5 Oct 2013

Searching for the endangered shrub, Persoonia hindii

The latest field work was an interesting one: chatting all day long about community assembly processes and methodology for quantifying spatially-clustered plant population. Put it in a simpler way, we were measuring the population size of an endangered shrub, Persoonia hindii, while investigating what is the plant's suitable habitat.

Ray navigating to the next survey transect through open eucalypt woodland, dominated by a ground layer of Pteridium ferns.

As community ecologists, we were not interested only in the "well-being" of a single plant species, but were also observing the neighbour species and the environment in which they live. These biotic and abiotic associations will allow us to predict habitat requirements of the focal species (i.e. P. hindii).

A fruit-bearing Persoonia hindii, which is listed as endangered under NSW government. Our recent tracks covered an area of about three football fields (within an 40km2 forest area), but only found the plant within 6.5% of the total area.

What's the point of this field survey? The investigation area is being disturbed by coal mining. Trees are being cleared to pave ways for water-discharge pipes. Legislation however demands the mining company to reassess its impact on local ecosystem including endangered species such as P. hindii. Our data will help mapping the locations where P. hindii occurs in high density (i.e. species distribution model), and mine managers will be required to avoid cutting their pipes through these hot spots.

Forest destruction for mining operation
Roadside logging for the construction of a mine water-discharge pipeline. Habitat destruction at forest edges will impact inner vegetation through "edge effects", such as increased erosion, sunlight and cut-off animal movement (which is vital for pollination and seed dispersal).


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