Moresby Range Drummondita Drummondita ericoides Interim Recovery Plan 2004-2009

Western Australian Threatened Species and Communities Unit (WATSCU)
© The Western Australian, Department of Conservation and Land Management, 2004

1. Background

History

Drummondita ericoides was described by W.H. Harvey in 1855, who commented on its rarity. It was collected again in 1901 by F.L.E. Diels and E.G. Pritzel, and in 1926 by C.A. Gardner. It was then thought to be extinct until its rediscovery by G.J. Keighery on private property in 1980. This land was gazetted as a nature reserve in 1990. It was only known from this population until 2000, when a second population was discovered on land recently acquired by CALM for conservation. Three more populations have been located since then. This naturally rare plant occurs in habitat that is restricted to the unusual sandstone and laterite slopes of the Moresby Range.

Description

Drummondita ericoides is a shrub growing 5 to 20 cm tall on ridges, or from 50 cm to 1 m tall in sheltered gullies. It has scattered simple leaves which are terete, glabrous and approximately 8 mm long. Yellowish-white flowers are green at the tips, with 5 short sepals and 5 erect concave petals. The 10 staminal filaments are united into a narrow hairy tube which protrudes beyond the petals and is white to violet. A crimson style projects beyond the stamens. Flowers are usually solitary and occur at the end of branchlets.

Distribution and habitat

Drummondita ericoides occurs in the Moresby Range north of Geraldton over a linear range of about 20 km. Five populations are known, containing a total of approximately 580 plants. Populations occur on Nature Reserve, private property and a recent addition to the conservation estate, the tenure of which is yet to be finalised. It is intended that it will be either a Nature Reserve or a Conservation Park.

It grows amongst low heath on sandstone and laterite slopes, ridges and gullies of the Moresby Range, in brown loam or sandy loam and clay soils. It is associated with Melaleuca megacephala, M. cardiophylla, Acacia blakelyi, Hakea pycnoneura and Gastrolobium spinosum.

Biology and ecology

Very little is known about the biology of Drummondita ericoides. The flower structure suggests that they are likely to be insect-pollinated. Seed has been collected from Populations 1 and 2, but the viability of that seed is as yet unknown.

Drummondita ericoides populations currently have a good age structure, with both young plants and mature flowering plants present. The rocky sandstone slope habitat of Drummondita ericoides was not a preferred landform and soil type for agriculture, and so was not highly cleared. In addition, the taxon has not been highly impacted by grazing due to its association with Gastrolobium spinosum, which is toxic to stock.

Populations 2 and 5 occur on land that was burnt approximately 20 years ago in a summer wildfire, but whether the populations re-established from rootstock or seed is unknown. Drummondita ericoides does have the ability to re-sprout from rootstock (Andrew Brown, Coordinator (Threatened Flora) Western Australian Threatened Species & Communities Unit. , personal communication), but as it occurs on shallow soils the rootstock may not always be deep enough to survive fire. The wide range of plant ages present at Populations 2 and 5, combined with the health of other long unburnt populations, suggests that the species does not depend on fire for regeneration, but has the ability to recover satisfactorily from a fire event.

Rising salinity is threatening vegetation on the lower slopes nearby, but does not affect the rocky hilltops and slopes on which Drummondita ericoides occurs.

Threats

Drummondita ericoides was declared as Rare Flora in March 1982. It currently meets World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List Category Vulnerable (VU) under criterion D1+2 (IUCN 2000) due to the relatively low total number of plants (less than 600), restricted area of occupancy and number of populations. The main threats are inappropriate fire regimes and potential impacts from high human presence due to residential areas occurring close to populations. These impacts most prominently include increased risk of fire and weed invasion, as well as rubbish dumping and trampling due to recreational use.

  • Inappropriate fire regimes may affect the viability of populations if fires recur before the population can re-establish. Drummondita ericoides can resprout following fire, although the survival of rootstock of individual plants may depend on the depth of soil in which they occur. This species is not fire-dependent for germination, as a range of different aged plants occur in each population, including those long unburnt. However, an additional consideration is the role of fire in facilitating weed invasion.
  • High levels of human use of the area increase the risk of fire occurring in the habitat due to additional sources of ignition including arson. They may also increase the threat of weed invasion into the habitat through propagules within garden waste which is often dumped in bush reserves, and possibly through adding fertility to the soil. Vehicle, horse and foot traffic are all more likely in reserves near residential areas, and rubbish dumping also often occurs. The presence of domestic cats and dogs may also affect the fauna in the habitat, although they are unlikely to impact on the Drummondita ericoides particularly, as the species is likely to be insect pollinated.

Summary of population information and threats

Pop. No. & Location Land Status Year/No. plants Condition Threats
1a. N of Geraldton Nature Reserve 1981 293*
1993 90*
2000 42
2003 52
Healthy High human presence (increased risk of fire, weed invasion), wildfire
1b. N of Geraldton Nature Reserve 1981 *
1993 *
2000 98
2003 135
Healthy High human presence (increased risk of fire, weed invasion), wildfire
2a. N of Geraldton CALM Estate (tenure not finalised) 2000 36
2001 20
2003 49*
Healthy Inappropriate fire regimes
2b. N of Geraldton CALM Estate 2000 16
2001 29
2003 *
Healthy Inappropriate fire regimes
2c. N of Geraldton CALM Estate 2000 100+ Healthy Inappropriate fire regimes
3. N of Geraldton Private Property 2001 16
2003 16
Healthy Inappropriate fire regimes
4. N of Geraldton Private Property 2003 20 Healthy Inappropriate fire regimes
5. N of Geraldton CALM Estate 2003 200+ Healthy Inappropriate fire regimes

* = total for both subpopulations combined.

Guide for decision-makers

Section 1 provides details of current and possible future threats. Any on-ground works (clearing, firebreaks, roadworks etc) in the immediate vicinity of Drummondita ericoides will require assessment. On-ground works should not be approved unless the proponents can demonstrate that they will not have an impact on the species, its habitat or potential habitat.

Critical habitat

Critical habitat is habitat identified as being critical to the survival of a listed threatened species or listed threatened ecological community. Habitat is defined as the biophysical medium or media occupied (continuously, periodically or occasionally) by an organism or group of organisms or once occupied (continuously, periodically or occasionally) by an organism, or group of organisms, and into which organisms of that kind have the potential to be reintroduced (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)).

It is considered that all known habitat for wild and translocated populations of Drummondita ericoides is critical habitat. This includes:

  • the area of occupancy of known populations;
  • areas of similar habitat within 200 metres of known populations, i.e. low heath on sandstone and laterite slopes with brown loam or sandy loam soils (these provide potential habitat for natural range extension);
  • corridors of remnant vegetation that link populations (these are necessary to allow pollinators to move between populations and are usually road and rail reserves); and
  • additional occurrences of similar habitat that do not currently contain the species but may have done so in the past (these represent possible translocation sites).

Benefits to other species or ecological communities

Eucalyptus blaxellii (Howatharra Mallee) is a Declared Rare Flora (DRF) species that occurs in the habitat of Drummondita ericoides. Eucalyptus blaxellii is ranked as Vulnerable under both the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the EPBC Act. Acacia guinetii also occurs in this general area, and is listed as Priority 4 on CALMs Priority Flora list (Atkins 2003). All three of these species are components of the Priority 1 Ecological Community Melaleuca megacephala and Hakea pycnoneura thickets of Moresby Range. Recovery actions listed within this IRP such as regenerating natural vegetation in areas previously cleared for agriculture near Drummondita ericoides populations will also be of benefit to the ecological community in which the populations are located. Additional DRF and Priority species that may benefit from recovery work in the habitat of Drummondita ericoides as they occur in the general area, include Caladenia hoffmanii subsp. hoffmanii (DRF, ranked as Endangered under both the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the EPBC Act), Leucopogon oblongus (Priority 2), Grevillea triloba (Priority 3) and Verticordia densiflora subsp. roseostella (Priority 3).

International Obligations

This plan is fully consistent with the aims and recommendations of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified by Australia in June 1993, and will assist in implementing Australias responsibilities under that convention. The taxon is not listed under any specific international treaty, however, and therefore this IRP does not affect Australias obligations under any other international agreements.

Role and interests of indigenous people

An Aboriginal Sites Register is kept by the Department of Indigenous Affairs, and this lists one burial site and one painting site in the vicinity of Drummondita ericoides. Indigenous communities interested or involved in the region affected by this plan have not yet been identified. Input and involvement will be sought from any indigenous groups that have an active interest in the areas that are habitat for D. ericoides, and this is discussed in the recovery actions.

Social and economic impacts

Some populations of Drummondita ericoides occur on private land and negotiations will continue with regard to the future management of these populations. The implementation of this recovery plan has the potential to have some limited social and economic impact, where populations are located on private property. Recovery actions refer to continued liaison between stakeholders with regard to these areas.

Evaluation of the Plans Performance

CALM will evaluate the performance of this IRP in conjunction with the Geraldton District Threatened Flora Recovery Team. In addition to annual reporting on progress with listed actions and comparison against the criteria for success and failure, the plan is to be reviewed within five years of its implementation.