Western prickly honeysuckle (Lamberta echinata subsp. Occidentalis) Interim Recovery Plan 2003-2008

Interim recovery plan no. 133
Gillian Stack & 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 more than 10%.
Criteria for failure: The number of individuals within populations and/or the number of populations have decreased by more than 10 %.

3. Recovery actions

Existing recovery actions

The Department of Minerals and Energy was formally notified of the presence of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis in October 1996 and the adjacent private property owners in February 1999. The mining company with a tenement over the single known population was notified of the presence of two other critically endangered species (Petrophile latericola and Brachysema papilio) in October 1994, and of the occurrence of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis in June 1999.

Liaison with these stakeholders is ongoing as the area is still under a Mineral lease. A Notice of Intent to mine Location 4102 adjacent to the wild population was issued in 2000. There was considerable discussion of the proposal and its possible impact on the various threatened species, and the threatened ecological community of which they are part, between DCLM, other Government agencies and the proponent. Environmental assessment resulted in the project being given approval under State law, with conditions attached. These include the establishment of an artificial recharge system, and intensive monitoring, to guard against the possibility of the threatened ecological community drying out as a result of the adjacent mining pit. The proposal has also been approved, with conditions, under Federal legislation. Continuing concerns include the significant changes to local hydrology that may result in the longer term, and the general impact of having large numbers of people and heavy machinery in the near vicinity. The proponent has installed several piezometers to monitor local water levels.

Two areas of private property containing ironstone soil substrate were recently purchased by DCLM, with the intention of rehabilitating cleared sections and using the land as translocation sites for threatened ironstone species. Both areas have now been vested as Class A Nature Reserves for the purpose of conservation. One area, adjacent to the only wild population of Grevillea maccutcheonii, has been fenced with rabbit-proof netting and contains the translocated Population 3T of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis. The second area has been wire-strand fenced and contains the translocated Population 4T of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis.

Six collections of seed have been made from the natural population, the first in 1995, with a total of about 1100 seeds now placed in storage at DCLM's Threatened Flora Seed Centre (TFSC). A small number of these have been germinated as part of an approved Translocation Proposal. Staff of the TFSC test the viability of seed soon after collection and again after one year in storage. The initial germination percentage of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis seed ranged between 93% and 100%, and after one year in storage between 90% and 93% (unpublished data A. Cochrane ¹).

The Botanic Garden and Parks Authority (BGPA) currently have 88 plants of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis from six clones. Propagation of this species from cuttings has been variable, with strike rates ranging from 0% to 98%. There is evidence that both young and established plants are quite susceptible to fungal infection (personal communication A. Shade ²).

In July 1998, 11 Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis seedlings were planted into State Forest near Busselton, according to an approved Translocation Proposal as required under DCLM's Policy Statement Number 29. All seedlings were alive in December 1998, but deaths were noted in 1999, probably due to Phytophthora cinnamomi or poor root establishment. All plants were dead by 2000.

A second Translocation Proposal was approved in 2000, and 179 plants were translocated into the two previously mentioned Nature Reserve sites that year. Fifty plants were introduced to an area of ironstone north of the wild population (Population 3T) and 129 to a second area north east of the wild population (Population 4T). Different treatments being trialled include ripping and mounding, mounding, watering and shading. Control sites were also established. Problems were (and continue to be) experienced with the death of translocated plants due to Phytophthora infection and possibly poor root establishment.

Five months after planting, there was 82% survival at translocated Population 3T, but after 18 months this number had declined to 44%. Similarly, there was 80% survival after 5 months at translocated Population 4T, but this declined to 27% 18 months after planting. Phytophthora cinnamomi is implicated but many plants also appear to be failing to develop efficient root systems and may be dying as a result of this. A number of hypotheses have been developed about why this is so, and all are being investigated (Spencer 2002).

Additional plantings were made in 2001 with 168 rooted cuttings planted at Population 3T and 11 at Population 4T. Survival of the 2001 plantings was mixed. Rabbits, weeds, strong winds and inundation, followed by a longer than average summer drought all contributed to plant deaths with initial survival being poor. Watering systems were set up at both sites, weed and rabbit control continued and windbreaks planned.

In 2002 further plants were put into Populations 3T and 4T. Research was conducted at that time to ascertain the optimum age of translocated plants.

Disease hygiene measures are implemented during all operations. This includes limiting vehicle access to tracks, and cleaning all tools used. In 1999, bollards were installed across the main access track to prevent unauthorized vehicle access into the population.

Plant samples were taken from the wild population by DCLM's Science Division in May 1997 and the presence of P. cinnamomi was positively identified. As there had been several deaths of susceptible species at the site, including Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis, it was sprayed with phosphite in April and December 1998 and again in 2000 and 2001 following a detected increase in P. cinnamomi activity. However, the program was not completed due to adjacent land managers' concerns about aerial spraying. The site, including the newly discovered Population 1c, was treated again in March and April 2002. There is evidence of dieback at Population 1c with deaths of nearby indicator species and one Lambertia plant but no formal analysis has been made.

Phytophthora spp. were also implicated in the deaths of translocated plants at Population 3T. P. cinnamomi was recorded from roots and soil, while P. cryptogea was also isolated from soil in early 2002.

A phosphite monitoring program was established in 1998, and is ongoing. This involves the monitoring of plots by checking the health of a number of tagged plants and recording changes over time. Photographic records are also kept for comparison.

Tissue analysis of phosphite concentrations in plants from the wild population was undertaken in 2001, two months after phosphite spraying. This analysis was extended to include translocated plants in 2002. Analysis indicated relatively high levels of phosphite in the tissue, especially compared to that of other ironstone species. Despite this, four plants died with infections from Phytophthora spp. Studies indicate that for most plant species disease infection generally decreases with increasing phosphite application, however, the interactions are complex and may not always provide a specific correlation between concentrations and disease control. Resistance to disease appears to last several years post treatment. Resistance may, however, differ between species (Barrett, Shearer & Hardy, date unknown). Further research into the Phytophthora susceptibility and response to phosphite treatment of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis is urgently required, and will be undertaken by DCLM's Science Division in 2003.

A coordinated fire response plan for the taxon has been developed and incorporated into the Fire Control Working Plan. This includes strategies for fire control at each location of the taxon, including translocation sites. The information will also be communicated to other fire response organisations.

In 2001, volunteers and Department staff controlled invasive weeds immediately around translocated Population 3T by hand. To control Guilford Grass (Romulea sp.) in open areas away from translocated plants herbicide was applied via a blanket wiper mounted on a four-wheel motorbike. The remaining weed species are mostly annuals and these will be controlled by application of herbicide and slashing as required. The aim is to eventually smother the weed species with re-introduced native vegetation.

The fence surrounding translocated Population 3T was observed to have deteriorated in some sections and rabbit activity noted. Repairs have now been undertaken and 1080 poisoned oats, gassing and shooting used to reduce the rabbit population. However, rabbits continue to threaten newly translocated plants and rabbit control will continue.

Implementation of recovery actions as outlined in the IRP entitled 'Shrublands on southern Swan Coastal Plain Ironstones' (English 1999) has commenced.

A double-sided A4 poster has been produced and includes a description of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis, its habitat, threats, recovery actions and photos. It will be distributed to community members through local libraries, wildflower shows and hand outs. It is hoped that it may result in the discovery of new populations. A second information sheet that describes and illustrates the Threatened Ecological Community in which this taxon occurs, including its values and threats, has also been produced.

Staff from DCLM's Blackwood District have developed a map delimiting the areas not available for commercial wildflower picking to help ensure that pickers do not enter the area in which Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis occurs.

Staff from DCLM's Blackwood District regularly monitor the wild and translocated populations of this taxon. Monitoring includes recording changes to vegetation condition caused by weeds, Phytophtora cinnamomi and other plant diseases, grazing activity, fire, fencing and other types of disturbance.

The South West Region Threatened Flora Recovery Team (SWRTFRT) is overseeing the implementation of this IRP and will include information on progress in its annual report to DCLM's Corporate Executive and funding bodies.

¹ Anne Cochrane, Manager, DCLM's Threatened Flora Seed Centre
² Amanda Shade, Horticulturalist, Botanic Garden and Parks Authority

Future recovery actions

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

1. Recovery coordination

The South West Region Threatened Flora Recovery Team (SWRTFRT) will coordinate recovery actions for Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis and other Declared Rare flora in the region. It will include information on progress in its annual report to DCLM's Corporate Executive and funding bodies.

Action: Coordinate recovery actions
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $6,200 per year (note: this covers all Threatened Flora species in the Region)

2. Disease hygiene

The ironstone habitat in which Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis occurs becomes highly saturated over the winter months. This favours the establishment and spread of Phytophthora species, with many species including Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis being susceptible. Dieback hygiene (outlined in DCLM 1992a) will be adhered to wherever possible, particularly during the installation and maintenance of firebreaks and when walking into the population during wet soil conditions. Signs advising of the dieback risk will be made and installed.

Action: Maintain disease hygiene
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT Cost: $2,000 in the first year for signs (note: this covers all Threatened Flora species in the ironstone habitat)

3. Phosphate application

Phytophthora cinnamomi (dieback) is a serious threat to Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis which is highly susceptible to the pathogen. Research conducted between 1992 and 1997 has shown that phosphite application is very effective in controlling the impact of dieback disease for a wide range of species (Murray 1997) and, on that basis, aerial spraying of phosphite has been implemented. This action also protects the associated Threatened Ecological Community which includes several other threatened flora. However, given that recent monitoring suggests that phosphite may not be as beneficial to Lambertia species as to those in other genera, research will be undertaken by DCLM to assess the response of a range of species in the genus (personal communication C. Crane).

The impact of both dieback and phosphite application on this taxon and its habitat will be monitored at least annually.

Action: Apply phosphate every two years and monitor impact
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District, Dieback Disease Coordinator) through SWRTFRT
Cost: $3,800 in the first, third and fifth years, plus $500 per year for monitoring

4. Map critical habitat

It is a requirement of the EPBC Act that spatial data relating to critical habitat be determined. Although critical habitat is described in Section 1, the areas as described have not yet been mapped and that will be done under this action. If any additional populations are located, then critical habitat will also be determined and mapped for these locations.

  • Action: Map critical habitat
  • Responsibility: The Department (Blackwood District, WATSCU) through the SWRTFRT
  • Priority: Moderate
  • Cost: $2000 in the first year

5. Fire management strategy

It is thought that fire kills adult plants of the species and regeneration is largely from soil-stored seed. Overly frequent fire that occurs before seedlings reach maturity may prevent the accumulation of sufficient seed for recruitment and should be prevented from occurring if possible. A fire response plan has been developed for this site and is incorporated into the Blackwood District's Fire Control Working Plan. Other fire fighting agencies will be informed of appropriate responses to fire threatening this site. Firebreaks will continue to be maintained.

Action: Implement the fire management strategy
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $1000 per year

6. Translocation

Due to a range of threats to the single small wild population of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis translocation is thought to be essential for the long-term conservation of the taxon. Information on the translocation of threatened plants and animals in the wild is provided in DCLM's Policy Statement No. 29 Translocation of Threatened Flora and Fauna.

A Translocation Proposal has been developed and has been endorsed by DCLM's Director of Nature Conservation. It is currently being implemented, with plants propagated and planted into three sites in 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Additional plantings will take place in accordance with the proposal. Monitoring of the translocation is essential and will continue according to the timetable developed for proposal.

Action: Continue translocations
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District, TFSC) and BGPA through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $9,500 per year

7. Liaison

Staff from DCLM's Blackwood District will continue to liaise with the holder of the mining tenement and adjacent land managers to ensure that populations are not accidentally damaged or destroyed during their operations.

Action: Liaise with land managers
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $500 per year

8. Monitoring

Annual monitoring of habitat degradation (weed invasion, salinity and plant diseases), groundwater quality and levels, population stability (expansion or decline), pollination activity, seed production, recruitment, longevity and predation is essential. Periodic assessment of the level of insect damage will be made and, if found to be significant, remedial action taken.

Action: Monitor population
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $500 per year

9. Weed control

Following previous weed control the current level of threat from weeds is moderate. However, if weed numbers increase they are likely to impact on L. echinata subsp. occidentalis by competing for resources, degrading habitat, exacerbating grazing pressure and increasing the risk and severity of fire. Remaining weeds are mostly annuals and weed control will be undertaken as needed. This will be by hand weeding or localised application of herbicide. All weed control will be followed by a report on the method, timing and success of the treatment and any side effects on L. echinata subsp. occidentalis and associated native plant species.

Action: Continue weed control
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $500 per year

10. Rabbit control

Following some previous control the current level of threat from rabbits is moderate and is mainly centred on the translocated populations. Population 3T has had a rabbit proof-fenced erected to protect the translocated plants. However, rabbits continue to have some impact through grazing and digging. Some continuing control is therefore necessary and will be done in consultation with relevant landholders.

Action: Continue rabbit control
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $200 per year

11. Surveys

Although the ironstone community in which Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis occurs has been extensively surveyed over the last decade it is possible that additional populations of this or other ironstone species may be discovered on private land. Once permission has been obtained, surveys during the flowering period of the species (October to December) will target remnant vegetation on private lands.

Action: Conduct further surveys
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $2000 per year

12. Germplasm

Preservation of germplasm is essential to guard against extinction if wild populations are lost. Such collections are also needed to propagate plants for translocations. A small quantity of seed and cutting material has been collected from Population 1 but further collections are required. In addition, seed collections from the translocated populations will be made when possible.

Action: Collect seed and cutting material
Responsibility: DCLM (TFSC, Blackwood District) and BGPA through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $2,800 in the second and fourth years

13. Biology and ecology

Improved knowledge of the biology and ecology of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis will provide a better scientific basis for its management in the wild. An understanding of the following is particularly necessary for the effective management of the species:

  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 taxon.
  3. The requirements of pollinators.
  4. The reproductive strategies, phenology and seasonal growth of the species.
  5. The population genetic structure, levels of genetic diversity and minimum viable population size.
  6. The impact of dieback disease and control techniques on Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis and its habitat.
  7. The impact of changes in the level of salinity on Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis and its habitat.

Action: Obtain biological and ecological information
Responsibility: DCLM (Science Division, Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $17,200 per year in the second, third and fourth years

14. In situ germination

Burning, smoke-water and soil disturbance may be effective in stimulating the germination of soil-stored seed. These trials will be conducted as appropriate at the base of dead mature plants.

Action: Stimulate the germination of soil-stored seed
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $1000 in second and fourth years

15. Awareness

The importance of biodiversity conservation and the need for the long-term protection of wild populations of this taxon 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.

Action: Promote awareness
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $600 per year

16. Full Recovery Plan

At the end of the fourth year of its five-year term this Interim Recovery Plan will be reviewed and the need for further recovery actions will be assessed. If the species is still ranked as Critically Endangered at that time a full Recovery Plan may be required.

Action: Review the need for further recovery actions and/or a full Recovery Plan
Responsibility: DCLM (WATSCU, Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $20,300 in the fifth year (if full Recovery Plan required)

17. Habitat rehabilitation

If identified as a need following weed control, DCLM will undertake habitat restoration at the site of Lambertia echinata subsp. occidentalis, including the addition of local provenance species.

Action: Rehabilitate habitat, if necessary
Responsibility: DCLM (Blackwood District) through the SWRTFRT
Cost: $2,900 in third and fourth years and $1,000 in subsequent years