National recovery plan for Twenty-five threatened orchid taxa of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales 2003 - 2007
Coates, F., Jeanes, J. and Pritchard, A.
Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne, 2002
- 1. Determine current conservation status
- 2. Investigate population biology
- 3. Determine habitat requirements of key populations
- 4. Manage risks to populations
- 5. Promote in situ recruitment
- 6. Measure population trends and responses against recovery actions
- 7. Increase populations ex situ
- 8. Translocate cultivated plants
- 9. Implement an education and communication strategy
- 10. Consolidate orchid recovery and extend community networks
Acquire accurate information for conservation status assessments.
Determination or update of conservation status for all taxa for inclusion on state and national threatened species lists.
There are a number of taxa that are poorly delimited and in need of taxonomic clarification before accurate conservation status assessments can be finalised. Some taxa included under Prasophyllum are particularly difficult to identify with certainty.
Some taxa or complexes of taxa that are currently subject to taxonomic review, whilst others are in need of clarification or description. Examples include Arachnorchis concolor, C. sp. aff. venusta (Kilsyth South); Corysanthes sp. aff. diemenicus; Prasophyllum suaveolens (Jones in prep.), Prasophyllum sp. (Nagambie) (Jones in prep.); P. frenchii (Jones in prep.); P. canaliculatum (Jones in prep.); Pterostylis sp. aff. boormanii; and Thelymitra sp. aff. nuda (Laverton) (Jeanes in prep.). A new classification has been proposed for the genus Arachnorchis (Jones et al. 2001) and a number of genera erected, reinstated or raised.
In light of these recent changes or anticipated changes, clarification of the taxonomic status of the above taxa are needed before an accurate determination of their conservation status can be completed.
Accurate base line data from detailed surveys is required to determine the current conservation status of various taxa according to IUCN Red List criteria (2000), to guide decision-making as required by the EPBC Act 1999 and to prioritise recovery actions. This action will also provide information for the identification of key populations for recovery and will also be a component of developing a sound knowledge base (Actions 3 and 4).
Identify the area of extent and area of occupancy of populations: The geographic range size of populations is a critical component for assessing extinction risk (Keith 2000) and is required to determine current conservation status using IUCN Red List criteria (IUCN 2000). There is a good broad understanding of the current and former ranges of most taxa, especially where herbarium records exist. For others, such as recently described or poorly defined taxa, there is a limited understanding of former and current ranges. The known, potential or projected distributions of populations (extent of occurrence) and the smallest area occupied that is essential to the survival of populations (area of occupancy) will be determined from existing information (Jeanes 2000), field survey and targeted searches.
Estimate the number, size and structure of populations: Decisions relating to risk assessment and recovery are strongly reliant on knowledge of IUCN Red List criteria (IUCN 2000). Current estimates of population sizes are reasonably comprehensive for all taxa (Jeanes 2001; Coates unpub. data; Pritchard unpub. Data; ANOS conservation group unpub. data) but need updating and verifying during flowering seasons. Interim censusing of some populations has already been undertaken as part of the preparation of this recovery plan but further work will be required, particularly if new populations are discovered. In many cases highly accurate data from individual counts will be possible. Alternatively, a random, stratified sampling approach can be used.
Inference and estimation of population change: Where possible, herbarium records, field data held by individuals, VrotPop database records and existing maps will be used to estimate changes in population size and habitat loss as required for conservation status assessments against IUCN Red List (IUCN 2000) criteria. In some cases (eg Arachnorchis concolor, Thelymitra epipactoides, Diuris ochroma), populations have been censused for 3-10 years and accurate data are available.
Taxonomic work is currently underway at the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research Canberra (Jones in prep.) and at the National Herbarium of Victoria (Jeanes in prep.). Completion of the work is expected by 2002 for Thelymitra and estimated to be completed by 2007 for remaining taxa.
Survey and collection of baseline information for conservation assessments will be undertaken primarily by two ecologists, with assistance from ANOS members, field naturalists and other volunteers in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Cost estimates below relate to labour and associated expenses to prepare work plans, manage the work, undertake field work, collect, collate and analyse data. Volunteers will be eligible to apply for additional support through the DSE Botanic Guardians grants to cover expenses. Data collection from existing sources such as databases and Herbarium records will be the responsibility of DSE scientific staff.
- 2.1 Describe life histories
- 2.2 Evaluate natural pollination levels and/or causes of pollinator limitation
- 2.3 Determine the effects of artificial pollination on growth, survival and reproduction
- 2.4 Determine spatial distribution of mycorrhizal fungi
- 2.5 Determine optimal conditions for growth of mycorrhizal fungi in situ
- Implementation Action 2
Identify key biological functions.
Preparation of management prescriptions that will maintain, enhance or restore biological relationships fundamental to reproduction and survival.
Many orchid taxa are known to have mutually dependent relationships with soil fungi for regeneration and with invertebrate pollinators for fertilisation (Cropper & Calder 1990; Rasmussen 1995; Bower 1997-2000). Biological processes fundamental to reproduction and survival need to be identified and conditions to facilitate their functioning included in critical habitat determinations and management prescriptions. Management prescriptions and recovery actions need to consider species' biology to increase the likely success of recovery and to ensure the long term viability of populations.
The response of many orchids to management actions is known or suspected to be related to life history strategies, particularly in regard to recruitment. For example Thelymitra epipactoides is a disturbance dependent taxon (Calder et al. 1989); a reduction in flowering has been recorded in Prasophyllum where there have been increased levels of biomass accumulation (Coates & Lunt 2001). Although the life histories of most of the 25 taxa have not been recorded, this information can be readily extracted from population surveys (Action 1) and census data (Action 6). A functional groups classification incorporating morphological and life history traits will be developed for the 25 species. Future analysis will explore whether there is a relationship between functional traits and site attributes. This will contribute to a better understanding of function in relation to environmental factors.
Pollination failure has been observed at a number of threatened orchid populations in Victoria (Todd 2000). Although the reasons are not clear, it is widely believed by orchid enthusiasts that pollinators are absent from populations. Explanations for these disappearances include loss of habitat vital to invertebrate life history stages, pesticide drift, and the general consequences of habitat disturbance. Natural pollination levels will be quantified for all taxa during censusing (Action 6) and pollination levels will be compared between different populations.
Other causes of pollinator limitation, such as size of floral display, nectar reward, density dependent intraspecific competition or competition for pollinators with associated vegetation have not been considered for any Victorian orchids. Many of the 25 taxa appear to regularly set seed, particularly in the genera Prasophyllum and Thelymitra, and closer examination of population sizes, associated vegetation, habitat and life history traits of these more successful taxa (see Actions 1, 3 and 6) might provide models to understand lack of pollination elsewhere. Research into causes of pollination limitation will be encouraged (Action 9.5).
At present, a number of threatened orchid populations are hand pollinated in Victoria to maximise seed production. Although hand pollination leads to increased fruit production in the same year, the cost of successive artificial pollinations to plants is not known, although there is evidence in the literature that in some species artificial pollination can result in reduced fruit set in following years (Vitt 2001). This action will investigate changes in reproductive output (capsule size and weight) after varying levels of hand pollination in multi-flowered taxa (eg. Prasophyllum spp.). Trials will be restricted to a small number of taxa and compared with information gathered as part of the Caladenia Recovery plan (Todd 2000) for which implementation is currently underway.
Expansion of existing wild populations and translocation of cultivated plants to field sites rely on the availability of suitable fungal symbionts for regeneration and recruitment. Seed baiting (Rasmussen & Whigham 1993) is a simple method that can be used to detect the presence of mycorrhizal fungi in the field by burying orchid seeds in the soil and examining them at a later date for infection. It is currently being used successfully in the recovery of orchid populations in Victoria and Western Australia (Batty et al. 2000; A. Pritchard unpub. data; Raleigh in prep). This technique will be used to determine the presence and distribution of mycorrhizal fungi at a selected number of sites, where direct seeding and/or translocation is planned, or where seedling recruitment is absent.
Maintaining and promoting soil mycorrhizal fungi is a vital component of habitat management. At present there is no information on fungal habitat requirements or conditions that promote levels of fungal activity.
Soil characteristics will be described from field data (see Action 3) and correlated with infection success from seed baiting trials (above). There is evidence in the literature (Rasmussen & Whigham 1998) and from anecdotal accounts (C. Beardsell pers. comm.) that fungal growth is correlated with increased organic matter, soil moisture, or with increased bryophyte cover. Results will be incorporated in Action 3 (Determining habitat requirements).
Collection of information will be undertaken primarily by two ecologists, with assistance from ANOS members, field naturalists, and other volunteers in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Cost estimates below are for labour and associated expenses to manage the work, undertake field work, collect, collate and analyse data. Volunteers will be eligible to apply for additional cash funding to the DSE Botanic Guardians scheme to cover expenses. Data collection from existing sources such as databases and Herbarium records will be the responsibility of DSE scientific staff. Specialist research into mutualisms for selected species will be done as part of postgraduate or Postdoctoral work in years 3, 4 and 5 (see Action 9.5), and co-supervised by DSE scientific staff. The techniques adopted will be based on similar work undertaken elsewhere in Australia (Bower 1996) and overseas (Jersakova and Kindlmann 2001; Vitt 2001). Funds are required as leverage for collaborative grant applications to support research scholarships.
- 3.1 Identify key populations
- 3.2 Conduct surveys
- 3.3 Identify ecological correlates of key populations
- 3.4 Prepare habitat descriptions
- Implementation Action 3
Identify critical, common and potential habitat.
Preparation of management prescriptions that will maintain, enhance or restore appropriate habitat.
Broad descriptions of habitat supporting taxa have been compiled during preparation of this recovery plan (Jeanes 2000; Coates unpub. data) but there is no specific information available for identification of critical habitat as required by Section 7.09 of the EPBC Act 1999. Neither has there been any systematic assessment of the ecological processes associated with threatened orchid habitats in south-eastern Australia. Knowledge acquired from this action and from Actions 1 and 3 will provide better information necessary for determination of critical, common and potential habitat.
From the data collected in Action 1, key populations of threatened taxa will be determined as priorities for recovery. Selection of key populations will be based on population size, habitat condition, likely effectiveness of management actions, and site security. Requisite information will be collected during, but in addition to activities undertaken in Action 1.
Vegetation and environmental characteristics associated with key populations will be surveyed and used to document causes or potential causes of decline, identify disturbance requirements, for designing surveys for potential populations, and to prepare habitat descriptions. Information collected will include associated vegetation composition and condition, species abundance, environmental variables including soil properties, specific threats and site topographic variables. Bioclimatic variables will be derived from site data.
Understanding the functional roles of vegetation and site environmental characteristics are fundamental to the preparation of management prescriptions, particularly in relation to fire and pest animal control. One aim of habitat management is to enhance ecosystem health and to facilitate mutualistic relationships that exist between orchid populations and other organisms. A better understanding of the community ecology of orchid habitat can be achieved by conducting detailed analyses of the environmental attributes of habitats where orchids are abundant, sparse or absent. In particular, analysis of the condition of the ground layer, the role of soil physical properties and the implications for soil moisture retention will be addressed.
Descriptions of critical, common and potential habitat will be prepared using environmental and bioclimatic data collected from sites supporting key populations, and additional information where required. Criteria for critical habitat will comprise identification of environmental conditions that foster mutualistic relationships between orchids and other organisms that promote flowering, seed set and recruitment.
Cost estimates below are for labour and associated expenses to develop survey methods and prepare survey plans, coordinate and undertake the collection and analysis of key population assessment and ecological data across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. The work will be conducted in conjunction with implementation of Action 1.2 and costs shared between Actions 1 and 3.
- 4.1 Identify and implement strategies to control threats
- 4.2 Identify disturbance regimes to promote regeneration and recruitment
- 4.3 Protect key public land populations and habitat
- 4.4 Protect key private land populations and habitat
- Implementation Action 4
Ensure that all existing populations and their habitat are protected and managed appropriately
Reduce plant mortality due to predation, damage and weed invasion in key populations;
Increase the number of flowering plants in key populations; establish a private and public land protected area network for threatened taxa.
Identification and management of threats is the cornerstone of recovery and management. Threats to most populations have been assessed and more specific information will be recorded during population surveys (Action 3). Predation, ground disturbance and compaction from over-abundant macropod populations, reduced soil moisture resulting from loss of litter and bryophyte cover and disruption to soil drainage are all strongly implicated in population decline but have not been documented although there is evidence from existing recovery programs that grazing pressure from pest animals is a major threat to population survival (Coates and Lunt 2001; DSE unpub. data).
Protection of populations from high-risk threatening processes will require a combination of broad-scale habitat management practices and finer-scale plant protection strategies. Wherever possible, the strategies adopted should aim to complement and support any other nature conservation objectives where these have been clearly defined as part of a current park or site management plan.
Control high-priority weed species. Weed invasions represent a high risk threatening process to a number of populations, and associated indigenous vegetation. Generally, the risk posed by weeds is related to the size of the population, the number of sites at which the taxon is known and the biology, life form and population size of the weed species present.
In some cases, weed control will be achieved by adopting broad-scale habitat management approaches such as the seasonal use of fire. In other cases, target species will need to be controlled using more direct methods including herbicide application and hand-pulling. Weed identification and control plans will be prepared for each key population in the second year of recovery.
Control animal pests and predators: There are a number of animal pests and predators that pose a risk to populations in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Grazing by introduced and over-abundant native herbivores is a significant threat to ground layer vegetation, including the majority of the 25 taxa. Plant protection, using caging or fencing has already been undertaken for some of these taxa. Vegetation condition assessments in relation to kangaroo over-browsing are underway in a number of national parks in Victoria, however small reserves remain vulnerable to the impacts of excessive macropod numbers. Reserves containing particularly vulnerable populations will be brought to the attention of the Parks Victoria's Kangaroo Technical Advisory Committee for inclusion in pest animal management planning.
The threat posed by bird species and invertebrate species will need to be assessed on a site by site basis and control measures undertaken accordingly. Exclusion of slugs and snails using specially designed cages and baits are techniques that have been used for threatened plant species elsewhere in Victoria and these techniques will be adopted where necessary.
Control the likelihood of accidental damage: Recreational use of parks and reserves, as well as unreserved public land pose one of the greatest threats to orchid populations. Closure or re-routing of tracks at a number of sites will direct four wheel drive traffic away from sensitive populations. Walking tracks also need to be realigned in some cases.
The relationship between population resilience and disturbance is also poorly understood. Exceptions are Thelymitra epipactoides and Prasophyllum correctum where environmental disturbance is known to promote seedling recruitment or flowering (Calder et al. 1989; Coates and Lunt 2001). However, the response of populations to fire is poorly known for most taxa but there is evidence that the population biology of some species may be heavily influenced by fire frequencies, season of burning, time since fire and fire intensity (Backhouse and Jeanes 1995).
Draft Guidelines for Ecological Burning on Public Land (Fire Ecology Working Group 1999) have been jointly prepared by Parks Victoria and Department of Sustainability and Environment. Ecological burn plans derived from analysis of vegetation and area fire histories have also been prepared at a number of locations across Victoria by DSE and PV and are suitable for application to sites supporting some threatened orchids, particularly in southwest Victoria.
At other sites, plants are regularly slashed for fuel reduction, grazed by domestic stock and/or pest animals, or experience natural disturbance such as exposure to salt spray. The response of threatened orchid populations to disturbance needs to be assessed on a case by case basis and management adjusted as required. Implementation of this action can be achieved by analysis of survey and census data (Actions 1, 3 and 6).
As nationally threatened taxa under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, all populations of the twenty-five taxa are legally protected, wherever they occur, under section 18 of that Act. Persons proposing to carry out activities which threaten or are likely to threaten populations of these taxa must refer the proposal to Environment Australia for assessment and possible approval.
All twenty-five taxa are also protected on public land in Victoria under section 47 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Prior authorisation must be obtained under section 48 to kill, injure, disturb or collect any member of these taxa.
In addition to this legal protection, a number of populations are protected within Victorian parks and reserves. These are Arachnorchis concolor, A. cruciformis, A. fulva, Petalochilus maritimus, A. pilotensis, Corysanthes sp. aff. diemenicus, Diuris ochroma, Prasophyllum canaliculatum, P. frenchii, P. morganii, P. niphopedium, P. sp. (Nagambie), P. suaveolens, P. subbisectum, P. suttonii, P. fitzgeraldii, Pterostylis despectans, Thelymitra epipactoides, T. hiemalis and T. mackibbinii. Where the current level of protection afforded by the reserve is considered inadequate, additional protection will be sought by negotiation with reserve managers.
Protection through the development of formal agreements will be sought for populations on public land reserved for other purposes, such as road and rail reserves. This is of particular importance for populations of Prasophyllum suaveolens, P. frenchii, P. fosteri and Thelymitra gregaria.
The Victorian Government has introduced new or expanded conservation reserves in central Victoria as a result of the Environment Conservation Council review of public land use in the Box-ironbark Region. Taxa affected are Arachnorchis fulva, A. pilotensis, Prasophyllum fitzgeraldii, P. subbisectum.
Additional public land populations not protected under the above mechanisms will be identified and negotiations initiated for their protection. Potentially threatening processes include timber harvesting, domestic stock grazing and various recreational activities. Solutions include conservation zoning and implementation of management guidelines to deal with issues such as control of gold prospecting, pest plant and animal control and fire management. Identified habitat within commercial forest areas in Victoria will be protected within Special Protection Zones, which remain in perpetuity as long as conservation values are maintained. Taxa affected include Pterostylis despectans and Arachnorchis concolor.
Key populations on private land identified in Action 3.1 will be protected under various private land management agreements. These will be developed in consultation with the relevant landholders and will be designed to meet landholder and threatened orchid recovery planning objectives. Voluntary, binding nature conservation agreements are available in Victoria under the Victorian Conservation Trust Act 1972, the Conservation Forests and Lands Act 1987 and the Wildlife Act 1975 while landholders can enter into binding Heritage Agreements in South Australia under the Heritage Act 1978 and in New South Wales as part of Voluntary Conservation Agreements.
Voluntary acquisition is being considered to protect Arachnorchis sp. aff. venusta (Kilsyth South), which is confined to a single site. Negotiations are currently underway between Maroondah Shire, DSE and the landowner.
Consultation and negotiation with private landholders will be the responsibility of State departments and other relevant statutory authorities. Various incentive packages will be offered to landholders based on their preparedness to enter into long-term management agreements such as those already identified. Such incentives may include fencing, local government rate relief, water rate relief and the provision of habitat management advice and management plans to private landholders. The range of incentives available will be negotiated by the relevant state department and statutory or local government authorities and will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.
Cost estimates below relate to labour and associated expenses to collate available information, to assist land managers with preparing weed and pest animal control strategies, prepare briefings and/or background information, make recommendations to the relevant state reserve planning and land management agencies, and liaise with DSE, PV, EH and NSW NPWS regional staff.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), the South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage (EH), and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service will be responsible for initiating protection mechanisms for populations on public and private land (if required and where State Government policy applies) in years 2 and 3 of recovery, or advising relevant statutory authorities. Implementation of this action is subject to negotiation between DSE and other State agencies, pending availability of population status, distribution and other necessary information. The cost of incentives offered to landholders will be borne by the relevant agencies in years 2 and 3 of recovery. Private landholders in Victoria will also be eligible to apply to DSE for Botanic Guardians funding.
Cost estimates below also include the cost of fencing to exclude pest animals at a number of sites. Land managers will be responsible for undertaking pest animal control. State government departments will cover the costs regional staff time to assist with the development of pest animal management plans and to erect fencing at some sites.
Weed data already held on the Victorian Flora Information System will be made available as part of DSE contribution to the project. The cost of weed control will be borne by the relevant land managers in years 1 to 5 inclusive. In some cases, volunteer labour through Friends Groups and orchid societies will be used, where suitable skills exist.
Collection of vital attributes (Noble and Slatyer 1980) data will be undertaken as part of Victorian fire management planning and funded by DSE and Parks Victoria as part of existing ongoing projects. Funding for the preparation and implementation of burn plans will be negotiated with Parks Victoria. Environmental Programs staff for sites within parks and reserves supporting key populations, and with DSE Fire Management Branch for other public land sites in line with annual budget cycles, starting in year 1.
- 5.1 Prepare habitat for seedling recruitment
- 5.2 Re-stock populations with seed
- Implementation Action 5
Increase the size of populations in the wild.
Seedling recruitment in all key populations.
Recent trials indicate that good seedling germination of endangered Arachnorchis taxa have been achieved by microhabitat management. A number of techniques for have been developed and tested as part of existing Recovery Plans (Hill et al. 1999; Berwick et al. 1999; Todd 2000; Govanstone et al. 2001; C. Beardsell unpub. data) that will be used with other threatened taxa as part of this recovery plan.
Tested methods include caging, careful hand weeding, seed bed establishment, establishing safe sites for recruitment by building up ground cover around plants, and watering during critical periods. The techniques adopted will be decided on a case-by-case basis according to habitat and further techniques will be developed and implemented through an experimental approach.
Seed will be collected from wild populations and from cultivated plants where available (Action 7). Populations will be re-stocked in autumn and in some cases prior baiting to test for presence of mycorrhizal fungi will be carried out.9.2, 9.3, 9.4) who will be responsible for on-going management.
- 6.1 Conduct annual censusing of populations
- 6.2 Collate, analyse and report on census data
- 6.3 Re-prioritise and adjust recovery actions and/or threat management
- Implementation Action 6
Determine the growth rates and viability of populations.
Population Viability Analyses for key populations; appropriate management strategies in place for key populations.
Risk assessment is critical to successful conservation management by identifying important factors for species' persistence and enabling managers to plan and work toward achievable targets (Hopper 1998). Understanding the response of populations to environmental variables and management practices will identify single or multiple factors most likely to lead to recovery of populations. It will evaluate optimal conditions for promoting flowering and seed production, identify stages where management efforts should be concentrated and provide a quantitative method to measure the efficacy of recovery actions. Consequently, recent management regimes can be quantitatively assessed, and adjusted if necessary to account for variables which may be identified as critical to survivorship.
Demographic information such as recruitment and mortality, dormancy periods and the timing of life history stages will be collected for key populations. Additional information will include measurements of leaf or rosette size, population fecundity and predation levels. The response of populations to hand pollination, pest animal exclusion and other management actions will be evaluated from these data (see Actions 2 and 4). Variation in flowering between years and dormancy periods dictates that longer-term monitoring beyond the life of this recovery plan will be required before population trends for any taxon can be easily determined. However, it is anticipated that initial trends will be detected after three years.
There are a substantial amount of data that have been collected for some species, with some records since the early 1990s. Management histories, including fire histories, are well known for at least three taxa (Thelymitra epipactoides, Arachnorchis concolor, Diuris ochroma) but the response of these populations to management has not been quantified. These data may be also be suitable for Population Viability Analyses (IUCN 2000). Censusing of populations of the remaining taxa will require annual collation and analysis of data, to evaluate the effectiveness of census techniques and to contribute information to assist with implementation of other actions (eg. Action 1, 3, 4).
In line with the theory and practice of adaptive or experimental management (Hopkins and Saunders 1987), the results of recovery actions will need to be assessed against recovery goals to determine whether objectives are being achieved. Recovery criteria have been established to assess the success of recovery actions. A critical part of this process will be a review of recovery actions and threat management so that fine-tuning of recovery actions can be made if required. Review will be conducted after five years (or earlier if necessary), when sufficient data have been acquired.
Volunteers (eg. ANOS conservation group) and agency staff (DSE, PV) have begun monitoring a number of populations, directed by DSE scientific staff.
Costs estimates below relate to labour and associated expenses to collect, collate and analyse census data from key populations. Part of the travel costs will be covered by Actions 1 and 3. Ongoing assistance and advice, and training to agency staff and volunteers who will be responsible for longer-term censusing will also be undertaken (see Action 9).
- 7.1 Hand pollinate plants
- 7.2 Establish a threatened orchid seed bank and determine seed viability
- 7.3 Establish a mycorrhizal fungi bank
- 7.4 Establish and maintain cultivated populations
- 7.5 Maintain a database of threatened orchids in cultivation
- Implementation Action 7
Establish populations in cultivation.
Seed from key populations of all taxa in long term storage; fungal symbionts for endangered taxa in long term storage; development of effective propagation and cultivation techniques; at least 10 plants of each Endangered or Critically Endangered taxon in cultivation.
There is a need to establish ex situ populations, for inclusion into living collections in Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and Geelong, to safeguard species in the event of any unforeseen destruction of wild populations. However, there are still difficulties associated with propagation of large numbers of plants and establishment of plants in the wild. For these reasons, efforts to establish orchids ex situ will focus primarily on producing populations of sufficient size to provide a seed source for re-stocking of existing populations in situ, with a limited number of taxa considered for translocation (Action 8).
Cultivation of threatened orchid species subject to ongoing recovery programs (eg. Todd 2000) has been undertaken by the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Melbourne Zoo, amateur and professional growers using symbiotic and asymbiotic methods, generally good success. However, fungal isolates have been shown to improve germination and/or progression through plantlet developmental stages, more rapidly than asymbiotic methods in a range of orchid species (Clements et al. 1986; Smreciu and Currah 1989, Zettler and Mc Innis 1992, Zettler and Hofer 1998, A. Batty, KPBG, unpub. data; Raleigh in prep.). For these reasons, symbiotic propagation techniques are the preferred option, although inoculated asymbiotically grown plants may be considered pending the outcome of trials currently in progress.
Flowering in orchid populations varies annually and is influenced by a number of environmental factors so that seed set cannot be reliably predicted from year to year (Hutchings 1987; Light and MacConaill 1994; Kindlmann & Balounova 1999). Rates of natural pollination can be particularly low in some Arachnorchis species (Peakall and Beattie 1996, DSE unpubl. data). To maximise seed production and hence the potential for recruitment during critical years, hand pollination of plants will be necessary for some taxa with critically low population numbers. This will be determined in the late spring during censusing. The longer term impact of hand pollination will be assessed as part of Actions 2 and 6.
Capsules from key populations will be harvested annually where possible in late spring and re-released back onto the collection site (in the vicinity of existing plants) in late summer-early autumn (Action 5) or used to establish ex situ populations. The number of capsules harvested will depend upon total capsule numbers and will be assessed on an annual basis when population monitoring occurs. Seed viability testing using the most suitable seed germination protocols will be carried out pre- and post-storage where sufficient seed is available.
Techniques have been developed by a number of different institutions for isolating and culturing mycorrhizal fungi species associated with Diuris, Prasophyllum, Pterostylis and Arachnorchis taxa. In particular, the Victorian Orchid Recovery Program has facilitated highly successful collaborative research at RBG, RMIT and the University of Melbourne to isolate and culture the fungi associated with a number of threatened and non-threatened Victorian orchid taxa (Marven, 1996, Lucas, 1997, Huynh et al. 2001; Raleigh et al. 2001, Wright 2001). Work on isolating and culturing mycorrhizal fungi associated with threatened orchid taxa will continue as part of the current recovery plan.
Opportunities to produces fungal cultures tends to rely on student availability, as well as thesis aims and timelines, and may not always be available when needed. Some initially poor performing isolates have been shown to improve when re-isolated from infected protocorms and re-cultured at a later date. Seed availability may also fail to coincide with availability of fungal isolates. Cryostorage of fungi for future use is a vital component of recovery so that opportunities for seed germination at critical times are maximised. Fungal isolates will be stored used in ex situ propagation (Actions 7 and 8) and in fungal translocation to promote seed germination in situ.
There has been significant progress made in the area of de-flasking and establishing seedlings in pots for Victorian species of Arachnorchis (Huynh in prep.; Raleigh in prep). Further work is needed to develop propagating techniques for Prasophyllum, Diuris, Thelymitra, Corysanthes and Pterostylis. However, it is highly likely that techniques developed during implementation of existing recovery plans (eg.Todd 2000) thus far can be applied to these genera.
Some commercial nurseries and private growers also have an excellent record in keeping orchid species in cultivation. The involvement of NOGN in the recovery effort for various threatened orchid taxa will be instrumental in achieving this objective. The role of members will be both practical and advisory role, including close involvement the RBG, and the Melbourne Zoo where their expertise is currently being used, especially in regard to de-flasking, tuber division and watering regimes. The Geelong Botanic Gardens will also be closely involved with maintaining cultivated plants.
A central database of threatened orchids in cultivation has been established by NOGN. The purpose of the database is to maintain all records of cultivated plants, including seed source, locations, numbers and movements of plants, growing conditions and other information. Individual growers contribute their own records to the central database. The information is available on request to other organisations or agencies.
Cost estimates below include labour and associated expenses to hand pollinate plants, collect seed and plant material, place and collect fungal slide baits, interpret and report on results, and to provide training to State department staff and volunteers. Travel and accommodation costs are included under Actions 1,2 and 3.
Seed collection will be the responsibility of DSE staff and/or volunteers, however funds are required for the life of the recovery plan to cover the cost of cryogenic storage consumables. Where short term storage (< 6 months) is required, seeds will be dried and stored at 40C at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Additional capsules will be collected for long term storage in liquid nitrogen to optimise viability (Batty et al. 2001).
The work will also require specialist expertise in mycology, particularly the identification and culture of fungi in the laboratory. The RBG will undertake the work for all taxa. Costs estimates below relate to the purchase of laboratory consumables and labour to collect, culture, store and supply fungal replicates, prepare fungal slide baits and cultivate plants. Postgraduate and Honours projects will be encouraged (see Action 9). Laboratory facilities will be donated in kind by the RBG as part of their contribution to the recovery of threatened orchid taxa. Project management, scientific and technical advice will be provided by DSE, senior RBG staff, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology as required.
NOGN/RBG will be responsible for maintaining the database.
- 8.1 Determine criteria for re-stocking/re-introduction
- 8.2 Evaluate site suitability
- 8.3 Determine long term cost-benefits and feasibility of translocating cultivated plants
- 8.4 Prepare and implement translocation plans
- 8.5 Maintain translocated populations
- Implementation Action 8
Establish cultivated plants in the wild.
An increase in the size of targeted wild populations by up to 50%.
For many endangered orchid taxa known in low numbers from single or very few populations, the risk of extinction in the wild from lack of population vigour or from accidental damage remains very high. Unreserved taxa are at particularly high risk. Wherever possible, in situ techniques and threat management will be used to promote regeneration and recruitment and to increase population resilience. However, in order to reduce risk it may be necessary to re-stock existing populations or re-introduce populations for some taxa.
At present the ecological and biological requirements of translocated orchid populations are poorly understood. There have been very few known attempts to establish cultivated populations of terrestrial orchids at sites anywhere in Australia, and it is highly unlikely that successful re-introductions or re-stocking of existing populations will be possible without appropriate knowledge and skills, or in the absence of adequate resources. However, techniques are currently being developed at KPBG that are expected to greatly improve the probabilities of success of plant transfer into new areas (K. Dixon, KPBG, pers. comm.). It is intended that these techniques will be further developed as part of ongoing recovery plans (Hill et al. 1999; Todd 2000).
Although in situ recovery techniques will be the preferred approach in this recovery plan, translocation will be considered where there is a reasonable chance of success (> 50%), based on populations meeting specific criteria (ANPC Translocation Working Group 1997), including the acquisition of appropriate knowledge, development of suitable techniques, or where existing recovery plans exist that stipulate translocation. Translocation will be considered for taxonomically clearly defined taxa where adequate material exists to harvest viable seed and organs for fungal isolation, and where in situ recovery has failed or is likely to fail.
Criteria for re-stocking or re-introduction will be primarily based on the likelihood of survival of cultivated plants in the wild in relation to habitat condition, intactness of ecological processes and site security. It will not necessarily target populations where there are very few plants, owing to genetic considerations and the current lack of understanding of the true conservation status of some taxa (see Action 1). However, taxa confined to single populations large enough to harvest ample seed and plant organs for fungal isolation will be considered, especially where current site security is compromised (eg. Pterostylis despectans). Previous experience in Victoria has shown that the likely success of re-introductions of very small populations is extremely low, mainly due to the difficulty of obtaining sufficient material. Choice of population will be balanced against a number of factors including financial costs and biodiversity benefits of translocation (see below).
The selection of suitable sites for introduction will need to consider a range of variables including site size, habitat condition, availability of pollinators, presence of mycorrhizal fungi, threats, existing management, land tenure, security and accessibility. This information will be collected during implementation of Action 3 and will also draw on existing resources such as statewide vegetation maps (1:100,000) which exist for the sites containing populations of threatened orchids where translocation may be required.
Translocation requires significant allocation of resources to cultivate sufficient numbers of plants, to maintain collections, to prepare reintroduction plans, to determine whether pollinators and fungal symbionts are present, and to maintain translocated populations in the wild. Ongoing augmentation of translocated populations with additional plant material, as well as ongoing hand pollination and addition of fungal symbionts are also highly likely. An analysis of the financial costs associated with reintroducing plants will be compared to consequent biodiversity benefits at short term and long term time scales.
A reintroduction plan will be prepared for each selected taxon, detailing any preparation of cultivated plants prior to reintroduction, methods of reintroduction (including using seed, tubers, seedlings or mature plants), timing, numbers of plants, experimental design, permanent marking systems, monitoring methods, and other information as required (ANPC Translocation Working Group 1997).
Ongoing management of translocated populations is likely to include pest animal and plant control, watering and monitoring (ANPC Translocation Working Group 1997). In some instances, populations may require regular addition of mycorrhizal fungi, hand pollination and maintenance of site security. Operational management plans will be prepared for translocated populations and actions will be specified as required.
Cost estimates below relate to labour and associated expenses to collect and collate key data for the selection of introduction sites for each taxon, undertake cost-benefit analyses and prepare translocation plans, facilitate site protection works such as weed control, pest animal control and/or fencing, and assist with population maintenance as required. Labour will also be required to fully consult with all relevant land management agencies (eg. Parks Victoria) and interest groups. Land management agencies will cover the cost of regional staff involved with the selection of appropriate sites. Extensive consultation with a range of individuals including ANOS members will be included as part of these actions.
The action also requires expert contribution from a horticultural project officer, based at the RBG. Cost estimates below include provision for labour and associated expenses to cultivate large numbers of plants, to prepare sites and to oversee the establishment of new populations. Costs for reintroduction of Arachnorchis concolor, which is subject to an existing recovery plan ( NSW NPWS 2000) will be borne by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service if reintroduction criteria are met ( NSW NPWS 2000). Relevant land management agencies and regional community groups will be involved where appropriate in site preparation, planting, future monitoring and management of sites as detailed in translocation plans.
- 9.1 Prepare technical educational material on in situ recovery techniques
- 9.2 Undertake community extension
- 9.3 Conduct workshops and symposia on in situ recovery techniques
- 9.4 Encourage and support research by higher education Institutions and existing research partners
- Implementation Action 9
Build a network of government and non-government organisations and individuals.
Preparation of FFG Action Statement for 25 threatened orchids; preparation of a technical handbook and video; increased involvement from orchid society members in on-ground works and collection of information; preparation of funding applications for a PhD scholarship and Postdoctoral fellowship.
The recovery of threatened orchid taxa in south-eastern Australia in the short-term will rely heavily on input from a network of expert botanists, ecologists, horticulturists and the community.
Involving the community in key stages of the recovery process will dramatically increase the chances of survival of these taxa in the wild. A number of orchid societies and field naturalist groups are actively involved in the recovery of threatened orchid taxa in Victoria. Skills in census techniques, hand pollination, survey and cultivation are progressing as a result of existing recovery efforts. Increased information and technical skills can be further developed through dissemination of technical material and workshops. Greater awareness in the wider community will need to be fostered through the production and delivery of threatened orchid public education and community extension programs.
A handbook of cultivation techniques (Victorian Threatened Orchid Recovery Team in prep.) has been prepared with extremely positive feedback from government and non-government organisations and individuals. There is a need to expand this to include a other tools for conservation management such as monitoring methods and fine scale site management techniques, suitable for a wider range of practitioners. A video to demonstrate hand pollination of Diuris fragrantissima has also been produced and is regularly used by community groups. This now needs to be expanded to include Arachnorchis, Corysanthes, Prasophyllum, Pterostylis and Thelymitra.
Individuals will be encouraged to report sightings of threatened taxa to local state agency personnel for verification. Information on where to access further information or how to make contact with interest groups and regional recovery teams will also be provided. Educational material will also be used as part of on-going community extension work conducted by state government departments and to generate regional media interest as a way of promoting orchid conservation and raising public awareness in regional areas. Public education and community extension projects will endeavour to build on existing activities already being conducted in regional areas by other organisations.
Practical demonstration is an effective means of conveying information to a wide range of people. Field-based workshops on in situ recovery methods will be used to teach simple techniques to individuals from government and non-government organisations. It is particularly important for DSE and PV regional staff and community groups to develop skills in fine-scale population and habitat management techniques such as hand pollination, censusing and direct seeding, that are consistent, repeatable and comparable across the State.
Three regional workshops will be conducted by two DSE staff in western, central and eastern Victoria, to demonstrate recovery techniques to regional DSE and PV staff, as well as interstate agency staff, field naturalists, friends groups and members of orchid societies involved in orchid recovery. One day workshops will be conducted at field sites, so that practical, site specific problems can be addressed.
There is also a need to communicate results of research projects and recovery activities across a wide range of organisations. It is particularly important to demonstrate the value of consistent data collection and the application of recovery actions to management (eg. demographic censusing), and to facilitate communication between practitioners. A two symposium will be held with participation by Postgraduate and Honours students, DSE scientific staff and other scientists or academics involved in orchid recovery.
Honours and PhD projects addressing various aspects of threatened orchid recovery have been completed or are underway (eg. Anthony in prep.; Huynh 1999; Huynh in prep.; Kimpton in prep.; Raleigh in prep.). Research partnerships have been developed between DSE, the RBG, RMIT University, the University of Melbourne and Charles Sturt University, with students co-supervised by University, DSE and RBG scientific staff. Results have been disseminated as theses and as conference papers at national and international symposia, or are currently being prepared as articles for scientific journals (eg. Coates & Lunt 2001; Govanstone et al. 2001)
Much of the knowledge required for threatened orchid recovery will be acquired through further research into the ecological and biological requirements of orchids, particularly in the realms of habitat and management, pollination, plant-fungal relationships and cultivation techniques relevant to recovery actions. Research scholarships and fellowships provide a real opportunity to conduct one to three year projects necessary to understand processes underpinning successful in situ and ex situ management. Students initiate or further develop links with state and interstate government organisations, as well as with members of orchid societies and field naturalists. The overall aim of research partnerships is to further expand the skill base for applied orchid conservation and to encourage interest and awareness in young scientists.
DSE will cover the cost of developing electronic information on department web pages and implementing on-going community extension programs.
Cost estimates below include provision for labour and associated expenses to communicate the threatened orchid education program in Victoria, South Australia and southern New South Wales to the wider community.
Costs are also included to leverage a research scholarship or fellowship in years 3-5 to further expand applied research into conservation biology of threatened orchids, particularly in the area of mutualisms. Additional in-kind support will be provided by University technical staff, DSE regional staff and negotiated with Parks Victoria where applicable. Further in-kind support will be provided to students through co-supervision of projects by University, DSE and RBG scientists. Joint funding applications with interstate agencies will be considered where possible. DSE scientific staff will collaborate with University staff to develop funding applications.
The responsibility of conducting workshops, symposia, preparing scientific and technical reports, and producing a video will be borne by DSE.
- 10.1 Maintain the Threatened Orchid Recovery Team
- 10.2 Establish and facilitate regional Recovery Teams
- 10.3 Co-ordinate recovery and exchange knowledge with interstate agencies
- Implementation Action 10
Co-operate in bioregional policy implementation and manage recovery plan implementation.
Maintain regular recovery team meetings and maintain regular communication with State and interstate agency organisations at other times as necessary; preparation of annual workplans for all taxa.
DSE formed the Threatened Orchid Recovery Team in 1999 to oversee orchid recovery in Victoria. The group is made up of individuals or organisations with an active role in threatened orchid conservation and management in Victoria, including monitoring and review of recovery plan implementation. Representatives are from DSE, Universities, RBG, ANOS and PV. TORT also consists of three sub-committees responsible for development strategic directions in ecological and taxonomic research, horticultural research and community education.
Regional threatened orchid recovery teams will be established for groups of taxa with similar geographic distributions. Where necessary, these will include taxa which are already subject to recovery plan implementation. Teams will be facilitated by DSE/EH/ NSW NPWS and will include representatives from State government agencies; non-government organisations, orchid societies, and individuals. Each regional recovery team will have delegated custodial and on-ground action responsibilities.
Positive working relationships within Victoria and with State conservation agencies in Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia have already been established as part of the Victorian Orchid Recovery Program. Maintenance of these links and regular communication is important to enact legislation and policies, to set workplans and to monitor progress toward orchid recovery.
Bi-annual meetings between State Government staff involved in orchid recovery will be necessary to manage recovery for taxa occurring in more than one State. Meeting outcomes should include development of annual workplans and should address progress toward achieving recovery criteria. Communication of research results and other information, as well as outcomes from existing recovery plan implementation should also be addressed.
Meetings will be held at times and venues of mutual convenience, in conjunction with recovery team meetings and will include site inspections when necessary. Meetings will be scheduled in late summer to agree to tasks and to prepare workplans, and in late Spring to evaluate progress toward achieving criteria.
Government agencies will be responsible for covering their own costs of participation in meetings within their state. Cost estimates in years 1-5 of recovery include the cost of interstate travel for agency staff and community representatives attending regional recovery team meetings. Community group members will provide their labour 'in kind' as their contribution to threatened orchid recovery.