Fontainea oraria - critically endangered species listing

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list the rainforest tree Fontainea oraria Jessup & Guymer (Coastal Fontainea) as a CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES in Part 1 of Schedule 1A of the Act, and as a consequence, to omit reference to Fontainea oraria Jessup & Guymer from Part 1 of Schedule 1 (Endangered species) of the Act. Listing of critically endangered species is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

 

The Scientific Committee has found that:

 

1. Fontainea oraria Jessup & Guymer (family Euphorbiaceae) is a rainforest species described by James & Harden (1990) as follows: “Shrub or small tree to 5 m high. Leaves with lamina elliptic to obovate, usually 6-9 cm long, 2.5-4 cm wide, glabrous; glands 0.5-4 mm above base of lamina; petiole jointed, 3-25 mm long. Female floral axes 8-10 mm long; male floral axes 5-6 mm long. Fruit ± globose, 18-22 mm long, 22-24 mm diam., red; seed with endocarp wrinkled and grooved.”

 

2. Fontainea oraria was first described by Jessup & Guymer (1985) who considered it to be most closely related to F. australis. Fontainea oraria can be distinguished from F.australis by its leaf glands, which are positioned much closer to the base of the lamina and by its wrinkled and grooved endocarp.

 

3. Fontainea oraria is endemic to New South Wales where it is known only from the vicinity of Lennox Head on the far North Coast. Four groups of individuals are known and are scattered over an area with a radius of no more than 600 m (NSW DEC 2005).

 

4. Fontainea oraria grows in remnant stands of littoral rainforest dominated by Guioa semiglauca. These highly fragmented remnants are on rich krasnozem soils derived from basalt. The altitude is approximately 50 m above sea level and all four groups of individuals are within 1 km of the ocean. Fontainea oraria is thought to be a slow-growing obligate seed-regenerator with a relatively low rate of fruit and seed production (NSW DEC 2005).

 

5. Fontainea oraria is not known to occur in any conservation reserves in New South Wales.

 

6. Fontainea oraria has a very highly restricted geographic distribution. The species extends in a narrow strip a few hundred metres wide and approximately 1.2 km from north to south. The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy are both estimated to be no more than 4 km2 (Copeland 2008). This calculation is based on the species occupying a single 2 x 2 km grid cell, the spatial scale of assessment recommended by IUCN (2008).

 

7. The total known population of Fontainea oraria, surveyed most recently in 2005, includes approximately 55 wild plants (NSW DEC 2005). Of these, only 10 plants are mature adults, while the remaining 45 were classified as seedlings or juveniles. Like several species in the Euphorbiaceae, Fontainea oraria is primarily a dioecious species, in which male and female flowers usually occur on separate plants. To date only a single adult plant is confirmed as female while the sex of several of the other adult plants remains unknown (NSW DEC 2005).

 

8. It is highly likely that the original population of Fontainea oraria was much larger than the current estimate of 55 plants (Rossetto et al. 2000). It is believed that numerous plants would have been lost following widespread clearing of littoral rainforest in the Lennox Head district. In addition, the remaining plants of Fontainea oraria face a number of threatening processes, including further habitat destruction and fragmentation, competition with exotic woody weeds, earthworks and drainage changes associated with storm water management and erosion control, cattle grazing, increased exposure to ocean wind sheer and associated dieback, inbreeding, wildfires, and illegal collection of seed for propagation (NSW DEC 2005). ‘Clearing of native vegetation’, ‘Invasion and establishment of exotic vines and creepers’, ‘Invasion of native plant communities by exotic perennial grasses’, ‘Invasion and establishment of Lantana (Lantana camara L. sens. lat)’ and ‘High frequency fire resulting in disruption of life cycle processes in plants and animals and loss of vegetation structure and composition’ are listed as a Key Threatening Processes under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

 

9. Fontainea oraria Jessup & Guymer is eligible to be listed as a critically endangered species as, in the opinion of the Scientific Committee, it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in New South Wales in the immediate future as determined in accordance with the following criteria as prescribed by the Threatened Species Conservation Regulation 2002:

Clause 15

The geographic distribution of the species is estimated or inferred to be:

(a) very highly restricted,

and

(d) a projected or continuing decline is observed, estimated or inferred in:

(i) an index of abundance appropriate to the taxon,

(ii) geographic distribution, habitat quality or diversity, or genetic diversity; and

(e) the following conditions apply:

(i) the population or habitat is observed or inferred to be severely fragmented;

(ii) all or nearly all mature individuals are observed or inferred to occur within a small number of populations or locations.

 

Clause 16

The estimated total number of mature individuals of the species is:

(a) very low,

and

(d) a projected or continuing decline is observed, estimated or inferred in:

(i) an index of abundance appropriate to the taxon,

(ii) geographic distribution, habitat quality or diversity, or genetic diversity; and

(e) the following conditions apply:

(i) the population or habitat is observed or inferred to be severely fragmented;

(ii) all or nearly all mature individuals are observed or inferred to occur within a small number of populations or locations.

Clause 17

The total number of mature individuals of the species is observed, estimated or inferred to be:

(a) extremely low.

 

Professor Lesley Hughes

Chairperson

Scientific Committee

 

Proposed Gazettal date: 21/11/08

Exhibition period: 21/11/08 – 23/01/09

 

References

Copeland LM (2008) ‘Conservation status of Fontainea oraria Jessup & Guymer (Euphorbiaceae) in New South Wales.’ Report to the NSW Scientific Committee, Sydney.

 

IUCN (2008) ‘Guidelines for using the IUCN Red List categories and criteria. vers. 7.0.’ (Prepared by the Standards and Petitions Working Group of the IUCN SSC Biodiversity Assessments Sub-Committee)

 

James TA, Harden GJ (1990) Euphorbiaceae. In ‘Flora of New South Wales. Vol. 1’. (Ed. G.J. Harden) pp. 389-430 (University of New South Wales Press: Sydney)

 

Jessup LW, Guymer GP (1985) A revision of Fontainea Heckel (Euphorbiaceae-Cluytieae). Austrobaileya 2(2): 112-125.

 

NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (2005) ‘Draft recovery plan for Fontainea oraria (Coastal Fontainea)’. (NSW Department of Environment and Conservation: Hurstville)

 

Rossetto M, McNally J, Henry RJ, Hunter J, Matthes M (2000) Conservation genetics of an endangered rainforest tree (Fontainea oraria – Euphorbiaceae) and implications for closely related species. Conservation Genetics 1(3): 217–229.

Page last updated: 28 February 2011