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Kosciuszko Biosphere Reserve, Australia

The Kosciuszko Biosphere Reserve is located in the Australian Alps in southeast Australia. This mountainous area not only contains Australia’s highest point, reaching up 2,228 metres, but also stretches along the Great Dividing Range – one of the longest and most extraordinary mountain ranges in the world. Moraine deposits, glacial cirques and glacial lakes indicate periods of glaciation. Today, however, vegetation transforms the western side of the range with treeless alpine herb fields winding up towards arborous regions that accompany major rivers. The eastern terrain provides a more undulating topography with dry woodlands and treeless ‘frost hollows’, emerging from basins that collect cold air. Limestone belts run through the capacious and stunning Yarrangobilly Caves, which in addition to the glacial features and varied plateaux, highlight the complex set of historic geological processes that formed the area.

Designation date: 1977


Regional network: SeaBRnet

Ecosystem-based network: Global Change in Mountain Regions (GLOCHAMORE)




    Surface : 690,000 ha 

    • Core area(s): 690,000 ha 
    • Buffer zone(s): N/A
    • Transition zone(s): N/A

    Location: 36°6'S - 148°16'48"E

    Administrative Authorities

    Mr Mick Pettitt 
    Regional Manager Southern Ranges Region
    NSW Office of Environment and Heritage 
    Jindabyne,  NSW  2627

    Tel.: 02 6450 5600

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    Ecological Characteristics

    A temperate climate with heavy precipitation is the result of strong altitudinal ranges and different weather patterns. Furthermore, over 60% of the total precipitation consists of snow, a rarely occurring form of precipitation in Australia. These climatic conditions lead to a large and rich variety of habitats within the biosphere reserve. The headwaters of many Australian major rivers, such as the Murray, Snowy and Murrumbidgee, flow through Kosciuszko. Altogether, the reserve can be divided into four different vegetation areas: alpine (approximately 1,850 metres), subalpine (1,400–1,850

    metres), montane (1,100–1,400 metres) and tableland (below 1,100 metres). The alpine area is particularly diverse, containing a RAMSAR wetland, glacial and periglacial features, and 21 endemic species. Burramys parvus (mountain pygmy possum), one of Australia’s rarest species, can also be found within this area. Other examples of unique fauna are the pied currawong, white-lipped snake and Mastacomys fuscus (broad-toothed rat). The subalpine area contains species such as grey kangaroos and the lyrebird, while the montane forests and tablelands are the home to vertebrate species such as the Ringtail possum and swamp wallaby. The Kosciuszko Biosphere Reserve also hosts numerous and diverse plant species, including Eucalyptus niphophila (old-aged mature snow gumes), Discaria nitida (anchor plant) and Irenepharsus magicus (elusive cress). 


    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    Around 8,400 people live seasonally in the biosphere reserve: 400 visitors remain there during the summer, while 8,000 seasonal residents live in ski resorts during the winter. There are four small ski resort villages in the biosphere reserve: Thredbo, Perisher, Guthega and Charlotte Pass. In addition, the small village of Cabramura functions as an accommodation and service centre for employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority.

    The main economic activities within the biosphere reserve are tourism, silviculture and agriculture. Former mining and overgrazing activities led to erosion and detrimental impacts on mountains catchments and rare flora and fauna species. Karst areas and cave systems at Yarrangobilly and Cooleman are of great international and economic significance, especially because they serve as scientific, educational and cultural areas. The launch of the ‘Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme’ engineering project in 1949 led many British and other Europeans to immigrate to the area, which now includes and surrounds the biosphere reserve. As a consequence, the Aboriginal populations dispersed to other districts. Today, Aboriginal populations are included in decision-making processes regarding cultural heritage matters within the area. Links and communication between the Aboriginal populations and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are also being rebuilt and improved.



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    Last updated: August 2019