Persistence of rare species depends on rare events: demography, fire response and phenology of two plant species endemic to a semiarid Banded Iron Formation range

Ben P. Miller, David R. Symons, Matthew D. Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The association of rare plant species and Banded Iron Formation (BIF) ranges in semiarid Western Australia is a noted phenomenon. These ranges are also a focus of iron ore exploration and mining. Decisions and planning required for development, conservation and management resulting from this interest, often consider translocation of these threatened species. Nonetheless, little is known about the ecology of BIF-endemic species to support any such decisions. We assessed population structure, patterns of growth, mortality, recruitment, reproduction and in situ seedbank persistence for two declared rare flora species. The shrub Darwinia masonii, and sedge Lepidosperma gibsonii are endemic to an area <40 km 2 on the south-western boundary of the Australian arid zone. Both species were found to be long lived and slow growing, with evidence for reliance on rare events such as fire, and high rainfall years, including, for some processes, consecutive high rainfall years for growth, reproduction and recruitment. Retrieval and germination of seed batches shows that both species' seedbanks are long-lived, with seasonal dormancy cycling. This, together with the ability of mature plants to survive through years not supporting growth, and, for L. gibsonii, to resprout after fire, are key mechanism for persistence in this unpredictable and low rainfall environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-280
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Journal of Botany
Volume67
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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