Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Alpine and Subalpine Wetland Vegetation on the Bogong High Plains, South-eastern Australia

C.-H. Wahren, R. J. Williams and W. A. Papst

Australian Journal of Botany 47(2) 165 - 188
Published: 1999


The botanical composition and structure of wetland vegetation from seven sites in the alpine and subalpine tracts of the Bogong High Plains was sampled in 1995 and 1996. Sites were in the vicinity of Mts Nelse, Cope and Fainter. Sampling was based on contiguous 1-m2 quadrats along transects 20−70 m long across each wetland. Samples were ordinated using non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS). Floristic variation was assessed both within selected individual wetlands, and between wetlands from different regions. The relationship between the ordinations and environmental variables such as soil surface texture, soil depth and the amount of bare ground was tested by fitting vectors. Three dominant vegetation assemblages were identified. Closed heath, of hygrophyllous, scleromorphic shrubs such as Richea continentis and Baeckea gunniana, the rush Empodisma minus and the moss Sphagnum cristatum occurred on the deeper peats. Low open heath of Epacris glacialis and Danthonia nivicola occurred on shallow peats. Herbfields of Caltha introloba and Oreobolus pumilio occurred on stony pavements in two different physiographic situations―on relatively steep slopes (10−20°) at the head of wetlands, and on flat ground (slope < 2°), below the head of wetlands. The pavements on the steeper sites appeared to be associated with periglacial features such as solifluction lobes and terraces. Those on the flatter ground appeared to have been derived more recently. Wetlands in the Mt Cope region consisted of closed heath, low open heath and pavement herbfield in various proportions. Wetlands on Mt Fainter, which are subject to heavy trampling by cattle, were in a degraded condition, with a low cover of major hygrophyllous mosses and shrubs, and a high cover of introduced species. Long-ungrazed wetlands in a 50-year exclosure at Rocky Valley had high cover of closed heath, no pavements, numerous ponds and virtually no entrenched drainage channels or exposed peat. The Caltha herbfields are significant features nationally, both floristically and geomorphologically. Alpine and subalpine wetlands have been listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, and continued grazing by cattle is not compatible with the conservation objectives for this alpine vegetation type.

© CSIRO 1999

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