Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

Country
Australia
Inscribed in
1986
Criteria
(viii)
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.

This site, comprising several protected areas, is situated predominantly along the Great Escarpment on Australia’s east coast. The outstanding geological features displayed around shield volcanic craters and the high number of rare and threatened rainforest species are of international significance for science and conservation.
© UNESCO

Amelia Collins CC BY NC 2.0

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020
Significant concern
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is a serial World Heritage site composed of 41 component national parks and reserves in New South Wales and Queensland, ranging in size from 10 hectares to 102,712 hectares. Each of the component areas conserves different attributes of the site's Outstanding Universal Value, and are faced with a diversity of threats. While management has so far been effective in addressing challenges, further management responses will be required to address some increasing threats, particularly those posed by wildfire, invasive species, pathogens, and climate change.
A significant management challenge occurred in the Austral spring and summer of 2019-2020, when a prolonged drought that was exacerbated by record breaking temperatures and rainfall deficits culminated in extensive and severe wildfires. Management responses to this catastrophic event are considerable, and on-going, but given the severe nature and extent of the fires even the significant resources and even well-planned and completed hazard reduction burns conducted in the previous autumn and winter season were ineffective.  There are several government inquires into the causes and responses to the fires. The fires dramatically changed the conservation outlook for the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia, and it remains to be seen whether the natural ecosystems and ecological functions are sufficiently resilient to recover from this previously unexperienced perturbation. Actions are in place to make rapid assessments of the levels of impacts, to undertake welfare for threatened species, to limit the impact of invasive predators and weeds, and for some plants for seeds to be collected for future propagation. There is wide recognition that considerable conservation actions will be required. However, there is the lingering prospect that the catastrophe is a clear sign of the impact of climate change on weather patterns, and that these changes will not be reversed easily. The Gondwana Rainforests exist as refuges where many deep phylogenetic lineages persisted during episodes of past climate fluctuations. The conservation management challenge is to support and maintain that resilience into the future.

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While the geological values appear stable, the trends for some threatened species are uncertain, despite recovery and action plans. The greatest concern has been for amphibian species within the World Heritage site, although declines in indicator bird species and several plant species have also been reported..  More monitoring data, and analysis of this data, is needed for numerous species that contribute to the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. Recent wildfires have demonstrated the vulnerability of the World Heritage values of the site to increased temperature, drought conditions and catastrophic events. In addition, invasive species, including pathogens, may be affecting natural ongoing evolutionary processes for some species and this trend is likely to increase (Makinson, 2018). Although many biodiversity values are well conserved across the site, the situation in the Gondwana Rainforests is of concern for many species and ecological processes that constitute the site's Outstanding Universal Value.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
The impacts of climate change and high levels of visitation, undertaking effective fire management, and mitigating the effects of invasion by pest species and pathogens are the main challenges for the protection and management of the Gondwana Rainforests. Although the list of current and potential threatening processes to the World Heritage site is long, there have been major management responses to these threats. However, even with excellent management responses, given the sheer number and diversity of threats and the multi-use functions of the site, the threats are still assessed as high. The somewhat fragmented disposition of its components, as well as the unquantified effect of climate change also contribute to this assessment. The recent fires of 2019-2020 have been unprecedented and their longer-term impacts are still being evaluated.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Mostly Effective
Protection and management of the World Heritage site appears to be highly to mostly effective. Given this is a serial site, it has been questioned whether all the component parts are adequately buffered and as connected as possible. The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (extension to the existing World Heritage site) is on Australia’s Tentative List. Extending the site would support enhanced connectivity and better protection of its Outstanding Universal Value. While management has so far been effective in addressing main challenges, additional resources to support further management responses will be required to address the ongoing decline in key values and potentially increasing threats, particularly those posed by wildfire, invasive species and pathogens, and climate change.
 

Full assessment

Click the + and - signs to expand or collapse full accounts of information under each topic. You can also view the entire list of information by clicking Expand all on the top left.

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020

Description of values

Outstanding examples of significant ongoing geological processes

Criterion
(viii)
When Australia separated from Antarctica following the break-up of Gondwana, new continental margins developed and volcanoes erupted in sequence along the east coast resulting in the Main Range, Tweed, Focal Peak, Ebor and Barrington volcanic shields. This sequence of volcanos is significant as it enables the dating of the geomorphic evolution of eastern Australia through the study of the interaction of these volcanic remnants with the eastern highlands. The Tweed Shield erosion caldera is possibly the best preserved erosion caldera in the world, notable for its size and age, for the presence of a prominent central mountain mass (Wollumbin/Mt Warning), and for the erosion of the caldera floor to basement rock. All three stages relating to the erosion of shield volcanoes (the planeze, residual and skeletal stages) are readily distinguishable. Further south, the remnants of the Ebor Volcano also provide an outstanding example of the ongoing erosion of a shield volcano (World Heritage Committee, 2012).

Outstanding examples of relict plant species

Criterion
(ix)
The Age of the Pteridophytes’ from the Carboniferous Period (with some of the oldest elements of the world’s ferns), and the ‘Age of Conifers’ in the Jurassic Period (with one of the most significant centres of survival for Araucarians, the most ancient and phylogenetically primitive of the world’s conifers) are represented in the site. The site also provides an outstanding record of the ‘Age of the Angiosperms’. This includes a centre of endemism for primitive flowering plants originating in the Early Cretaceous, the most diverse assemblage of relict angiosperm taxa representing the primary radiation of dicotyledons in the mid-Late Cretaceous, a unique record of the evolutionary history of Australian rainforests representing the ‘golden age’ of the Early Tertiary, and a unique record of Miocene vegetation that was the antecedent of modern temperate rainforests in Australia (World Heritage Committee, 2012).

Outstanding examples of relict and other vertebrate and invertebrate species

Criterion
(ix)
The site contains an outstanding number of songbird species, including lyrebirds (Menuridae), scrub-birds (Atrichornithidae), treecreepers (Climacteridae) and bowerbirds and catbirds (Ptilonorhynchidae), belonging to some of the oldest lineages of passerines that evolved in the Late Cretaceous. Outstanding examples of other relict vertebrate and invertebrate fauna from ancient lineages linked to the break-up of Gondwana also occur in the site (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Relict frogs include all frogs in Myobatrachidae (recently subdivided into Myobatrachidae and Limnodynastidae, with some authors recognising a third family Rheobatrachidae (Frost et. al., 2014)) and Pelodryadidae families. Relict species of reptiles include chelid turtles Emydura macquarii signata and Myuchelys latisternum, leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius spp.) and the southern angle-headed dragon Lophosaurus spinipes. Relict invertebrates include fresh-water crayfish; land snails; velvet worms; a number of beetle families including flightless carabid beetles; the second largest butterfly in Australia the Richmond birdwing (Ornithoptera richmondia) and glow-worms (State Party of Australia, 1994; Hunter, 2004).

Outstanding examples of ongoing evolutionary processes

Criterion
(ix)
Ongoing evolutionary processes continue within the site’s rainforests which were described in the nomination dossier as ‘an archipelago of refugia, a series of distinctive habitats that characterise a temporary endpoint in climatic and geomorphological evolution’. The distances between these ‘islands’ of rainforest represent barriers to the flow of genetic material for those taxa which have low dispersal ability, and this pressure has created the potential for continued speciation (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Several important phylogeograhic papers have appeared that address the “archipelago” and the consequences for gene flow and speciation (eg. Bryant and Krosch, 2016).

Endemic and threatened plants

Criterion
(x)
The Gondwana Rainforests protects the largest and best stands of rainforest habitat remaining in this region, containing many endemic and threatened plant species. Over 170 families, 695 genera and 1625 species of vascular plants have been recorded, with about 150 endemics (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Given new discoveries and more recent taxonomic changes, these figures are likely to be higher.

Endemic and threatened mammals

Criterion
(x)
The Gondwana Rainforests protects endemic and threatened mammals such as the recently-discovered black-tailed antechinus Antechinus arktos. This species is known from three isolated subpopulations located at the summit of the Tweed Shield Volcano caldera near the border of south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, at altitudes above 950 m above sea level (asl) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2017). This area is part of the Springbrook National Park and Lamington National Park in Queensland, and the Border Ranges National Park in New South Wales. The region represents the major distribution of the Hastings River mouse Pseudomys oralis and parma wallaby Macropus parma). Thirty-one species of bats, half of all Australia’s bat species, occur in the site (IUCN, 1994; World Heritage Committee, 2012).
 

Endemic and threatened birds

Criterion
(x)
More than 270 species of birds have been recorded (about 38% of all Australian birds) with two species of lyrebirds (Albert’s lyrebird Menura alberti and superb lyrebird M. novaehollandiae) and the nationally endangered rufous scrub-bird (Atrichornis rufescens) particularly significant. Other threatened bird species include the Coxen's fig-parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni) (probably extinct), black-breasted button-quail (Turnix melanogaster) and eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) (State Party of Australia, 1994).
 

Endemic and threatened frogs

Criterion
(x)
Some 45 species of frogs, about 25% of Australia’s total frog fauna, including the significant species the pouched frog (Assa darlingtoni). Other frogs with distributions largely confined to the site include the mountain frog (Philoria/Kyarranus kundagungan), Loveridge’s frog (P./K. loveridgei), Pugh’s mountain frog (P. pughi), Richmond Range frog (P. richmondensis), sphagnum frog (P. sphagnicolus), Fleay’s frog (Mixophyes fleayi), Davies tree frog (Litoria daviesae), Pearson’s frog (L. pearsoniana), and glandular frog (L. subglandulosa) (State Party of Australia, 1994, species names updated based on the recent nomenclature).
 

Endemic and threatened reptiles

Criterion
(x)
About 110 species of reptiles, including the world’s largest skink the land mullet (Egernia/Bellatorias major). Several other species with the major part of their distribution within property include Southern angle-headed dragon (Gonocephalus spinipes); Northern leaf-tailed gecko (Phyllurus 'cornutus' (probably two species)); rainforest cool-skink (Harrisoniascincus/Cautula zia); three-toed snake-tooth skink (Coeranoscincus reticulatus); Border Ranges shadeskink (Saproscincus/Lampropholis challengerii); montane sunskink (Lamphrophlis caligula) (restricted to Barrington Tops region); short-limbed snake-skink (Ophioscincus truncatus) and Murray’s skink (Eulamprus murrayi) and Karma tryoni (State Party of Australia, 1994).

Assessment information

High Threat
The impacts of climate change and high levels of visitation, undertaking effective fire management, and mitigating the effects of invasion by pest species and pathogens are the main challenges for the protection and management of the Gondwana Rainforests. Although the list of threatening processes to the World Heritage site is long, there have been major management responses to these threats. However, even with excellent management response, given the sheer volume and diversity of threats facing the various components of the site, the threats are still assessed as high. The recent fires of 2019-2020 have been unprecedented and their longer-term impacts are still being evaluated.
 
Housing/ Urban Areas, Tourism/ Recreation Areas
(Incompatible land-use off-site)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Incompatible land-use on adjoining properties, escaped fires, groundwater extraction, uncontrolled domestic animals, garden weeds, feral animals and pressure for residential and tourist development may pose a threat in some locations. Off-site activities such as clearing and erosion within upstream catchments may be a potential threat for the attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value in some sections of the World Heritage site (IUCN Consultation, 2017). The approval and construction of ecotourism infrastructure in some sections of the site have been subject to a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment process and approved by the federal and state government authorities (Queensland Department of Environment; Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment).
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration, Droughts, Temperature extremes, Storms/Flooding
(Climate change)
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Climate change, resulting in increased average temperatures in all seasons, more hot days and warm spells with a substantial increase in the temperature reached on hot days, frequent and intense storms, and changes to the cloud base, mist availability, humidity or rainfall is emerging as one of the greatest challenges for the protection of Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage values (CSIRO, 2019). Climate change is also predicted to exacerbate other threatening processes such as invasive species and pathogens, as well as fluctuations in rainfall patterns and altered fire regimes. In the austral spring and summer of 2019-2020 extensive fires (51% surface area of the World Heritage site) was impacted in wild fires. The fires followed and were coincident with a prolonged drought (NSW DPIE, 2020; Dickman et al., 2020; DAWE, 2020). The Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry (DPC, 2020) stated that climate change clearly played a role in  the  extreme 2019/20 fire season.
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(High levels of visitation)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Tourism development, increasing visitor numbers  and visitor infrastructure is identified as a threat  in some park management plans. There are high levels of visitation in several visitor precincts in a number of the reserves (IUCN Consultation, 2017). Visitation is managed to minimise impact while supporting the visitor experience and appreciation of values. Where management of human visitation is identified as an action required to protect a threatened species managed under the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, responses of the target species to threat management are monitored. Queensland’s State of the Environment Report (2017) indicated that increasing visitor numbers, and associated supporting infrastructure, present a minor and localised threat, addressed within the relevant national park management plans and statements and considered the threat are low (SoE, 2017).
 
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species, Diseases/pathogens
(Pathogens)
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Several introduced pathogens threaten the values of the World Heritage site including Phytophthora cinnamomi (a soil-borne water mould which infects the roots of native plants); Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungus which causes chytridiomycosis in frogs (amphibian chytrid disese); psittacine circoviral (beak and feather) disease infecting parrots, and myrtle rust (a disease of native Myrtaceae plants caused by the exotic fungus Austropuccinia  psidii (initially identified as Uredo rangelii). The rapid spread and extraordinary impact of this pathogen poses a significant threat to the Gondwana Rainforests and has been attributed to the decline of Rhodamnia rubescens and Rhodomyrtus psidioides, which are now listed in both NSW and QLD as Critically Endangered (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2019; QLD Nature Conservation Act 1992). R. psidioides is one of the ten most seriously affected species in southeast Queensland with numerous reports of localized extinction in that area (Makinson, 2018). Lenwebbia sp. Main Range was also listed a critically endangered in NSW in October 2020, with Myrtle rust a key factor in the deteriorating status of this species (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2020). 
Fire/ Fire Suppression
(Fires)
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
In the austral spring and summer of 2020 wildfire impacted an estimated 51% of the surface area of the World Heritage site (NSW DPIE, 2020). Fires occurred across the site including in three Queensland parks (Main Range, Mount Barney, Lamington) and sixteen NSW reserves (Border Ranges, Tooloom, Nightcap, Mount Clunie, Mount Nothofagus, Gibraltar Range, Washpool, New England, Werrikimbe, Oxley Wild Rivers,  Barrington Tops and Mount Royal national parks and Wiili Willi, Mount Hyland, the Castles and Mount Seaview nature reserves). In several areas the fires burnt into rainforest that had previously never recorded a fire and were generally considered resistant to fire. The fires were preceded by a prolonged drought and were coincident with a period of above average temperatures and below average rainfall (Australian Bureau of Meteorology Special Climate Statement 71, September 2019). The report notes that "rainfall totals that were 50 percent below average, and some locations had their driest January to August period on record since (at least) 1900". The long term drought and above average daily mean temperatures were predicted by climate change models, and they are directly linked to the extent and severity of the wildfires (NSW DPC, 2020).  
The following list includes species identified as attributes of World Heritage values. Plant species considered  to be affected include Bertya ernestiana, Brachyscome ascendens, Bulbophyllum weinthalii subsp. weinthalii, Clematis fawcetti, Euphrasia bella, Floydia praealta, Leionema elatius subsp. beckleri, Leptospermum barneyense, Leucopogon recurvisepalus, Macadamia tetraphylla, Marsdenia coronata, Marsdenia longiloba, Pseudanthus pauciflorus subsp. pauciflorus, Pultenaea whiteana, Sarcochilus hartmannii, Tetramolopium vagans, Westringia rupicola,  Ziera collina, Zieria montana. Animal species considered to be affected include: Birds: Eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus), rufous-scrub bird (Atrichornis rufescens), Coxen's fig-parrot, Alberts lyrebird (Menura alberti), plumed frogmouth (Podargus ocellatus), masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae), powerful owl (Ninox strenua), black-breasted button quail (Turnix melanogaster). Mammals: Hastings river mouse (Pseudomys oralis), New Holland mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae), brush-tailed rock wallaby (Petroogale penicillata), long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), spotted quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), greater glider (Petauroides volans), koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), black-tailed marsupial mouse (Antechinus arktos). Reptiles: three-toed snake-tooth skink (Coearanoscincus reticulatus), Oakview leaf-tailed gecko (Phylurus kabikabi). Frogs: red and yellow mountain frog (Philoria kundagungan), sphagnum frog (P. sphagnicolus), Pugh's mountain frog (P. pughi), Loveridgei's mountain frog (P. loveridgei), giant barred frog (Mixophyes iteratus), Fleay's barred frog (M. fleayi), stuttering frog (M. balbus), Davies' tree frog (Litoria daviesae), glandular frog (L. subglandulosa), cascade treefrog (L. pearsoniana), peppered frog (L. piperata), red-eyed green tree frog (L. chloris). Fish: Osylean pygmy perch (Nannoperca oxleyana). More detailed assessment of the impacts of fires on the Outstanding Universal Value of the site is underway (State Party of Australia, 2020). Management of fire in a biodiverse mosaic of forest types is challenging. The serial nature of the World Heritage site, and high boundary to area ratio, increases the complexity of fire management, which is undertaken in consultation with neighbours and the bushfire management authorities in each state. Recent research has demonstrated the flammability of rainforest fuels in cool temperate rainforests, highlighting the critical role of moisture levels in protecting rainforest communities from fire (Peacock, unpublished data). A recent assessment of current and projected change in lifting condensation level (cloud base) suggests additional moisture loss from a rising cloud base is possible (Narsey et al., 2020).
 
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species, Diseases/pathogens
(Invasive weeds)
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
A variety of invasive plant species have been recorded including bitou bush (Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp.rotundata) and boneseed (Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. monilifera) which affect coastal areas; mistflower (Ageratina riparia), crofton weed (Ageratina adenophora), lantana (Lantana camara), blackberry (Rubus fructicosus), camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), broad-leaved privet (Ligustrum lucidum) and small-leaved privet (L. sinense),  Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), madeira vine (Andredera cordifolia), moth vine (Araujia sericifera), cat's claw creeper (Macfadyena unguis-cati) and others. Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is a particular problem in the southernmost part of the World Heritage site. Management response to these invasive species includes implementation of Threat Abatement Plans for those listed as key threatening processes and pest management plans in national parks. Weeds able to establish in full shade (i.e. exploit intact rainforest) and affect the canopy are possibly the group of greatest threat to the site, while weeds in shade intolerant groups are most likely to be a threat to riparian edges and fragmented remnants (DECCW, 2010). High biomass weeds including invasive grasses and Lantana can increase fire risk, particularly along forest edges. Areas of fire affected rainforest where the rainforest has had large scale impacts such as canopy loss are now carrying a vastly increased surface layer weed load of relatively common weed species. The long- term effect on the recovery of the rainforest by these pioneer weed species is unknown (IUCN Consultation, 2020c).  
Other
(Fragmentation)
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is a serial World Heritage site comprised of eight separate groups of reserves, containing 40 component parts. The Gondwana Rainforest reserves contain the major remaining areas of rainforest in north-east New South Wales and south-east Queensland and are disjunct in places due mainly to the naturally fragmented distribution of rainforest in this part of Australia. Some of the reserves are very small, but almost all have some connectivity to neighbouring protected areas, often with the same or very similar values. The area to boundary ratio of fragmented reserves increases exposure to threats such as weed and pathogen invasion, changes in the microclimate of otherwise intact rainforest, and potentially has negative impacts on natural biological processes (including altitudinal and latitudinal migration in response to climate change) (IUCN Consultation, 2017). On balance the Outstanding Universal Value of the site is secured through the large reserves, which represent the majority of the World Heritage site (Queensland State of the Environment Report, 2017). This could be improved by progressing the extension to the World Heritage site, including previously assessed contiguous protected areas with World Heritage attributes (IUCN Consultation, 2020c).
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Vertebrate pests)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Introduced animals include fox (Vulpes vulpes), rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), feral cat (Felis catus), goat (Capra hircus), wild dog (Canis lupus familiaris or hybrids with Canis lupus dingo), feral pig (Sus scrofa), feral deer (Cervidae spp.), feral horses (Equus caballus) and others. Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are increasing in numbers in Border Ranges National Park. All these animals have an impact on the reserves either by displacement, predation or competition and their management is included in management plans (NPWS, 1998; NPWS, 2005; DERC, 2011). Straying stock (cattle, Bos taurus) pose a problem in some parts of the site (Chester and Bushnell, 2005). The introduced fish, plague minnow (Gambusia holbrooki), occurs in many streams. There are some locations where non-native sport fish (trout and salmon) are released into streams that flow into the reserves or the fish migrate upstream. The impact of these fish on native aquatic assemblages remains a matter for investigation. 
Strategies to manage these pest animals are incorporated in national parks management plans and implemented in cooperation with neighbours as part of tenure blind approach to pest management through regional pest management strategies and plans in NSW (IUCN Consultation, 2017). A controversial exotic invader is also the European Bee, which competes for nectar with native nectivores and occupies tree hollows that are used by native animals.

A consequence of the wildfires of 2019-2020 is that in many locations the density of the vegetation was greatly reduced. This favours introduced predators and compromises the capacity of the native animals to escape and seek shelter. This is a cumulative impact of the fires, animals that survived the fire needed to move more widely to obtain food and shelter, but are prone to predation in the opened vegetation communities.
High Threat
Risk management is in place, but it is possible that new invasive species and pathogens could still arrive into the site, especially given the somewhat fragmented disposition of its component parts. Management responses to climate change are difficult, although mitigation by increasing connectivity between the different components could help.
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
(Invasive species and pathogens)
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Risk management is in place through strategic weed and pest animal plans, although it is likely that invasive species and pathogens could still arrive into the site given its multi-use functions and the somewhat fragmented disposition of its components (IUCN Consultation, 2020c).
 
Temperature extremes
(Climate change)
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
Potential threats include higher temperatures, periods of prolonged drought; a rise in the orographic cloud layer; and exacerbation of fire regimes that are inconsistent with the persistence of rainforest species (ANU, 2009).
Unfortunately the reality of this threat was evidenced in 2019-2020 with the widespread wildfires that burnt an estimated 51% of the World Heritage site.  Some of the components were severely affected (DPIE, 2020; DAWE, 2020; Dickman et al., 2020). While longer-term impacts and recovery prospects are still being evaluated (State Party of Australia, 2020), it is clear that given the predicted further change in the climatic conditions, this threat will only continue to increase.
The impacts of climate change and high levels of visitation, undertaking effective fire management, and mitigating the effects of invasion by pest species and pathogens are the main challenges for the protection and management of the Gondwana Rainforests. Although the list of current and potential threatening processes to the World Heritage site is long, there have been major management responses to these threats. However, even with excellent management responses, given the sheer number and diversity of threats and the multi-use functions of the site, the threats are still assessed as high. The somewhat fragmented disposition of its components, as well as the unquantified effect of climate change also contribute to this assessment. The recent fires of 2019-2020 have been unprecedented and their longer-term impacts are still being evaluated.
Management system
Highly Effective
This is a serial World Heritage site comprising 41 reserves which are located in the states of New South Wales and Queensland (World Heritage Committee, 2012). The Australian Government funds a project officer and two advisory committees, which provide community input and technical and scientific advice to the management agencies. The project officer also provides secretariat support for the management committees to support coordination between the managing agencies. An overarching Strategic Overview for Management is in place for the entire serial World Heritage site (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000). The Queensland, NSW and Australian governments are working together to review and update the Strategic Plan for the site (IUCN Consultation, 2020a). Management plans or statements, along with fire, pest and visitor strategies are developed, or are being developed, for most of the protected areas within the World Heritage site.
 
Effectiveness of management system
Mostly Effective
Although not conducted at the scale of the entire World Heritage site, management effectiveness for component parts are monitored every 3-5 years through the State of the Parks Report for reserves in both NSW and Queensland (IUCN Consultation, 2017).  There a need for closer alignment of protected area management between Queensland and NSW with monitoring and research focused on resolving questions of approaches to management of fire in particular; however, the management issues and pressures differ between reserves and different management approaches are needed in each location (IUCN Consultation, 2020a). The management agencies (the two state agencies) have commissioned studies to develop monitoring strategies that will advise adaptive management actions. These studies are well founded, however, the capacity to manage the Outstanding Universal Value within  the landscape provides a scientific and functional challenge. There are numerous studies conducted by research organisations (Universities, State Herbaria, CSIRO, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, National Environmental Science Program, Non-government organisations, e.g. BirdLife Australia), that provide detailed scientific information on the evolutionary ecology and threats posed. Nonetheless, the challenge to have a good understanding of major ecosystem processes remains.  Evidence of this can be seen in the climate change driven wildfires of 2019-2020. These fires were predicted, but actions to halt or manage them were generally beyond resources or capacity (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).
Boundaries
Some Concern
Since inscription there have been major tenure changes, with flora reserves that were previously managed by forestry revoked and incorporated into new or existing national parks and nature reserves. Whilst the boundaries of the World Heritage site have not changed, the boundaries of several of the reserves within the site have been changed. This has led to enhanced protection of the site (State Party of Australia, 2003). There have also been major expansions of the protected areas in both New South Wales and Queensland, including significant additional areas of rainforest that could be added to the World Heritage site in the future (Feros, 2009). Potential extension of the World Heritage site has been discussed and was added to the Australia's Tentative List in 2010 (http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5541/). An extension of the site may help improve the connectivity between different components and will reduce edge effects and provide more resilience for the OUV of the site.
The importance of providing interconnection among some of the isolated components and a buffer zone to enable more effective and targeted asset management is demonstrated by the wildfires of 2019-2020 that effected many of the components and large areas of surrounding forested lands. Interconnection would provide for greater protection of the Outstanding Universal Value, by providing a security for migration routes at times of wildfire and as means to recolonize following fire (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Highly Effective
Integration into regional and national planning systems was assessed as good at the time of the most recent Periodic Report (State Party of Australia, 2003), however, no recent information is available. It is considered that this has remained effective.
Relationships with local people
Mostly Effective
Relationships with local people across the World Heritage site are overall considered to be highly effective. There are several advisory groups which provide input into the management of the site and volunteer groups undertake a variety of work in partnership with the managing agencies. Managing agencies are currently enhancing efforts to consult with, and better involve, First Nations people in the management and governance of the World Heritage site (IUCN Consultation, 2020a). However, while there is involvement of Aboriginal representatives on the Gondwana Rainforests Community Advisory Committee, there is a recognized need for greater involvement of Aboriginal peoples (IUCN Consultation, 2020b). Queensland is working to improve co-stewardship with First Nations People consistent with the Gurra Gurra Framework (DES, 2020). Each of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service branches  have a regional  advisory committee and three of those committees cover the Gondwana Rainforests reserves. NPWS also has an Aboriginal Consultative Committee for Wollumbin National Park and two joint management agreements with the Githabul and Western Bundjalung peoples which cover some Gondwana Rainforests listed reserves. Queensland has management plans or statements for all Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service reserves. All NSW parks have a Plan of Management (POM) (Statutory Planning Instrument) to direct park management actions. The renewal of the management plans involves public consultation, including input from the NSW relevant NPWS regional advisory committees. There is therefore opportunity for  strong relationships with  local communities.
Legal framework
Highly Effective
Most of the World Heritage site lies within national park boundaries. National environmental law (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999), as well as various state laws (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (QLD); National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW); Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW); Planning Act 2016 (QLD); Environmental Protection Act 1994 (QLD); Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (QLD), protect the World Heritage site from threats originating both inside and outside its boundaries (Feros, 2009; World Heritage Committee, 2012).
Law enforcement
Highly Effective
Overall, enforcement of existing laws and regulations is highly effective.
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Mostly Effective
The World Heritage Committee decisions for this site were related to the extension of the World Heritage site (1994), change of its name (2007) and to the adoption of Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (2012). No other decisions or recommendations which would require implementation were adopted.
 
Sustainable use
Data Deficient
No use is allowed within the site, as the vast majority lies within National Parks. Tourism constitutes one of the use options and is discussed further below.
 
Sustainable finance
Mostly Effective
Funding is largely the responsibility of the state management agencies. The Australian Government has funded a Gondwana Rainforests project officer and provided funding for a community and scientific advisory committee since 1994 (Feros, 2009). Funding is provided by managing agencies to address priority issues, but some threatening processes are not able to be adequately addressed. Some examples include weed and pest control, rehabilitation of degraded areas and systematic monitoring and research (State Party of Australia, 2003) as well as monitoring of threatened species managed under the NSW Saving our Species program and the Queensland Threatened Species Program. The Australian Government (Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment) has funded several studies that investigate threats to specific attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value of the site.  These have included the threat of the invasive pathogen that causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians, and the role of climate change on high mountain frogs.  A significant study supported by the National Environmental Science Program (NESP) combining the expertise of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO with ecologists from the Queensland Herbarium has investigated the role of climate change on cloud levels (Narsey et al., 2020).
Staff capacity, training, and development
Mostly Effective
Staff in the managing agencies in NSW and Queensland are highly trained and have development plans in place, with the managing agencies offering ongoing staff training and development. Rangers and program specialist staff are generally qualified and highly skilled with many being fire trained and competent in fire management. Field officers are trained in necessary skills to carry out park management and maintenance. Specific training in biosecurity and the identification of Myrtle rust and Phytophthora spp. are in planning, along with workshops to develop adaptation pathways under changing climate (IUCN Consultation, 2020a). The protected areas that make-up the World Heritage site are all managed by professional park management and conservation professionals within  government departments that are responsible for national park management in the respective states.  The departments have park management staff that are responsible at the local level for park management activities. These staff are supported by functional divisions that deal with major issues such as common threats (fire, pests and weeds), the community, media and communication. Each of the parks in NSW, and most of those in Queensland has a statutory Plan of Management which is supported by thematic plans that deal with threat management.  One of the on-going developments is to improve engagement of  First Nations Peoples in consultation and active management. Parts of several of reserves  that make up the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage site have established Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA), where the objective is to involve First Nations Peoples in management, including  employment (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).
Education and interpretation programs
Mostly Effective
Park agencies have expertise in interpretation planning and delivery (including web-based and on-park products such as signs and exhibits) and there are many examples of good interpretation across the World Heritage site. There appears to be insufficient resources devoted to interpretation planning at a whole-of-site level, with clear articulation of target audiences and desired outcomes (i.e. enhancing visitor and community/stakeholder awareness and understanding of the sites' Outstanding Universal Value) (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).
 
Tourism and visitation management
Mostly Effective
Park management agencies have a good understanding of the numbers and trends in visitation across the components comprising the World Heritage site, especially at a macro/park level (less so at micro level e.g. specific attractions and experiences). Park agencies are also proficient at developing and delivering marketing campaigns that showcase World Heritage values and that attract visitors to the site based on these values. 
However, there is limited understanding of the impacts of increasing visitation and tourism development, both at a whole-of-site and at a nuanced level such as the impacts of varying types of visitor experiences and variation across the World Heritage site. High standards of visitor management require greater monitoring and measurement of the impacts of visitor behaviour on a range of ecological and cultural variables that capture World Heritage values. This monitoring of impacts would enable a more informed approach to setting visitor limits, restricting certain activities, and regulating development (IUCN Consultation, 2020b).
Monitoring
Some Concern
Despite the publication of a monitoring strategy (Chester and Bushnell, 2005), there continues to be no overall coordinated monitoring program for the entire World Heritage site. Part of the challenge is obtaining agreement on indicators that are cost-effective in capturing changes to the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value across the considerable extent of the components comprising the World Heritage site (IUCN Consultation, 2020b). There are insufficient resources to implement a coordinated monitoring program. The agencies are actively working on pilot schemes in several components to address this issue. Plant Community Type Mapping is in development in New South Wales and Regional Ecosystems are mapped in Queensland. Efforts to coordinate mapping across the World Heritage site continue. Further work is required to link the values of the site to vegetation communities. Trials to develop an overall coordinated monitoring program for the site are in development. There are a number of reserve-specific projects being undertaken which provide some baseline and trend data for plant communities or individual species and their threats. Examples of these include visitation indicators; species-specific projects; threatening processes (particularly climate change, fire, weeds and pest species); and ‘state of the parks’ reporting (IUCN Consultation, 2020a).
 
Research
Highly Effective
Each year there are numerous scientific and technical studies undertaken in the World Heritage site, particularly in relation to threatened species conservation, and pest species and fire management. New discoveries continue to take place. Several focused monitoring/research programs have been undertaken. These include surveys of the distribution of Phytophthora cinnamomi and the amphibian chytrid fungus, and the potential impact of climate change on high altitude vertebrate populations. Although not specifically targeted at World Heritage sites, the NSW government is funding a broad ranging applied management and research program “Saving Our Species” in the period 2015-2020. Several projects include actions within Gondwana Rainforests reserves (see Projects).
Another example of strategic research is a current high level research project investigating the impact of climate change on cloud layer elevation and moisture acquisition by upland rainforest plant communities. This investigation involves the collaboration of the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation and the Queensland Herbarium, funded by the National Environment Science Program (Narsey et al. 2020). There is a need of a detailed inventory of research and an identification of research priorities to support the management and protection of the World Heritage sitey (IUCN Consultation, 2020a).
Protection and management of the World Heritage site appears to be highly to mostly effective. Given this is a serial site, it has been questioned whether all the component parts are adequately buffered and as connected as possible. The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia (extension to the existing World Heritage site) is on Australia’s Tentative List. Extending the site would support enhanced connectivity and better protection of its Outstanding Universal Value. While management has so far been effective in addressing main challenges, additional resources to support further management responses will be required to address the ongoing decline in key values and potentially increasing threats, particularly those posed by wildfire, invasive species and pathogens, and climate change.
 
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Mostly Effective
More information is required to understand protection and management outside the site. In many of the reserves it appears that they are buffered by additional protected areas, but not all of them. Many of the adjacent areas are managed as national parks and state forests. There is a relatively high level of threat management in these areas. Environmental law in Australia has a strong approach to threat management, and there is acknowledgment that good land management on private and public land requires integrated management, whether that be for pest or fire.  There is no doubt that this can be done better (Kooyman et al., 2020), and this is a consistent challenge for all land managers especially in the face of climate change predictions.
World Heritage values

Outstanding examples of significant ongoing geological processes

Good
Trend
Stable
There are no reports of any significant damage to the reserves in which these geological processes are occurring (State Party of Australia, 2003). New studies interpreting the role of geological processes are published periodically (Cohen et al., 2012).

Outstanding examples of relict plant species

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The level of botanical knowledge, particularly in terms of taxonomy and ecology of the plant communities (distribution and abundance) is generally high (Crisp et al., 2001; 2013; Laidlaw et al., 2011, 2016; Downing et al., 2014; Kooyman et al., 2014). There has been a long history of mapping of plant communities and botanists in Queensland and NSW have detailed knowledge of the distribution of relict communities. There is a recognised need for a consistent approach to mapping. There is also a recognised need for studies of the processes that drive community distribution and composition, especially in the light of climate change scenarios. Considerable concern has been raised by botanists due to several threatening processes, including invasive weeds, pathogens and climate change. Two invasive pathogens, phytophora and myrtle rust (Bishop et al., 2012; Scarlett et al., 2015), are of great concern and require intensive and extensive research and field work program to assess impacts and develop effective response actions. Climate change is also a major concern since increased temperature, reduced rainfall and humidity over long periods that result in drought conditions increase physiological stress on individuals, and catastrophic events such as wild fires (Laidlaw et al., 2016). Species from the World Heritage site, including Lenwebbia sp. Main Range, Rhodamnia rubescens and Rhodomyrtus psidioides are  listed under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act and Qld Nature Conservation Act 1992 as Critically Endangered due to myrtle rust (TSSC, 2019 and 2020).

Outstanding examples of relict and other vertebrate and invertebrate species

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
There are concerns for the status of several species that are considered as relicts. The Rufous Scrub-bird occurs in a series of high-altitude relictual populations and there are concerns that it may be impacted by rising temperatures and/or other effects of climate change such as periodic drought, and in recent years wildfire. Targeted field surveys are conducted to understand causes of decline.  A recovery program has been approved, however not all actions are funded. A component of the program includes captive breeding and re-introduction. Concern has been raised for the status of the Black-tailed Antechinus (a marsupial mouse), which is a newly recognised species that is mostly confined to upland habitats in the Tweed Caldera region of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia WHA (Baker et al., 2014; Riordan et al., 2020). This marsupial has been listed as 'endangered' under Australian legislation (Threatened Species Committee, 2018). Active research is underway to understand the ecology and distribution. The numbers of observations are low and restricted to higher altitudes and the postulate is that they are sensitive to climatic change. Considerable research work has been undertaken on several species of upland frogs that form part of the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. Unfortunately, species distribution modelling has shown that these frogs are likely to be highly susceptible to climate warming and future prospects for the persistence of the species, especially for some of the small isolated remnants, are dire (Keith et al., 2014; Willacy et al., 2018; Lopez, 2015). There are indications of recovery in the population number and abundance of one threatened species of frog (Mixophyes fleayi), which appears to be related to adaptation to dealing with the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis (Newell et al., 2013, Quick et al., 2015). The broader pattern of climate warming impacts have been investigated (ANU, 2009; Hagger et al., 2013), and specific studies are underway to understand the impact of specific community and species components. 

Outstanding examples of ongoing evolutionary processes

High Concern
Trend
Stable
Climate change, intense wildfires and invasive pests may be leading to local extirpation of disjunct and genetically divergent populations of species such as mountain mist frogs (Kyarranus/Philoria) (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
The occurrence of intense wildfire in the Austral summer of 2019-2020 witness the predicted concerns of previous assessments. 

Endemic and threatened plants

High Concern
Trend
Stable
1625 plant taxa (170 threatened) were listed in the nomination and many of these are on the EPBC list of threatened flora (https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/). Lenwebbia sp. Main Range, Rhodamnia rubescens and Rhodomyrtus psidioides are  listed in NSW as Critically Endangered due to Myrtle Rust (2019 and 2020 Scientific Committee determinations | NSW Environment, Energy and Science). Several research studies have been undertaken to investigate the role of climate change on the distribution of upland plant communities which have been undertaken in the components of the site, and this work is ongoing (Kitching et al, 2011, Laidlaw et al, 2011, 2016).  The impact of the 2019-2020 wildfires on threatened plant species is a matter that requires urgent attention. The federal and state government agencies responsible for conservation management are involved in extensive assessments of the impacts of the fires on threatened plants (DAWE, 2020; NSW DPIE, 2020).  Response actions will need to be developed.

Endemic and threatened mammals

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
In addition to monitoring the conservation status of the 75 species of mammals listed as occurring in the site, it has been suggested that arboreal fauna, as well as rufous bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens), broad-toothed rat (Mastacomys fuscu), black-tailed dusky antechinus (Antechinus arktos), spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) and Hastings River mouse serve as indicators (Chester and Bushnell, 2005). Species such as brush-tailed phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa), common planigale (Planigale maculata), common dunnart (Sminthopsis murina), mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus caninus), common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), feathertail glider (Acrobates pygmaeus), Eastern pygmy possum (Cercartetus nanus), greater glider (Petauroides volans), yellow-bellied glider (Petaurus australis), sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis), common ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) and koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) have declined by 10% to 50% (Maxwell et al., 1996 in Chester and Bushnell, 2005). The Parma wallaby (Macropus parma) has been listed as Near Threatened (Lunney and McKenzie, 2008) and the koala has recently been listed in Australia as Vulnerable (DSEWPC 2012; 2016) and by the IUCN as Vulnerable (Woinarski and Burbidge, 2016). Monitoring programs for key populations of some key species is continuing. The NSW Saving our Species program has actions identified for threatened species in NSW. These activities are prioritized and funded on a competitive basis and monitoring is undertaken as a part of these programs. Monitoring is also undertaken as part of threat management programs such as weed control.
 

Endemic and threatened birds

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Two subspecies of the rufous scrub-bird occur within the site. This species has been extensively studied and monitored (www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=67058). Birdlife (2012) notes that “some subpopulations of A. r. rufescens are thought to have disappeared within the last two decades, including those at Mt Warning and Spicer’s Gap, while declines in A. r. ferrieri are inferred because of a reduction in area occupied by calling males in New England National Park (Garnett and Crowley, 2000).” Therefore it appears that there has been a decline of this species within the site since inscription, although the protected areas where this species occurs are its last refuge. The eastern bristlebird has also been divided into two subspecies with the northern subspecies rapidly decreasing (CR) and the southern subspecies stable, although the threat of destructive fires in the majority of this species’ habitat means that an overall future decline is very likely so it has been listed as endangered (Birdlife International, 2012). While monitoring just three threatened species of the 270 present in the World Heritage site is not representative, these three species were identified at the time of nomination as exceptional for criteria (ix) and (x). Until it is demonstrated that their populations are at least stable or increasing within the World Heritage site, there is cause for concern.
Broader studies of the vulnerability of rainforest birds to deforestation and fragmentation have been reported (Pavlacky et al., 2015).

Endemic and threatened frogs

Critical
Trend
Deteriorating
Forty five (45) species of frogs were listed at time of inscription with no special mention of threatened species. Today 11 of these species are listed as globally threatened and two Near Threatened (IUCN, 2012), with other reports of regional decline. Causes of decline are still unclear and may be due to several factors including loss of habitat due to feral animals, weed infestation, change in river flows due to upstream timber harvesting and urban development, fish predation, climate change and Chytrid infection (Hines et al., 2004; Hunter and Gillepsie, 2011). Chytrid infection has been implicated for species including Fleay’s barred-frog Mixophyes fleayi (EN and largely restricted to the World Heritage site) and the giant barred river-frog Mixophyes iteratus (EN) (Ehmann, 1997; Berger et al. 1998; Hines et al., 1999; Hines and McDonald, 2000; Hines et al., 2002, 2004). A recovery plan (up to 2005) exists (Hines et al., 2002), as well as one for M. balbus (VU) (Gillepsie et al., 2004; Hunter and Gillepsie, 2011). A recovery plan for the Critically Endangered booroolong frog (Litoria booroolongensis) has recently been published (Hero et al., 2004; OEH, 2012), as has a threat abatement plan for Amphibian chytrid fungus (DEC, 2011). Serious attention is being paid to this problem but until these amphibian populations stabilise or improve the threat to some amphibians in the World Heritage site must be viewed as critical.
However, there have also been observations of recovery of populations in one species, Fleayi's barred frog (Mixophyes fleayi) (Newell et al., 2013; Quick et al., 2015).  The primary threat causing the previous rapid declines is considered to be the amphibian pathogen Chyrid (Scheele et al., 2019), and it is possible that there is now some dynamic balance between the disease and the persistence of the susceptible frog species.  However, it is vital that ongoing monitoring and recovery actions are implemented.  More recent studies have indicated that climate warming will be a threat to the persistence of several of the frog species (Hagger et al., 2013; Willacy et al., 2015).

Endemic and threatened reptiles

Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
About 110 species of reptiles have been reported in the site. Of the 7 species reported to be mostly restricted to the World Heritage site, none are on the EPBC list. Two species listed as present in the site are listed on the EPBC list as VU (three-toed snake-tooth skink Coeranoscincus reticulatus and the collared delma Delma torquata). No reports of any significant increase in number of threatened reptile species occurring within the World Heritage site (State Party of Australia, 2003). Species with wide climatic distributions are likely to adapt to a moderate change in temperature. However, some species such as Tyron’s skink Karma tryoni and the beech skink Harrisoniascincus zia are only found above 800 m ASL, so may be affected by a moderate rise in temperature as their climatic envelope disappears off the top of the mountains (ANU, 2009).  
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While the geological values appear stable, the trends for some threatened species are uncertain, despite recovery and action plans. The greatest concern has been for amphibian species within the World Heritage site, although declines in indicator bird species and several plant species have also been reported..  More monitoring data, and analysis of this data, is needed for numerous species that contribute to the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. Recent wildfires have demonstrated the vulnerability of the World Heritage values of the site to increased temperature, drought conditions and catastrophic events. In addition, invasive species, including pathogens, may be affecting natural ongoing evolutionary processes for some species and this trend is likely to increase (Makinson, 2018). Although many biodiversity values are well conserved across the site, the situation in the Gondwana Rainforests is of concern for many species and ecological processes that constitute the site's Outstanding Universal Value.

Additional information

Outdoor recreation and tourism
The site is a major destination for a large number of tourists. The Gondwana Rainforests include some of the most dramatic scenery in Australia, with landscapes dominated by striking vertical cliffs and precipitous waterfalls. One of the most spectacular is the convoluted gorge country of Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, which contains numerous dramatic waterfalls including the third tallest waterfall in Australia, Wollomombi Falls. This natural beauty has great aesthetic value. The Gondwana Rainforests also offers outstanding vistas from vantage points on ridges and escarpments, including Point Lookout and Best of All Lookout. The wild and rugged landscapes, diverse native plants and animals and opportunities for solitude and quiet reflection are landscape attributes that promote inspiration, serenity and rejuvenation of the human mind and spirit. The Gondwana Rainforests have inspired contributions in the fields of philosophy, painting, literature, music and photography.
Most of the reserves in the Gondwana Rainforests are located along the Great Eastern Escarpment behind the coastal plains, forming the mountain backdrop to a rapidly growing residential and tourist population. Those parts of the reserves that are easily accessible from the major population centres have high visitor values and provide outstanding settings for recreation and tourism. 
The dramatic landscapes, waterfalls and lush forests of the Gondwana Rainforests attract a wide range of visitors seeking unique nature-based experiences. A diversity of activities are undertaken by visitors depending on the features and facilities within each reserve, including short walks, picnics, scenic drives, long-distance walks, mountain-bike riding and camping. Nature observation, bird watching and photography are popular activities across the diverse collection of reserves.
Park visitor centres have been established within and outside the Gondwana Rainforests in Dorrigo (NSW), Lamington (Qld) and Sea Acres (NSW) national parks. High-quality interpretive displays featuring the World Heritage site have also been installed in other reserves and nearby towns (Extracts from the updated Gondwana Rainforests Strategic Plan (in prep.).
 
Sacred natural sites or landscapes
There are several important known archaeological sites and a large number of sites of significance across the World Heritage site, many of which are associated with or include natural features in the landscape. Some of these have been declared as Aboriginal Places under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act (1974) including Wollumbin (Mount Warning) was declared in 2015. A list of some other places of Aboriginal significance can be found at https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/questions/find-aboriginal-places-of-significance-nsw.
The continuity of knowledge and use of these sites by First Nations people form the basis for native title claims under the provisions of the Native Title Act 1993.
 
Wilderness and iconic features
The Gondwana Rainforests include a number of areas that are identified as wilderness in legislation or public perception. Wilderness areas represent the most intact and undisturbed expanses of natural landscape. Free from development and roads, they provide opportunities for solitude and self-reliant recreation. They are also important for biological conservation, being of a size to allow the continuation of natural ecological and evolutionary processes with minimal interference. This protects the existing biodiversity, including many of the attributes of the site's Outstanding Universal Value, in a functioning natural system.
 
Carbon sequestration,
Soil stabilisation,
Water provision (importance for water quantity and quality)
The large undisturbed areas of the Gondwana Rainforests protect the headwaters of several major catchments, contributing to protection of water quality and mediating flows. Many of the components  provide major environmental services in carbon sequestration, controlling erosion and conserving and maintaining water quantity and quality (Queensland Government, 2017).
 
Importance for research,
Contribution to education
The variety of ecological communities, landscapes and cultural sites of the Gondwana Rainforests and its accessibility and proximity to several universities make it ideal for research and educational opportunities. As some communities and species are almost exclusively found in these reserves, there will be ongoing scientific interest in the Gondwana Rainforests.
Research is currently conducted across the Gondwana Rainforests by a variety of people and groups from diverse fields, including international researchers and local universities. Several of the reserves in the Gondwana Rainforests have an established history of providing field sites for students from tertiary, secondary and primary education institutions.
The high scientific value of the Gondwana Rainforests reflects what has been discovered and what remains to be discovered. New species are still being identified and the unique relationships of the biota over the aeons is still being discovered. 
The site is a natural laboratory for a wide range of scientific questions generating new knowledge and for providing education to the public.
 
The World Heritage site provides a wide array of benefits to the surrounding community as well as nationally and internationally. This includes an essential role in nature conservation, tourism, generation knowledge, and provision of environmental services such as clean water supplies.
While the significant Aboriginal cultural and spiritual values associated with this site were not part of the reasons for its inscription on the World Heritage List, the local as well as national and international community benefits from their conservation in this site.
Organization Project duration Brief description of Active Projects
1 Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Rainforest Seed Project.
2 Friends of Gondwana Forest Cave Creek Rainforest Rehabilitation Scheme (adjacent to Springbrook NP)
3 Christmas Creek Landcare creek restoration Christmas Creek Landcare creek restoration (private properties adjoining Lamington National Park) &nbsp;
4 NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation programmes and projects are carried out within each component reserve of the World Heritage site consistent with reserve management plans, fire management plans, and regional pest management strategies. These projects include weed control, erosion control, bush regeneration projects, fire management including protection of fire-sensitive vegetation and refugia, feral animal control programs, research and monitoring. These programmes and projects are developed and implemented in partnership with community groups, Aboriginal partners, academic institutions, contractors and citizen science groups. Post fire assessment of the impacts of the 2019-20 wildfires on the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, including ground-truthing of satellite mapping and modelling is continuing. Funding has been provided for Bushfire Recovery program for threatened species to control impact of pest and weed species and support fire management projects. &nbsp;
5 Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation programmes and projects are carried out within each component reserve of the World Heritage site consistent with reserve management plans, fire management plans, and pest management strategies. These programs and projects are developed and implemented in partnership with community groups, Aboriginal partners, academic institutions and contractors and citizen science groups. Post fire assessment of the impacts of the 2019-20 wildfires on the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, including ground-truthing of satellite mapping and modelling is continuing. Funding has been provided for Bushfire Recovery program for threatened species to control impact of pest and weed species and support fire management projects.
6 NSW Saving Our Species program and NPWS partnership delivery including community technical and scientific expertise Specific recovery actions are being undertaken at sites within the Gondwana Rainforests reserves for several threatened species. &nbsp;&nbsp;
7 NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Environment Energy and Science Mapping and modelling of the extent and severity of the 2019-20 fires and undertaking recovery actions in partnership with reserve managers and natural resource management partners. Risk assessment of the impacts of the 2019-20 fires on the World Heritage values of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia Climate change adaptation plan for the World Heritage listed National Parks within the Tweed-Caldera Group of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.
8 Queensland Department of Environment and Science Assessment of the impacts of the recent 2019-20 fires on the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, including mapping and modelling and ground truthing of the extent and severity of the 2019-20 fires in the Queensland section of the Gondwana Rainforests. Specific recovery actions are being undertaken at sites within the Queensland Gondwana Rainforests reserves for several threatened species impacted by 2019-2020 bushfires. These projects include weed control, erosion control, bush regeneration projects, fire management including protection of fire-sensitive vegetation and refugia, feral animal control programs, research and monitoring. Some of these programs and projects are developed and implemented with partnerships. Threatened species post-fire recovery projects for priority species including Eastern bristlebird, rufous scrub-bird, Coxen's fig-parrot, Albert's lyrebird, glossy black cockatoo, brush-tailed rock-wallaby, New Holland mouse, Hastings River mouse, cascade treefrog, Fleay's barred frog, red-and-yellow mountain frog, spotted-tailed quoll and long-nosed potoroo, key at-risk invertebrates, Zieria montana, Bertya ernestiana, Tetramolopium vagans, Agiortia cicatricata, Euphrasia bella, Pimelea umbratica, Dendrobium schneiderae var. schneiderae, Leionema elatius subsp. beckleri, Pultenaea whiteana, Pseudanthus pauciflorus subsp. pauciflorus, Bulbophyllum weinthalii subsp. weinthalii, Leptospermum barneyense, Sarcochilus hartmannii, Hibbertia monticola, Brachyscome ascendens, Coopernookia scabridiuscula, Comesperma breviflorum, Muellerina myrtifolia, Sarcochilus weinthalii, Phlegmariurus varius, Gonocarpus hirtus and Clematis fawcettii. &nbsp;
9 Northern Tablelands Local Land Services in partnership with the NSW Environment and Energy and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation projects in partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and private landholders including assessment of the impacts of fires and the conservation status of species of significance for the Gondwana Rainforests including the Hastings River mouse and the rufous scrub bird.
10 North Coast Local Land Services in partnership with the NSW Environment and Energy and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Conservation projects in partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and private landholders including assessment of the impacts of fires and the conservation status of species of significance for the Gondwana Rainforests including the Hastings River mouse, the rufous scrub bird and the eastern bristlebird. Control of lantana to support management of Bell Miner Associated Dieback.
11 Hunter Local Land Services in partnership with the NSW Environment and Energy and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Wild dog travel pathways and genetics, within Barrington Tops NP and surrounds - Applied research management project to be undertaken in partnership with the NSW Vertebrate Research Unit, Department of Primary Industry.
12 Queensland Health Land and Water in partnership with the Qld Department of Environment and Science and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Partnership projects with Traditional Owners, government, including the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, private industry, utilities and the community to support improve and protect South East Queensland’s environment including supporting post-fire recovery of reserves within the Queensland section of the Gondwana Rainforests.
13 NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Northern Rivers Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, Southern Cross University, University of NSW, Forestry Corporation and the Border Ranges Alliance. Burning Hotspots - Gondwana Threatened Species and Fire project, including monitoring the recovery of threatened macropods following recent wildfires. &nbsp;
14 Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife with Northern Rivers Fire & Biodiversity Consortium Inc and Border Ranges Alliance (BRA) Trails for tails: Restoring Pathways for Albert’s Lyrebird
15 University of Newcastle with the NSW Saving our species program and the NSW Environmental Trust Improving conservation of vulnerable amphibian fauna in protected habitats
16 University of Newcastle with the NSW Saving our species program Adaptive capacity in mountain-top frogs
17 University of New England with the NSW Saving our species program Pollination systems as indicators of fire regime impacts – a study of thresholds &nbsp;
18 University if New South Wales through the Commonwealth Bushfire Recovery program Building capacity for resilience and recovery of threatened ecological communities
19 NSW NPWS and University of Newcastle Assessment of the impact of large vertebrate pests on the Montane Swamps, broad-toothed rat and Amphibians in Barrington Tops NP
20 University of Newcastle Long-term monitoring of threatened stream frog communities, including assessment of the impact of the amphibian disease chytridiomycosis
21 University of Western Sydney in partnership with the NSW Environment and Energy and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Post-fire response of golden-tipped bat Phoniscus papuensis
22 Southern Cross University Studies of the habitat features and the impact of climate warming on the mountain frog (Philoria kundagungan)
23 Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance Inc. Jaliigirr landscape connections in the Great Eastern Ranges &nbsp;
24 Private land conservation Multiple projects supported by local and state governments, non-government organisations and local landholders, e.g., Bulimbah Nature Refuge (Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Association), Bartopia Nature Refuge, Land for Wildlife properties.&nbsp;
25 Border Ranges Biodiversity Alliance Border Ranges climate corridor consolidation
26 Australian Rainforest Conservation Society Springbrook Rainforest Restoration Project (and others)
27 Big Scrub Landcare Conserving endangered lowland rainforest and its many threatened species in the Big Scrub Region of the NSW North Coast

References

References
1
ANU (Australian National University). 2009. Implications of climate change for Australia’s World Heritage properties: A preliminary assessment. A report to the Department of Climate Change and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts by the Fenner School of  Environment and Society, Australian National University.
2
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