Skip to main content Accessibility help

Ecological history of Lachlan Nature Reserve, Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia: a palaeoecological approach to conservation



Reconstructing the environmental history of protected areas permits an empirically-based assessment of the conservation values ascribed to these sites. Ideally, this long-term view can contribute to evidence-based management policy that is both ecologically ‘realistic’ and pragmatically feasible. Lachlan Nature Reserve, a protected wetland in Centennial Park, Sydney, is claimed to be the final remnant of early and pre-European swamplands that were once extensive in the area, and the site is thus considered to have indigenous cultural and natural conservation significance. This study uses palynological techniques to reconstruct vegetation communities at the Reserve from the late Holocene to the present in order to assess whether these values adequately reflect the history, character and development of the site. The findings indicate that the modern site flora is a modified Melaleuca quinquenervia low forest assemblage formed in response to aggregated anthropogenic disturbance since colonial settlement. This assemblage replaces an Epacris-dominated heath-swampland community that was extirpated in the mid-20th century. These results emphasize the value of long-term studies in contributing to a realistic management policy that explicitly reflects the normative basis of conservation, and values the influence of past land-uses on contemporary protected ecosystems.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Ecological history of Lachlan Nature Reserve, Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia: a palaeoecological approach to conservation
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Ecological history of Lachlan Nature Reserve, Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia: a palaeoecological approach to conservation
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Ecological history of Lachlan Nature Reserve, Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia: a palaeoecological approach to conservation
      Available formats


Corresponding author

*Correspondence: Rebecca Hamilton e-mail:


Hide All
Ashton, P. & Blackmore, K. (1998) Centennial Park: A History. Sydney, Australia: UNSW Press.
Australian National University (2010) Australasian pollen and spore atlas [www document]. URL
Barry, D. & Oelschlaeger, M. (1996) A science for survival: values and conservation biology. Conservation Biology 10 (3): 905911.
Beadle, N.C.W. (1981) The Vegetation of Australia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Bennett, K.D. & Fuller, J.L. (2002) Determining the age of the mid-Holocene Tsuga cana densis (hemlock) decline, eastern North America. The Holocene 12 (4): 421429.
Bennett, P. & Mooney, S.D. (2003) A palynological reconstruction of pre-European riparian vegetation at Wollimbi, New South Wales and its application to stream bank management. Ecological Management & Restoration 4 (s1): s69–s78.
Benson, D. & Howell, J. (1990) Taken for Granted: The Bushland of Sydney and its Suburbs. Sydney, Australia: Kangaroo Press.
Benson, D. & Howell, J. (1994) The natural vegetation of the Sydney 1:100 000 map sheet. Cunninghamia 3 (4): 677787.
Binford, M.W. (1990) Calculation and uncertainty analysis of 210Pb dates for PIRLA project lake sediment cores. Journal of Paleolimnology 3 (3): 253267.
Bird, R.B., Bird, D.W., Codding, B.F., Parker, C.H. & Jones, J.H. (2008) The ‘fire stick farming’ hypothesis: Australian aboriginal foraging strategies, biodiversity, and anthropogenic fire mosaics Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105 (39): 1479614801.
Birks, H.J.B. (1996) Contributions of Quaternary palaeoecology to nature conservation. Journal of Vegetation Science 7 (1): 8998.
Brncic, T.M., Willis, K.J., Harris, D.J. & Washington, R. (2007) Culture or climate? The relative influences of past processes on the composition of the lowland Congo rainforest. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B Biological Sciences 362 (1478): 229242.
Caldwell, L.K. (1990) Landscape, law and public policy: conditions for an ecological perspective. Landscape Ecology 5 (1): 38.
Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust (2006) Centennial Parklands Plan of Management 2006–2016. Report. Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, Paddington, Australia.
Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust (2012) Self-guided walks: Centennial Parklands [www document]. URL
Clarkson, B.R., Schipper, L.A. & Lehmann, A. (2004) Vegetation and peat characteristics in the development of lowland restiad peat bogs, North Island, New Zealand. Wetlands 24 (1): 133151.
Coates, T.D. (2003) The effect of concentrated smoke products on the restoration of highly disturbed mineral sands in southeast Victoria. Ecological Management and Restoration 4 (2): 133139.
Context Landscape Design (2002) Tree Master Plan: Volume 1. Report no. 98.671. Paddington, Australia: Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust.
Cronan, W. (1996) The trouble with wilderness; or, getting back to the wrong nature. In: Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. ed. Cronon, W., pp. 96190. New York, NY, USA: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd.
D'Costa, D. & Kershaw, P. (1997) An expanded recent pollen database from south-eastern Australia and its potential for refinement of palaeoclimate estimates. Australian Journal of Botany 45 (3): 583605.
Davies, A.L. & Bunting, M.J. (2010) Applications of palaeoecology in conservation. The Open Ecology Journal 3: 5467.
Dearing, J. (1999) Environmental Magnetic Susceptibility: Using the Bartington MS2 System. Kenilworth, UK: Chi Publishing.
der Moral, R., Willis, R.J. & Aston, D.H. (1978) Suppression of coastal heath vegetation by Eucalyptus baxteri . Australian Journal of Botany 26 (2): 203219.
Dickson (1973) Aboriginal Pre-History of Botany Bay. In: The Botany Bay Project: A Handbook of the Botany Bay Region: Some Preliminary Papers. ed. Anderson, D.J., pp. 4050. Sydney, Australia: The Botany Bay Project Committee.
Dow, G.M. (1974) Samuel Terry: The Botany Bay Rothschild. Sydney, Australia: Sydney University Press.
Doyle, F. (1978) Centennial Park: A Lecture Given to the Society in April 1978. Randwick, Sydney, Australia: Randwick District Historical Society.
Faegri, K. & Iversen, J. (1989) Textbook of Pollen Analysis. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Feurdean, A. (2010) Forest conservation in a changing world: natural or cultural? Example from the Western Carpathians forests, Romania. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai, Geologia 55 (1): 4548.
Feurdean, A. & Willis, K.J. (2008) The usefulness of a long-term perspective in assessing current forest conservation management in the Apuseni Natural Park, Romania. Forest Ecology and Management 256 (3): 421430.
Folke, C., Carpenter, S.R., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Chapin, T. & Rockström, J. (2010) Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecology and Society 15 (4): 20 [www document]. URL
Foster, D.R. (2002) Conservation issues and approaches for dynamic cultural landscapes. Journal of Biogeography 29 (10/11): 15331535.
Foster, D.R., Hall, B., Barry, S., Clayden, S. & Parshall, T. (2002) Cultural, environmental and historical controls of vegetation patterns and the modern conservation setting on the island of Martha's Vineyard, USA. Journal of Biogeography 29 (10/11): 13811400.
Froyd, C.A. & Wilis, K.J. (2008) Emerging issues in biodiversity and conservation management: the need for a palaeoecological perspective. Quaternary Science Reviews 27 (17–18): 17231732.
Gale, S.J. & Haworth, R.J. (2002) Beyond the limits of location: human environmental disturbance prior to official European contact in early colonial Australia. Archaeology in Oceania 37 (3): 123136.
Goddard, M.A., Dougill, A.J. & Benton, T.G. (2010) Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity conservation in urban environments. TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution 25 (2): 9098.
Godefroid, S. & Koedam, N. (2003) How important are large vs. small forest remnants for the conservation of the woodland flora in an urban context? Global Ecology and Biogeography 12: 287298.
Goldberg, E.D. (1963) Geochronology with 210Pb. In: Radioactive Dating, Proceedings of a Symposium on Radioactive Dating, ed. International Atomic Energy Agency pp. 121131. Vienna, Austria: International Atomic Energy Agency.
Gordon, A.D. & Birks, H.J.B. (1972) Numerical methods in Quaternary palaeoecology 1. Zonation of pollen diagrams. New Phytologist 71 (5): 961979.
Grimm, E.C. (1987) CONISS: A FORTRAN 77 program for stratigraphically constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental sum of squares. Computers and Geosciences 13 (1): 1335.
Hamilton, H.W. (1928) The distribution of vegetation in the Sydney region. The Australian Geographer 1 (1): 4349.
Hannon, G.E., Niklasson, M., Brunet, J.Â., Eliasson, P. & Lindbladh, M. (2010) How long has the ‘hotspot’ been ‘hot’? Past stand-scale structures at Siggaboda nature reserve in southern Sweden. Biodiversity and Conservation 19 (8): 21672187.
Higuera, P.E. (2012) CRSModel: a program for chronology development from lead-210 measurements in continuous sediment records [www document]. URL
Jankowski, J. & Beck, P. (2000) Aquifer heterogenity: hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical properties of the Botany Sands aquifer and their impact on contaminant transport. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 47 (1): 4564.
Johnson, S.G., Slavich, P.G. & Hirst, P. (2003) Alteration of groundwater and sediment geochemistry in a sulfidic backswamp due to Melaleuca quinquenervia encroachment. Australian Journal of Soil Research 41 (7): 13431367.
Juggins, S. (1992) ZONE Version 1.2. University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Juggins, S. (2004) C2 Data Analysis. Version 1.4 Beta (build 3.2). University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Lamont, B. (1972) The effect of soil nutrients of the production of proteoid roots by Hakea species. Australian Journal of Botany 20 (1): 2740.
Larcombe, F.A. (1970) The History of Botany Bay 1788–1970. Sydney, Australia: Halstead Press.
Large, M.F. & Braggins, J.E. (1991) Spore Atlas of New Zealand Ferns and Fern Allies. Wellington, New Zealand: SIR Publishing.
Leslie, C. & Hancock, G.J. (2008) Estimating the date corresponding to the horizon of the first detection of 137Cs and 239+240Pu in sediment cores. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 99 (3): 483490.
Lynch, E.A. & Saltonstall, K. (2002) Paleoecological and genetic analysis provide evidence for recent colonization of native Phragmites australis populations in a Lake Superior wetland. Wetlands 22 (4): 637646.
Lynch, W.B. & Larcombe, F.A. (1959) Randwick 1859–1959. Sydney, Australia: Oswald Ziegler Publications.
Macphail, M.K. (2005) Pollen Analysis of Soil Samples, 109–113 George Street, Parramatta. Palynological report prepared 27 November 2005. Casey & Lowe Pty Ltd, Marrickville, Australia [www document]. URL
Marriott, E.W. (1982) Thomas West of Barcom Glen: His Life, Times and Family. Bowral, Australia: Barcom Press.
McHugh, G.R., Cohen, D.R., Dixon, E., Mooney, S.D. & Rutherford, N.F. (1998) The Geochemistry of Pond Sediments in Centennial Park, Botany Basin. Springwood, Australia In: Environmental Geology of the Botany Basin, ed. McNally, G.H. & Jankowski, J., pp. 5869. Springwood, Australia: EEHSG of the Geological Society of Australia and Conference Publications.
Meney, K.A. & Pate, J.S. (1999) Australian Rushes: Biology, Identification and Conservation of Restionaceae and Allied Families. Perth, Australia: University of WA Press.
Merrick, N.P. (1998) Glimpses of history: the evolution of groundwater levels and usage in the Botany Basin. In: Environmental Geology of the Botany Basin, ed. McNally, G.H. & Jankowski, J., pp. 230242. Springwood, Australia: EEHSG of the Geological Society of Australia and Conference Publications.
Moore, S.A., Wallington, T.J., Hobbs, R.J., Ehrlich, P.R., Holling, C.S., Levin, S., Lindenmayer, D., Pahl-Wostl, C., Possingham, H., Turner, M.G. & Westoby, M. (2009) Diversity in current ecological thinking: implications for environmental management. Environmental Management 43 (1): 1727.
Munsell Colour (1994) Munsell Soil Colour Charts. New Windsor, New York, USA: Gretag Macbeth.
NSW Committee on the Tunnel (1837) Tunnel: minutes of evidence taken before the Committee on the Tunnel for conducting water into the town of Sydney. Report. Government Printer, Sydney, Australia: 15 pp.
NSW Scientific Committee (2012) Eastern Suburbs banksia scrub in the Sydney Basin Bioregion: endangered ecological community listing. Report. NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, Australia
Oldfield, F. (1970) The ecological history of Blelham Bog National Nature Reserve. In: Studies in the Vegetational History of the British Isles, ed. Walker, D. & West, R.G., pp. 141157. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Olley, J., Murray, A.S., Wallbrink, P.J., Caitecheon, G. & Stanton, R. (1990) The use of fallout radionuclides as chronometers. In: Proceedings of the Quaternary Dating Workshop 1990, ed. Gillespie, R., pp. 5155. Canberra, Australia: Department of Biogeography and Geomorphology, Australian National University.
Philip, A. (1982 [1789]) The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay with an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. Melbourne, Australia: Hutchinson Group.
Public Works Department of NSW (1990) Centennial Park study. PWD Report no. 90036. Public Works Department, Sydney, Australia.
Reimer, P.J., Baillie, M.G.L., Bard, E., Bayliss, A., Beck, J.W., Blackwell, P.G., Ramsey, C.B., Buck, C.E., Burr, G.S., Edwards, R.L., Friedrich, M., Grootes, P.M., Guilderson, T.P., Hajdas, I., Heaton, T.J., Hogg, A.G., Hughen, K.A., Kaiser, K.F., Kromer, B., McCormac, F.G., Manning, S.W., Reimer, R.W., Richards, D.A., Southon, J.R., Talamo, S., Turney, C.S.M., van der Plicht, J. & Weyhenmeyer, C.E. (2009) IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years CAL BP. Radiocarbon 51 (4): 11111150.
Richards, T. & NSW Sydney Water Supply Commission (1869) Sydney Water Supply: Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the supply of water to Sydney and suburbs. Government Printer, Sydney, Australia.
Robertson, D.P. & Hull, B. (2001) Beyond biology: toward a more public ecology for conservation. Conservation Biology 15 (4): 970979.
Ross, J.B., Gibbs, B., Bennett, M. & Smolenski, B. (1998) Examples of effective groundwater remediation of contaminated sites in the Botany Basin. In: Environmental Geology of the Botany Basin, ed. McNally, G.H. & Jankowski, J., pp. 111120. Springwood, Australia: EHSG of the Geological Society of Australia and Conference Publications.
Soil Survey Staff (2010) Keys to Soil Taxonomy. Washington, DC, USA: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
State Records of NSW (1845) Moir: Sketch Lachlan Swamp and Water Reserve (Centennial Park). SG Map L.1.259. State Records of New South Wales 3335. Penrith, Australia.
State Records of NSW (1847) W.W. Dark: Copy of S.1292 of suburbs of Sydney-Darlinghurst towards Waverly, including Lachlan Water Reserve now Centennial Park. SG Map S.1.1292. State Records of NSW 5687. Penrith, Australia.
State Records of NSW (1853) J.S. Adam: Survey of part of country between Old South Head Road–Darlinghurst–Bondi to Botany Bay and Cook's River. Forwarded to Colonial Secretary by Acting Deputy Surveyor General John Thompson by Letter No.53/396, 20 Aug 1853. SG Map S.4.1292. State Records of NSW 5690. Penrith, Australia.
State Records of NSW (1883–1889) Diary of James Jones, the Head Gardener of the Botanic Gardens. NRS 13132. State Records of New South Wales 2/8588. Penrith, Australia.
Stockmarr, J. (1971) Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen et Spores 13 (1): 615621.
Stuiver, M. & Reimer, P. (1986) A computer program for radiocarbon age calibration. Radiocarbon 28 (2B): 10221030.
Sutherland, W.J., Bardsley, S., Clout, M., Depledge, M.H., Dicks, L.V., Fellman, L., Fleishman, E., Gibbons, D.W., Keim, B., Lickorish, F., Margerison, C., Monk, K.A., Norris, K., Peck, L.S., Prior, S.V., Scharlemann, J.P., Spalding, M.D. & Watkinson, A.R. (2013) A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2013. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28 (1): 1622.
Sutherland, W.J., Pullin, A.S., Dolman, P.M. & Knight, T.M. (2004) The need for evidence-based conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19 (6): 305308.
Sydney Morning Herald (1935) Centennial Park: extensive tree-plant scheme. In: The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 August 1935, p. 10. Sydney, Australia: Fairfax Media.
The Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser (1818) Paper manufactory. In: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. 2 May 1818, p. 4. Sydney, Australia: G. Howe.
University of Newcastle (2005) The Newcastle pollen collection [www document]. URL
Wallington, T.J., Hobbs, R.J. & Moore, S.A. (2005) Implications of current ecological thinking for biodiversity conservation: a review of the salient issues. Ecology and Society 10 (1): 15.
Willis, K.J. & Birks, H.J. (2006) What is natural? The need for a long-term perspective in biodiversity conservation. Science 314 (5803): 12611265.
Willis, K.J., Araujo, M.B., Bennerr, K.D., Figueroa-Rangel, B., Froyd, C.A. & Myers, N. (2007) How can a knowledge of the past help conserve the future? Biodiversity, conservation and the relevance of long-term ecological studies. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B 362 (1478): 175178.
Willis, K.J., Gillson, L. & Brncic, T.M. (2004) How ‘virgin’ is virgin rainforest? Science 304 (5669): 402403.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Hamilton and Penny Supplementary Material

 Word (20 KB)
20 KB

Ecological history of Lachlan Nature Reserve, Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia: a palaeoecological approach to conservation



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed