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The Jarrah Forest Flora

The Jarrah Forest is a dry sclerophyll open forest to woodland. It is unusual in Australia in being mostly dominated by a mixture of only two eucalypts over its entire extent, Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) and Marri (Corymbia calophylla).  There is also a small-tree component, with bull banksia (Banksia grandis), sheoak (Allocasuarina fraseriana), and snottygobble (Persoonia longifolia and Persoonia elliptica).  The undergrowth consists of sclerophyllous shrubs to 3m high predominantly from the families Anthericaceae, Dasypogonaceae, Leguminosae, Orchidaceae, Apiaceae, Epacridaceae, Asteraceae, Proteaceae, Restionaceae, Myrtaceae and Cyperaceae.
The south-west of Western Australia is an area of exceptionally high plant diversity, and is considered one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.  In contrast to most of the world’s forests, the plant diversity of the Jarrah Forest is found in the understorey vegetation.  Although the entire northern Jarrah Forest only contains approximately 20 indigenous tree species, the flora is estimated to contain at least 784 species.  This estimate includes swamps, streams and rocky outcrops.  In the upland areas where Alcoa’s mining occurs, the flora contains 300 to 400 non-weed plant species.
The northern Jarrah Forest has been classified into site-vegetation types (see the table for a description of some of these).  Alcoa uses a similar system to survey all areas to be mined.  Alcoa usually mines in upland areas of the forest in site-vegetation types S, P, T and combinations of these types (see explanatory table of site vegetation types and graphs). 
Pre-Mining Flora Surveys
Broadscale Flora Surveys 
Several years before mining commences the whole region of a future crusher is mapped on a 120m x 120m grid system.  This is carried out by Botanical Consultants.  The forest is mapped according to the Havel Site Vegetation Types (see introduction the jarrah forest flora) or rare or priority flora. Any threatened ecological communities are identified and recorded. Full flora species lists are produced; which are used when choosing plant species for rehabilitation of mined areas.
Forest Species Control Plots
Once the broadscale flora monitoring is complete, 400 square metred vegetation control plots are permanently established in forest adjacent to mining.  These plots are located in vegetation typical of the areas planned for mining.  Within these 20m x 20m plots all trees are identified and measured. Then abundance and cover of all understorey plants are recorded in twenty 2mx2m square quadrats within each plot (a total of 80 square meters).  These plots are re-monitored every five years and are compared with identical plots in the rehabilitated mine pits.  It is from these comparisons that we measure our performance against our species richness target in rehabilitated areas.
The abundance of each plant species in these forest plots is used to select the important species for rehabilitation, to decide either how much seed to use, or what planting density to aim for in the rehabilitated areas.  The most abundant species in the unmined Jarrah Forest are usually the highest priority species for returning to rehabilitated areas.

Table 1.

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Brief description of some northern jarrah forest site-vegetation types including those that are impacted by Alcoa’s mining activities. Adapted from Havel (1975) and Bell & Heddle (1989). Due to the gradient of vegetation communities there are often combinations of these site-vegetation types.

Graph Huntly

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Hectares of different site-vegetation types predicted to be impacted by future mining at Huntly.

“Caladenia Flava”

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“Caladenia Flava” some of the diversity of flowering plants of the jarrah forest.

Dampiera Linaris

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“Dampiera Linearis” - some of the diversity of flowering plants of the jarrah forest

Havel Site Vegetation types.

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An area of jarrah forest mapped for Havel Site Vegetation types. The horizontal lines indicate the 120m transect lines that are used as the basis for the mapping.

species list

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Part of a species list which is used to select plant species for mine rehabilitation.

layout of a permanent forest control plot.

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Diagram showing the layout of a permanent forest control plot. Trees are identified, counted and measured in the large area and understorey plants are identified, counted and measured in the smaller quadrats.