SC Annual Report 2015-16

BACKGROUND

This report outlines the activities of the ACT Scientific Committee (SC) for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016.

The SC was established under the Nature Conservation Act 2014 (the Act)which commenced on 11 June 2015. The SC gained additional responsibilities under the 2014 Act. The Minister for the Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) appoints the SC members.

The SC replaced the Flora and Fauna Committee (FFC). The FFC was established on 12 January 1995 following commencement on 11 October 1994 of amendments to the Nature Conservation Act 1980.

The SC had four scheduled meetings during the reporting period. A schedule of meeting dates is at Attachment A.

Functions

The SC has specific responsibilities to assess the conservation status of nominated species of flora and fauna and ecological communities in the ACT and key threatening processes. The SC makes recommendations to the Minister about listing as threatened, species and ecological communities according tothe degree of threat; and listing of key threatening processes. The SC also provides expert, scientific and objective advice to the Minister and the Conservator of Flora and Fauna (the Conservator) in relation to nature conservation issues in the ACT region.

Specific responsibilities of the SC under the amended Nature Conservation Act 2014 include:

  • The Minister must consult with the SC in developing list Criteria for:
    • Threatened Native Species (s 65)
    • Threatened Ecological Communities (s 71)
    • Key Threatening Processes (s 78)
    • Protected Native Species (s 113 (3))
  • The SC or the Conservator may seek to have the Criteria reviewed if the Criteria are not adequately identifying items eligible to be listed as threatened, or there are changes to the international or national standards. (ss 66, 72, 79, 114)
  • The SC may receive, reject or make a listing nomination and must carry out a listing assessment of the nominated item against the Criteria for:
    • Threatened Native Species and Ecological Communities (ss 81-85)
    • Key Threatening Processes (ss 79B-79F)
  • The Minister must consult with the SC before including or transferring a relevant item in a list. A relevant item being a nationally threatened item that is a Commonwealth or State listed item for which an ACT nomination and assessment is not required (s 90A)
  • The SC must prepare a Conservation Advice for a nominated item proposed for listing. The Conservation Advice must be consistent with any Conservation Advice guidelines prepared by the Minister. The Conservation Advice must include the outcome of the listing assessment and must be given to the Minister within 15 months of the commencement of the assessment process (s 90D).The Conservation Advice informs the threatened species and ecological communities listing decisions made by the Minister
  • The SC may review a Conservation Advice on its own initiative or at the Conservator’s request and may make recommendations to the Conservator about the advice. (s 90F)
  • The Minister must seek advice from the SC in deciding whether an Action Plan needs to be prepared for an applicable species (s 100A):
  1. a critically endangered species
  2. an endangered species
  3. a vulnerable species
  4. a regionally threatened species
  5. a regionally conservation dependent species
  • The Conservator must consult with the SC on the preparation of:
    • Draft Nature Conservation Strategy(s 50)
    • Draft Action Plans (s 102)
    • Draft Native Species Conservation Plans (s 118)
  • The SC must review Action Plans (s 108(5)) every 10 years after the plan commences or at any other time at the Conservator’s request. The SC may make recommendations including that a plan is no longer required (s 108 (7)).
  • The SC may be asked to review Native Species Conservation Plans and make recommendations (s 125) to the Conservator
  • The Conservator must consult with the SC about priorities for the biennial Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Program (BRAMP) and about appropriate methods for monitoring (s 25(2))
  • The Conservator must consult the SC in preparing any Conservator guidelines about how the Conservator is to exercise the Conservator’s functions (s 23(2))
  • The SC must, each financial year, give the Minister an annual report about the activities of the committee during the year and make this report publically accessible (s 33)

Criteria for listing are being prepared to align with new categories in the Act and the IUCN criteria for these categories that are part of the National Reform for Threatened Species and Ecological Species Listing.

Membership

The Act specifies that the SC shall consist of seven members with expertise in ecology and biological diversity. A range of disciplines are represented so that collectively the SC can address a variety of issues with a high degree of competence. Members are appointed by the Minister on a part-time basis. Membership during the reporting period is detailed below. In July 2015 seven members were appointed to the Committee for a three year term. Dr Richard Schodde was a member of the Scientific Committee’s predecessor, the Flora and Fauna Committee from February 2010 to June 2016.  Dr Schodde’s stepped down from the Committee on 30 June 2016 after 6 years of valuable service.

Chair:

Distinguished Professor Arthur Georges

University of Canberra, Institute for Applied Ecology

Deputy Chair:

Honorary Professor Penny Olsen

Australian National University, Research School of Biology

Other members:

Associate Professor Mark Lintermans

University of Canberra, Institute for Applied Ecology

 

Assistant Professor Jasmyn Lynch

University of Canberra, Institute for Applied Ecology

 

Dr Margaret Kitchin

Conservation Research, ACT Environment and Planning Directorate

 

Dr Barry Richardson

CSIRO, National Research Collections Australia

 

Liz Dovey

Australian National University, PhD scholar, Fenner School of Environment and Society

More information about SC members is provided at Attachment B.

Observers

Representatives from the ACT Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee were invited to attend SC meetings as observers. Their attendance facilitates communication between the two committees. Representation from the ACT Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee rotates around the members and during 2015-16 Dr Lyn Hinds, Dr Rosemary Purdie and Mr Paul Davies represented that committee at SC meetings. Also one member of the SC (Assistant Professor Jasmyn Lynch) is a member of the Natural Resource Management Council which assists with communication between these two committees.

Secretary

Senior Manager of the Nature Conservation Policy branch, Ms Heather Tomlinson, was appointed Secretary to the SC in June 2016. Ms Tomlinson had served as Secretary to the FFC from February 2012.

Policy Officers within the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate provided administrative support for the SC:

  • Ms Serena Farrelly - 2015
  • Ms Linden Chalmers - 2016

HIGHLIGHTS OF COMMITTEE BUSINESS

Assessment of nominations

The SC did not receive any nominations during the reporting period.

The following potential nominations of threatening processes were held over in this period for further development and consideration by the Committee.

  • Broad nomination of overgrazing
  • Non-natural fragmentation of habitats

Threatened Listings

During the reporting period there were no new listings of threatened species, ecological communities or key threatening processes.

On 3 June 2016 some minor amendments to the list were made:

  • Xanthomyza phrygia (Regent Honeyeater) renamed Anthochaera phrygia to be aligned with EPBC Act
  • Petroica multicolour (Scarlet Robin) corrected to Petroica boodang
  • Daphoenositta chrysoptera Varied Sitella corrected spelling of common name to Varied Sittella

A current list of declared species and ecological communities and other assessed nominations since the SC’s establishment in January 1995 is at Attachment C.

Action Plans

Once a threatened species, ecological community or key threatening is listed, the Minister decides if an Action Plan is required and the Conservator must prepare an  Action Plan detailing conservation issues and proposed conservation measures for the species/community. The SC provides advice to the Conservator on whether the proposed Action Plan adequately addresses the conservation requirements of the species/community concerned. Scrutiny of the preparation and implementation of Action Plans is a significant component of the SC’s work. The Conservator consults the SC on Draft Action Plans prior to their mandatory release for public comment.  

Draft Action Plans

The SC provided advice to the ACT Government on the Draft ACT Native Grassland Conservation Strategy which involved a full revision of Action Plan No 28. Vision Splendid of Grassy Plains Extended ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy. The Draft Strategy and Action Plans are expected to be released for public comment shortly.

The following Draft Action Plans were revised and prepared under the Draft ACT Native Grassland Conservation Strategy:

  • Natural Temperate Grassland Ecological Community
  • Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla)
  • Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana)
  • Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar)
  • Perunga Grasshopper (Perunga orachea)
  • Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides)
  • Ginninderra Peppercress (Lepidium ginninderrense)
  • Baeuerlen’s Gentian (Gentiana baeuerlenii)

The SC provided advice to the ACT Government on the scoping of the Draft ACT Aquatic and Riparian Strategy which involves a full revision of Action Plan 29 Ribbons of Life ACT Aquatic Species and Riparian Zone Conservation Strategy. This is an ongoing process and is not yet ready for public consultation

The following Draft Action Plans will be revised or prepared under the Draft ACT Aquatic and Riparian Strategy:

  • Tuggeranong Lignum (Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong)
  • Two-spined Blackfish (Gadopsis bispinosus)
  • Trout Cod (Maccullochella macquariensis)
  • Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica)
  • Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus)
  • Murray River Crayfish (Euastacus armatus)
  • Murumbidgee Bossiaea (Bossiaea grayii)
  • Possible for consideration Red Spot Dragon Fly (Austropetalia tonyana) (not yet listed in ACT, listed in NSW as vulnerable and Victoria as near threatened)
  • Possible for consideration Eucalyptus viminalis riparian community (not listed)

The SC has also provided advice to the ACT Government in this reporting period on the following stand alone Draft Action Plans:

  • Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang)
  • Migratory Species
  • Pink-tailed Worm Lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) which has been removed from the previous Action Plan 29, above

Review of Action Plan implementation

The SC undertakes a rolling program to review progress towards Action Plan implementation. During the reporting period there were no implementation reviews made by the SC.

Liaison with NSW, Commonwealth and other organisations on regional issues

The SC reviews national listings under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). During the reporting period, the following listings of relevance to the ACT were identified:

  • Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta) listed as vulnerable – 8 July 2015 (already listed in ACT as vulnerable).
  • Black Gum (Eucalyptus aggregata) listed as vulnerable. The ACT has a small isolated population of this species so the Committee might need to consider the approach to this species after the national listing process has been finalised.
  • Broad-toothed Rat (mainland) (Mastacomys fuscus mordicus) listed as vulnerable - 10 May 2016. This sub-species is not listed in the ACT
  • Eastern Bettong (proposed to list as Vulnerable). This species will probably be listed as Conservation Dependent in the ACT
  • Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolour) transferred to Critically Endangered – 5 May 2016. This species is currently listed as Vulnerable in the ACT.
  • Greater Glider (Petauroides volans) listed as vulnerable – 5 May 2016
  • Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus) listed as endangered - 3 Dec 2015 has some relevance in that it has just been reintroduced into the ACT.
  • Natural Temperate Grassland of the South-Eastern Highlands listed as Critically Endangered Community - 6 April 2016

The SC exchanges information with the NSW Scientific Committee and the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee on a regular basis. Amongst other things, the ACT provides information on ACT declarations and copies of ACT draft and final Action Plans. NSW in turn provides information on Preliminary and Final Determinations made under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the Fisheries Management Act 1994. The SC routinely assesses the determinations made in NSW with the view to identifying any species, communities and threatening processes that warrant consideration from an ACT and region perspective, and if relevant, provides advice to the NSW Scientific Committee and the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee on their proposed recommendations. One listing of relevance to the ACT was noted in January 2016:

  • Stocky Galaxias (Galaxias tantangara), listed as a Critically Endangered Species, occurs in the Canberra region above Tantangara Dam but not in the ACT itself.

Advice to ACT Government agencies during development and review of policy, strategies and legislation

With part of the SC’s charter being to provide advice on nature conservation issues generally, the SC provided comment and advice on ACT Government documents and other matters referred to it by the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate (TAMS), Environment and Planning Directorate and other ACT Government agencies.

The Committee provided advice to the ACT Government and agencies on the following:

  • The proposed offset package for the Riverview development
  • ACT Environmental Offsets Calculator
  • Controlled Native Species Conservation Plan for Eastern Grey Kangaroo
  • Cotter Reservoir and the Macquarie Perch spawning failure
  • Dieback in Blakely’s Red Gum
  • Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii) Native Species Conservation Plan
  • The Draft Eligibility Criteria for Threatened Native Species, Threatened Communities and Key Threatening Processes
  • Single Operational List priorities

Scientific Committee Strategic PlanThe SC undertook activities in line with the outputs of the 2015 – 2018 Strategic Plan.

ATTACHMENT A

SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS AND ATTENDANCE

Member

Meeting 1

2 September 2015

Meeting 2

4 December 2015

Meeting 3

2 March 2016

Meeting 4

1 June 2016

Arthur Georges

Penny Olsen

   

Mark Lintermans

  

Margaret Kitchin

Barry Richardson

Jasmyn Lynch

  

Liz Dovey

NRMAC Observer

    

Paul Davies

  

 

Lyn Hinds

   

Rosemary Purdie

 

  

OUT OF SESSION CONSULTATIONS

  • There were no out of session meetings in the 2015-16, however, the Committee provided significant out of session guidance throughout the year in relation to the Committee business outlined in section 2.

ATTACHMENT B

SUMMARY CURRICULUM VITAE FOR

MEMBERS OF THE FLORA AND FAUNA COMMITTEE

CHAIRPERSON

Name: Professor Arthur Georges

Expertise:              Conservation biology of native Australian species, the ecology, evolution and systematics of Australian reptiles and amphibians, temperature-dependent sex determination.

Position:                Professor in Applied Ecology, Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra

Professor Georges is committed to sound fundamental science with a keen interest in its application in natural resource management. He has a strong commitment to bringing about realistic win-win situations where development and conservation come into conflict. Professor Georges has extensive experience and knowledge of the biology and conservation of Australia's reptile and amphibian species. In addition to his work as the Chair of the Flora and Fauna Committee, Professor Georges has contributed his expertise to the Australian Biodiversity Information Facility Committee, ARC Environmental Futures Network (Steering Committee), ACT Natural Resource Management Advisory Committee and the IUCN/SSC Committee on Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles (Steering Committee).

DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON

Name: Honorary Professor Penny Olsen

Expertise: Birds

Position:               Visiting Fellow, Australian National University

Dr Olsen is an ornithologist with a particular expertise in raptors. Nevertheless, her experience and interests are broad, ranging from wildlife management to behavioural ecology.  She has prepared a number of national and state recovery plans, is a long-time consultant to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage’s Environment Australia's Norfolk Island owl recovery program and works as an occasional consultant on other matters of national environmental interest. Dr Olsen is a member of Birdlife Australia’s Threatened Species Committee, tasked with the preparation of The Action Plan for Australian Birds, which informs the Australian government and feeds directly into the IUCN Red List. She is also on the committee of the Canberra Birds Conservation Fund, an initiative of the Canberra Ornithologists Group. Dr Olsen has published a number of research papers, books and popular articles on a diversity of subjects including conservation, threatened species and pest management. She is an Honorary Professor in the Division of Evolution, Ecology and Genetics at the Australian National University.

OTHER MEMBERS

Name: Dr Margaret Kitchin

Expertise: Fireecology, native vegetation

Position: Senior Forrest Ecologist, Parks, Conservation and Lands, ACT Government

Dr Kitchin has extensive expertise in fire ecology, particularly in relation to the impact of fire on native Australian vegetation. In her current position she has been responsible for the establishment of the post 2003 vegetation monitoring program, working on the Lower Cotter Catchment Plan of Management and revegetation strategy, input and mapping for the ACT Vegetation Communities project, and coordinating ecological advice for the Conservation and Land Management bushfire operational plan.

Name: Dr Barry Richardson

Expertise: Endangerment theory, conservation genetics, conservation policy, mammals and invertebrates.

Position Honorary Research Fellow (CSIRO, National Research Collections Australia)

Dr Richardson is a researcher with a broad background including research in endangerment theory, conservation genetics and conservation policy.  He has experience in environmental research/taxonomic revisions in mammal, pest mammals, freshwater fish, pelagic and benthic chordates, terrestrial gastropods, insect communities, waste water management, spiders and red listing procedures. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow (CSIRO, National Research Collections Australia). Dr Richardson is the author and co-author of over 100 publications and has supervised over 30 Honours, Masters and PhD students.

Name: Assistant Professor Jasmyn Lynch

Expertise: Conservation biology, plant ecology, rare and threatened plant species, recovery planning and botanical survey work.

Position: Assistant Professor in Environmental Policy, University of Canberra

Assistant Professor Lynch is a conservation ecologist with expertise in research on rare and threatened species; biodiversity patterns and processes; vegetation, climate and geomorphology interactions; wetland assessments and management; and ecological and threatening process frameworks. Research experience from the genetic scale, through species autoecology, regional ecology, global patterns of diversity, to the application of science to conservation policy and environmental management. Assistant Professor Lynch has over 20 years experience on environmental issues, having worked with the Australian, Tasmanian, Queensland and Western Australian governments, the University of Queensland, the University of Tasmania and Indigenous representatives of Cape York Peninsula.

Name: Associate Professor Mark Lintermans

Expertise: Ecology and management of aquatic systems, fish, waterbirds and wetlands

Position: Associate Professor of Freshwater Fisheries Ecology and Management, University of Canberra

Associate Professor Lintermans has 30+ years experience in the ecology and management of freshwater ecosystems. He led the aquatic ecology research and management program in the ACT Government for 16 years, working predominantly on freshwater fish ecology and management. Associate Professor Lintermans sits on national recovery teams for Trout cod, Murray cod and Macquarie perch and he also convenes the Threatened Fishes Committee of the Australian Society for Fish Biology, is the Chair of the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee and is Oceania Region Chair of the IUCN Freshwater Fish Specialist Group. Associate Professor Lintermans has also worked on wetlands, particularly on migratory waterbirds at Jerrabomberra Wetlands. He has published widely on fish ecology, conservation and management.

Name: Ms Liz Dovey

Expertise: Conservation science and management, climate change science and impacts, threatened species (particularly mammals) and threatening processes (particularly invasive species).

Position: PhD scholar at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.

Ms Dovey is a conservation scientist who has worked in diverse conservation roles at state, national and international levels of government over the past 40 years. This has allowed her to develop a broad appreciation of science and management challenges from an on-ground perspective to the international arena. She has produced many publications relating to conservation. She has been involved in the assessment, documentation and planning of threatened species and communities, including leading the development of Action Plans. She was also responsible for administering national threatened species legislation. Her most recent experience includes working and studying in the climate change science and impacts field, giving her a nuanced understanding of the interactions of climate change with other pre-existing threatening processes and likely conservation consequences.

ATTACHMENT C

LISTED THREATENED SPECIES AND ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES

ENDANGERED SPECIES

Scientific name

Common Name

Date of listing

Gentiana baeuerlenii

a subalpine herb

15 Apr 1996

Prasophyllum petilum

a leek orchid

15 Apr 1996

Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides

Button Wrinklewort

15 Apr 1996

Swainsona recta

Small Purple Pea

15 Apr 1996

Synemon plana

Golden Sun Moth

15 Apr 1996

Tympanocryptis pinguicolla

Grassland Earless Dragon

15 Apr 1996

Macquaria australasica

Macquarie Perch

6 Jan 1997

Maccullochella macquariensis

Trout Cod

6 Jan 1997

Petrogale penicillata

Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby

6 Jan 1997

Anthochaera phrygia

Regent Honeyeater

30 May 1997

Pseudomys fumeus

Smoky Mouse

12 Jan 1998

Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong

Tuggeranong Lignum

19 Aug 1998

Lepidium ginninderrense

Ginninderra Peppercress

26 Oct 2001

Bidyanus bidyanus

Silver Perch

26 Oct 2001

Pseudophryne pengilleyi

Northern Corroboree Frog

4 Sept 2003

Arachnorchis actensis

Canberra Spider Orchid

11 April 2005

Corunastylis ectopa

Brindabella Midge Orchid

11 April 2005

Bossiaea grayi

A shrub

30 January 2012

    

VULNERABLE SPECIES

Scientific name

Common Name

Date of listing

Delma impar

Striped Legless Lizard

15 Apr 1996

Gadopsis bispinosus

Two-spined Blackfish

6 Jan 1997

Euastacus armatus

Murray River Crayfish

6 Jan 1997

Perunga ochracea

Perunga Grasshopper

30 May 1997

Melanodryas cucullata

Hooded Robin

30 May 1997

Lathamus discolor

Swift Parrot

30 May 1997

Polytelis swainsonii

Superb Parrot

30 May 1997

Climacteris picumnus

Brown Treecreeper

30 May 1997

Grantiella picta

Painted Honeyeater

12 Jan 1998

Dasyurus maculatus

Spotted-tailed Quoll

4 Sept 2003

Daphoenositta chrysoptera

Varied Sittella

8 Dec 2003

Lalage sueurii

White-winged Triller

8 Dec 2003

Hieraaetus morphnoides

Little Eagle

22 Feb 2008

Aprasia parapulchella

Pink-tailed Worm Lizard

27 March 2008

Calyptorhynchus lathami

Glossy Black-cockatoo

17 August 2010

Petroica boodang

Scarlet Robin

12 May 2015

ENDANGERED ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES

Community Name

Description

Date of Listing

Natural Temperate Grassland

A naturally occurring grassland of the temperate zone, dominated by native perennial tussock grasses, with associated native herbs and native fauna.

15 Apr 1996

Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland

A naturally occurring woodland of the temperate zone, in which Yellow Box co-occurs with Blakely’s Red Gum.  It includes the species rich understorey of native tussock grasses, herbs and scattered shrubs, together with a large number of native animal species.

30 May 1997