Prepared by Mark Butz
Futures by Design
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISBN 0 642 55049 2
Part A: Species information and general requirements
This recovery plan addresses the management requirements for conservation of Asplenium listeri (Christmas Island Spleenwort). This is a fern endemic to Christmas Island, where it is known from a very small number of localities growing among rocks and on cliffs of exposed limestone outcrops.
Technical description: Small, lithophytic fern with rhizome shortly creeping, stout, scaly; scales narrowly ovate about 3 to 6mm long, long-acuminate, latticed, dark brown, glossy; fronds in a crown. Stipe slender, about 2.5 to 3.5cm long, slender, black, with some scales at the base. Fronds short, erect, about 3.5 to 9cm long, pinnate, with about 8 to 18 pinnae which are gradually reduced towards the apex; pinnae ovate, about 8 to 18mm long, with several lobes divided to near mid-vein, unequal-sided, incised and toothed, cuneate at the base, more or less glabrous, coriaceous, with stalk 0.3mm long; lateral veins forked, free. Sori linear along lateral veins; indusium linear (DuPuy 1993b).
Illustrations: DuPuy (1993b) p.555; Fig. 97 A fertile plant x0.5; B fertile pinna x2 (ill. E. Catherine)
Photograph: DuPuy (1993b) p.330 Fig.67
Asplenium listeri C.Chr. Index Filicum 118 (1906)
Family Aspleniaceae: Polypodiatae: Plantae
The Asplenium genus is large, with more than 600 species distributed worldwide. The genus is named (1753) from Greek a (not) and spleen (a spleen) referring to the former use of some species as a remedy for disorders of the spleen. Dioscorides used the name asplenon for this type of fern. The species is named for naturalist Joseph Jackson Lister, who first collected a specimen of the species in 1887 (DuPuy 1993b).
Other names in use: none known
Common name: Christmas Island Spleenwort
Confusing species: The morphology of the closely related Asplenium polyodon G. Forst. (Sickle Spleenwort, Mare's Tails Fern) can be highly variable, displaying at times a marked similarity to Asplenium listeri in pinnae shape and sori. The most distinguishing features are the harder and generally smaller fronds of A. listeri, which may be an adaptation to its exposed lithophytic habitat (Reddell pers. comm.).
Listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as Critically Endangered on 23 July 2002.
This listing decision was partly based on the species being known from a single location with limited extent and area. Although there are reports of new populations, the limited available information indicates continued eligibility for listing: the number of known individuals is less than 300; the distribution remains very restricted (including extent of occurrence, area of occupancy and extent of habitat); and the distribution is presumed vulnerable to stochastic disturbance events, as two of the four new locations are outside the national park.
In addition a decline could be inferred from the inability to relocate vaguely defined points for early collections (there are no data to indicate the rate of any decline). Alternatively, it may be speculated that low population numbers reflect a recently evolved species (likely to be a variant of Asplenium polyodon) that has adapted to a relatively specialised habitat, with potential over time to extend its range. However, certainty would require more research. In the absence of such certainty, the precautionary principle requires recovery actions to be based on a possible decline and a 'no-regrets' policy.
The EPBC Act requires that recovery plans specifically address the objects of that Act:
- to provide for the protection of the environment, especially those aspects of the environment that are matters of national environmental significance; and
- to promote ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources; and
- to promote the conservation of biodiversity; and
- to promote a co-operative approach to the protection and management of the environment involving governments, the community, land-holders and indigenous peoples; and
- to assist in the co-operative implementation of Australia's international environmental responsibilities; and
- to recognise the role of indigenous people in the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's biodiversity; and
- to promote the use of indigenous peoples' knowledge of biodiversity with the involvement of, and in cooperation with, the owners of the knowledge.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) considers that objects a), b), and c) are inherently addressed by virtue of the purpose of a recovery plan. The remaining objects are addressed specifically below.
Asplenium listeri is not listed under any international agreement specified in the EPBC Act. The implementation of Australia's international obligations is not affected by this plan.
Asplenium listeri is not included in the list of species under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) that had effect from 11 January 2002.
The following interested parties were provided with draft material for comment during the preparation of this plan:
|Parks Australia North
Department of the Environment & Heritage
|Australian Government agency responsible for management of Christmas Island National Park and of listed species in the Territory under the EPBC Act and Regulations|
|Department of Transport & Regional Services||Australian Government agency responsible for providing State-type services in the Territory, including management of Crown Land|
|Shire of Christmas Island||Elected body|
|Christmas Island Phosphates||Company mining phosphate|
|Asia Pacific Space Centre||Company proposing to build spaceport|
|Department of Finance and Administration||Australian Government agency managing Immigration Reception and Processing Centre|
|Union of Christmas Island Workers||Industrial union|
|Island Care Inc||Community based organisation|
Christmas Island does not have an indigenous population. The first settlement from 1888 was by workers for the Clunies-Ross family who held the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. These were a mix of Javanese people and Cocos-Malays. In addition, Chinese labourers were employed in mining from the late 1890's. In the 1996 census the population was 1,906 - about 70% of Chinese descent, about 20% of European or Australian descent and about 10% of Malay descent (DoTaRS 2002).
Protective measures proposed for Asplenium listeri are likely to have few (or no) implications for other species because of its restricted distribution, the paucity of species associated with its habitat, and the minimal recovery options available.
There are not likely to be conservation agreements with landholders because of the national park/ Crown land tenure of its localities.
There may be limited (or no) increases in community awareness because of the suggested confidentiality of locality information.
No negative impacts are likely to affect non-target species or an ecological community arising from implementation of this plan.
Whilst the known localities of Asplenium listeri are outside areas of current economic activity, there is some potential for the presence of the species to constrain economic activity or development. However, this arises from the listing of the species under the EPBC Act, which invokes a range of protective provisions and offences where a population is to be affected, rather than from the provisions of this plan. This necessitates careful attention to inclusion of Asplenium listeri in environmental assessments and management standards across the island, regardless of specific tenure.
The magnitude of any potential constraint cannot be estimated, as it will vary with the location, size and extent of an affected population, and the nature and extent of the activity, proposed or current.
Actions arising from this plan that may have some potential to constrain economic activity or development include:
- possible future addition of areas to the Christmas Island National Park specifically to protect an occurrence of Asplenium listeri
- possible identification of Asplenium listeri as an element in the heritage values or attributes of a place on the Register of the National Estate or a future heritage listing under the EPBC Act; and
- possible future addition of areas to the Register of Critical Habitat established under the EPBC Act, affording an additional layer of protection under that Act in Commonwealth areas.