National recovery plan for the Endangered Native Jute Species, Corchorus cunninghamii F. Muell. in Queensland (2001-2006)

Marion Saunders
Rainforest Ecotone Recovery Team (RERT)
Environment Australia, 2001

3. Recovery Objectives, Criteria and Actions

The overall objective of this recovery plan is to protect known populations of C. cunninghamii in Queensland from further decline, and to maintain and/or enhance sustainable population levels in the wild, in the long-term with minimum management. Given current population numbers and improved management of individual populations it is foreseeable that within 10 years of implementing the current recovery plan that the conservation status of C. cunninghamii would be downlisted from 'endangered' to 'vulnerable'.

3.1 Recovery objectives

  • Update and improve existing knowledge of the ecology and distribution of C. cunninghamii in south-east Queensland.
  • Protect and/or enhance wild populations of C. cunninghamii and their habitat from further decline by developing management strategies for land managers.
  • Increase community awareness and involvement in maintaining and enhancing populations of C. cunninghamii.
  • Improve the conservation status of C. cunninghamii from 'endangered' to 'vulnerable' within 10 years and to double the number of plants in critical populations within 5 years.

3.2 Recovery criteria

  • Achieve an understanding of population dynamics, reproductive biology, and the role of fire and disturbance in the life history of C. cunninghamii.
  • Secure an appropriate level of protection for the habitat of existing populations of C. cunninghamii.
  • Maintain or enhance existing populations of C. cunninghamii.
  • Rehabilitate habitat where populations of C. cunninghamii currently exist.
  • Develop sustainable land management strategies for C. cunninghamii populations based on monitoring and recovery programs.
  • Increased community awareness of C. cunninghamii through the distribution of educational information on the species, through voluntary involvement in habitat recovery and monitoring programs, as well as consultation with indigenous groups regarding conservation of the species and the land on which it occurs.

3.3 Recovery actions

  • Action 1: Investigate population dynamics by tagging and monitoring the life history of individual plants in existing populations of C. cunninghamii.
  • Action 2: Investigate the role of fire and weed disturbance on the ecology of individual plant populations.
  • Action 3: Implement management programs (e.g. fire and weed disturbance regimes) that improve the habitat of known populations of C. cunninghamii and increase population numbers.
  • Action 4: Consultation and involvement of indigenous groups that have an interest in land on which C. cunninghamii occurs.
  • Action 5: Preparation and distribution of educational material (bookmarks and posters) highlighting the endangered status of C. cunninghamii to conservation groups and the general public.
  • Action 6: Recruitment of community volunteers to participate in monitoring and habitat recovery programs.

3.3.1 Action 1 Investigate population dynamics

To gain insight into the demography of this short-lived species a monitoring program is currently being undertaken. The total number of individuals, condition, age structure, and the number of flowering and fruiting individuals has been determined for each of the ten existing populations of C. cunninghamii in Queensland (Parr, 2001). Individual plants from five of these populations (Sites 2, 3, 7, 8 and 10) have been permanently tagged and further monitoring, to determine the life history of these individuals and the species in general, will be conducted on a six-monthly basis over the years 2001 and 2002. After this time monitoring will be conducted at these sites annually. In addition to monitoring individual plants a region surrounding the tagged individuals, ranging from 100-2500m2, will also be examined to determine if the soil seed bank adjacent to the tagged individuals is viable, at what rate seedlings are being recruited and whether the population is stable, increasing or in decline. Results obtained from the monitoring program will be provided to the Queensland Herbarium and other interested parties (e.g. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service), as well as being included in the monitoring reports, that will be submitted to the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) in October 2001 (Parr, 2001) and October 2002.

3.3.2 Action 2: Investigate the role of fire and weed disturbance

Disturbance plays an important role in the normal life-cycle of C. cunninghamii (Halford, 1995a; NSW, 1999; Simmonds, 2000; Stewart, 2000), with both fire and mechanical disturbance promoting the germination of soil-stored seed. As part of the current recovery plan a variety of weed control regimes and methods, and prescribed burn regimes will be trialed at four to six (Sites 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10) of the existing populations of C. cunninghamii. The disturbance regime trialled at each of these sites will be dependent on the value of the existing habitat for C. cunninghamii (i.e. the level of weed disturbance and number of individuals), safety factors, the previous disturbance history and/or management of the site and ownership, or other management constraints. The total number of C. cunninghamii plants in the recovery site, their condition, age structure, and the number of flowering and fruiting individuals will be determined prior to disturbance and bi-monthly thereafter. Vegetation surveys will also be conducted before and after disturbance so that changes in species diversity of flora at the site, and the effectiveness of a particular disturbance regime can be ascertained. Results obtained from the disturbance studies will be made available to the landholders/managers of sites where C. cunninghamii populations occur and be included in monitoring reports that will be submitted to the NHT in 2001 (Parr, 2001) and 2002.

3.3.3 Action 3: Implement management programs

Results obtained from recovery Actions 1 and 2 are necessary to determine how populations of C. cunninghamii may be most effectively managed and conserved in both the short and long-term. Action 3 of the recovery plan aims to implement fire and disturbance regimes that have been found to be effective in maintaining, increasing or extending the range of C. cunninghamii populations and the subtropical rainforest-open eucalypt forest ecotone that it occurs in. Dissemination of effective management strategies to landholders/managers in Queensland and New South Wales will be straightforward given that most of the known populations of C. cunninghamii occur in protected areas, or land that is secured by conservation agreements, ownership or tenure. In Queensland, the largest Wongawallan and both Ormeau sites have been secured since the original conservation statement and draft recovery plan was written in 1995 (Halford, 1995a). Individuals involved in the management of the four Queensland locations are all members of the recovery team (RERT), as well as being the main instigators of the recovery plan for C. cunninghamii in Queensland. These individuals will therefore be supportive and assist in implementing the recommended management regimes. Information about management strategies for C. cunninghamii are also likely to be well received in New South Wales, given that a recovery plan for the species is also being prepared in this state. An exchange of information, with respect to management and other issues, between states will benefit the conservation of C. cunninghamii in the long-term.

3.3.4 Action 4: Consultation and involvement of indigenous groups

Based on available information the species does not appear to have cultural significance for indigenous peoples. However, Action 4 aims to identify which groups have land claims at C. cunninghamii locations so, that if identified, they can be informed and their role, interests and knowledge can be accommodated and/or utilised in the current recovery plan. Two groups (the Turrabul and Gurrumngar tribes) may have an interest in the BFP location, however it is still necessary to confirm this. So far no groups have been identified with regard to the Wongawallan, Ormeau and Mount Cotton populations but this will require further investigation. Once groups are identified it will be necessary to consult and involve the relevant groups with regard to implementing the recovery plan actions and possibly identify additional actions. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency currently has the expertise to identify and liaise with the indigenous groups and relevant Shire Councils, and will be responsible for implementing this action in conjunction with Shire Council officers and members of the recovery team.

3.3.5 Action 5: Preparation and distribution of educational material

Educational material has been prepared in an attempt to increase the awareness of the general public and targeted community groups to the presence and endangered status of C. cunninghamii in Queensland. To date a set of three posters, an identification brochure and identification bookmark have been produced. One poster provides information, photographs and diagrams that will aid in the identification of C. cunninghamii, as well as additional information on its habitat, distribution, status and the conservation measures needed to protect this species from further decline. The second poster describes the rainforest ecotone recovery team (RERT) and its plan to implement a monitoring and recovery program for C. cunninghamii, while the third poster identifies other rare or threatened ecotonal plant species. It was suggested by the Queensland Herbarium that C. cunninghamii be been given the common name Cunningham's Jute. This name has been adopted by the recovery team and has been included on all educational material. Educational material will be displayed and/or distributed to: community conservation groups such as the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) and the Brisbane Rainforest Action Information Network (BRAIN), Brisbane Forest Park, selected nurseries and libraries, landholders, shire council or community display areas in regions where the species is likely to occur, and at organised events such as Threatened Species Day. The Project Co-ordinator and/or other members of the recovery team will speak about the project to interested community conservation groups and provide information for community group newsletters and the media. Increased community awareness resulting from the presentation and distribution of information about C. cunninghamii, will facilitate the recruitment of volunteers for the monitoring and habitat recovery programs (Action 6) and will assist in identifying additional populations of the species on both freehold and already protected land.

3.3.6 Action 6: Recruitment of community volunteers

Community volunteers will play an integral role in successfully implementing the recovery plan for C. cunninghamii. Volunteers are required to participate in the monitoring (Action 1) and habitat recovery (Action 2) programs, as well as assisting in disturbance regimes that will improve the habitat of known populations of C. cunninghamii (Action 3). It is estimated that approximately 1000 volunteer hours per year will be needed to achieve Actions 1, 2 and 3 of the recovery plan. Action 5 and the increased community awareness it provides will facilitate the recruitment of these volunteers. Volunteers have and will continue to be recruited directly through members of the recovery team, or through the actions of the Project Co-ordinator. These actions will include advertising in local newspapers, liaison with local community groups, school groups and recovery team members. The Project Co-ordinator and other members of the recovery team will be responsible for supervising and training the volunteers in species identification, monitoring populations, weed removal, habitat recovery and safety requirements. A valuable source of volunteers has been obtained from the already well-established volunteer program in operation at Brisbane Forest Park (BFP), where four of the ten populations of C. cunninghamii occur. Volunteer groups that currently assist in new projects and managing BFP's natural resources include Green Reserve Volunteers and Resource Volunteers. To date these groups have been involved in monitoring the C. cunninghamii populations at BFP and Wongawallan, as well as playing a role in the recovery of habitat at BFP. Given the number of BFP volunteers and other individuals that have already participated or shown interest in the project, the inability to recruit volunteers is unlikely to be a problem in implementing the current recovery plan.

3.4 Recovery team

The Rainforest Ecotone Recovery Team (RERT), which is responsible for instigating the current recovery plan for C. cunninghamii in Queensland, was formed in 1999. Members of the recovery team will meet every two to three months to review progress made towards implementing the recovery plan, review the outcome of actions and develop strategies to continue the actions identified in the recovery plan. The Project Co-ordinator, funded by an NHT grant (2000-2002), will co-ordinate the recovery meetings, liaise with stakeholders about project requirements, problems or changes to the monitoring or recovery program, implement recovery actions and prepare monitoring/progress reports. Representatives on the recovery team, individuals that have provided input into the current plan and authorities responsible for implementing the specific actions of this recovery plan include:

  • Bruce Noble (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service/Brisbane Forest Park)
  • Jason Searle (Gold Coast City Council)
  • Rosalie Eustace (Redlands Shire Council)
  • Tina Manners (Brisbane City Council)
  • Shannon Parr (RERT Project Co-ordinator)
  • Wil Buch (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service)
  • Sylvia Millington (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service)
  • Dr William McDonald (Queensland Herbarium)
  • David Halford (Queensland Herbarium)
  • Klaus Querengasser (Brisbane Rainforest and Action Information Network (BRAIN)/ University of Queensland)
  • Melanie Simmonds (University of Queensland)
  • Dr Julia Playford (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service/University of Queensland)
  • Dr Marion Saunders (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service/University of Queensland)
  • Philip Cameron (Brisbane Botanic Gardens)

3.5 Implementation schedule


Action
Task description
description
Priority
Feasibility
(%)
Responsible
Party
Time frame
1
Investigate population dynamics by tagging and monitoring the life history of individual plants in existing populations of C. cunninghamii.
1
100 %
Project Co-ordinator and Recovery Team in conjunction with volunteers. Initial phase will be completed by Aug 2003, but will continue after this time on an annual basis.
2
Investigate the role of fire and weed disturbance on the ecology of individual plant populations.
1
100 %
Project Co-ordinator and Recovery Team in conjunction with volunteers and QPWS and BFP staff. Initial phase will be completed by Aug 2003, but will continue after this time
3
Implement management programs (e.g. fire and weed disturbance regimes) that improve the habitat of known populations of C. cunninghamii.
2
90 %
Recovery Team in conjunction with the Project Co-ordinator, volunteers and QPWS and BFP staff. Ongoing
4
Consultation and involvement of indigenous groups.
1
100 %
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with Brisbane City Council, Gold Coast City Council, Redlands Shire Council and Recovery Team members. Initial approaches and consultations should be completed by 2003, but is likely to be ongoing
5
Preparation and distribution of educational material (bookmarks and posters) highlighting the endangered status of C. cunninghamii to conservation groups and the general public
1
100 %
Project Co-ordinator, Recovery Team and Redlands Indigiscapes Centre staff. Preparation completed by Nov 2001.Distribution will be ongoing.
6
Recruitment of community volunteers to participate in monitoring and habitat recovery programs.
1
100 %
Project Co-ordinator and Recovery Team. Ongoing