetation class is that of the evergreen to semi-deciduous notophyll vine forest of the east coast dominated by Syzygium spp., Terminalia spp. and Xanthostemon spp (Class 20 - 17 disjunct species). Drainage swamps dominated by Restio tetraphyllus subsp. meiostachyus +/- Leptocarpus spathaceus +/- Nepenthes mirabilis +/- Gahnia sieberiana are another class of significance for disjunct plant species, as five species are recorded only in this habitat, within the CORVEG database. The five species are Eleocharis ochrostachys, Fimbristylis lanceolata, Lycopodiella serpentina, Rhynchospora gracillima and Rhynchospora submarginata. A list of the number of disjunct species in each of the 201 vegetation classes is given in Appendix 9, while Figure 16.15 shows those vegetation classes with a significant richness of disjunct species.

There are only seven terrestrial vertebrate species with disjunct distributions on the Peninsula. The disjunct species are Mesembriomys gouldii, Sminthopsis virginiae, Isoodon obesulus Podargus ocellatus, Conopophila albogularis, Varanus indicus and Lophognathus temporalis. These species are not confined to one particular habitat type, but are found in woodlands, closed forests, heaths and grasslands. The greatest richness of disjunct faunal species occurs in the north-east of the Peninsula. The site records of the disjunct species is provided at Figure 16.16.