National recovery plan for the Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek (syn E. sp. 2 'Minyon')

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, January 2003
ISBN 0 731 36909 2

  1. Management Issues
  2. Legislative context

8. Management Issues

8.1 Reasons for decline

An increase in disturbance frequency and intensity (such as clearing, logging and burning after harvesting) may have contributed to the decline of E. sp. Rocky Creek. The very limited range of the species suggests a lack of distribution success. It is possible that the species has highly specialised habitat requirements and it may be that both these factors combine to explain the present geographical limits.

8.2 Threats

Logging

Past logging practices may have impacted on the species' overall distribution and on population viability, particularly with respect to seedling recruitment. Historically, heavy logging has occurred in extensive areas of potential habitat. Areas which were clear felled and burned more than 30 years ago in Mt Jerusalem National Park have not been recolonised by E. sp. Rocky Creek, despite seed sources being located nearby (Kooyman 1995). The three most recently discovered populations are possibly remnants of a formerly widespread, perhaps contiguous, population (R. Kooyman pers. comm.).

Under the Integrated Forestry Operation Approval (IFOA) for the Upper North East Region, management prescriptions apply for the known E. sp. Rocky Creek individuals and populations (see Section 9.6). However, there is potential for unknown individuals and potential habitat to be impacted if not identified in pre-logging surveys.

Fungal pathogens

Three E. sp. Rocky Creek trees died at Site 1 in Whian Whian State Forest in 1999. Pathology samples taken from the three trees found that all were infected with Ophiostoma sp. Two carried Botryosphaeria ribis, and one carried a Hymenochaete species. The role of these pathogens in the death of the trees is unclear (Simpson 2000). Surveys undertaken in 2001 revealed an additional seven dead trees, all in the larger size category (10-40 cm dbh). Kooyman (2001) noted that 10 dead tree stems were also recorded in the original survey of the site in 1995. The results indicate a continuing decline in the number of larger individuals in this population. The data suggests that this pattern of decline pre-dates the 'discovery' of the population in 1995 and that the recent deaths may represent a continuation of an existing trend (Kooyman 2001).

Surveys of all other populations found no dead trees (Kooyman 1999). Precautionary measures will need to be implemented to ensure that any potential fungal pathogens are not transferred to these sites.

More detailed testing of trees would be required to determine whether pathogens were responsible for the deaths. Pathogenicity tests would be required on both seedlings and large trees to determine the virulence and pathogenicity of the different isolates. Currently large trees are only found in the wild populations (Simpson 2000).

Reproductive failure

Only four of the eight known populations are reproducing successfully. Two of these have low seedling recruitment and survival. Reproductive failure is potentially the greatest long-term threat to the species and further research is required.

Poaching

Populations may be at risk from illegal seed collection, removal of seedlings or taking of plant material for cuttings.

Invasive species

One of the trees in the protected population at Snows Gully Nature Reserve is covered with Flagellaria indica, a native vine that is inhibiting growth (A. McKinley pers. comm.). Several trees in Mt Jerusalem National Park are also being affected by the vine.

Fire

Little is known of the effects of fire on E. sp. Rocky Creek, or its ability to regenerate after fire. The plant community associated with E. sp. Rocky Creek, along with bark formation on mature trees indicates that the species may have some adaptation to infrequent fire. However, the fire ecology of this species requires further study.

Pending further research, fire should be considered a threat as the species is found on the ecotone between warm temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest.

Mining

The Department of Mineral Resources has issued an Exploration Licence to Diamond Rose NL for the purpose of conducting exploration activities for the presence and extent of Group 6 minerals (Corundrum, Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire). The licence permits exploration activities to be undertaken within an area exceeding 200 km2, containing all of the known E. sp. Rocky Creek populations and habitat.

The licence enables Diamond Rose NL to undertake exploration activities in Whian Whian State Forest and Rous Water freehold land. Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPWS Act) exploration and mining is prohibited in national parks and nature reserves. Rous Water are opposed to allowing exploration within the Rocky Creek Dam water catchment and are in discussion with the Department of Mineral Resources (A. Acret pers. comm.).

Threats to E. sp. Rocky Creek could include site disturbance associated with access clearing, potential spread of pathogens and damage to trees and habitat by drilling equipment.

Lack of knowledge of life history

Until E. sp. Rocky Creek has been adequately studied, lack of knowledge will continue to hamper efforts directed toward recovery and conservation of the species.

8.3 Biodiversity value

Worldwide, 56 of the 400 species in the family Elaeocarpaceae are considered threatened under the conservation criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) (Walter & Gillett 1998).

Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek habitat occurs in an area of biogeographic significance that has very high biodiversity values. Protection of E. sp. Rocky Creek would also provide protection for a number of plants and animals associated with its habitat. Five Vulnerable flora species and 11 Vulnerable fauna species have been recorded in areas where E. sp. Rocky Creek populations occur (McKinley et al. 1996; Kooyman pers. comm.).

Taxonomic and scientific value

Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek populations in NSW represent the only known occurrence of the species and are, therefore, of high scientific and taxonomic value.

Taxonomic studies of E. sp. Rocky Creek would contribute significantly to the understanding of the genus. The species is distinctive among the Elaeocarpus for the triangular shape of its fruit and fibrous mesocarp (Rich 1995).

The Hairy Quandong (E. williamsianus) is an Endangered species restricted to the Mt Warning caldera in north-eastern NSW. Studies of E. sp. Rocky Creek are of direct value to our understanding of E. williamsianus and vice versa.

Scientific investigation of a rare and isolated species such as E. sp. Rocky Creek can potentially clarify the evolutionary relationships and biogeographic distribution of the family Elaeocarpaceae and the evolution of the flowering plants (Magnoliopsida) of the Southern Hemisphere because of its Gondwanic origins.

Pharmaceutical value

No pharmaceutical values have been investigated for E. sp. Rocky Creek.

Commercial value

The commercial value of E. sp. Rocky Creek for horticultural use has had limited investigation to date, although most Australian members of the Elaeocarpaceae are worthy of, and well adapted to, cultivation (Jones 1986).

9. Legislative context

9.1 Legal status

Due to its restricted distribution and low population numbers E. sp. Rocky Creek is listed as Endangered under the TSC Act and the EPBC Act.

9.2 Recovery Plan preparation

The TSC Act requires that the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife prepare Recovery Plans for all species listed as Endangered or Vulnerable, and for populations and ecological communities listed as Endangered on the TSC Act schedules. Similarly, the EPBC Act requires that the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment to ensure the preparation of a Recovery Plan for Nationally listed species and communities or adopt plans prepared by others including those developed by State agencies. Both Acts include specific requirements for the matters to be addressed by Recovery Plans and the process for preparing Recovery Plans.

This Recovery Plan has been prepared to satisfy both the requirements of the TSC Act and the EPBC Act. It is the intention of the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife to forward the final version of this Recovery Plan to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment for consideration for adoption, once it has been approved by the NSW Minister for the Environment.

9.3 Recovery Plan implementation

The TSC Act requires that a public authority must take any appropriate measures available to implement actions included in a Recovery Plan for which it is responsible. In addition, the TSC Act specifies that public authorities must not make decisions that are inconsistent with the provisions of the plan.

Public authorities and councils identified as responsible for the implementation of Recovery Plan actions are required by the TSC Act to report on measures taken to implementation those actions.

The public authority responsible for the implementation of this Recovery Plan is the NPWS.

The EPBC Act specifies that a Commonwealth agency must not take any action that contravenes a Recovery Plan.

9.4 Critical Habitat

The TSC Act makes provision for the identification and declaration of Critical Habitat. Under the TSC Act, Critical Habitat may be identified for any Endangered Species, Population or Ecological Community occurring on NSW lands. Once declared, it becomes an offence to damage Critical Habitat (unless the TSC Act specifically exempts the action or the action is approved under the EP&A Act). A Species Impact Statement is mandatory for all developments and activities proposed within Critical Habitat under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (EP&A Act).

To date, Critical Habitat as defined by the TSC Act has not been declared for E. sp. Rocky Creek. Assessment of Critical Habitat will be undertaken as a recovery action in this plan.

Under the EPBC Act, Critical Habitat may be registered for any Nationally listed threatened species or ecological community. When adopting a Recovery Plan the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment must consider whether to list habitat identified in the Recovery Plan as being critical to the survival of the species or ecological community. It is an offence under the EPBC Act for a person to knowingly take an action that will significantly damage Critical Habitat (unless the EPBC Act specifically exempts the action). This offence only applies to Commonwealth areas. However an action which is likely to have a significant impact on a listed species is still subject to referral and approval under the EPBC Act.

This Recovery Plan (Sections 4 and 5) identifies those habitat features currently known to be critical to the survival of E. sp. Rocky Creek as required by the EPBC Act.

9.5 Environmental assessment

The EP&A Act requires that consent and determining authorities consider known and potential habitat of threatened species, biological and ecological factors and the regional significance of individual populations. The Act provides for decision-makers to consult with, or gain concurrence from, the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife, if the development, activity or plan-under Parts 3, 4 and 5 of the EP&A Act-is likely to affect Critical Habitat, or significantly affect threatened species, populations or ecological communities or their habitats.

Any other action not requiring approval under the EP&A Act, and which is likely to result in a 'pick' of E. sp. Rocky Creek, will require approval from the NPWS under Part 6 of the TSC Act or under the NP&W Act.

As E. sp. Rocky Creek is listed Nationally under the EPBC Act, any person proposing to undertake actions likely to have a significant impact on E. sp. Rocky Creek should refer the action to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment for consideration. The Minister will then decide whether the action requires EPBC Act approval. This is in addition to any State or Local Government approval requirement.

Administrative guidelines are available from Environment Australia to assist proponents in determining whether their action is likely to have a significant impact. In cases where the action does not require EPBC Act approval, but will result in the death or injury of an individual E. sp. Rocky Creek, and the individual is in or on a Commonwealth area, a permit issued by the Commonwealth Minister under the EPBC Act will be required.

9.6 Other relevant legislation

Native Vegetation Conservation Act 1997

The purpose of this act is the conservation and sustainable management of native vegetation, and in particular the protection of native vegetation of high conservation significance (Part 1, Section 3(c)). State Forests and NPWS estate are excluded from the operation of this Act (Part 1, Section 9).

The land owned by the Rous Water will be subject to the Richmond Regional Vegetation Management Plan currently in preparation. The NVC Act (Part 3, Sections 24-27) requires that the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife be consulted in the matter of threatened species and their habitat.

Rural Fires Act 1997

A Bush Fire Management Committee must prepare a draft Bush fire Management Plan for the rural fire district (Sections 52-62). The plan may restrict or prohibit the use of fire or other particular fire hazard reduction activities in all or specified circumstances or places to which the Bush Fire Management Plan applies. The plan must have regard for biodiversity.

National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974

The NPW Act requires that a licence must be obtained to propagate and sell E. sp. Rocky Creek. This Act also regulates activities within national parks and nature reserves and applies to E. sp. Rocky Creek sites within Snow Gully Nature Reserve, Mt Jerusalem and Nightcap National Parks.

If in the future, sites with significant habitat values for E. sp. Rocky Creek are located on private property, the owners may enter into Voluntary Conservation Agreements (VCAs) under the NPW Act whereby the NPWS can provide assistance in the protection and management of these values on the property. Properties under VCAs may qualify for rate exemptions.

Forestry and National Park Estate Act 1998

The Forestry and National Park Estate 1998 (FNPE Act) makes provision, with respect to forestry operations and the National Park estate, to transfer certain State Forest and other crown land to the NPWS estate or Aboriginal ownership following regional resource and conservation assessments. A Forestry Agreement signed in March 1999 gave effect to the land transfer and preparation of the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) for the Upper and Lower North East Region. The provisions resulted in the transferral of part of Nullum State Forest to Mt Jerusalem National Park and part of Whian Whian State Forest to Nightcap National Park.

The IFOA regulates the carrying out of certain forestry operations, including logging, in the public forests of a region. The terms of the Threatened Species Licence (TSL) of the IFOA outlines the minimum protection measures required to limit the impact of forestry activities on threatened species and their habitats, and forms the basis for NPWS regulation of those activities. The TSL for the Upper North East Regions (1999) include measures for the protection of E. sp. Rocky Creek on the NSW north coast.

The specific prescription E. sp. Rocky Creek requires an exclusion zone of at least 50 m radius around all individuals or groups of individuals (i.e. individuals less than 20 m apart)3 where there is a record of E. sp. Rocky Creek within a compartment or within 50 m of the boundary of a compartment.

3"Exclusion Zone" means a protective area where specified forestry activities, unless exempted, are prohibited under the TSL licence.