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Plans to rejuvenate a critically endangered plant population in WA

Banksia brownii is a critically endangered Western Australia species occurring in three genetically distinct population groups, with the most southerly population close to the coastal city of Albany. This single disjunct population is long unburnt (>30 years since fire) and the number of plants is declining, some through fungal diseases such as aerial canker that caused limb decline and death and armillaria, a root rot fungus, and others through senescence. In order to save this population from possible extinction the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Albany District, plans to conduct a prescribed burn at the site in spring 2015.

Natural regeneration will be monitored post-fire but there are also plans to both direct seed and plant seedlings derived from seed collected from this same site in order to enhance prospects for survival.

The Threatened Flora Seed Centre already has a number of seed collections from this population banked in Perth and further collections were made by Albany staff from the department last week. A count of the numbers of plants currently surviving in this population revealed a more than 50% decline in plant numbers since the early 1990s. Many of the recently collected cones also showed signs of follicle opening, predation and general decay. A very different story to those cones collected some 20 years ago. Seed from both ages of cones will be used in germination trials for comparative purposes and the fate of each seedling created will be followed through to check for vigour and survival.

Currently a translocation proposal is being written for this work to proceed.