Funding boosts recovery effort for a Tasmanian endemic

In 2017, project partners including NRM South, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Threatened Species Section) and the University of Tasmania received grant funding from the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Recovery Fund (TSRF) for emergency intervention actions to save Morrisby’s gum from extinction. The project aimed to create safe havens to protect Morrisby’s gum from browsing and wildfire, to improve habitat by infill planting and controlling invasive grasses, and to investigate methods to improve the genetic diversity of seed stock.

Morrisby’s gum (Eucalyptus morrisbyi) is one of Australia’s most threatened eucalypts and has an extremely restricted distribution in the wild. Endemic to Tasmania’s southeast, it was previously known to only exist in two locations, which have suffered rapid dramatic declines in recent decades. With the loss of all but a few established trees, they were considered to be functionally extinct as there were fewer than 30 mature trees in the wild producing seed.

Following the announcement of TSRF funding, a landowner situated approximately 50 km from the remaining stands, contacted NRM South to inform them about a mature block of E. morrisbyi that he had planted on his property in the 1990s, which had since disappeared from formal records. This was a significant boost for the recovery project – providing valuable new genetic material from a stand of healthy mature trees.

One year on, recovery actions under the TSRF project have already contributed to improving the trajectory for Morrisby’s gum. In the last six months there has been substantial regeneration of suppressed juvenile plants in two fenced safe havens at Calverts Hill Nature Reserve, 446 E. morrisbyi planted into empty niches and an increase in the genetic diversity of seed banked material from this provenance.  Seed collection from 53 plants in the seed orchard has confirmed a provenance that is  genetically diverse from the other populations.

TSRF project activities, which have been coordinated by NRM South, will wrap up in June 2019. For more information about the project, check out NRM South website updates here and here.