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Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve, Jilakin Flat Rocks Rd, Newdegate, WA, Australia

Photographs None
List Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)
Class Natural
Legal Status Registered (20/05/2003)
Place ID 102805
Place File No 5/06/079/0001
Statement of Significance
The wheatbelt region of south-western Western Australia forms part of one of the most botanically rich provinces in Australia. The transitional rainfall zone which covers most of the wheatbelt, is regarded as a focal point for speciation in woody perennial plants including a nationally significant concentration of endemic plants at the species level. The wheatbelt region is similarly rich in animal species, particularly by comparison with the adjacent forest belt to the west.

Dragon Rocks is one of a number of areas in the south-west where an ancient landscape has remained unglaciated, and above sea level for well over 200 million years, providing excellent conditions for the persistence of a range of primitive and relictual species. A number of species present at Dragon Rocks have strong Gondwanan associations including Burtons Legless Lizard (LIALIS BURTONIS) and two other legless lizards DELMA AUSTRALIS and D. FRASERI. Three gecko species present here also have Gondwanan links, and other primitive species include the Honey Possum (TARSIPES ROSTRATUS), and the Western Pygmy-possum (CERCATETUS CONCINNUS). Although likely to have a non-Gondwanan origin, blind-snakes, including RAMPHOTYPHLOPS AUSTRALIS, which is present at Dragon Rocks, also have ancient origins.

As a reserve of over 32,000 hectares, Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve is a significant area in maintaining existing processes at a regional scale. It is substantially larger than the average reserve area in the wheatbelt of 114 hectares and therefore is an important contemporary refugium for many species, including invertebrates and smaller vertebrates. There are twenty-eight different mapped and described vegetation associations at Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve, including heaths, woodlands, low forests, mallee, kwongan and lithic complexes. The large number of plant associations form a complex mosaic, which is characteristic of wheat belt vegetation, including a good representation of vegetation communities occurring on laterite.

Dragon Rocks occurs in the south-east of the wheatbelt region that is rich in endemic species at a national scale. For example, approximately 19 fauna species that are endemic either to the south-west region, or to Western Australia occur at Dragon Rocks. Endemic frogs recorded include Gunther's Froglet (PSEUDOPHRYNE GUENTHERI) and the Spotted-thighed Frog (LITORIA PSEUDORHYNCHA). Other endemic fauna occurring here include the Honey Possum (TARSIPES ROSTRATUM) and Gilbert's Dunnart (SMINTHOPSIS GILBERTI), along with 7 reptile species. Also found at Dragon Rocks are 16 flora species endemic either to the wheatbelt region or to Western Australia, including 13 eucalypts.

Dragon Rocks is one of a number of areas in the wheatbelt that are significant for rare species, due to widespread clearing in the surrounding landscape, and to the high diversity and level of local endemism. Endangered species at the national level include the Red-tailed Phascogale (PHASCOGALE CALURA), Hoffman's spider orchid (CALADENIA HOFFMANII), and the Lake Varley Grevillea (GREVILLEA INVOLUCRATA). There are also a number of flora and fauna species listed as vulnerable at the national level, and others listed as rare or threatened at the State level

Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve has a number of species that are disjunct. Disjunct populations are those that have become physically separated, resulting in minimal or no gene flow between them, and they are an important precursor to the development of new species. Species with disjunct populations at Dragon Rocks include several bird species, including the Purple-gaped Honeyeater (LICHENOSTOMUS CRATITIUS), the Brown-headed Honeyeater (MELITHREPTUS BREVIROSTRIS), and the White-cheeked Honeyeater (PHYLIDONYRIS NIGRA). A number of species that are confined to Western Australia have disjunct populations as a result of the scattered nature of their original natural habitat. Such species occurring at Dragon Rocks include the Spotted-thighed frog and Gilbert's Dunnart (SMINTHOPSIS GILBERTI).

It is possible that cultural values, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, of national estate significance may exist in this place. As yet, the Australian Heritage Commission has not identified, documented nor assessed these values.
Official Values Not Available
Description
The wheatbelt is defined as that part of the south-west of Western Australia that receives between 300 and 600 mm rainfall per year. It lies within the South West Botanical Province and corresponds fairly consistently with four biogeographical areas, these being the Geraldton Sandplains in the north, the Avon Wheatbelt and the Mallee in the centre, and the Esperance Plains in the south. Other biogeographical areas that adjoin these four areas, including the Swan Coastal Plain to the west, and Yalgoo and Coolgardie to the east, influence characteristics such as the distribution and limit of range of flora and fauna species where they overlap along the boundaries of the wheatbelt.

The climate of the Wheatbelt is semi-arid to warm mediterranean and rain falls mainly in winter while summers are dry. Rainfall varies from 600 mm per annum on the western side of the wheatbelt, to 300 mm on the eastern side. The Esperence Plains biogeographic area is slightly moister in comparison to the remainder of the wheatbelt, being located along the southern coastline.

The southern wheatbelt is typified by Archaean and Proterozoic granites, overlain in the east by Early Tertiary sediments. In the very south-east, Eocene sediments with outcrops of granites and quartzites occur. The soils are of low to extremely low fertility due to the great age of the landscape, and the low levels of phosphate in the parent rocks.

The Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve is located between Hyden and Newdegate in the Mallee biogeographic area, and close to the southern edge of the Coolgardie biogeographic area. The reserve is large compared to many other reserves located in the wheat belt and is considered a valuable recreational resource. The reserve is surrounded by agricultural land. Climate of the region is typical of the wheat belt and consists with hot dry summers and mild wet winters.

The topography is dominated by gentle undulating slopes and sparse breakaways. A remnant sand plain that existed in the Eocene (53-54 million years bp), has been extensively eroded on the slopes exposing large outcrops of granite, but can still be seen along drainage lines. A limonite cemented duricrust overlying deeply weathered bedrock is another geological characteristic of the reserve. The Dragon Rocks Area is positioned between two ancient river systems that existed during a period of higher rainfall, probably between the early Cretaceous (100 million years bp) and the late Miocene (26 million years bp).

The vegetation of the reserve is very diverse. Twenty-eight vegetation associations have been recorded including heaths and thickets on sand plain ridges, mallee on the majority of slopes, mallee with patches of woodland on upper valley soils, woodland on low valley soils, and in saline areas a mosaic of woodland, shrubland and samphire. There are a total of 576 plant species including forty-six ACACIA species, twenty-eight EUCALYPTUS species, twenty-seven MELALEUCA spp, and twenty HAKEA species. This vegetation is characteristic of the Hyden Vegetation System and can be linked to topographical, pedological and geological features.

Fauna of the Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve is also quite diverse with fifteen native mammal species (McKenzie et al, 1973). Mammals include the Western Grey Kangaroo (MACROPUS FULIGINOSUS), Western Brush Wallaby (MACROPUS IRMA), Common Brushtail Possum (TRICHOSURUS VULPECULA), Western Pygmy-possum (CERCARTETUS CONCINNUS), Honey Possum (TARSIPES ROSTRATUS), Red-tailed Phascogale (PHASCOGALE CALURA), Fat-tailed Dunnart (SMINTHOPSIS CRASSICAUDATA),Wuhl-wuhl (ANTECHINOMYS LANIGER SPENCERI), Mitchell's Hopping-mouse (NOTOMYS MITCHELLII), Western Mouse (PSEUDOMYS OCCIDENTALIS), Lesser Long-eared Bat (NYCTOPHILUS GEOFFROYI), Southern Forest Bat (VESPADELUS REGULUS), Gould's Wattled Bat (CHALINOLOBUS GOULDII), and the Echidna (TACHYGLOSSUS ACULEATUS). Reptile species include six geckoes (gekkonidae), three legless lizards (pygopodidae), two dragon lizards (agamidae), six skinks (scincidae) and two snakes (elapidae and typhlopidae).
History Not Available
Condition and Integrity
The wheatbelt is an area of 19 million hectares, and is the cereal-producing area for the south-west of Western Australia. The wheatbelt has been extensively cleared for agriculture, with approximately 80percent having been cleared. Remnant vegetation has been degraded as a result of grazing by rabbits and domestic livestock, and changed ecological conditions in the surrounding agricultural lands.

As a consequence of widespread clearing, the hydrological balance has changed, causing the water table to rise. This is resulting in widespread salinity, and poses a threat to both remnant vegetation, and agricultural land. In response to this, the Salinity Action Plan has been implemented to reduce further deterioration of agricultural land.

A number of critical weight range mammals have become extinct, associated with extensive land clearing in the wheatbelt, and some extant species continue to decline. Other degrading factors include the invasion of feral animals and weed species. Wildfire has adversely impacted some areas, particularly in the southern Esperance Plains biogeographical region.

The condition of the Nature Reserve is generally excellent. A small area in the south-east which has been burned frequently has some weed invasion.

Condition statement as at 1998.
Location
About 32203ha, 30km north of Newdegate.
Bibliography
A. H. C. (2000). Analysis of species locality information for the wheatbelt. Unpublished data held by the Australian Heritage Commission.

ANZECC (1999a) Threatened Australian Fauna. Endangered Fauna Network, Australian & New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. Threatened Species and Communities Section, Environment Australia, Canberra.

ANZECC (1999b) Threatened Australian Flora. Endangered Fauna Network, Australian & New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. Threatened Species and Communities Section, Environment Australia, Canberra.

Atkins, K. J. (1999). Declared, Rare and Priority Flora List for Western Australia. Western Australian Herbarium.

Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. and Reilly P.N. (1984). The Atlas of Australian birds. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. Melbourne University Press.

Bradley, A. J. (1997). Reproduction and life history in the red-tailed phascogale, Phascogale calura (Marsupialia, Dasyuridae) - the adaptive-stress senescence hypothesis. Journal of Zoology. London 241: 739-755.

Brooker M.I.H. and Kleinig D.A. (1990) Field Guide to Eucalypts. Vol. 2 South Western and Southern Australia. Inkata Press, Melbourne and Sydney.

CALM (2000) Declared Threatened Fauna Occurrence in CALM Regions (Wild Populations). Department of Conservation & Land Management, Western Australia.

Chapman, A. and Dell, J. (1985). Biology and zoogeography of the amphibians and reptiles of the Western Australian Wheatbelt. Records of the Western Australian Museum 12: 1-46.

Chippendale, G.M. (1973) Eucalypts of the Western Australian goldfields (and the adjacent wheatbelt). Department of Primary Industry, Forestry & Timber Bureau. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Coates, A. (1992) Flora and Vegetation Survey of Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve (No. A 36128). Unpublished report prepared for CALM, May 1992.

Cogger, H. G. and Heatwole, H (1981). The Australian reptiles: origins, biogeography, distribution patterns and island evolution. In: Keast, A. (ed), Ecological Biogeography of Australia. Dr W. Junk by Publishers. The Hague.

Cogger, H.G. (2000) Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Sixth edition, Reed New Holland, Sydney.

Heatwole, H. (1987). Major components and distributions of the terrestrial fauna. pg 101-135 in Dyne, G. R. and Walton, D. W. (eds) Fauna of Australia. General Articles. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 1A.

Hnatiuk R.J. (1990) Census of Australian Vascular Plants. Australian Flora and Fauna Series Number 11. Bureau of Flora and Fauna. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra

Hopper, D. H., Harvey, M. S., Chappill, J. A., Main, A. R., and York Main, B. (1996). The Western Australian biota as Gondwanan heritage - a review. In Gondwanan Heritage: past, present and future of the Western Australian biota. Edited by S. D. Hopper, J. A. Chappill, M. S. Harvey and A. S. George. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton.

Kitchener, D. J. (1981). Breeding, diet and habitat preferences of Phascogale calura (Gould, 1844) (Marsupialia: Dasyurididae) in the southern wheatbelt, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museu 9: 173-186.

Kitchener, D. L, Chapman, A., Dell, J. and Muir, B. G. (1980a). Lizard assemblage and reserve size and structure in the Western Australian Wheatbelt - some implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 17: 25-62.

McKenzie, N.L., Burbidge, A.A. and Marchant, N.G. (1973) Results of a biological survey of a proposed Wildlife Sanctuary at Dragon Rocks near Hyden, Western Australia. Dept. of Fisheries and Fauna, WA. Report No 12, 1973.

Safstrom, R. (1995). Conservation values of small reserves in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia - a framework for evaluating the conservation values of small reserves. Unpublished report for the Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia

Storr, G. M., Smith, L. A. and Johnstone, R. E. (1983) Lizards of Western Australia II Dragons and Monitors. Western Australian Museum, Perth.

Storr, G. M., Smith, L. A. and Johnstone, R. E. (1986) Snakes of Western Australia. Western Australian Museum, Perth.

Storr, G. M., Smith, L. A. and Johnstone, R. E. (1990) Lizards of Western Australia III Geckos and Pygopods. Western Australian Museum, Perth.

Strahan R. (ed) (1995). The mammals of Australia. Angus and Robertson.

Tyler, M. J., Smith, R. E. and Johnstone, R. E. (1994) Frogs of Western Australia. Revised Ed. Western Australian Museum, Perth.

W. A. M. (2000). Western Australian Museum species locality records as provided to the Environmental Resource Information Network (ERIN).

Wooller, S.J. and Moore, S.A. (2000) Regional Assessment of the Wheatbelt of Western Australia: Central Wheatbelt. Prepared for the Australian Heritage Commission.

Report Produced  Fri Aug 1 08:17:32 2014