A u s t r a L i a n n e t w o r k f o r p L a n t c o n s e r V a t I o n

Wetland best practice in production systems in the Great Barrier Reef

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Wetland best practice in production systems in the Great Barrier Reef 


Rachel Nasplezes 

Burnett Mary Regional Group, PO Box 501, Bundaberg QLD 4670 

The Burnett Mary Region of Queensland’s mid-north coast covers an area of 62,842 square kilometres, 

and contains some of the state’s most diverse wetland areas, with a mix of subtropical, temperate and 

tropical ecosystems. All of the catchments within this region feed directly into the Great Barrier Reef 

Marine Park, a protected off shore marine zone that extends north to Cairns.   

Evidence over the past few decades has shown a system-wide decline of coral reefs in the Great Barrier 

Reef (Bellwood et al., 2004), with evidence increasingly pointing to a combination of natural events and 

neighboring land use pressure through increased sediment and nutrient flows as the likely cause 

(Fabricius  et al. 2003; Telesnicki et al.1995). Research in Queensland’s coastal catchments indicates 



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large quantities of sediments and associated nutrients and pesticides are washed from agricultural areas 

into rivers, streams and groundwater (Layden 2008).  

Wetlands are an integral part of our landscape providing a multitude of natural values and services. 

They hold diverse environmental and biodiversity values, providing essential habitat for fish, water bird 

and plant species. They have historical and cultural significance for both indigenous and non-indigenous 

Australians, and they have widely recognized educational and recreational values.  

It is not always the case that wetlands are recognized for their value in terms of farm productivity.  

Correctly managed wetlands can provide significant benefits for farm productivity. This includes erosion 

and flood management, seasonal foraging, shelter belts, pest management, increased groundwater 

recharge, improved irrigation and stock water, increased land values and increased farm biodiversity.   

Reef Rescue is a five year, $200 million partnership (Government, industry and Natural Resource 

Management groups) aimed at reducing the amounts of sediment, fertilisers and pesticides reaching the 

Great Barrier Reef lagoon. For the Burnett Mary Regional Group, Reef Rescue includes engaging with 

the four targeted industry groups; Dairy, Horticulture, Grazing and Cane, to provide extension support to 

landholders and industry field officers. Incorporating wetlands into this initiative has allowed for 

landholders to recognize the importance of managing on-farm natural resources, and the additional 

values wetlands can provide within a farm production system.  

Wetland projects that have been carried out by landholders within the Burnett Mary region under Reef. 

Rescue include; 


Fencing of riparian zones and freshwater palustrine wetlands to decrease grazing pressure 


Provision of off-creek watering 


Installation of treatment-train structures such as settling ponds and sediment traps 


Reinstating wetlands within the landscape 


Restoration of riparian zones 


Remediation of farm crossings to decrease effects on fish migration 


This year Reef Rescue has again provided incentive funds for wetlands, and the challenge remains to 

continue educating landholders on the importance of wetlands within the landscape and how these 

systems can and should be integrated into production system management.


Conservation genetics of Acacia karina, a narrow-range species endemic 

to the Banded Ironstone Ranges of the Midwest region of Western 


Paul Nevill 


 Siegy Krauss 




Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority, Fraser Avenue, West Perth WA 6005 


School of Plant Biology, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands WA  

The Midwest region of Western Australia has an exceptionally high diversity of Acacia species, many 

with a restricted distribution and high conservation value. The area is also the focus of mineral 

exploration and extraction, creating a conflict between economic and biodiversity values. Acacia karina 

Maslin is a recently described, narrow-range, conservation priority-listed species endemic to the Blue 

Hill Banded Ironstone Ranges of the Midwest region of south-west Western Australia. The species is 

directly impacted by mining activities on Mt Karara and the surrounding area. We are undertaking a 

conservation genetic study to assess the impact of mining activities on genetic diversity and key 

population processes such as mating, within this species, and to provide a genetic basis for its 

management and conservation. Genetic variation at nuclear microsatellite markers has been assessed 

within and among 20 populations of A. karina. Weak but significant genetic structure has been found 

across the range of A. karina. Mating system studies have revealed high outcrossing in these 

populations, emphasizing the importance of pollen dispersal and pollinators in impacted populations. 

Preliminary results from a common garden study of seedlings grown from wild collected seeds have 

revealed a genetic basis to the patterns of morphological variation detected. Results are interpreted in 

the context of the future management of genetic diversity and processes of impacted populations of A. 







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Improving the success of species translocations: is there a need for 

removal of existing vegetation?  

Pieter Poot  

Science Division Department of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre WA 6983 

University of Western Australia, Crawley WA 6009 

Although natural recruitment in many south-west ecosystems in WA depends on major disturbances 

such as fire, which temporally reduce competition and increase available resources, rare flora 

translocations are often into mature habitat. In this talk I will present the results from a case study on 

rare and common Hakea species (Proteaceae) from contrasting habitats in the SW of Western Australia. 

Glasshouse experiments showed that two rare Hakea species, which are restricted to shallow-soil 

ironstone communities, had a specialized root system morphology that is likely to increase their chance 

to locate cracks and crevices in the underlying rock. This would greatly increase their chances to access 

water before the onset of summer drought and thus give them a competitive advantage. A subsequent 

transplant experiment in the ironstone habitat, in which small patches of existing vegetation were 

removed, showed that the ironstone species had much higher survival rates than the common species. I 

believe that competition for cracks is a major selection force in these shallow soil environments and that 

removal of some existing vegetation may be a prerequisite for translocation success. 

Making the transition from regional-scale conservation design to local-

scale conservation action 

Bob Pressey 

Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville QLD 

4811. Email: bob.pressey@jcu.edu.au 

The process of systematic conservation planning involves many important transitions. Following the 

design stage, conservation areas on paper or computer screens must be turned into actions on the 

ground or in the water, shaped by cost, effectiveness and local acceptability. This transition has been 

difficult for conservation planners, requiring the reconciliation of two spatial scales of analysis and 

decision-making and even two worldviews. Yet, both regional-scale design and local-scale action are 

crucial to achieving conservation goals, and both have complementary strengths and limitations. 

Regional designs have three main advantages. First, they allow planners to consider the relationships 

between individual areas, including complementarity and connectivity, so that systems are more than 

the sum of their parts. Second, they allow planners to explore spatial and temporal options for 

conservation. Third, they facilitate integration of conservation priorities into initiatives with broader 

objectives, including land use planning. The disadvantage of regional designs, with numerous potential 

causes, is their poor record of translation into local actions. Local actions, typically not guided by 

regional designs, have several related advantages. They are motivated, understood and supported by 

local communities. They are also informed by detailed knowledge of biodiversity and socio-economic 

variables that is impossible to collect consistently across most planning regions. The disadvantages of 

local actions include their tendency to form collections rather than systems. Reconciling these two 

scales of operation requires new thinking and new tools but also new institutional arrangements. These 

and other implications are discussed.  

Soil nutrients and ecological restoration of temperate Australian 


Suzanne Prober 

CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Private Bag 5, Wembley WA 6913 

Many Australian ecosystems have evolved under characteristically low soil nutrient levels. In this talk I 

will emphasize the importance of attention to soil nutrients for ecological restoration, in the light of 

changes to soil nutrient levels that can occur during degradation. In some environments, especially 

agricultural landscapes, enrichment of nutrients such as available nitrogen or phosphorus often occurs 

through grazing, fertilization, or other disturbance, leading to weed invasion and loss of native plant 

species.  In these circumstances, successful restoration is dependent on depletion of soil nutrients. This 

can be difficult to achieve, but emerging approaches include topsoil stripping, biomass removal 

(cropping), carbon addition and importantly, re-establishment of native species that lock-up excess 

nutrients. These techniques are unlikely to be appropriate everywhere, however. In other environments, 

water and nitrogen availability are major limits to plant growth and can constrain effective restoration. A 



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number of workers have shown that natural patterns of heterogeneity in semi-arid landscapes, such as 

patches of litter or trees, facilitate concentration of nutrients and water into resource-rich patches where 

plants can grow more effectively. Disruption of these patterns, e.g. through overgrazing, can result in 

‘leakage’ of nutrients and water from the system. Restoration approaches in semi-arid environments 

thus focus on restoring ‘soil functional fertility’, by restoring the capacity of the landscape to capture and 

store water and nutrients. To conclude, it is important to understand how soil nutrient levels have 

changed in candidate restoration areas, as this can determine whether nutrient-depleting or nutrient-

conserving approaches to restoration are needed. 

Ecological, social and economic filters: hurdles of restoration and 

planning for the future  

Katinka Ruthrof


, Marleen Buizer


 and Leonie Valentine




 Western Australia Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Forest and Woodland Health, Murdoch University, 

South Street, Murdoch WA 6150 

Since European settlement, public lands - for example, National Parks - have been degraded by various 

anthropogenic disturbances which have resulted in significant changes to the ecosystem structure and 

function. This large-scale degradation has lead to a growing desire to develop techniques to restore 

these lands. Given the enormous and challenging task of undertaking restoration, we wanted to highlight 

the various challenges that are encountered when undertaking restoration on public lands, using the 

Ludlow Tuart Forest National Park as a case study. Restoration activities within the Ludlow Tuart Forest 

are now in the fourth year. The first year began with small scale restoration trials and has now expanded 

to 10-20 ha per annum with simultaneous restoration research embedded to drive the following year of 

restoration activities. Restoration on public lands faces enormous challenges. Many of these can be 

explained through ecological, social and economic filters. However, one of the most interesting and 

surprising hurdles encountered is the lack of involvement of the public in the on-ground restoration of 

public lands. This is a particularly challenging hurdle that needs to be overcome in order to undertake 

larger scale restoration on public lands. Awareness of these various filters and hurdles can assist with 

longer term planning of the restoration process. Sharing some of the economic, social and ecological 

filters and hurdles that we encountered will assist other managers and researchers looking at planning 

larger-scale restoration of degraded public lands. 


Adaptive management for the containment and eradication of 

Phytophthora cinnamomi infestations within native plant communities 

from the Fitzgerald River National Park 

Scott, P.


, Dunstan, W.


, Hartley, R.


, Paap, T.


, Dunne, C.P.



Department of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre WA 6983 


School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch WA 6150  

*Corresponding author: 



The introduced plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi is a ‘Key Threatening Process to Australia’s 

Biodiversity’ and has major impacts on many ecosystems, particularly in southwest Australia. Although 

the pathogen is widespread, significant high conservation value ecosystems are still non-infested and 

require substantial protection. In contrast with most other large reserves in the southwest of Western 

Australia, the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) biosphere remains relatively unaffected by P. 

cinnamomi. However three discrete infestations, including a series of small infestations (less than 3 ha) 

off Pabelup drive, are located within the Park boundaries and pose a significant threat to the biodiversity 

values of this internationally recognised biosphere.  

Recently  P. cinnamomi has been successfully eradicated on a small experimental scale from Cape 

Riche near the FRNP that has a similar native plant community and environmental conditions (Dunstan 

et al. 2010). This current project aims to further develop this eradication technique to contain and 

eradicate the Pabelup infestation, by scaling up the different control techniques and adapting the 

approach to account for the differences in site conditions and the epidemiology of the pathogen.  

The project has significant management challenges that include: difficulty in mapping the occurrence of 

the pathogen; surface water movement that could transport the pathogen; variable soil characteristics, 

topography, vegetation and hydrology; and animal vectors. An adaptive management approach has 

been utilised that will employ additional new techniques to manage the site, including: feral animal 

exclusion fences; digital elevation models and hydrology projections; the removal of localized host plants 






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that can harbour the pathogen; and geo-textile membranes to capture and treat pathogen inoculum in 

the surface water, while limiting the ability of surface water to pool and inoculum levels to increase. 


[1] Dunstan, W. A., Rudman, T., Shearer, B. L., Moore, N. A., Paap, T., Calver, M. C., Dell, B., Hardy, G. 

E. St. J., Containment and spot eradication of a highly destructive, invasive plant pathogen 

(Phytophthora cinnamomi) in natural ecosystems. Biol. Invasions 


913-925 (2010).  

Fire response of threatened flora – what have we learned? 

Erica Shedley 

Department of Environment and Conservation, Locked Bag 2, Manjimup WA 6258 

The management of threatened flora in Western Australia during wildfires and prescribed burns has 

been hampered by a lack of knowledge about how they respond to fire. In addition, it is becoming 

increasingly evident that many of these species require a disturbance event to regenerate and by 

protecting them from fire we may be limiting their opportunities for long term survival. 

This project aims to collate and analyse the monitoring data for threatened species that have been burnt 

and determine their fire response category. Data has been accessed from the DEC corporate 

threatened flora monitoring database (DEFL), district records, recruitment burns, fire history GIS 

analysis and information in published scientific papers, books and personal observations. This dataset 

will help to quantify the variation in responses related to fire intensity, season, population and site.  

The reliability of some monitoring information is uncertain due to discrepancies with fire history records, 

the proportion of the population that was burnt, if at all, and the lack of consistent monitoring of burnt 

populations until first flowering and reliable fruiting. There are many gaps in the data. 

From initial analysis, the majority of threatened species responded to fire by re-seeding while about a 

quarter responded by re-sprouting, with variations in fire response between populations. A surprising 

proportion of species responded to soil disturbance without fire while some showed no response to fire 

and failed to regenerate. This information will be used to develop fire management guidelines for 

individual species and for the fire response categories identified. 

The importance of targeted taxonomy for plant conservation 

Kelly A. Shepherd 

Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment & Conservation,


Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery 

Centre WA 6983 

If the names are unknown knowledge of the things also perishes, Linnaeus (1751)  

In contrast to the clichéd image of an outmoded science in steady decline, plant taxonomy in a 

biodiverse state like Western Australia remains as relevant today as ever. New taxa are constantly being 

discovered as taxonomists work with collections lodged in herbaria and undertake targeted field work. In 

more recent times, methods such as DNA sequencing and morphometric analyses are being employed 

to resolve more intractable taxonomic conundrums. A large number of potentially new species, many of 

which are of conservation concern, have also been discovered through surveys associated with mineral 

exploration during the recent mining boom. The naming and describing of these potentially new species 

is central to their conservation. While phrase-names are included on the State’s plant census and listed 

online via FloraBase, there is often little other information publicly available about these plants. Thus, 

land managers may struggle to recognise these new taxa let alone have the necessary data to ensure 

their appropriate management. A lack of resourcing also hinders the timely resolution of their taxonomic 

status. In the face of ongoing development activity and the large number of unnamed species of 

conservation concern in Western Australia, the Department of Environment and Conservation has 

provided focused funding in recent years for field work and targeted taxonomy through Specific Nature 

Conservation Projects.  This, in combination with increased collaboration with land managers and 

consultants, has resulted in a more timely resolution of many new species. 




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Adaptation and restoration - should we source seeds locally, or not? 

Ann Smithson 

Kings Park & UWA School of Plant Biology, BCC, Kings Park, Fraser Avenue, West Perth WA 6005 

South-western Western Australia is a world biodiversity hotspot, characteristically harbouring large 

numbers of species, often with restricted ranges.  Large scale projects aim to restore hundreds of 

hectares of this biodiverse vegetation each year, following activities such as mining, with seed as the 

main resource used to achieve such restorations.  Since seed is often obtained from remnant native 

vegetation it is often a highly limited resource, and habitat specificity and adaptation to local climatic 

conditions may further restrict seed sourcing opportunities.  In this talk, I will explore how adaptation is 

spatially structured in south west Western Australia, using two species of native Jarrah forest 

understorey legumes as model species, one which is morphologically uniform, the other morphologically 

diverse.  I will also discuss whether adaptability is predictable using genetic markers.  Should seed 

sourcing decisions in a biodiversity hotspot should continue to be based around the concept of local 



Granite flora of Southern Queensland – Recovery planning in action  

Kathryn Steel,  

Queensland Murray-Darling Committee, PO Box 6243, Toowoomba QLD 4350 

The Stanthorpe Plateau is a sub-region at the northern extent of the New England Tablelands of eastern 

Australia. The plateau experiences a relatively cool climate compared to south-east Queensland due to 

elevations between 600-1500m. A high degree of habitat diversity results from unique topography and 

climatic characteristics.  

The recovery and conservation of rare and threatened flora of the granite belt on the Stanthorpe Plateau 

has been the subject of much attention in the past decade, with strong partnerships developing between 

local community representatives, the regional NRM body, NGOs and government agents. The 

Queensland Murray Darling Committee has committed to a long term Granite Flora Program since 2005, 

providing seed funding to establish the Stanthorpe Rare Wildflower Consortium. Through this 

Consortium, the Stanthorpe Plateau Rare Flora Recovery Plan 2007-2011 was presented in 2006. The 

Recovery Plan has since directed around $130,000 of public investment into extensive community 

awareness and skill raising activities, strategic conservation planning and incentives for action with 

councils and private land owners.  

In 2009/10 a further $175,000 Caring for our Country project pulled together considerable conservation 

outcomes for 28 priority flora species and their communities in the Granite Belt. This latest project was 

successful in delivering a range of outputs all focussed around better defining the ecological range, 

threats, conservation and management needs of the target species.  

The presentation will highlight the successes of the CfoC project, and how community participation and 

ownership are key components in successful conservation projects. I will also discuss future investment 

and management actions needed to deliver the ultimate goal of recovery planning – that these plants 

are no longer deemed endangered but are being managed for self-sustaining populations.  

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