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Ecosystems in Adelaide

Did you know that there are at least four distinct ecosystems in the City of Adelaide area?

Although early European colonists were very efficient in clearing vegetation for urbanisation and agriculture, we can still find representative examples of each of these unique ecosystems within the City of Adelaide Park Lands. As you listen to the audio experience for each ecosystem, imagine yourself in the area and how it might have been before it was cleared.

To preserve our natural history, the City of Adelaide has set aside six Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) to conserve each of these ecosystem types. These areas contain remnant vegetation (original, never cleared) from these ecosystems, areas of revegetation that represent a previous cleared ecosystem, or a mixture of both. These KBAs are monitored and managed by our Biodiversity Team according to thorough management plans. We encourage the public to use and explore these KBAs in a considered way.

Click the ecosystem titles below to find out more about them and where you can find them.

Why is there so much long, dry grass around the Park Lands?

Long grass might initially seem untidy, but this is how these ecosystems should look. We are intentionally managing these areas as native grasslands to preserve the natural ecosystem and enhance biodiversity. This is important for maintaining the resilience of these ecosystems in the face of their constant Threats, as well as for maintaining ecological processes, such as air filtration, that contribute to our health and wellbeing.

Why is protecting biodiversity important?

Ecosystems

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Experience the Soundscape

Immerse yourself in an aural experience of how these ecosystems may have sounded 200 years ago. Using headphones is highly recommended. 

Grey Box / SA Blue Gum Woodland

Pakapakanthi (Kaurna word meaning 'to trot: a term applied to horses’) in the old Victoria Park racecourse contains an area of Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grasslands. Once widespread across the southern part of the Adelaide plains and known to early colonists as ‘The Black Forest’, this ecosystem is now so rare that it is listed as a threatened ecological community under the Commonwealth Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Both ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ forms of this community would have existed on the Adelaide plains (see graphics below). 

In the city boundary, this area is characterised by open grassy woodland, with native herbs, forbs, lilies and grasses and few large Grey Box trees (visit See the Ecosystem Structure, below). This community still supports rare and other notable plants and animals, such as Spurred Spear-grass (Austrostipa gibbosa) and the Chequered Copper Butterfly (Lucia limbaria), which are both considered rare in South Australia.

Other iconic plants in this community include Christmas Bush (Bursaria spinosa), Flat-leaf Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea semiplana), Red Parrot-pea (Dillwynia hispida) and Purple Shrub-pea (Hardenbergia violacea). Tiny Star (Pauridia glabella) and Lesser Broad-leaf Star-lily (Wurmbea latifolia) are still present and are uncommon on the Adelaide Plains.

Locating, marking boundaries and weeding areas with rare plants are key management actions used by our Biodiversity Team in this biodiversity site.

Our Victoria Park Biodiversity Management Plan outlines how we will continue to protect this important ecological community, as well as the rare plants and animals that live here. We are happy to be working closely with volunteers from Butterfly Conservation SA in this area.

Video: Grassland Trail in Victoria Park / Pakapakanthi.

Get Amongst It

Experience the Soundscape

Immerse yourself in an aural experience of how this ecosystem may have been 200 years ago. Headphones are highly recommended. 

See the Ecosystem Structure

This ecosystem exists in ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ forms, which mainly vary in the number and type of plants in the mid- and understorey vegetation. Click on the links below the images to see their differences:

'Open' (left) and 'Closed' (right) structure of the Grey Box / SA Blue Gum Woodland

Open Grey Box Woodland graphic with person and no mid-storey vegetation

Click here to see a detailed version of 'Open' woodland.

Closed Grey Box woodland graphic showing midstorey vegetation that can still be seen through.

Click here to see a detailed version of 'Closed' woodland.

Where to Find Grey Box / SA Blue Gum Woodland

Experience this ecosystem in one of our most important biodiversity sites in Pakapakanthi / Victoria Park. You will be able to find information on this threatened ecological community and maybe even spot a rare plant or butterfly.

Access the area via the southern side of the park by bike or on foot. Parking is available on Beaumont Rd. 

SA Blue Gum / River Red Gum Woodland

River Red Gums in Park Land

Small sections of the east and north-east Park Lands contained this mix of SA Blue Gum (E. leucoxylon) and River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis) woodland. These trees would have been large, but widely-spaced and scattered, with Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), wattles (Acacia species) and other scrub forming much of the understory vegetation. The presence of Native Cherry (Exocarpus cupressiformis) in this area would certainly have been a highlight.

Image: River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) along a south Park Lands creek line in Tuthangga / Carriageway Park.

Get Amongst It

Experience the Soundscape

Immerse yourself in an aural experience of how this ecosystem may have been 200 years ago. Headphones are highly recommended. 

Where to Find SA Blue Gum / River Red Gum Woodland

You can find this ecosystem in our biodiversity area on the south-eastern side of Nantu Wama / Lefevre Park, along Kingston Terrace. Existing walking trails allow you to take a leisurely stroll through the area while admiring the native vegetation.

River Red Gum Woodland

End of Bunyip Trail Tulya Wardli Reeds Creek native vegetation

Although no remnant vegetation remains for this ecosystem, the east side of the city still flaunts towering River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and Blue Gums (E. leucoxylon), with a diverse plant mix found beneath. Reeds and rushes line Karrawirra Pari / River Torrens and its feed-in channels, mainly Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and Narrow-leaf Bulrush (Typha domingensis).

Before the riverside landscape was altered for amenity, Silky Tea-tree (Leptospermum lanigerum) and River Bottlebrush (Callistemon siebieri) would have made dense thickets, providing good habitat and food resources for many animals.

Understorey plant species (shrubs, grasses, small trees) are similar in other ecosystems around the city, and include Christmas Bush (Bursaria spinosa), Wattles (Acacia species), and native grasses such as Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra).

Image: Restored riparian (riverside) River Red Gum Woodland (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) at the end of the Bunyip Trail in Tulya Wardli / Bonython Park

Get Amongst It

Experience the Soundscape

Immerse yourself in an aural experience of how this ecosystem may have been 200 years ago. Headphones are highly recommended. 

Where to Find River Red Gum Woodland

Tainmuntilla

This multi-stage project (begun in partnership with the State Government Million Trees Program) continues to restore and revegetate the high banks of Karrawirra Pari / River Torrens in Tainmuntilla (Kaurna word for ‘mistletoe place’). Weeds have been removed and over 25,000 native plants have been replaced by community volunteers and Council staff over five years. Our latest effort is the removal of Woody Weeds from the system.

This stretch of the river now has a quiet and natural character with abundant birdlife. You may even see a swimming Rakali (Kaurna name for the native Water Rat, Hydromys chrysogaster) but don’t worry, they naturally occur here and serve an important purpose in the ecosystem.

Simply follow the bike and walking trail east along the river from Frome Rd. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife, including birds, fish, tortoises and the Rakali (Kaurna name for the native Water Rat, Hydromys chrysogaster).

Tulya Wardli

This 500 m stretch of Karrawirra Pari / River Torrens has undergone a dramatic transformation through the removal of weeds and replanting of native vegetation to restore the riparian (riverside) bushland along the low-lying reaches of the river.

Walk the Bunyip Trail, where you can find out how we have improved local biodiversity, participate in activities (PDF activity booklet, 12 pages) and experience how the area might have been before urbanisation. Click here to find out more.

Mallee Box Woodland

Mallee Box Woodland trees with grass in foreground and blue sky in background

Before urbanisation, this ecological community extended from the south-west Park Lands, through North Adelaide and into Para Hills, broken only by the riverside ecosystem of Karrawirra Pari / River Torrens. Brown sandy/loamy soils characterized this Mallee Box Woodland, which is now the best tool for assessing the historical extent of this ecological community in the landscape.

In these areas, Mallee Box (E. porosa) would have been the dominant canopy tree species, with Slender Cypress-pine (C. gracilis) becoming more common north of the current city boundary. Other characteristic plants may have included Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticellata), Christmas Bush (Bursaria spinosa), Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Purple Shrub-pea (Hardenbergia violacea) and Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra).

Few historical records informing us about the composition of this ecosystem remain. Researchers must make inferences (good guesses) based on their knowledge of other similar environments to inform revegetation work in these areas.

Wirrarninthi

Many native plants were never cleared around the West Terrace Cemetery, so this biodiversity site is one of our most important areas of remnant vegetation. The ongoing restoration of this site, called Wirrarninthi (Kaurna word for ‘to become green and forested’), has been an engaging volunteer project over many years and deserves a visit. Volunteers have contributed to revegetation, installing habitat boxes, construction of wetlands and installation of a native bee hotel alongside our Biodiversity Team.

Image: Restored Mallee Box Woodland (Eucalyptus porosa) in the Community Education Hub at Wirrarninthi / GS Kingston Park.

Get Amongst It

Experience the Soundscape

Immerse yourself in an aural experience of how this ecosystem may have been 200 years ago. Headphones are highly recommended. 

Where to Find Mallee Box Woodland

Visit our Wirrarninthi volunteer bush restoration site to see one of the best examples of revegetation close to the city. While there, you can meander along Wirrarninthi Trail or take a quick stroll nearby on the Bush Tucker trail to find edible Australian native plants.

You can access these areas via our Community Education Hub in the west Park Lands. Parking is available at the end of Catholic Cemetery Rd, just off Sir Donald Bradman Drive.

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