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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 17(2) August - September 2008, pp 38-39

Community support for threatened plants in Tasmania

Philip Collier1 and Jenny Calder2  
1Rubicon Sanctuary, Tas. Email: phil@rubicon.org.au 2Department of Primary Industries and Water, Hobart, Tas.

With close to 500 taxa of native plants in Tasmania listed under Tasmania's Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, the resources of the Department of Primary Industries and Water Threatened Species Section are always going to be stretched. It's clear that the on-going wellbeing of such a large number of taxa in the long term will depend upon broad community knowledge, support and commitment.

Threatened Plants Tasmania

Tasmania's embryonic group Threatened Plants Tasmania (TPT) is modelled on the South Australian Threatened Plant Action Group, which has been operating since 1993. Its creation has been facilitated by a 2006 Threatened Species Network Grant, which funded a part-time 18-month project officer housed in the Threatened Species Section. TPT is in the process of being formally constituted as a 'WILDCARE CAREs group' within Wildcare Inc. (Wildcare Tasmania), an umbrella organisation for over 40 groups that undertake activities supporting natural and cultural heritage conservation in Tasmania. Wildcare has a large pool of volunteers, which the project officer has harnessed for field trips in support of threatened species that are targeted by the Threatened Species Section.

To date, field activities have included weeding and planting, with training and educational/promotion activities also being very popular. A more focused project has been the planting and managing of conservation plantings of the Miena Cider Gum (Eucalyptus gunnii subsp. divaricata), a taxon native to the central highlands of Tasmania that has been experiencing alarming dieback in recent years.

Three meetings and a Google Group (http://groups.google.com/group/tpagtas?hl=en) have attracted a large amount of interest in TPT. The following objectives for the newly constituted group have been discussed:

  • For threatened flora:  
    • help to prevent any further extinctions of populations;
    • help to stabilise and/or increase populations;
    • involve the community in the recovery process;
    • raise community awareness; and
  • Help to conserve intact vegetation communities.  

Focus of Future Activities

TPT has been awarded a Threatened Species Network Community Grant in the current round. The grant proposal focuses on threatened orchid species in Tasmania, for which there is a high level of enthusiasm amongst inaugural members. Matt Larcombe, the orchid project officer responsible for implementing aspects of the Flora Recovery Plan: Tasmanian Threatened Orchids 2006- 2010 (Threatened Species Section 2006), has been active in helping to define the aims of the proposal. Some activities provide direct support to Matt, while others are distinctive initiatives of TPT. The grant proposal includes:

  • support for searches for new populations of threatened orchids in recently burnt habitats;  
  • a controlled burn of a property near Hobart airport to enhance threatened orchid populations;  
  • training of volunteers to enable them to effectively monitor priority populations;  
  • mentoring other people and community groups to monitor additional threatened taxa in their local areas; and  
  • creation of Tasmanian Bushcare Toolkit resources concerning (1) planning and burning for conservation outcomes; and (2) monitoring of threatened plant populations.  

Recent TPT discussion has identified an important role for the group in creating and providing specialist knowledge and skills to be effective stewards for threatened taxa; this will be directly supported by the Threatened Species Network project. While weeding and planting of threatened plant populations is important, this can often be done by local volunteers on a sustained basis much better than a 'flying squad' from a state-wide organisation. However, gap filling for priority species in remote areas will remain one role for the group, such as the work on the Miena Cider Gum.

Empowering the Community

Because threatened species have a legal status, TPT will always need a close relationship with the Threatened Species Section. The Section, in turn, recognises the importance of extending its work by engaging and empowering interested members of the community. Wildcare Tasmania, with its strong relationship with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, has a large group of volunteers on its books with interests in aspects of the natural environment. TPT's role is to provide a focus and mechanism for its members, who are also members of Wildcare, to have a constructive and enjoyable relationship with the professional botanists in the Threatened Species Section and to assist them in their efforts to foster and protect populations of threatened plant taxa.


Threatened Species Section (2006). Flora Recovery Plan: Tasmanian Threatened Orchids 2006-2010. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart, <www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/ threatened/publications/pubs/tasmanian-orchid.pdf>.

Left: Caladenia saggicola, an orchid to be monitored under the TPT project. Photo: Matt Larcombe
Right: An impressive Miena Cider Gum (
Eucalyptus gunnii subsp. divaricata). Photo: Jenny Calder