posted 1 December, 2020

Hunting for rare heath in the far south

In early November, NRM South’s Maudie Brown teamed up with staff from DPIPWE, Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service and volunteers from Threatened Plants Tasmania on a population survey expedition to Southport Bluff and Southport Island in Tasmania’s far south. The team were on the hunt for Southport Heath (Epacris stuartii), a tough, small and critically endangered plant that is listed as one of the 30 priority plants in Australia’s Threatened Species Strategy.

The only known wild population of Southport Heath at Southport Bluff is at risk from weed invasion, inappropriate fire regimes and mammal browsing. An insurance population was established on nearby Southport Island in the early 2000s. Although its new island location provides a critical buffer against extinction, the island itself is home to several high threat weed species which need to be managed.

The survey provided an updated picture of the status of this rare native heath, although with mixed results. While the island’s insurance population is healthy and reproducing well, the bluff site population is struggling to survive.

So, what does the future hold for this species? Working in partnership with DPIPWE, Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service, the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre, Threatened Plants Tasmania and pakana Services, NRM South will be putting measures in place to safeguard mainland and island populations of Southport Heath. Actions will include tackling high priority weeds, boosting the seedbank reserve, finding out more about the optimal conditions for germinating seeds and raising awareness about the species in the local community.

This project is supported by NRM South through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and is building on work to protect the mainland population funded through Round 1 of NLP. For more information on our threatened plants project, head to our webpage;