The Kwongan heathland is a globally significant and threatened ecosystem located in the Southwest Australia biodiversity hotspot. It is visually stunning, and home to one of the state’s best wildflower displays, featuring an enormous variety of colour, shapes and sizes.
The word “Kwongan” (or “kwongkan”) comes from the Noongar Aboriginal word for sand plain, and is now used by botanists and ecologists to describe this specific community of vegetation.
Prior to clearing, approximately 30 per cent of Southwest Australia was covered by healthy and colourful swathes of Kwongan. Now, however, most of the original Wheatbelt Kwongan has disappeared due to land clearing, with the only significant remnants remaining in coastal and near-coastal areas.
In addition to land clearing, other key environmental threats to the Kwongan include urban development, dieback disease caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, and inappropriate fire regimes.
Aiming to address some of these threats and challenges, NACC’s “Corridors for Climate Change” project is working to implement strategic restoration to help protect and enhance kwongan biodiversity and enhance connectivity between remnants.
Kwongan has unique plant biodiversity that includes thousands of native and endemic plant species, many of which are considered either rare or endangered.
The vegetation is typically low-lying, with hard and small-leaved plants that have adapted to survive fires, drought and extreme summer heat.
It grows in poor-nutrient, sandy soils, and includes coastal wind-pruned heaths, scrub-heaths, hill thickets and shrublands on laterite ridges, and may include scattered taller shrubs.
Prominent and important plant families include Proteaceae (Banksia and Hakea), Myrtaceae (Verticordia and Eucalyptus) and Papilionaceae (Daviesia and Jacksonia).
The Kwongan habitat is also home to diverse range of fauna. These include kangaroos, emus, honey possums, frogs, and many reptile and bird species, as well as, a remarkable variety of insects, spiders and other invertebrates.
Additionally, the abundant nectar of some plant species is important for birds – such as honeyeaters – and the endemic tiny honey possum.
Photo: Banksia sessilis by Adele Kendle