DECCW senior threatened species officer Dianne Brown and Northern Rivers CMA catchment officer John Nagle planting out the endangered coastal fontainea plants grown from genetically selected plant material.
DECCW senior threatened species officer Dianne Brown and Northern Rivers CMA catchment officer John Nagle planting out the endangered coastal fontainea plants grown from genetically selected plant material.

Bringing rare tree back from brink

A coastal rainforest tree on the verge of extinction has been given a much better chance of survival thanks to a new recovery project run by the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

There are only 10 mature coastal fontainea (Fontainea oraria) trees known to exist in the wild, located at two sites in Ballina Shire. The trees were first discovered in the early 80s by two Queensland botanists and there have been previous attempts to collect seeds. In the past 18 months cuttings have been taken and grown into new plants which have allowed the population to be tripled.

“After some scientific research, cuttings were selected to maximise the genetic diversity of the new plants, hopefully increasing the breeding success of the coastal fontainea and enhancing the population’s resilience to environmental change and other disturbances,” Dianne Brown from DECC, who is co-ordinating the recovery program, said.

CMA catchment officer John Nagle said it was an exciting day.

“It’s really at the cutting edge of threatened species conservation work,” he said.

As well as planting the new, young trees, the project has also included removing weeds and looking after the mature trees.

“Environmental weeds continue to invade the rainforest habitat where the coastal fontainea grows and so follow-up management of weeds, such as lantana, ground asparagus and camphor laurel is underway to give the new plants a helping hand to get established and encourage the survival of seedlings that have germinated naturally around the largest female tree,” Ms Brown said

Mr Nagle said not much was known about how widespread the coastal fontainea may have been in the past, but 98% of coastal rainforest habitat has been cleared in NSW.

“Its habitat has been seriously depleted in NSW. Littoral rainforest is listed as an endangered ecological community,” Mr Nagle said.

The program has been supported by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Ballina Shire Council and local bush regeneration contractor Bushland Restoration Services. It is funded through the Commonwealth Caring for Our Country program and supported by land owners who have permitted the recovery works to be undertaken on their land.


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