East Gippsland’s Range Restricted Flora

 

Banksia croajingolensis

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This page is created to help share information about East Gippsland's range restricted flora. In particular, to assist improved inter-organisational (agency, research, not-for-profit and community) collaboration to improve outcomes for threatened flora recovery impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires.

 

 

 

 

     

     

    East Gippsland, Victoria, is unique in terms of its natural environments and biodiversity. Approximately three quarters of the land area comprises national parks and other public land reserves, and there are 125 species that rely on East Gippsland for 50-100% of their recorded range. Thirty percent of these species occur nowhere else on Earth.

     

    Envite logo
     

     

    Harnessing Genetics to Restore Resilience in East Gippsland’s Threatened Flora

     

    Partners: Abigail Wills (Envite Environment); Susan Hoebee (La Trobe University); Max Elliott (Friends of Mallacoota)

    Contacts: abigailw@envite.org.au; s.hoebee@latrobe.edu.au; friendsofmallacoota@gmail.com

    Project type: monitoring, research, citizen science, management

    Location: East Gippsland

    Timing: August 2021 – 2022

    Summary

    Despite the importance of East Gippsland for biodiversity, surprisingly little environmental research has been undertaken in support of on-ground efforts to conserve, maintain and restore species and ecosystems in the region. Over 100 plant species in East Gippsland are listed as vulnerable or endangered at the national- or state-level, while the status of a further 90 remains uncertain. Many of these plants exist as small and/or localised populations and, for a great majority, their known distributions were severely burnt in the 2019/20 bushfires.

    Together, Envite Environment, La Trobe University, the Friends of Mallacoota and partners have embarked on an initiative to secure the future of East Gippsland’s threatened flora through:

    1.  surveys to assess the post-bushfire status and distribution of ten species in the wild
    2. assessment of the genomic diversity and structure of surviving, resprouting or emerging plants from six of these species to aid practical management recommendations, e.g. in case translocation is necessary to ensure survival
    3. establishment of ex situ ‘insurance’ populations in case of future environmental catastrophes. The post-fire recovery and establishment of plans that mitigate risks to the survival of our chosen plant taxa are the focus of this collaborative work.

     

    Focal Species

    Facilitating the conservation of Banksia croajingolensis

    Critically endangered

    Banksia croajingolensis

    Flowering Banksia croajingolensis at Shipwreck Creek, early 2022. Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment

     

    Banksia c map
    Banksia croajingolensis is only found in a small area of East Gippsland in south-eastern Australia. Map source:  La Trobe University.

     

    Location: East Gippsland, Croajingolong National Park

    Partners: Susan Hoebee (La Trobe University); Abigail Wills (Envite Environment); Max Elliott (Friends of Mallacoota)

    Contacts: s.hoebee@latrobe.edu.au; abigailw@envite.org.au; friendsofmallacoota@gmail.com

    Project type: monitoring, research, citizen science, management

    Timing: November 2021 – 2022

    Summary

    The Gippsland Banksia (Banksia croajingolensis) is known only from a single drainage line South of Shipwreck Creek in the Croajingolong National Park, a site that was severely burnt in the 2019/2020 megafires. Very little is known about the biology of B. croajingolensis. There is even a question about its origin, with Flora of Victoria suggesting that it may be a hybrid between other species with which it co-occurs. We are undertaking surveys to assess the post-bushfire response of B. croajingolensis, combining this with genomic assessment of diversity and structure of resprouting and emerging plants. 

    The genomic uniqueness of the species will also be assessed relative to putative parental taxa (B. marginata and B. integrifolia), along with another taxon that is thought to be closely related (B. paludosa).  These genomic outcomes will lead to practical management recommendations including, for example, ex situ collections. In this space, propagation of seed and cuttings by the Friends of Mallacoota is underway to serve as an insurance population in case of future environmental catastrophes.

    Initial survey findings

    Burnt area

    Banksia C burnt area
    Shipwreck Creek site in February 2020, immediately following the 2019/20 bushfires. Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment

    Regeneration after 2 years

    Banksia c regeneration

    Shipwreck Creek site in March 2022, 2 years after the 2019/20 bushfires (regenerating Banksia croajingolensis plants can be seen in foreground). Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment

    In October 2021, we surveyed the wild population of B.croajingolensis along two drainage lines either side of Shipwreck Creek, Croajingolong National Park, where the species was reported to occur. We counted 158 stems, which is substantially fewer than the 480 plants observed in the mid-90s (Molyneux 1995). Our output maps clearly show the entire known distribution of this species, which we now believe to be restricted to a single drainage line south of Shipwreck Creek. Besides some evidence of insect herbivory, wild plants seemed to be faring ok since the fires, with high incidence of new leaf growth from burned stems and flowering observed on two occasions. All plants found were resprouting with no newly emerging seedlings observed. Surveyed plants were tagged and leaf samples collected from 90 stems for genomic analysis. Representative herbarium specimens were collected for the La Trobe University Herbarium and will be made publicly available via the Australasian Virtual Herbarium.

    Banksia c survey map
    Map showing the location of Banksia croajingolensis plants surveyed with samples collected for genomic analysis in October 2021, in relation to historical, public records for the species, as of April 2022. Map source:  La Trobe University.

     

    Banksia croajingolensis insect herbivory
    Insect herbivory affecting resprouting Banksia croajingolensis post 2019/20 bushfires at Shipwreck Creek, despite this there is a high incidence of new leaf growth from burned stems Source: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment

     


     

    Betka Bottlebrush (Callistemon kenmorrisonii)

    Critically endangered

    Betka Bottlebrush (Callistemon kenmorrisonii)
    Betka Bottlebrush (Callistemon kenmorrisonii) plant in Wingan State Forest, taken 25th November 2021, almost 2 years after the fires. Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment.

     

    Betkia Bottlebrush distribution map
    Map showing historical, public records of Callistemon kenmorrisonnii (orange colour)  and 3 other species of range restricted Callistemons in East Gippsland, as of April 2022. Source: La Trobe University.

     

    Location: East Gippsland, Wingan State Forest, Stony Peak and Roger Track

    Summary and research questions

    The Betka Bottlebrush (Callistemon kenmorrisonii) is one of a handful of rare and endemic callistemons restricted to Far East Gippsland. C. kenmorrisonii is only known from two small populations growing on granite rock bars along the upper Betka River, one where the river intersects Stony Peak Road and one at Roger Track, in Wingan State Forest. Both populations were severely burned in the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires, and have since also been impacted by numerous flooding events following abnormally high rainfall in the years following the fires. There are unanswered questions as to the origin of C. kenmorrisonii, with suggestions that the species may be a hybrid swarm involving C. citrinus and C. subulatus. The genomic analysis component of this work aims to help resolve this hybrid hypothesis, and to provide additional information to guide and inform management actions for C. kenmorrisonii.

    Initial survey findings

    In October 2021, we surveyed the two known wild populations of C.kenmorrisonii. A total of 93 surviving plants were recorded in situ, including 37 at the Stony Peak site and 56 at Roger Track. Individual plants were mapped, tagged and leaf samples were collected for genomic analysis from all plants. Herbarium specimens were also collected. We observed this species flowering on one occasion following the 2019/20 bushfires, with burned plants seeming to be recovering well through resprouting. No newly emerging seedlings were observed.

    Betkia Bottlebrush
    Survey sites at Stony Peak site  (37 plants recorded) and  Roger Track (56 plants recorded).  Map source: Source: La Trobe University. 

     

    June 2020 (<6 months following the 2019/20 bushfires)

    Betkia Bottlebrush burnt area
    Callistemon kenmorrisonnii site in Wingan State Forest, taken 14th June 2020. Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment.

    November 2021 (almost 2 years following the fires)

    Betkia Bottlebrush natural regeneration 2 years after the fires
    Callistemon kenmorrisonnii site in Wingan State Forest, taken 25th November 2021. Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment.

     


     

    Tiny Spyridium (Spyridium cinereum)  

    Endangered

    Tiny Spyridium (Spyridium cinereum)
    Spyridium cinereum in Mallacoota, Far East Gippsland, early 2022.  Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment.

     

    Spyridium cinereum maps
    Map showing the location of Spyridium cinereum plants surveyed (orange dots) with samples collected for genomic analysis in December 2021 – April 2022 (black dots), in relation to historical, public records for the species, as of April 2022. Map source: Source: La Trobe University. 

     

    Location: East Gippsland, Mallacoota, Shipwreck Creek to Bastion Point

    Summary and research questions

    In Victoria, Spyridium cinereum is known to occur as two disjunct populations, one located in the Grampians National Park in the western part of the state and one in Mallacoota in Far East Gippsland. Prior to the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires, in Far East Gippsland, S. cinereum was described as rare but locally common in areas that had a higher frequency of disturbance (primarily slashing). All known S. cinereum in the region were severely burnt in the fires. Our aims through this work were to understand: (a) how the species is faring post-bushfires, and (b) how genomically diverse and distinct are the two Victorian populations.

    Initial survey findings

    In January – April 2022, detailed surveys of Far East Gippsland populations of S. cinereum were undertaken and leaf samples collected for genomic diversity analysis. Leaf samples for genomic analysis were also collected from the disjunct population of S. cinereum in the Grampians National Park in December 2021. Far East Gippsland surveys revealed the species to be regenerating prolifically between Bastion Point and Shipwreck Creek post the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires, including in areas where it was not previously recorded. S. cinereum was the dominant groundcover species at many of these sites, where it was observed growing in high densities of up to 10 individual plants per square meter. All plants appeared to have regenerated from seed and, by March 2022, were producing seed of their own.


    Bolwarra (Eupomatia laurina)

    Endangered

    Bolwarra Eupomatia laurina Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment
    Eupomatia laurina plant in Far East Gippsland, Victoria. Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment. 

     

    Bolwarra Eupomatia laurina map La Trobe Unoiversity
    Map showing the location of Eupomatia laurina plants surveyed (black dots) with samples collected for genomic analysis in November 2021 – January 2022, in relation to historical, public records for the species, as of April 2022 (tan dots). Map source: Source: La Trobe University. 

     

    Location: East Gippsland, Mallacoota, Shady Gully and Harrison’s Creek

    Summary and research questions

    Bolwarra, or Native Guava, (Eupomatia laurina) is a rare rainforest plant that is restricted to warm-temperate rainforest and moist places within more open forest, eastwards from Nowa Nowa in Victoria all the way up into QLD. Prior to the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires in East Gippsland, the species was threatened primarily by deer. However, these fires impacted many ecological communities that would not normally burn, including warm-temperate rainforest. The aims of this project were to survey fire-impacted warm-temperate rainforest for E. laurina, record the species’ presence and post-fire status, collect material for genomic analysis and to undertake work to support the species’ recovery on the ground.    

    Initial survey findings

    Surveys for E. laurina were undertaken in both burned and unburned warm-temperate rainforest in Far East Gippsland from November 2021 – January 2022. Two populations of the species were found resprouting in burned warm-temperate rainforest in Shady Gully near the Mallacoota township. An additional population was surveyed in unburnt warm-temperate rainforest at Harrison’s Creek, where many large, mature E. laurina were recorded. While multiple other locations were surveyed based on historical records for these species, no surviving plants were found.

    Bolwarra Eupomatia laurina Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment
    Eupomatia laurina (foreground) in typical habitat in Far East Gippsland, Victoria.  Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment. 

     


    Heathy Mirbelia (Mirbelia rubiifolia)

    Critically endangered

    Heathy Mirbelia Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment
    Mirbelia rubiifolia in flower in November 2021, Far East Gippsland, Victoria.  Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment. 

     

    Heathy Mirbelia map La Trobe University
    Map showing the location of Mirbelia rubiifolia plants surveyed (black dots) with samples collected for genomic analysis in November 2021 – January 2022, in relation to historical, public records for the species, as of April 2022 (tan dots).  Map source: Source: La Trobe University. 

     

    Location: East Gippsland, Mallacoota, Old coast Road and Heathland Walking Track

    Summary and research questions

    In Victoria, Mirbelia rubiifolia is represented by a single population in Far East Gippsland, along the Heathland Walking Track and Old Coast Road north of Shipwreck Creek. Before the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires, M. rubiifolia was known to occur on and along track edges in this locality. The area was severely burnt in the fires and it was unclear how the species would recover. Our aims were to assess the post-bushfire status and genomics of the small, isolated Victorian population of M. rubiifolia.

    Initial survey findings

    In November 2021, we mapped and collected leaf samples from surviving M. rubiifolia plants in Far East Gippsland. Our observations indicate that the species has responded well to the 2019/20 fires. A total of 196 points have been surveyed to date (all plants within 2 m counted) for this species and many more seedlings have been observed growing further into the heathlands. Along the track, multiple large M. rubiifolia were observed flowering and producing seed. Working with the land manager in the area, Parks Victoria, we advised on an altered slashing regime which has been implemented to help M. rubiifolia to continue to recover at the site.

    Heathy Mirbelia in flower Image:Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment
    Mirbelia rubiifolia in flower in November 2021, Far East Gippsland, Victoria.  Image: Bryce Watts-Parker, Envite Environment. 

     


    Prickly Tree-fern (Cyathea leichhardtiana)

    Critically endangered

    Prickly Tree-fern
    Prickly Tree-fern. Image: East Gippsland Conservation Management Network

     

    Prickly Tree-fern distribution map Source: VVB 2022
    All known historic records of Prickly Tree-fern. Source: Visualising Victoria's Biodiversity

    Location: Scattered across low East Gippsland from the Fairy Dell rainforest near Bruthen in the West to the Howe Range in the East.

     

    Conservation Management Network
    A project by East Gippsland Conservation Management Network and partners.

     

    Prickly Tree-fern (Cyathea leichhardtiana) post fire population assessment, East Gippsland

    Contacts: Tom Crook- Programs manager, tomcrook@egcmn.org.au

    Activities: Monitoring, research, citizen science and management interventions.

    Timing/duration: Previously funded by the Australian government via Landcare Australia (2020/21) Currently funded until Dec 2022 by the Ross Trust and seeking funding through to 2024/25.

    Summary

    Using a partnership-based delivery model the project seeks to build our overall understanding of the species current distribution/abundance and degree of genetic relatedness. With a view to providing post fire recovery management advice on surrounding land use, threat management interventions (weeds/deer) with possible translocation and insurance populations to maximise species persistence. Original records date back to the early 1970, but little is known of this fire sensitive and somewhat cryptic species current distribution post fire. If and where its survived.

    Prickly Tree-fern
    Prickly Tree-fern (Cyathea leichhardtiana). Image: East Gippsland Conservation Management Network.

     


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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