National recovery plan for a sub-alpine herb (Gentiana baeuerlenii)

A Recovery Plan under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth), based on an Action Plan (Action Plan No. 5) prepared for the species under the ACT Nature Conservation Act 1980 (ACT).

2. Conservation status

G. baeuerlenii is recognised as a threatened species in the following jurisdictions:

Commonwealth

Endangered: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Part 13, Division 1, Subdivision A).

Australian Capital Territory

Endangered: Section 21 of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, Determination No. 89 of 1997 (formerly Determination No. 29 of 1996).

Special Protection Status Species: Schedule 6 of the Nature Conservation Act 1980, Determination No. 77 of 1996.

New South Wales

Endangered: Part 1, Schedule 1 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

3. Threats

It is very likely that the species was once widespread but has become restricted through activities associated with land clearing and grazing, particularly in times of drought as the wet grassy areas in which it is found would have remained palatable well into the driest seasons. Although the species is likely to be unpalatable to stock because it contains certain chemicals known to render plants distasteful, it could have been grazed inadvertently, along with other herbage species. Its habitat may have been trampled, especially when adjoining areas dried out.

Since the original discovery of 20 plants in 1991, the population at the site has continued to decline. No plants have been located in annual surveys since 1998.

The main threats to survival of this population and therefore the species are likely to be: (a) unintended consequences of actions associated with park management in the local area; and (b) damage caused to the area by feral pigs. It is not clear whether grazing animals such as kangaroos may also pose a threat to survival of remaining plants, or whether such grazing may benefit the species by keeping competing grass tussocks and other plant growth short and open.

4. Conservation Objectives

The objectives of the Recovery Plan are to:

  1. Preserve the existing ACT population of Gentiana baeuerlenii as it is the only known population of the species.
  2. Conserve and manage the habitat of Gentiana baeuerlenii so that natural ecological processes continue to operate.

Issues and options for the genetic conservation of Gentiana baeuerlenii have been examined by Young (2001). Young (pp. 267) concludes that the paucity of information on the genetic diversity and structure of G. baeuerlenii and the absence of even basic data on breeding system and ecology make development of genetic management strategies for long term conservation difficult. Given this, the key to genetic conservation of this species is to use whatever sexual reproductive events may occur at the current site to generate as much genetic variation as possible, and then to transplant seed-bearing plants to new localities to establish additional populations. Given how little is known about germination requirements for the species, this strategy is to be preferred over attempts at ex-situ conservation.