A subalpine herb (Gentiana baeuerlenii)

ACTION PLAN No. 5

In accordance with section 21 of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, the subalpine herb (Gentiana baeuerlenii) was declared an endangered species on 15 April 1996 (formerly Determination No. 29 of 1996 and currently Determination No. 89 of 1997). Section 23 of the Act requires the Conservator of Flora and Fauna to prepare an Action Plan in response to each declaration. This is the Action Plan for:

Preamble

The Nature Conservation Act 1980 establishes the ACT Flora and Fauna Committee with responsibilities for assessing the conservation status of the ACT’s flora and fauna and the ecological significance of potentially threatening processes. Where the Committee believes that a species or ecological community is threatened with extinction or a process is an ecological threat, it is required to advise the Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning, and recommend that a declaration be made accordingly.

Flora and Fauna Committee assessments are made on nature conservation grounds only and are guided by specified criteria as set out in its publication “Threatened Species and Communities in the ACT, July 1995”.

In making its assessment of this subalpine herb, the Committee concluded that it satisfied the criteria indicated in the adjacent table.

An Action Plan is required in response to each declaration. It must include proposals for the identification, protection and survival of a threatened species or ecological community, or, in the case of a threatening process, proposals to minimise its effect.

While the legal authority of this Action Plan is confined to the Australian Capital Territory, management considerations are addressed in a regional context.

Criteria Satisfied

1.1 The species is known or suspected to occur in the ACT region and is already recognised as endangered in an authoritative international or national listing.

1.2 The species is observed, estimated, inferred or suspected to be at risk of premature extinction in the ACT region in the medium-term future, as demonstrated by:

1.2.6 Extremely small population.

Species Description and Distribution

DESCRIPTION

Gentiana baeuerlenii is a small annual herb, standing 2-4 cm high. The flowers are borne singly at the ends of branching stems. Each is bell shaped, greenish outside and blue-white inside with five petals. The species occurs in the inter-tussock space of moist tussock grassland and sedgeland (Poa labillardieri and Carex gaudichaudii) associated with ground water, possibly a spring-fed area. The area is probably secondary grassland or a relict grassland opening once surrounded by open woodland. The site is on the lower slopes of a broad valley, above a river and lower valley floor.

DISTRIBUTION

The species is currently known only from one location, which was identified during a remarkable chance rediscovery in the Orroral Valley, Namadgi National Park (Figure 2) by Mr Laurie Adams of the Australian National Herbarium. It was believed to be extinct, having previously been described from the Quidong area near Bombala NSW, from specimens found there in 1887.

HABITAT

The orchid, Spiranthes sinensis, the herb, Ranunculus pimpinellifolius and the grass Hemarthria uncinata were found in association with the herb and this group of more widespread species may be indicators for other potential sites.

Conservation Status

G. baeuerlenii is recognised as a threatened species in the following sources:

National

Endangered. - ANZECC (1993).

Endangered. - Briggs & Leigh (1996).

Endangered. -Part 1, Schedule 1 of the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 (Commonwealth).

Australian Capital Territory

Endangered. - Section 21 of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, Determination No. 89 of 1997 (formerly Determination No. 29 of 1996).

Special Protection Status Species. - Schedule 6 of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, Determination No. 77 of 1996.

New South Wales

Endangered. - Part 1, Schedule 1 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Threats

It is very likely that the species was once widespread but has become restricted through activities associated with land clearing and grazing, particularly in times of drought as the wet grassy areas in which it is found would have remained palatable well into the driest seasons. Although the species is likely to be unpalatable to stock because it contains certain chemicals known to render plants distasteful, it could have been grazed inadvertently, along with other herbage species. Its habitat may have been trampled, especially when adjoining areas dried out.

There are now only a few plants at the site, less than ten having been counted in 1994. At the time of discovery in 1992, 20 plants were observed.

The main threat to survival of this population and therefore the species is likely to be deliberate or unintended actions associated with park management activites in the local area. It is not clear whether grazing animals such as kangaroos may also pose a threat to survival of remaining plants, or whether such grazing may benefit the species by keeping competing grass tussocks and other plant growth short and open.

Major Conservation Objectives

The objectives of the Action Plan are to:

  • preserve the existing ACT population as it is the only known location where the species survives;
  • manage the habitat so that natural ecological processes continue to operate; and
  • develop successful propagation techniques.

Conservation Issues and Intended Management Actions

SURVEY/MONITORING/RESEARCH

It is very unlikely that the species exists anywhere else in the ACT. Given this degree of rarity, surveys aimed at finding specimens beyond the immediate area are not economically justified. Survey opportunities will be found in other work by making field workers aware of the species and alerting interested naturalists and conservation groups. Contact will be maintained with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service on this matter.

  • Environment ACT (Wildlife Research and Monitoring) will monitor the existing population on an annual basis.

REQUIRED MANAGEMENT ACTIONS

Due to the nature and small size of the site containing the species, management actions will be directed towards maintaining existing conditions and ensuring that activities located nearby do not adversely affect the site. To aid management and monitoring of the species the site has been unobtrusively marked.

  • The site will kept open if necessary, by artificially trimming the tussock grass during the non-flowering season.- This will be done by careful use of a “whipper-snipper” and removing cut grass by raking to avoid continuous build up of decaying matter which smothers soil and small plants. Any spread of tea-tree will be monitored and appropriately controlled.
  • Herbicides will not be used anywhere in the vicinity of the site, where there is any possibility of it adversely affecting the species.
  • Activities, such as track development, which could alter the drainage of the site will not be allowed near the site.
  • Feral pig control in the area needs to be maintained.
  • Expert advice will be sought on the need and potential for ex-situ conservation measures to be taken for this species.
  • Consideration will be given to burning adjacent areas of similar habitat subject to assessment of each area.

Protection

The small number of plants known to exist would so far not support adequate seed production but when the number available is greater, depending on the season, propagation must be undertaken. This is the only way to ensure biodiversity conservation as the habitat is fragile, is being grazed by macropods and could accidentally be burnt. Nothing is known of the species’ fire ecology but it appears to be an annual and dependent on seed regeneration. Further research on this aspect is required.

There will be no track development near the site; thus, visitor access to the area where the species is located is not encouraged.

Socio-economic Issues

There are no foreseen activities or land uses which are likely to conflict with achievement of the conservation objective. Visitor access to the location will be discouraged.

The conservation and management of the subalpine herb is the responsibility of Environment ACT. Specific conservation measures, such as grass management, will be undertaken within funding provided to Environment ACT (ACT Parks and Conservation Service).

Legislative Provisions

The following legislation is relevant to conservation of flora and fauna in the ACT:

Nature Conservation Act 1980

The Nature Conservation Act protects native plants and animals. Activities affecting native plants and animals require a licence which may specify conditions to apply to the activity.

  • A person may not take a native plant or fell timber on unleased land without a licence.

Native plants and animals may be declared as protected or having special protection status in recognition of a particular conservation concern that warrants additional protection. Increased controls apply to declared species and licensing constraints are specified.

Licence Conditions (SPS)

The endangered status of G. baeuerlenii requires its listing as a Special Protection Status (SPS) species. This is the highest level of statutory protection and is conferred on species which are either threatened with extinction or are a migratory animal subject to an international agreement for their protection. Conservation requirements are a paramount consideration and only activities related to conservation of the species or serving a special purpose are permissible.

The Conservator of Flora and Fauna may only grant a licence for activities affecting a species with SPS where satisfied that the act specified in the licence:

  • is required to be done for scientific, educational, propagative or other similar purposes;
  • is required to be done for the purpose of protecting persons or property and will be conducted in a way that will, so far as is practicable, keep to a minimum any impact on the species concerned;
  • is merely incidental to other acts, and will not appreciably reduce the chances of survival or recovery in the wild of the species concerned; or
  • is of particular significance to Aboriginal tradition and will not appreciably reduce the chances of survival or recovery in the wild of the species concerned.

Other Relevant Provisions

The Nature Conservation Act provides authority for the Conservator of Flora and Fauna to manage Public Land reserved for conservation of the natural environment. Activities that are inconsistent with management objectives for nature conservation objectives are controlled. Special measures for conservation of a species or community of concern can be introduced in a reserved area, including restriction of access to important habitat.

Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991

The Land (Planning and Environment) Act is the primary authority for land planning and administration. It establishes the Territory Plan and several of its provisions are relevant to the protection of flora and fauna.

  • Public Land is reserved via the Territory Plan. Land reserved as wilderness area, national park or nature reserve has conservation of the natural environment as a paramount management objective. The Conservator of Flora and Fauna must prepare a plan of management setting out how management objectives are to be implemented or promoted.
  • Places of natural heritage significance, including important habitat for native species, may be entered in the Heritage Places Register, with conservation requirements specified.
  • Environmental Assessments and Inquiries may be initiated as part of the approvals process for defined land use and development decisions or activities prescribed as controlled. Assessments are required to address potential environmental impact, including threats to a species of flora and fauna, an ecological community or an area.

Consultation and Community Participation

As the area is well within Namadgi National Park, there is likely to be little community involvement in the forseeable future.

Implementation, Evaluation and Review

RESPONSIBILITY FOR IMPLEMENTATION

Environment ACT will have responsibility for coordination of the implementation of this Action Plan, subject to the availability of Government resources. In Namadgi National Park, the conservation and management of the species is also the responsibility of Environment ACT.

EVALUATION

 Implementation of this Action Plan will be a collaborative exercise between government agencies, landholders and the community generally. The Action Plan will be reviewed after three years. The review will comprise an assesssment of progress using the following performance indicators:

  • completion of commitments that can reasonably be expected to be finalised within the review timeframe (e.g. introduction of a statutory protection measure for a species; development of a management plan);
  • completion of a stage in a process with a time line that exceeds the review period (e.g. design or commencement of a research program);
  • commencement of a particular commitment that is of a continuing nature (e.g. design or commencement of a monitoring program for population abundance); and
  • expert assessment of achievement of conservation objectives of the Action Plan.

The review will be reported to the ACT Flora and Fauna Committee. This will provide Environment ACT and the Flora and Fauna Committee an opportunity to assess progress, take account of developments in nature conservation knowledge, policy and administration and review directions and priorities for future conservation action.

The following conservation actions will be given priority attention:

  • assessment of ex-situ conservation measures; and
  • putting protection measures in place.

Acknowledgements

The illustration of the species (Figure 1) was prepared for Environment ACT by John Pratt.

References

Adams, L.G., 1995. Flora of Australia. Volume 28, Gentianales. CSIRO Australia, Melbourne.

Adams, L.G. & Williams, J.B., 1988. Gentiana sect. Chondrophyllae (Gentianaceae) in Australia. Telopea 3(2): 167-176.

Further Reading

ANZECC, 1993. List of Threatened Australian Flora. Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, Canberra.

Briggs, J.D. & Leigh, J.H., 1996. Rare or threatened Australian plants. 1995 Revised Edn. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.


List of Action Plans - December 1997

In accordance with Section 23 of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, the following Action Plans have been prepared by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna:

No. 1: Natural Temperate Grassland - an endangered ecological community.

No. 2: Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) - a vulnerable species.

No. 3: Eastern Lined Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis lineata pinguicolla) -
an endangered species.

No. 4: A leek orchid (Prasophyllum petilum) - an endangered species.

No. 5: A subalpine herb (Gentiana baeuerlenii) - an endangered species.

No. 6: Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree) - a vulnerable species.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Further information on this Action Plan or other threatened species and ecological communities can be obtained from:

Environment ACT (Wildlife Research and Monitoring)
Phone: (02) 6207 2126
Fax: (02) 6207 2122

This document should be cited as:
ACT Government, 1997. A subalpine herb (Gentiana baeuerlenii): An endangered species. Action Plan No. 5. Environment ACT, Canberra.