Whorled eremophila (Eremophila verticillata) Interim Recovery Plan 2003-2008

Interim recovery plan no. 142
Robyn Phillimore and Andrew Brown
Department of Conservation and Land Management, WA, 2003

2. Recovery objective and criteria

Objectives

The objective of this Interim Recovery Plan is to abate identified threats and maintain or enhance in situ populations to ensure the long-term preservation of the species in the wild.

Criteria for success: The number of individuals within populations and/or the number of populations have increased by 10% or more.
Criteria for failure: The number of individuals within populations and/or the number of populations have decreased by 10% or more.

3. Recovery actions

Existing recovery actions

The Shire of Lake Grace, private property owners, the mining lessee, Department of Land Administration and Department of Minerals and Energy have been formally notified of the presence and threatened status of Eremophila verticillata. The notification details the Declared Rare status of the taxon and associated legal responsibilities.

Declared Rare Flora (DRF) markers have been installed at Population 1. These alert workers to the presence of threatened flora and help prevent accidental damage during maintenance works. An awareness of the markers is being promoted to relevant bodies through dashboard stickers and posters. These illustrate DRF markers, inform of their purpose and provide a contact telephone number if such a marker is encountered.

Staff from DCLM's Science Division and Katanning District conducted an experimental burn on 10 mature (7 taken completely, 3 defoliated), senescing Eremophila verticillata plants at Population 1 in June 1994.

Approximately 646 seeds collected from Population 1 in March and April 2000 are stored in DCLM's Threatened Flora Seed Centre (TFSC) at -18°C. The initial germination rate of the seed was found to range between 73 and 80%. A further collection of 2954 seeds was made in March 2000 and had an initial germination rate of 73%. Collection of E. verticillata seed is difficult and requires many trips due to the fruits ripening gradually rather than all at once (unpublished data, A. Cochrane ¹ ).

The Botanic Garden and Parks Authority (BGPA) currently have seven cultivated plants of Eremophila verticillata (three in the nursery and four in the Botanic Gardens), all of which were grown from cuttings. Propagation of E. verticillata from cuttings appears to be relatively successful but variable (personal communication A. Shade ² ).

The Katanning and Narrogin Districts Threatened Flora Recovery Teams (KDTFRT, NDTFRT) are overseeing the implementation of this IRP and will include information on progress in their annual report to DCLM's Corporate Executive and funding bodies.

Departmental staff from Katanning and Narrogin District offices regularly monitor both presumed extinct and extant populations.

¹ Anne Cochrane, Manager, the Department's Threatened Flora Seed Centre
² Amanda Shade, Horticulturist, Botanic Garden and Parks Authority

Future recovery actions

Where populations occur on lands other than those managed by the Department, permission has been or will be sought from the appropriate land managers prior to recovery actions being undertaken.

1. Coordinate recovery

The KDTFRT and NTFRT will continue to coordinate the implementation of recovery actions for Eremophila verticillata and will include information on progress in their annual report to DCLM's Corporate Executive and funding bodies.

Action: Coordinate recovery
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning & Narrogin Districts) through the KDTFRT & NTFRT
Estimated Cost: $600 per year.

2. Stimulate germination

Fire has proved to be an effective method in stimulating the germination of dormant Eremophila verticillata seed. Other methods, including smokewater, may also be trialed.

Action: Stimulate germination of soil-stored seed
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning & Narrogin Districts) through the KDTFRT & NTFRT
Estimated Cost: $3,600 in first and second years, $1,100 in subsequent years.

3. Surveys

Surveys, conducted by Departmental staff with assistance of local volunteers and wildflower society members, will take place during the plant's flowering period (October to January).

Action: Conduct surveys
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning & Narrogin Districts) through the KDTFRT & NTFRT
Estimated Cost: $2,000 per year.

4. Weed control

Weeds are a major threat to Population 2 and a possible future threat to Population 1. Native dodder is a minor threat to Population 2.

  1. Experience and research to date in similar situations has shown that the use of selective herbicides to control grasses may result in infestation by broad leaf weeds. As there are currently no herbicides available for broad leaf weeds that can be used in a non-selective way and there are several native grasses present at Population 1 which would be inadvertently killed when spraying for exotic grasses, care must be taken when implementing weed control.
  2. Broad spectrum, non-residual herbicides, e.g. glyphosate, can be used for spot control of weeds utilising techniques such as direct application or the use of temporary spray shields. Generally these techniques have been under utilised in respect to threatened flora and practical methods of application in the field require further development.
  3. Hand removal of native dodder and weeds will be undertaken around Eremophila verticillata plants. Care must be taken as hand weeding has the potential to increase weed levels (at least temporarily) as a result of soil disturbance.
  4. Within the five-year scope of an IRP weed control will be a short-term protective measure. Long term conservation of populations of CR flora will require further habitat rehabilitation including the replacement of weeds with appropriate native species.

Action: Undertake weed control using proven, best practice methods
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District, Science Division) through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $800 per year.

5. Care, control and management of Lake Cobham

Negotiations will continue with the Lake Grace Shire and DOLA in relation to the future care, control and management of Lake Cobham which contains both extant populations of Eremophila verticillata.

Action: Review the care, control and management of Lake Cobham
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Cost: $500 per year until completion.

6. Habitat rehabilitation

Restoration of Eremophila verticillata habitat will be achieved through the re-introduction of endemic plant species back into the old mine site at Population 2. During rehabilitation works, mounds of soil left from mining operations will be flattened out and may stimulate germination of soil-stored native seed.

Action: Rehabilitate habitat
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $3,000 in first, second and third years.

7. Seed and cuttings

Preservation of germplasm is essential to guard against the possible future extinction of wild populations. Seed and cutting collections can also be used to propagate plants for the establishment of a living collection at the BGPA and for future translocations back into the wild.

Action: Collect seed and cutting material
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District, TFSC) and BGPA, through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $3,400 in first and second years.

8. Propagation

The propagation of plants for translocation is essential as both wild populations of Eremophila verticillata are threatened through poor recruitment and degraded habitat. Plants will be propagated at the BGPA for planting in the second and third years of IRP implementation.

Action: Propagate plants for future translocation
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District) and the BGPA through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $1,500 in first and second years.

9. Translocation

Although translocations are generally undertaken under full Recovery Plans, the threats to both known wild populations of Eremophila verticillata requires the implementation of a translocation proposal within the time frame of this IRP. A translocation proposal has been prepared and is being be coordinated by the KDTFRT. Information on the translocation of threatened animals and plants in the wild is provided in DCLM's Policy Statement No. 29 Translocation of Threatened Flora and Fauna.

Action: Implement the translocation proposal
Responsibility: The Department (Science Division, Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $13,300 in first year and $6,200 in subsequent years.

10. Fire management strategy

Eremophila verticillata is an opportunistic species that germinates from soil-stored seed following fire and soil disturbance. However, frequent fire will kill plants before they reach maturity and may result in the accumulation of insufficient soil stored seed for regeneration. Except for recovery purposes, fire should be excluded from the area of populations. A fire management strategy will be developed to determine fire control measures and fire frequency.

Action: Develop and implement a fire management strategy
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $2,600 in first year and $1,000 in subsequent years.

11. Liaison

Land managers have been officially notified of the occurrence of the species. DCLM staff will continue to liase with them to ensure the populations are not damaged or destroyed accidentally.

Action: Liaise with land managers
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $800 per year.

12. Fencing

A fence will be erected alongside Population 2 to protect plants from vehicle damage.

Action: Fence Population 2
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Cost: $1,200 in the first year.

13. Monitoring

Monitoring of factors such as weed invasion, habitat degradation, salinity levels and population stability (expansion or decline), pollinator activity, seed production, recruitment, and longevity is essential. Both known populations of Eremophila verticillata will be inspected annually. Special attention will be given to salinity levels and it's impact, with soil salinity and pH readings taken during winter and summer. Presumed extinct populations will be monitored annually for possible germination of soil-stored seed.

Monitoring of translocated plants will be undertaken according to the timetable set out in the Translocation Proposal.

Action: Monitor populations
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning & Narrogin Districts) through the KDTFRT & NTFRT
Estimated Cost: $1,600 per year.

14. Community awareness

The importance of biodiversity conservation and the need for the long-term protection of Eremophila verticillata in the wild will be promoted to the general community through the local print, electronic media and poster displays. An information sheet, which includes a description of the plant, its habitat type, threats, management actions and photos have been produced. Formal links with local naturalist groups and interested individuals will be encouraged.

Action: Promote community awareness
Responsibility: The Department (Katanning & Narrogin Districts, Corporate Relations) through the KDTFRT & NTFRT
Estimated Cost: $1,600 in first year and $900 in subsequent years.

15. Biology and ecology

Better knowledge of the biology and ecology of Eremophila verticillata will provide a scientific basis for management of wild populations. An understanding of the following is necessary for effective management:

  1. Soil seed bank dynamics and the role of various disturbances (including inundation), competition, rainfall and grazing in germination and recruitment.
  2. The pollination biology of the subspecies, and the requirements of pollinators.
  3. The reproductive strategies, phenology and seasonal growth of the species.
  4. The population genetic structure, levels of genetic diversity and minimum viable population size.
  5. The impact of salinity on Eremophila verticillata and its habitat.

Action: Obtain biological and ecological information
Responsibility: The Department (Science Division, Katanning District) through the KDTFRT
Estimated Cost: $18,800 per year.

16. Recovery Plan

If Eremophila verticillata is still ranked as Critically Endangered at the end of the fourth year of the five-year term of this Interim Recovery Plan, the need for a full Recovery Plan or a review of this IRP will be assessed and a plan prepared if necessary.

Action: Review the need for a full Recovery Plan
Responsibility: The Department (WATSCU, Katanning & Narrogin Districts) through the KDTFRT & NTFRT
Estimated Cost: $20,700 in the final year.