In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.
|EPBC Act Listing Status||Listed as Critically Endangered|
|Listing and Conservation Advices||
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002o) [Listing Advice].
Commonwealth Conservation Advice for Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2013fe) [Conservation Advice].
|Recovery Plan Decision||
Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
|Adopted/Made Recovery Plans|
|Policy Statements and Guidelines||
Background Paper to EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009) [Admin Guideline].
EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009p) [Admin Guideline].
EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Map 1 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009q) [Information Sheet].
EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Map 2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009r) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (20/11/2002) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002a) [Legislative Instrument].
Documents and Websites
|State Listing Status||
|Non-statutory Listing Status||
|Scientific name||Synemon plana |
|Species author||Walker, 1854|
|Reference||ANZECC Threatened Fauna List May 2000|
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.
Clarke and O'Dwyer (2000) considered that the Victorian populations may be genetically different enough to represent a separate race or even a subspecies of Synemon plana.
The Golden Sun Moth is a medium-sized, day-flying moth. The wingspan of females and males is about 3.1 cm and 3.4 cm respectively. The smaller wingspan of the female is unique within the Synemon genus. In the female, the upper-side of the forewing is dark grey with patterns of paler grey scales, and the hindwing is bright orange with black spots along the edges of the wings. The underside of both wings is white with small black spots along the edge of the wings. In the male, the upper-side of the forewing is dark brown with patterns of pale grey scales and the hindwing is bronze/brown with dark brown patches. The underside of both wings is pale grey with dark brown spots. Both males and females have clubbed antennae. The female has a long extensible ovipositor, which is an elongated organ extending from the posterior abdomen used to lay eggs (DEC 2007).
The Golden Sun Moth is known from 125 extant sites (post-1990) across its range (DEWHA 2009p) and subsequent surveys in 2009 and 2010 have recorded more sites in Victoria and the ACT (Ecology Partners 2009a, 2009b, 2010). At a minimum, 45 sites occur in Victoria, 48 sites occur in NSW and 32 sites occur in the ACT (Biosis Research 2008; Braby & Dunford 2006; Clarke & Whyte 2003; DEC 2007), with more sites on the Victoria Volcanic Plains being recorded in 2009 and 2010 (Brown et al. 2012; Ecology Partners 2009a, 2009b, 2010). No extant populations are known in South Australia (Edwards 1994). The majority of the known sites are smaller than 5 ha (e.g. New 2012). Fifty-six of the known sites lie in a narrow area 100 km long by 30 km wide (Clarke & Whyte 2003).
The NSW and ACT populations generally occur at elevations between 480 m and 720 m. The Victorian populations generally occur at elevations between 95 m and 406 m. In 2003, a population was discovered at 'Robin', south of Queanbeyan, NSW, at an altitude of 790 m making it the highest recorded elevation for the species (Thompson & Mullins 2004 cited in DEC 2007). It is possible that high elevation is a barrier to dispersal, presumably due to low soil temperature (DEC 2007).
At the time of listing under the EPBC Act, the extent of occurrence was estimated to be 13 100 km² and the area of occupancy estimated to be 8.8 km² (TSSC 2002o). Subsequent surveying has greatly increased the known range of the species and in Victoria the species area of occupancy is now estimated to be more than 150 km² (Gilmore et al. 2008 cited in New 2012; Gilmore & Harvey et al. cited in New 2012).
Historically, the distribution of the Golden Sun Moth corresponded with native temperate grasslands across NSW, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia. These grasslands covered approximately 2 000 000 ha of south-eastern Australia. It is probable the moth occurred wherever there were high densities of wallaby grasses within these grasslands. Less than 1% of these temperate native grasslands remain. As a result, the remaining Golden Sun Moth populations are highly reduced and fragmented (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000).
In the ACT, only 5% of the 1000 hectares of the pre-1750 grasslands remain, and the Wallaby Grass-dominated grasslands are only a small fraction of that total (ACT Government 1998f). The majority of suitable habitats have been surveyed for the presence of the species over the last ten years (ACT Government 2005a). It is likely that most extant populations are known (DEC 2007). Additionally, distribution modelling for natural temperate grassland in the ACT and NSW has been undertaken by Environment ACT (Baines 2006; DEC 2007).
In December 2004, surveys were undertaken on remnant grassland in Macgregor West, ACT, to document the full extent of the occurrence of the Golden Sun Moth at this site (Braby 2005).
Friends of Grasslands (FOG 2009) conducted a survey of 34 sites in the ACT during late 2008 and early 2009. One of the aims of this survey was to trial the training and use of volunteers in survey methods so as to establish a protocol for ongoing survey. Published survey results for the activity provide presence absence information for 30 sites (Richter et al. 2009).
Referral EPBC 2010/5439 located the species in Forde, with surveys conducted in December 2009. Results from the transect surveys confirmed the presence of the moth at the site and indicated that the Golden Sun Moth, within the Forde North development area, are most likely to be found along the creek corridor. Referral EPBC 2010/5456, a proposal for playing field development at a proposed new suburb near Mulligan's Flat Nature Reserve, ACT, has revealed the presence of Golden Sun Moths in the proposed development area.
Until 1997, very few targeted surveys for the Golden Sun Moth had been undertaken in NSW. Targeted surveys have since been undertaken during the flying seasons of 1997 (Clarke & Dear 1998); 1998 (Clarke & O'Dwyer 1999); 1999 (Clarke 2000 cited in DEC 2007); and 2000 (Clarke 2001 cited in DEC 2007). The majority of survey work has been conducted on public land and there is potential for additional populations to occur on private lands. Surveys for the species have been undertaken as a result of planning for development proposals, particularly residential and rural residential subdivisions to the south of Queanbeyan (DEC 2007).
In NSW, further targeted surveys in the Southern Tablelands and South West Slopes regions, and even further west into the Riverina region, as identified by the Draft NSW and National Recovery Plan (DEC 2007), are likely to locate further populations (DEC 2007).
Increased survey effort since 2003 has yielded a further 39 sites in Victoria (DEWHA 2009p) and 46 sites are now known from the Victorian Volcanic Plains (Brown et al. 2012). Much of this survey effort has been in association with development proposals on the northern outskirts of Melbourne (DEC 2007). A number of reports are available for surveys in the Melbourne growth corridors and the Victorian Volcanic Plains (Biosis Research Pty Ltd 2008; Brown et al. 2012; Ecology Partners 2009a, 2009b, 2010; Gibson et al. 2008).
From 1999 to 2004, annual records had been made on the abundance of Golden Sun Moth at Nhill Sun Moth Reserve with around 150–200 moths being observed annually (no information provided on the survey effort) (Douglas 2004).
A total population size estimate is unavailable due to variation in the number of moths in-flight at any point during the flight season. A single site visit does not accurately reflect the numbers present and does not reflect the rapid turnover of individuals within the population (Gibson & New 2007). The species has been known to persist in relatively large numbers over very small areas (eg. >1000 individuals in less than 400 m²) (Harwood et al. 1995 cited in DEC 2007). The following table is an indicative list of where populations have been recorded:
|ACT||Barton (York Park), Campbell (Constitution Avenue and CSIRO Headquarters), Campbell Park Offices (Department of Defence), Canberra International Airport, CSIRO (Limestone Ave), Didams Parkland (Didams Rd), Dunlop, Ginninderra, Gundaroo, Gungahlin, Kia-Ora, Lawson (Belconnen Naval Station), Letchworth, Majura (Majura Field Firing Range - Department of Defence), Mulanggary, Mulligans Flat (Gundaroo Rd), Reid (St John's Church and Constitution Avenue), Sutton, West Belconnen, West MacGregor, Woden and Yarralumla (Black and Dudley Sts) (ACT Government 1998f, 2005a; Braby & Dunford 2006; Clarke & Whyte 2003; DEC 2007).
The ACT Government has ranked sites based on the size and density of the Golden Sun Moth populations they support, and the area and condition of the Wallaby-Grass-dominated grassland. In assigning the highest conservation value, the botanical significance representativeness and size of the habitat along with the presence of other threatened species also influence the ranking. While some sites in the ACT have been assessed as unlikely to survive due to their small size, it is possible they could be improved through maintaining, improving and expanding the habitat at these sites (ACT Government 1998f).
|NSW||Binalong, Blackburn, Coolalie, Davis, Derringullen, Eady's, Glenothian, Gocup, Gounyan, Grace's Flat, Harry's Creek, Jeir Ck, Lagoon, Lambs, Merryville, Nanima, Rye Park, Silverdale, Tarengo, Wargeila, Warroo, Washpen and Wolverhampton (Clarke & Whyte 2003; DEC 2007).|
|Victoria||Broadford, Craigieburn (Melbourne), Campbellfield (Campbellfield Racetrack and Upfield Railway Line), Derrimut Grassland, Dunkeld (Woodhouse Rd), Eynesbury, Greenvale (Mickleham Road and on land adjacent to Fire Station), Laverton (Kororiot Creek Road and Prix Cars), Jeffrey's Lane, Melton, Meredith (Marchments Road) Mount Piper, Nhill, Oaklands Junction (adjacent land and Ballister Park) Salisbury, Sydenham and William Angliss Grassland (Brett Lane & Associates 2006; Clarke & Whyte 2003; DEC 2007; DSE 2004a). Three new locations have been identified by Ecology Partners during targeted surveys, including; west of Bacchus Marsh, north of Hopetoun Park (Ecology Partners 2009b; EPBC Referral 2009/4856) and along Dandos Road, Avalon (Ecology Partners 2009a; EPBC Referral 2009/4956); and Greenvale (Ecology Partners 2010; EPBC Referral 2010/5436).|
Evolutionary Significant Units
Two studies of genetic variation within Golden Sun Moth populations have been undertaken (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000; Clarke & Whyte 2003). In the more recent study, Clarke and Whyte (2003) sampled 46 populations across the species' range and identified five genetically distinct groups that correspond with geographic location:
- Group 1, includes four Victorian populations
- Group 2, includes two NSW populations
- Group 3, includes 15 NSW populations in the general area between Yass and Boorowa
- Group 4, includes six populations in a zone centred on Murrumbateman, and a population located in the south of Boorowa
- Group 5, includes 16 populations in ACT and its immediate environs.
Research suggests that Golden Sun Moths originated in Victoria. A second population arose when moths moved to NSW and the ACT. More recently, habitat fragmentation caused four sections of the NSW/ACT moth population to become small and isolated from one another, so that they are now genetically distinct. These two historical processes mean that the Victorian populations (Group 1) and the NSW/ACT populations (Groups 2–5) are different enough to be called Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs) (Moritz 1995 cited in Clarke & Whyte 2003). This level of genetic differentiation implies that moths from Victoria and NSW/ACT could have different genes that are each locally adapted to their own environment. Interbreeding or mixing individuals between ESUs could result in the loss of rare alleles (a form of a particular gene) which make populations better adapted to their local environment. This in turn can result in the production of offspring that are inferior in either environment (outbreeding depression) (Clarke & Whyte 2003).
In addition to advising against mixing Golden Sun Moths between ESUs, Clarke and O'Dwyer (2000) advise that individuals should not be mixed between groups however it is likely that individuals within a single group can be safely interbred or mixed without posing genetic difficulties.
According to Clarke and Whyte (2003), the 16 populations within Group 5 are the most similar genetically, probably because they were most recently separated by habitat fragmentation. Groups 2, 3 and 5 are of higher conservation priority than Group 4, because they contain most of the genetic diversity within the NSW/ACT ESU. However, the five groups each contain some different alleles. Ideally all of them should be preserved to maintain maximum genetic diversity of the species and to enable the species to evolve in response to further environmental change (AAS 2006; Clarke & Whyte 2003).
Group 1 (the Victorian population) could merit special management attention as it not only represents a single management unit but also an entire ESU. Clarke and O'Dwyer (2000) consider the Victorian populations to be genetically different enough to represent a separate race or even a subspecies of Synemon plana.
The following table includes comments on reserves where the Golden Sun Moth occurs:
|ACT||Seven of the 32 known sites occur either wholly or partially within the ACT nature reserve system (DEC 2007). The ACT Government (2004 cited in Braby & Dunford 2006) estimates that about 20% of grassland patches where the Golden Sun Moth is known to occur are protected in reserves.|
|NSW||A site at Letchworth has been purchased by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation and is managed as part of the Queanbeyan Nature Reserve (DEC 2007).|
|Victoria||Four sites are in conservation reserves: Mt Piper Education Reserve (managed by Parks Victoria), Craigieburn Grassland Reserve, Cooper St Grassland Reserve and the Nhill Sun Moth Reserve, which is actively managed for this and other Synemon species (DEC 2007; Douglas 2004).|
Suitable habitat for the Golden Sun Moth includes native temperate grassland and open grassy woodlands dominated by wallaby grass (DEC 2007). While previous studies suggested that the species prefers grasslands which have a greater than 40% coverage of wallaby grass over a given area (O'Dwyer & Attiwill 1999), more recent studies show a broader tolerance for other species compositions, including degraded grasslands dominated by exotic Chilean Needlegrass (Nassella neesiana) (Braby & Dunford 2006; Gibson 2006; Gilmore et al. 2008).
Density and quality of Wallaby Grass at a site may be of importance in Golden Sun Moth larval development, as a larva may need to feed on more than one Wallaby Grass tussock (Edwards 1993). The area of Wallaby Grass at a site does not need to be extensive. On sites that have low moth numbers, this is typically related to grassland quality rather than size. It is likely that two ACT populations have become extinct as a result of degradation of grassland quality rather than their small size (DEC 2007).
Sites supporting Golden Sun Moth populations have generally been subject to light grazing. A number of populations occur in paddocks alongside sheep and cattle grazing. These sites have not undergone extensive pasture improvement or fertiliser usage and contain areas of primary Wallaby Grass cover. These sites can often be found in the corners of paddocks or areas along fence lines and gateways (DEC 2007).
Sloping sites (at 3º or less), particularly those with a northerly aspect, are well-represented in extant populations and indicate a preferred site characteristic, although a number of populations are known from flat sites (DEC 2007).
The effects of fire on the species has been largely unstudied (ACT Government 1998f). Based on observations at the Nhill Sun Moth Reserve, it appears that the moth can withstand its habitat being burnt under particular circumstances (Douglas 2004). It seems likely that the effects of fire are not catastrophic and infrequent wildfires can be withstood (Edwards pers. comm. cited in ACT Government 1998f). Controlled burning (outside the adult flight period) may help reduce the seed residue of introduced grasses (Douglas 2004).
Native temperate grassland are dominated by native grasses and/or herbs, have few shrubs and no trees (less than one tree per hectare). The most common native grasses in these systems are Wallaby Grasses (Rytidosperma spp.), Spear Grasses (Austrostipa spp.), Tussock Grasses (Poa spp.), Weeping Grass (Microlena spp.), Wire-grasses (Aristida spp.) and Kangaroo Grass (Themedaspp.) (Barlow 1998). Even at sites with moderate to high levels of disturbance, a high level of native species diversity may be present (ACT Government 2005a).
The Golden Sun Moth has been shown to have a preference for Short Wallaby Grass (Rytidosperma carphoides), Bristly-Wallaby Grass (R. setacea), Wallaby Grass (A. eriantha), Lobed Wallaby Grass (R. auriculata) and Clustered Wallaby Grass (R. racemosa). Wallaby Grass-dominated grasslands are mid-high, open tussock grasslands found in well drained areas with shallow soils (ACT Government 2005a) that are low in phosphorous (O'Dwyer & Attiwill 2000).
Based on recent observations at two ACT sites, Ginninderra Creek and Reid, there is a possibility that Golden Sun Moth larvae feed on Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana) and Redleg Grass (Bothriochloa macra) (Braby & Dunford 2006). On the Ginninderra Creek floodplain, Chilean Needle Grass has displaced much of the native grasses normally used by the Golden Sun Moth. It is possible that the species has been able to supplement or even switch its larval diet to a related but non-indigenous plant (Braby & Dunford 2006). Braby and Dunford (2006) stress that such a switch in diet does not necessarily imply that the Golden Sun Moth is dependent on Chilean Needle Grass, nor has it adapted to a range of other introduced grasses that are weeds in the Australian landscape.
Trees in grassy woodland are generally widely spaced with canopies that do not overlap. They are dominated by Red Gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi), swamp gum, Manna Gum (E. viminalis), Grey Box (E. microcarpa), Yellow Box (E. melliodora), Yellow Gum (E. leucoxylon), Black Box (E. largiflorens), Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii) or native pines. Typically, only one or two species of tree are present. Shrubs may be present, but they will be sparsely distributed over a grassy ground layer (Barlow 1998).
The Golden Sun Moth has been recorded from the following ecological communities:
- White Box - Yellow Box - Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands (Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act)
- Natural Temperate Grassland of the Southern Tablelands (ACT/NSW) (Endangered under the EPBC Act)
- Natural Grasslands of the Murray Valley Plains (Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act)
- Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plain (Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act).
The length of the larval period is unknown but is probably two to three years (Edwards 1994 cited in O'Dwyer & Attiwill 2000).
Adult moths emerge and are active in the hottest part of sunny days during the breeding season which falls between mid-October and early January. Adults do not fly on days that are wet, overcast or very windy. Generally, the adult moths survive between one to four days and are unable to feed because they lack functional mouthparts (O'Dwyer & Attiwill 2000). Males spend their adult life patrolling approximately 1 m above the grass in search of females for breeding. Females have reduced hind wings and are reluctant to fly and will only do so when disturbed (Edwards 1991). The Golden Sun Moth can be easily distinguished from other Synemon species by its distinct coloration and reduced hindwings in the female (DEC 2007).
Once they have mated, females spend their adult life laying eggs within clumps of Wallaby Grass. Females are estimated to lay from 100 to 150 eggs (Edwards 1994 cited in Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000). Eggs are laid between tillers of a Wallaby Grass tussock or between tillers and the soil. The eggs are inserted into crevices by the long ovipositor of the female (Dear 1997 cited in DEC 2007).
The view that the Golden Sun Moth larvae feed on Wallaby Grass is based on the presence of cast pupa shells and tunnels leading up to nearby Wallaby Grass tussocks (O'Dwyer & Attiwill 2000). Cast pupa shells ahve also been found proturuding from introduced Chilean Needlegrass tussoks, suggesting that the species may also feed on this plant (Braby & Dranford 2006; A. Richter 2006, cited in DEWHA 2009p).
Golden Sun Moth adult males will not fly more than 100 m away from suitable habitat. Populations separated by distances greater than 200 m can be considered effectively isolated, and sites from which the species has gone extinct are highly unlikely to be recolonised (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000).
Survey guidelines are provided in the Background Paper to EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) (DEWHA 2009p) and reproduced below.
Surveys for the Golden Sun Moth should be conducted at any location containing habitat likely to support the Golden Sun Moth, including sites dominated by the exotic weed Chilean Needlegrass. Habitat likely to support the Golden Sun Moth includes all areas which have, or once had, native grasslands (including derived grasslands) or grassy woodlands within the historical range of the species (from far western Victoria through to southern NSW, including the ACT). Survey results should be lodged with the Commonwealth and relevant state or territory authority.
Surveys should be designed to maximise the chance of detecting the Golden Sun Moth, and should also be used to determine the context of the site within the broader landscape. In designing surveys, it is first necessary to define the purpose of the survey: identification/presence of a species, distribution, breeding etc. Consideration should also be given to the timing, effort, methods and area to be covered. The guidelines below give guidance for surveys aimed at detecting the presence of male Golden Sun Moths at a site. Once detected, survey effort should be adjusted appropriately to determine the relative distribution of the species on the site. The presence of Golden Sun Moths on a site can usually not be determined until the flying season, when adult males may be observed fluttering about 1 m above the grass searching for females. At other times of the year, the larvae are hidden underground and spent pupal shells may be the only evidence of occupation at a site, although even these can be very difficult to locate.
Where it is not possible to conduct surveys in the manner recommended (methods, timing and effort), the precautionary principle should be used. In these circumstances failure to detect the Golden Sun Moth should not be considered indicative of its absence.
Throughout the cooler parts of the Golden Sun Moth's range, the flying season can vary between early November to mid-December and late November to early January. In warmer areas, such as the Wimmera area in western Victoria, adults may first appear in late October and fly until late November (Douglas 2004). In years with a cold, wet spring, adult moths may not start flying until early December and continue through until mid to late January (DEC 2007). Because of the variability in the timing of the flying season, a known occupied reference site near the study site should be monitored to indicate the start and duration of the local flying season.
Surveys aiming to detect the presence of the Golden Sun Moth at a site should be undertaken over at least four suitable days during the flying season of the species. The very short adult life-span and the variable timing of adult emergence mean that surveys conducted only a few days apart can differ appreciably from each other. It is therefore recommended that detection surveys be staggered at least a week apart to increase the likelihood that at least some members of the population are observed (Gibson & New 2007). If detection is the aim of the survey, surveying can be stopped once the species is identified. However, information on the distribution and relative density of the species on the site, as well as indications of breeding such as the presence of pupal cases or laying females can also be important.
Adult male Golden Sun Moths will fly about 1 m above the ground in bright sunlight during the warmest part of the day (10001400 hrs, above 20 °C), and when cloud cover and wind are minimal (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000; Gibson & New 2007). Despite their display behaviour, adult female Golden Sun Moths prove extremely difficult to survey. Surveys should therefore target flying males, but aim to record females if they are detected. Anecdotal evidence suggests ovipositing females might be more obvious later in the day, between 1300 and 1600 hrs (T. O'Sullivan 2008, pers. comm. cited in DEWHA 2009p).
Surveys for Golden Sun Moth should be accompanied by a detailed description of the habitat present on the site, its history of management, and the context of the site in the surrounding landscape. Where surveys cannot be conducted outside of the site, other aids such as aerial photographs, historical records, and vegetation datasets can be useful in giving context to the site.
Both fixed point (or "spot count") and transect surveys may be useful for detecting Golden Sun Moth.
Fixed point method
Best suited to very small sites or sites which harbour a small population (DEC 2007).
Observer chooses a reference point typically on the edge of the site (or area of activity) from which the whole site can be observed. Using a hand counter and stopwatch the observer records the number of moths seen in a given time period (typically three to six minutes) taking care not to record the same individual twice.
Repeat point count as many times as necessary (e.g. three to five) with a five minute interval between counts.
If the whole area cannot be surveyed from a single position the observer may alternate positions between successive counts (DEC 2007).
Most commonly used method for monitoring butterfly populations (Pollard 1997 cited in DEC 2007).
Particularly suited to large sites with extensive populations (DEC 2007). This method has been trialled with success at a large site in the ACT (Clarke & Dunford 1999), and was the chosen method for recent surveys around Melbourne (Gilmore et al. 2008).
Observer walks a number of transects recording all individuals seen using a hand counter and a recording device (e.g. a portable electronic note taker).
Transects are typically marked along the long axis of the site, and should be between 5 and 100 m apart, depending on the size and topography of the site. At very large sites 200 m intervals may be needed in order to cover the whole site in a reasonable time (i.e. while moths are active).
Observer walks for 100 m, recording the number of moths seen per 100 m, taking care not the count the same individual twice.
On large sites multiple observers may be required starting at opposite sides of the site. Two observers walking transects 200 m apart would require about two hours to survey a 100 ha site (Clarke & Dunford 1999). Surveys conduced using the fixed point or transect method can also be used to estimate the relative abundance of the species on a site, although this may require an increase in search effort (see Gibson & New 2007).
Other survey techniques
Area or transect surveys may also be undertaken outside the flying season to look for the pupal casings of Golden Sun Moths. These can often be found protruding out of the soil amongst grass tussocks (Braby & Dunford 2006). The presence of pupal casings may be used to indicate the presence of the Golden Sun Moth, however the lack of casings does not indicate its absence from a site.
Large scale larval surveys are not considered an appropriate survey technique for determining the presence of the species on a site due to the large search effort required and the potential for damage to the soil, plants and larvae. However, where small amounts of soil are disturbed (e.g. in installing pit-fall traps for other grassland fauna) soil could be inspected for Golden Sun Moth larvae. Larval surveys may also be incorporated into monitoring programs to assess the effectiveness of management or experimental practices (e.g. burning, experimental translocation).
The key threats to the Golden Sun Moth are:
- the loss and degradation of Wallaby Grass-dominated native temperate grasslands within the species historical range
- the loss and degradation of open grassy woodlands where the ground layer is dominated by Wallaby Grass
- soil disturbance at extant Golden Sun Moth sites.
Other factors work in unison with key threats to further threaten the species, these include:
- the species' limited dispersal ability
- predation (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000).
Native temperate grasslands are the most threatened of all vegetation types in Australia, having been cleared for urban development and agriculture, predominantly free range grazing and broad-acre cropping (Kilpatrick 1995 cited in Clarke & O'Dwyer 1999). Less than one per cent of the approximately 2 million hectares existing prior to European settlement still remains, much of which is heavily degraded by weed invasion and grazing by stock and rabbits (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000).
European land uses on native temperate grasslands have destroyed or greatly reduced the integrity of remaining grasslands. Such land uses involve:
- traffic and trampling
- the introduction of exotic species (including pasture species)
- inappropriate revegetation practices
- intensive mowing and slashing
- pasture improvement
- use of glyphosate-herbicide
- tree planting
- urban development and infrastructure.
Lack of Grazing
In the absence of biomass removal either by grazing/mowing or fire, tall perennial grasses, in particular Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and the introduced Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana) tend to dominate the vegetation resulting in a reduction of species diversity (Lunt & Morgan 1998 cited in Van Praagh 2004). Ungrazed areas become more dense and closed as a result of increased growth of dominant Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra). The low growing Wallaby Grass can become shaded and eventually choked out by taller native grasses and exotics (Van Praagh 2004).
Continual grazing encourages weed invasion and degrades the native generation of a grassland (Barlow 1998).
Traffic and Trampling
Traffic and trampling on a grassland results in bare, compacted ground that is vulnerable to weed invasion, increased run-off and erosion. Vehicular traffic also assists in the seed dispersal of weeds (ACT Government 2005a).
Introduction of Exotic Species
Wallaby Grasses are readily out-competed by exotic plants, such as Phalaris and Paspalum or weeds like Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma), thereby reducing habitat for the Golden Sun Moth (O'Dwyer & Attiwill 1999). In the ACT, the following perennial and highly invasive weed species are of particular concern and are all the subject of weed control activities by land management agencies: African Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula), Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma), Chilean Needlegrass (Nassella neesiana) and St Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum).
Inappropriate Revegetation Practices
With the growing interest in the collection and propagation of native seeds, concern has been raised about the genetic effects of the introduction of plants or seeds of the same species from another area (Eddy 2002 cited in ACT Government 2005a).
Mowing and Slashing
Mowing and slashing can be a threat to a native grassland if it prevents flowering and seed production by being undertaken too frequently or at the wrong time of the year. Mowing and slashing equipment can also transfer weed seeds and this is thought to be one of the means by which African Lovegrass and Chilean Needlegrass have been spread (Eddy 2002 cited in ACT Government 2005a). A major concern with mowing is that grass cuttings left on a site act as mulch and may inhibit inter-tussock forb growth (ACT Government2005a).
The use of fertilisers, ploughing, changes to soil moisture and the use of herbicides may be detrimental to native temperate grassland.
Wallaby Grasses are adapted to the relatively poor Australian soils and the application of phosphorous fertilisers has been shown to inhibit their growth while promoting the growth of weeds. Large increases in soil fertility can be toxic and increase soil acidity and this may have a detrimental effect on Wallaby Grasses and Golden Sun Moth larvae in the soil.
Ploughing effectively destroys the root zone of the plant. Altered soil moisture conditions, including modified drainage can also result in a gradual reduction of grassland quality (Barlow 1998; DEC 2007; O'Dwyer & Attiwill 1999 ).
Use of Glyphosate-Herbicide
Glyphosate is not recommended for sites dominated by Wallaby Grass as it has been shown to have a detrimental effect on newly sown and established Wallaby Grass grassland (DPI 2000; Lodge & McMillan 1994b). Glyphosate is commonly used as a non-selective knockdown herbicide which means that, if the concentrate is strong enough, it can kill all plants on contact (Phillips 2000). Spray drift of glysophate has the potential to affect native species such as Wallaby Grasses depending on the amount and concentration used and application method (Eddy 2002 cited in ACT Government 2005a). Generally, established Wallaby Grass patches are tolerant of other mixtures, such as those containing paraquat/diaquat, diclopfop-methyl, simazine, fenozaprop-ethyl and diuron (DPI 2000; Lodge & McMillan 1994; Lodge et al. 1994).
Although tree planting is generally encouraged in areas of high salinity, it may be a threatening process for native temperate grasslands. Planting trees as an overstorey alters the ecological function and structure of the grassland because of the increased shading of native grasses. This may cause a reduction in cover of the native grasses, particularly Wallaby Grasses (DSE 2004a).
Any physical disturbance to soil is particularly destructive for the Golden Sun Moth. Soil disturbance occurs through activities such as cultivation, ripping rabbit burrows, laying pipes and cables (ACT Government 2005a). Soil disturbance destroys the subterranean Golden Sun Moth larvae in addition to killing the native perennial grasses that are their host plants (Douglas 2004).
Limited Dispersal Ability
As adult Golden Sun Moths do not fly more than 100 m away from suitable habitat, sites that have become extinct are unlikely to be recolonised. Fragmentation between reduces gene flow between populations, which may be a threat to particular sites (ACT Government 1998f; Clarke & Whyte 2003).
A significant contributor to adult mortality may be the predation of adult moths by birds and predatory insects. At a NSW site (Rye Park), 11 adult males were taken by predation. Predatory birds include: Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophyrs), Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) and Magpie Lark (Grallina cyanoleuca). Predatory insects include the Robber Fly (Asilidae family) (Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000).
The following research priorities are provided to support the recovery of the Golden Sun Moth are identified in the draft national recovery plan. In addition, the NSW Department of Conservation and Climate Change threatened species website outlines priority actions to help the Golden Sun Moth recover (DECC 2005).
- Investigate the effects of chilean needlegrass on golden sun moth (e.g. breeding, feeding and habitat).
- Increase understanding of the basic biology, life history and habitat requirements of the species (e.g. generation time, mating system, minimum patch size, larval diet breadth and food plant preferences etc).
- Conduct surveys to increase the knowledge of the distribution of the species, especially in Victoria and on private lands in NSW.
- Investigate the impacts of disturbances such as fire, grazing, herbicides, pesticides and drought on the species.
- Investigate the genetic relationships between populations of golden sun moth to assist in determining high priority areas of unique genetic diversity.
The EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) (DEWHA 2009) has been released. This document provides advice on significant impact thresholds for the Golden Sun Moth. It also includes advice on how to avoid and minimise impact to the Golden Sun Moth. Mitigation measures are also discussed.
Translocation does not reduce the impact of an action and should not be regarded as a mitigation measure (DEWHA 2009). Translocation of adult females was trialled in 2001, 2002 and 2003 by Melbourne Zoo with no success. Female moths were collected from a donor site in January 2001, 2002 and 2003 so that eggs could be incubated at Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo. Upon hatching, the larvae were transported to the Victorian Open Range Zoo to a site that had successfully undergone habitat rehabilitation. To date, no adult moths have been observed flying at the translocation site (O'Dwyer 2003).
The following projects have received Government funding grants for conservation and recovery work benefiting the Golden Sun Moth :
The Gundaroo Common Trust (NSW) received $900 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 200001, part of which was for education of the local community about the threatened Golden Sun Moth through erection of signs, management of sites through grass slashing, and annual on-site stakeholder liaison.
Friends of Merri Creek (Victoria) received $6503 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 200405, part of which was for restoration and expansion of habitat for the Golden Sun Moth, and restoration of a native grassland community.
The Merriang District Landcare Group (Victoria) received $4500 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 200506, part of which was for monitoring and recording fauna species, including the Golden Sun Moth.
Friends of Grasslands Inc (ACT) received $10 680 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 200809 for standardising Golden Sun Moth monitoring. The project will develop standardised monitoring protocols for use by community groups and professionals.
Chilean Needle Grass Habitat: Braby 2005; Braby & Dunford 2006
Genetic Studies: Clarke 2000; Clarke & O'Dwyer 2000; Clarke & Whyte 2003
Habitat Restoration: O'Dwyer 2003; O'Dwyer & Attiwill 2000
Survey Methodology: Gibson & New 2007
Translocation: O'Dwyer 2003
A Recovery Team for the Golden Sun Moth was established in NSW in 1999. The NSW Department of Environment and Conservation has coordinated the preparation of a NSW and national recovery plan (DEC 2007).
The EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana) (DEWHA 2009) has been released. This document provides advice on significant impact thresholds for the Golden Sun Moth. It also includes advice on how to avoid and minimise impact to the Golden Sun Moth. Mitigation measures are also discussed.
Additionally, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment has produced an Action Statement (DSE 2004a) and the ACT Government has produced an Action Plan for the management of the Golden Sun Moth ACT Government 1998f).
The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.
|Threat Class||Threatening Species||References|
|Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes||Synemon plana in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ve) [Internet].|
|Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations||Commonwealth Listing Advice on Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002o) [Listing Advice].|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation||Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit)||Synemon plana in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ve) [Internet].|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation||Phalaris aquatica (Phalaris)||Synemon plana in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006ve) [Internet].|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation||Paspalum dilatatum (Paspalum)|
|Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds||Commonwealth Listing Advice on Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002o) [Listing Advice].|
|Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity)||Commonwealth Listing Advice on Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2002o) [Listing Advice].|
|Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development|
ACT Government (1998f). Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana). Action Plan No. 7. [Online]. Canberra, Environment ACT. Available from: http://www.environment.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/234462/actionplans7.pdf.
ACT Government (2005a). A Vision Splendid of the Grassy Plains Extended: ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy. [Online]. Action Plan No. 28. Canberra: Arts, Heritage and Environment. Available from: http://www.environment.act.gov.au/cpr/conservation_and_ecological_communities/grassland_conservation_strategy.
Australian Academy of Science (AAS) (2006). Conservation genetics - molecular detectives at work.
Baines, G. (2006). National Recovery Team for Natural Temperate Grassland Report on the 2004-2005 Grassland Surveys. Canberra: Environment ACT.
Barlow, T. (1998). Grassy guidelines: how to manage native grasslands and grassy woodlands on your property.
Biosis Research Pty Ltd (2008). Targeted surveys for the Golden Sun Moth in the Melbourne Area. Final Report May 2008. Provided to the Department of the Environment and Heritage on behalf of FKP Commercial Developments Pty Ltd.
Braby, M.F. (2005). Distribution and provisional management plan of the Golden Sun Moth, Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castniidae), in remnant grasslands of Macgregor West, ACT. Canberra: School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University.
Braby, M.F. & M. Dunford (2006). Field Observation on the Ecology of the Golden Sun Moth, Synemon plana Walker (Lepidoptera: Castniidae). Australian Entomologist. 33 (2):103-110.
Brett Lane & Associated Pty Ltd (2006). Targeted flora and fauna survey, Eynesbury mixed use zone and proposed construction haul road. Report No 2004.43 (13.1) February 2006 prepared for EPBC Referral 2006/2668.
Brown, G., A. Tolsma & E. McNabb (2012). Ecological aspects of new populations of the threatened Golden sun moth Synemon plana on the Victorian Volcanic Plains. The Victorian Naturalist. 129(3):77-85.
Clarke, G.M & M. Dunford (1999). Survey of the Belconnen naval transmitting station for the endangered golden sun moth Synemon plana. A report prepared for the Wildlife Research and Monitoring, Environment ACT. Canberra.
Clarke, G.M. & C. O'Dwyer (2000). Genetic variability and population structure of the endangered golden sun moth, Synemon plana. Biological Conservation. 92:371-381.
Clarke, G.M. & L.S. Whyte (2003). Phylogeography and population history of the endangered golden sun moth (Synemon plana) revealed by allozymes and mitochondrial DNA analysis. Conservation Genetics. 4:719-734.
Clarke, G.M. and Dear, C. (1998). A survey of native grassland sites in southeastern New South Wales for the endangered golden sun moth, Synemon plana. Page(s) 45. Canberra.: CSIRO Entomology.
Department of Environment and Conservation NSW (DEC) (2007). Draft NSW and National Recovery Plan for the Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana. Queanbeyan, NSW: Department of Environment and Conservation.
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) (NSW) (2000). Wallaby grass - a domesticated native grass. [Online]. Available from: http://www.agric.nsw.gov.au/reader/past-varieties/p2539.htm.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) (2004a). Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana, Action Statement No 106.
Department of the Environment and Climate Change (DECC) (2005). Synemon plana - Priority Actions. NSW Threatened Species Priority Action Statement.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2009). Background Paper to EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana). [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/significant-impact-guidelines-critically-endangered-golden-sun-moth-synemon-plana.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009p). EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.12 - Significant Impact Guidelines for the Critically Endangered Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana). [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/significant-impact-guidelines-critically-endangered-golden-sun-moth-synemon-plana.
Douglas, F. (2004). A dedicated reserve for conservation of two species of Synemon (Lepidoptera: Castniidae) in Australia. Journal of Insect Conservation. 8:221-228.
Ecology Partners (2009a). Flora and Fauna Assessment and Preliminary Net Gain Analysis of a proposed Moto-cross Track, Dandos Road, Avalon, Victoria. [Online]. Victoria: City of Greater Geelong. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referrals&limit=60&text_search=2009%2F4956.
Ecology Partners (2009b). Targeted significant fauna surveys (spring -summer) for the proposed re-alignment for the Western Highway, Melton to Bacchus Marsh (Anthony's Cutting) Victoria. Report to VicRoads as part of EPBC 2009/4856. February.
Ecology Partners (2009c). Targeted Significant Flora and Fauna Surveys at 220 Harvest Home Road and 219 Epping Road, Wollert, Victoria. [Online]. AV Jennings Pty Limited. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=4888.
Ecology Partners (2010). Targetted surveys for the Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana at 1170 Mickelham Road and 400 Somerton Road, Victoria. report prepared for Peet Limited as part of Referral 2010/5436. March.
Edwards, E. D. (1994). Survey of lowland grassland sites in A.C.T for the Golden Sun Moth, Synemon plana. CSIRO Report to the Wildlife Research Unit, ACT Parks and Conservation Service Canberra.
Edwards, E.D. (1991). Synemon plana - A grassland case history. In: The ACT's Native Grasslands. Proceedings of a workshop held at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra. 17 February 1991. Page(s) 20-33. Canbera: Conservation Council of South East Region and Canberra.
Edwards, E.D. (1993). Synemon plana site, Belconnen Naval Base, Lawson. In: Management of Relict Lowland Grasslands. Proceedings of a workshop and public seminar. September 24 & 25 1993. Page(s) 150-152. ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Canberra.
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) (2009). Golden Sun Moth Count. FOG e-Bulletin 2009. 2. [Online]. Available from: http://www.fog.org.au/newsletter.htm.
Gibson, D. S. Koehler, C. O'Dwyer & W.Moore (2008). Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Catniidae):results of a broad survey of populaitons around Melbourne. The Victorian Naturalist. 125 (2):39-46.
Gibson, L. (2006). Surveys of the Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana Walker) population and ant assemblages at the Craigieburn Grassland Reserve. Hons. Thesis. Bundoora, Victoria: La Trobe University.
Gibson, L. & T.New (2007). Problems in studying populations of the golden sun-moth, Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castniidae), in south eastern Australia. Journal of Insect Conservation. 11:309-313.
Gilmore, D., Koehler, S. O'Dwyer, C & W. Moore (2008). Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castriidae): results of a broad survey of populations around Melbourne. The Victorian Naturalist. 125 (2):39-46.
Lodge, G.M. & M.G. McMillan (1994). Effects of herbicides on wallaby grass (Danthonia spp.) 2. Established plants. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 34. 34 (6):759-764.
Lodge, G.M., M.G. McMillan, A.J. Schipp & A.S. Cook (1994). Effects of herbicides on wallaby grass (Danthonia spp.) 1. Establishment. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture. 34 (6):753-757.
New, T.R. (2012). The Golden sun moth, Synemon plana Walker (Castniidae): continuing conservation ambiguity in Victoria. The Victorian Naturalist. 129(3):109-13.
O'Dwyer, C. (2003). Re-establishment of Grasslands for Golden Sun MothsSustainability and beyond:. In: Hamilton, S.D. & C. O'Dwyer, eds. Proceedings of the 3rd Stipa nominated conference on the management of grasses and pastures. Page(s) 214-216. Cooma (NSW).
O'Dwyer, C. & P.M. Attiwill (1999). A comparative study of habitats of the Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana Walker (Lepidoptera: Castniidae): implications for restoration. Biological Conservation. 89:131-142.
Phillips, A. (2000). A method for replacing serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) with kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra) in lowland native grassland remnants. M.Sc. Thesis. Victoria University.
Richter, A., W. Osborne, G. Robertson & S. Hnatiuk (2009). Community Monitoring of Golden Sun Moths in the Australian Capital Territory Region, 2008-2009. Funded by the Threatened Species Network, a community-based program of the Australian Government and WWF-Australia.
Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2002o). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Synemon plana (Golden Sun Moth). [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/s-plana.html.
Van Praagh, B.D. (2004). New sightings of the Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castniidae) at Craigbieburn and Cooper St Grasslands, Melbourne VIctoria 2003/2004. Report prepared for the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Victoria.
This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.
Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Synemon plana in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Wed, 16 Apr 2014 23:39:45 +1000.