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We examine the nature and extent of listings of endangered ecological communities (EECs) under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act), including the role of endangered ecological communities in conservation from the landscape to species level. We ask how well the implementation of the TSC Act is working for ecological communities in relation to the key ecological issues of habitat loss and fragmentation, conservation of remnants, and conservation of ecological processes and disturbance regimes. To do this we use examples of endangered ecological communities from the Sydney Basin. Some 60 endangered ecological communities have been listed under the TSC Act since its inception and the rate of listing is likely to continue for some time yet. Most listings have been in coastal NSW, in particular in the Sydney Basin, with only a few in western NSW. This essentially reflects our current knowledge of vegetation associations in NSW and the fact that the majority of nominations have come from people who live in Sydney. In the Sydney Basin, for both the Duffys Forest EEC and the 12 EECs making up the Cumberland Plain, there has been extensive mapping of remnants and this has significantly increased both the awareness and acceptance of conservation issues relating to these communities. However, continued habitat loss and fragmentation of remnants is undermining their long-term viability. Any attempt to balance losses with reconstruction of ecological communities is not likely to contribute to their maintenance due to the time lags in reconstruction and importantly, our current lack of understanding of how to achieve restoration of complex ecological communities. Greater success is occurring in ameliorating threats to remnants of EECs, in particular weed control and minimising disturbance, especially through support from local councils and volunteer groups. However, both the number of remnants and their proximity to urban areas will influence the ability to ameliorate threats in remnants due to resource constraints. The recognition that persistence of these EECs is also dependent upon allowing appropriate disturbance regimes is occurring in relation to fire management, with implementation success based on the degree of understanding of how fire affects flora and fauna. This consideration will need to be extended to maintenance of species interactions, ecological processes and other disturbance regimes if viable endangered ecological communities are to be maintained. Based on this experience in the Sydney Basin, we would argue that the listing of threatened ecological communities in other parts of NSW is a useful conservation mechanism to raise awareness of conservation issues. Implementing recovery and the ongoing viability of such communities will be more dependent on developing an understanding of the processes that affect species persistence and interactions within communities and engaging support for conservation from local human communities.

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