Conservation

Queensland’s flora is the most diverse amongst the Australian states with over 12 500 species, roughly 50% of Australia’s plant species.

This extraordinary plant diversity reflects the wide range of plant habitats, variety of soils on which they grow and also wide ranging climatic conditions. We have rainforests, eucalypt forests, monsoon forests, coastal heaths, montane heaths, mangrove forests and many more!

By comparison, Great Britain has in the vicinity of 1 400 native species and as many weed species.

Cultivating plants or protecting habitats?

A long standing motto in our society was “preservation through cultivation”. While propagating and growing native plants is an important aim, and does contribute to their conservation, we now know the best way to conserve diversity is to protect and preserve plant habitats.

By protecting whole native habitats, plants have the best chance of survival. Alongside the other flora and fauna that are part of its ecosystem, the usual cycles of pollination, seed dispersal, germination and growth can occur. And the species can continue on its evolutionary path under natural conditions.

Conserving our treasures

In brief, Queensland has:

  • over 600 species in the family Myrtaceae (Eucalypts, bottlebrushes, paperbarks, etc)
  • over 600 species of peas (Fabaceae family)
  • over 300 wattles (Mimosaceae family)
  • nearly 800 grass species (Poaceae family)
  • over 1 000 of these species listed as threatened species under the Nature Conservation Act
  • over 900 species alone in Lamington National Park in South-East Queensland, 59 of which are listed as threatened species
  • over 3 000 species in coastal South-East Queensland 
  • many unnamed species and many more yet to discover. 

Why is plant diversity important?

With its variety of climate and soil types, Queensland supports a wide range of ecosystems. The conservation of native Australian flora is essential for maintaining the biodiversity and good health of these ecosystems and their residents, including us! 

Indigenous Australian people practised medicine for thousands of years with a great emphasis on traditional plant use. We still have a lot to learn from their ethnomedicine practices.

Contemporary Australian botanical research into the medicinal value of our flora has revealed actual and potential medicinal values such as anti-bacterial compounds for antiseptics, and other uses that include analgesics, astringents, antipyretics, sedatives, hypnotics, expectorants, carminatives and mood-altering drugs.

In recent years, there has been some research especially into plant compounds that show promising potential for cancer treatments. One such genus is Fontainea. And recently some research was conducted into the chemical properties of Black Bean (Castanospermum australe) for AIDS treatment. And the therapeutic properties of lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) essential oil are now widely recognized.

Time will tell what other important medical revelations are discovered in our native flora. All the more reason for conserving a wide variety of areas in Australia where these species grow naturally.

How do we conserve our native plant habitats?

We recognise that our knowledge of Australian flora is incomplete and that we cannot successfully reconstruct an ecosystem after it has been destroyed. Therefore we aim to conserve, in-situ, significant portions of Queensland's ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.

To promote this conservation Native Plants Queensland
  • assists in the identification, mapping and evaluation of remnant native vegetation
  • places a high priority on the protection of Rare and Threatened species and their habitats
  • educates our own members and the wider community about the intrinsic value of the native flora and the need for its conservation
  • recognizes the threats to native plant communities (e.g. environmental weeds, vegetation clearing) and develops intervention strategies, including but not limited to, regeneration, revegetation and propagation
  • makes representations to and co-operates with all levels of Government—Commonwealth, State, Local—to ensure “Best Practice” legislation protects areas with plants of conservation significance
  • liaises and co-operates with other like-minded organisations on conservation and environmental issues affecting Australian flora.

Conservation Issues and Challenges

Climate change & high altitude cloud forests

Scientists from James Cook University and the Australian Tropical Herbarium have found that most of the rare montane plant species, endemic to high altitude cloud forests in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area will likely not be able to survive in their current natural locations past 2080 as their high-altitude climate changes.

They studied 19 plant species * found in these cloud forests, at least 1 000 metres above sea level, and by even conservation assumptions, predict that most of these species will not have a survivable climate by 2080.

Cloud forests are unique ecosystems typically found on mountainous areas in tropical regions, where the plants strip moisture from the moist air. These forests contain a rich diversity of mosses, ferns and rare plants in a typically low tree canopy on peat-rich soils.

Dr Costion said, “The 19 species represent most of the plants that are restricted to that habitat. It’s highly likely they are found only there because of the climate. There are plenty of other similar soil and substrate environments at lower elevations where they could grow, but the climate is unsuitable.”

Co-author Professor Darren Crayn said that without a suitable environment, the survival of the threatened species may depend on them being grown in botanical gardens under controlled conditions.

Eucryphia wilkiei 02

* Species include Cryptocarya bellendenkerana, Diospyros sp. Mt Spurgeon, Elaeocarpus sp. Mt Misery, Eucryphia wilkiei, Phaleria biflora, Planchonella sp. Mt Lewis, Tasmannia sp. Mt Bellenden Ker, Uromyrtus metrosideros and Zieria alata.

Reference: “Will tropical mountaintop plant species survive climate change? Identifying key knowledge gaps using species distribution modeling in Australia” by C. Costion, Lalita Simpson, Petina Pert, Monica Carlsen, W. John Kress & Darren Crayn (2015). Published in “Biological Conservation”, issue 191 (2015), pages 322 – 330.

Plunkett Regional Park & surrounds
This area of forest just South-West of Beenleigh is a combination of Plunkett Regional Park, Wickham National Park and Wickham Timber Reserve, and straddles a sandstone plateau and surrounds with rugged sandstone outcrops and cliffs, with eucalypt forests and heath understorey.

It is a well known site for spectacular wildflower displays in late winter and spring, and is home to a number of rare, vulnerable and unique species, as well as many regionally significant plants. It is also the site where Eucalyptus curtisii was first discovered by local naturalist Densil Curtis in 1923.

Plunkett has suffered in recent years from illegal use by 4WDs and motor bikes, causing much erosion and degradation of the once narrow walking track system and fragile ecosystem. However, Qld Parks and Wildlife Service has initiated a program to rehabilitate and preserve this glorious area to ensure its environmental values are retained for the future.

A community group, the Friends of Plunkett has formed comprising a large group of stakeholders, including Native Plants Queensland, which is represented by the Logan River Branch, and a large number of activities are being co-ordinated to address the issues that have impacted on the area.
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