Varnish bush (Eremophila viscida) Interim Recovery Plan 2003-2008

Interim recovery plan no. 137
Robyn Phillimore, Rebecca Evans, Andrew Brown & Val English
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 ten percent or more.
Criteria for failure: The number of individuals within populations and/or the number of populations have decreased by ten percent or more.

3. Recovery actions

Existing recovery actions

All land managers have been notified of the location and threatened status of the species. The notification details the Declared Rare status of Eremophila viscida and the legal responsibility to protect it.

Declared Rare Flora (DRF) markers have been installed at Populations 3, 6, 10 and 16, and Subpopulations 7a, 11a, 12a and 15a. These serve to alert people working in the vicinity to the presence of DRF, and the need to avoid work that may damage plants or their habitat. Dashboard stickers and posters describing the significance of DRF markers have been produced and distributed.

Approximately 330 seeds were collected from Subpopulation 12a in January 1994 and stored in the Department's TFSC at -18°C. The TFSC test the viability of the seed initially and after one year in storage. The initial germination rate of Eremophila viscida seed was found to be 87% and after one year in storage was 90%. A collection of 289 fruits (each containing several seeds) was made in January 1994 from Subpopulation 7a. Seed from these had an initial germination rate of 64%. Further collections of 334 seeds from Subpopulation 7a, and 45 seeds from Subpopulation 11a were made in January 1999 and had an initial germination rate of 92% and 75% respectively. In December 2000, 1261 seeds were collected from Subpopulation 12b and 207 seeds from Population 6 and these had an initial germination rate of 94% and 100% respectively (unpublished data, A. Cochrane ¹).

The BGPA currently have 19 plants of Eremophila viscida in their nursery and gardens. These originated from cuttings taken from nine wild plants. Propagation of the species is difficult with a 20% strike rate from most cuttings and grafts. Two germinants from seed collected by the TFSC were received in 1999 but both died (personal communication A. Shade ²).

Disturbance trials to stimulate seed germination were undertaken at Population 15 in June 2001 by staff from the Department's Geraldton District with assistance from the Department's Bushrangers and the Landcare officer from Mullewa. Trials included raking, burning and smoke treatment. The trials are being monitored and to date no seedlings have appeared (personal communication A. Chant ³).

The Merredin and Geraldton District Threatened Flora Recovery Teams (MDTFRT, GDTFRT) are overseeing the implementation of this IRP and will include information on progress in their annual report to the Department's Corporate Executive and funding bodies.

Staff from the Department's Merredin and Geraldton Districts regularly monitor all populations of this species.

¹ Anne Cochrane, Manager, the Department's Threatened Flora Seed Centre
² Amanda Shade, Horticulturalist, Botanic Garden and Parks Authority
³ Alanna Chant, Previous Conservation Officer, the Department's Geraldton District

Future recovery actions

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

1. Coordinate recovery actions

The Merredin and Geraldton District Threatened Flora Recovery Teams (MDTFRT, GDTFRT) are coordinating recovery actions for Eremophila viscida and will include information on progress in their annual report to the Department's Corporate Executive and funding bodies.

Action: Coordinate recovery actions
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $1,000 per year.

2. Stimulate the germination of soil-stored seed

Burning, use of smoke water and soil disturbance may be effective in stimulating the germination of soil-stored seed. These trials will be conducted near existing populations in areas cleared of weeds, and/or in areas where Eremophila viscida was known to occur previously but is no longer present above ground. If germination occurs monitoring will record the time of first flowering and seed production and the age of plants when they senesce. This will enable the optimal interval time between disturbances to be estimated.

Action: Stimulate the germination of soil-stored seed
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $4,900 in second, third and fourth years.

3. Conduct further surveys

Historically, populations of Eremophila viscida have been found over an extremely wide geographical range and it is highly likely that there are more extant populations than are currently known. Further surveys will be conducted during its flowering period (mainly September to October). Areas considered suitable for possible translocation will also be noted. Volunteers from the local community, Wildflower Societies and Naturalist Clubs will be encouraged to be involved in surveys supervised by Departmental staff.

Action: Conduct further surveys
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $5,700 per year.

4. Install fencing

To prevent possible stock damage, a fence will be erected around subpopulations 12b, 12c, 14b, 14c, 15b, 16a and 16b. Fencing will include a buffer of surrounding habitat. Funding will be sought from various sources.

Action: Install fencing
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $20,900 in first year.

5. Install Declared Rare Flora markers

Declared Rare Flora (DRF) markers are required for Subpopulation 2b which is on a road reserve.

Action: Install DRF markers
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $700 in first year.

6. Rehabilitate habitat

Restoration of Eremophila viscida habitat through the re-introduction of endemic plant species will be conducted for populations 12b, 12c, 13, 14c and 15b.

Action: Rehabilitate habitat
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $4,100 in first, second and third years.

7. Undertake weed control

Weed control including hand weeding and localised application of herbicide will be undertaken in consultation with land managers. All weed control will be followed by a report on the method, timing and the success or otherwise of the treatment, and any effect on Eremophila viscida and its associated native plant species. It is anticipated that a number of native species will regenerate after weed competition is removed.

Action: Undertake weed control
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $1,800 per year.

8. Silt prevention

Prevention of further silting at Subpopulation 14c and other populations where deemed necessary will be developed and implemented in liaison with relevant land managers and Agriculture Western Australia. This may include mechanical removal of silt that has built up in creeklines.

Action: Silt prevention
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts; Agriculture WA) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: To be determined

9. Develop and implement a fire management strategy

The response of Eremophila viscida and its habitat to fire has not been documented, although it is thought that occasional fire is necessary for recruitment. Until its affect is better understood, fire will if possible be prevented from occurring in the area of populations, except where it is being used experimentally or as a recovery tool. 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 (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $4,200 in first year and $2,000 in subsequent years.

10. Control rabbits

There is evidence of some rabbit grazing in Population 6 and any young shoots are likely to be extremely vulnerable. In addition, habitat is being damaged by rabbit warren construction and this, combined with the increased nutrient levels and the presence of weed seed in their droppings, is introducing weeds into the habitat. Baiting will be undertaken in and around this area.

Action: Control rabbits
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin District) through the MDTFRT
Cost: $600 in first, second and third years.

11. Monitor populations

Annual monitoring of further habitat degradation (including weed invasion and plant diseases), population stability (expansion or decline), pollination activity, seed production, recruitment, longevity and predation is essential. All populations will be inspected annually with special attention given to impacts from rising salinity.

Action: Monitor populations
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $2,200 per year.

12. Collect seed and cutting material

Preservation of germplasm is essential to guard against the possible extinction of wild populations with seed and cuttings used to propagate plants for future translocations. Seed is required from all populations to maximise the genetic diversity of ex situ material. Cuttings will be obtained to establish a living collection at the Botanic Garden and Parks Authority (BGPA).

Action: Collect seed and cutting material
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT

Cost: $5,200 in first year and $3,800 per year thereafter.

13. Seek improved security for populations

Staff from the Department's Merredin and Geraldton Districts are liaising with land managers and landowners to ensure that populations are not accidentally damaged or destroyed. In addition, ways and means of improving the security of populations and their habitat will be investigated. For populations that occur on private property (Subpopulations 12b, 12c, 14b and 14c), this may include land purchase, conservation covenants or using the Land for Wildlife scheme.

Action: Seek improved security for populations
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $500 per year for liaison; cost of purchasing to be determined.

14. Promote awareness

The importance of biodiversity conservation and the need for the long-term protection of wild populations of this species will be promoted to the community through poster displays and the local print and electronic media. Formal links with local naturalist groups and interested individuals will also be encouraged. An information sheet, which includes a description of the plant, its habitat, threats, recovery actions and photos has been produced and distributed.

A reply paid postal drop illustrating Eremophila viscida and describing its distinctive features and habitat will be produced and distributed to residents in Shires that contain possible habitat of the species. Postal drops aim to stimulate interest, provide information about threatened species and provide a name and number to contact if new populations are located by members of the community.

Action: Promote awareness
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $2,800 in first year and $1,400 in second year and $1,100 in remaining years.

15. Obtain biological and ecological information

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

  1. Soil seed bank dynamics and the role of various disturbances (including fire), competition, rainfall and grazing in germination and recruitment.
  2. The pollination biology of the species, 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 viscida and its habitat.

Action: Obtain biological and ecological information
Responsibility: The Department (Science Division, Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $20,800 per year for the first three years.

16. Propagate plants for translocation

The propagation of plants in readiness for translocation is essential as nearly all known wild populations of Eremophila viscida are under threat. Seed and/or cuttings will need to be taken and propagated at the BGPA for planting the following year.

Action: Propagate plants for translocation
Responsibility: The Department (Merredin and Geraldton Districts) and the BGPA through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $2,100 in first and second years.

17. Undertake and monitor translocation

Although translocations are generally undertaken under full Recovery Plans, the many threats to wild populations of this species require the development of a translocation proposal within the 5 year time frame of this IRP. The translocation will be coordinated by the MDTFRT and GDTFRT recovery teams. Information on the translocation of threatened animals and plants in the wild is provided in the Department's Policy Statement No. 29 Translocation of Threatened Flora and Fauna. All translocation proposals require endorsement by the Director of Nature Conservation.

Monitoring of the translocation is essential and will be undertaken according to the timetable which will be developed for the Translocation Proposal.

Action: Undertake and monitor translocation
Responsibility: The Department (Science Division, Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $13,800 in second year, $7,300 in third and $4,500 in remaining years.

18. Review the need for a full Recovery Plan and prepare if necessary

At the end of the fourth year of the five-year term of this Interim Recovery Plan, if the taxon is still ranked as Critically Endangered, 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 and prepare if necessary
Responsibility: The Department (WATSCU, Merredin and Geraldton Districts) through the MDTFRT and GDTFRT
Cost: $15,700 in the fifth year (if required).