Rare Lily found within active logging coupe

Media release || Friday 25 January, 2019

The Tall Astelia Lily (Astelia australiana) is only known from 12 populations in the world, citizen scientists have just found the 13th population and it’s within an active clearfell logging coupe south of Powelltown in the Yarra Ranges.

The rare lily that citizen scientists found in an active logging coupe near Powelltown

The rare lily that citizen scientists found in an active logging coupe near Powelltown

When community groups Wildlife of the Central Highlands and Fauna and Flora Research Collective undertook a nocturnal survey within the logging coupe on Monday they did not expect to come across such an incredible find.

“We knew they were not far from here, but in different water catchments.” said citizen scientist, Jake Mckenzie.

To find them outside of their current known range is incredibly significant for the ongoing survival of the species, but not if clearfell logging is due to continue within the coupe.
— citizen scientist Jake Mckenzie.

By law, the species and the habitat it occupies is required to be given a 100m timber harvesting protective buffer, but government-owned VicForests who are currently logging within the coupe didn’t even know the population existed.

“During the survey we discovered VicForests flagging tape they use to mark out the boundary of the logging coupe was within just 50m of where some of the specimens had been recorded. The species is supposed to be granted a 100m protective buffer around each sighting, so it’s clear in this instance VicForests and their regulators, the environment department, haven’t conducted their pre-harvesting surveys” he said.

The Tall Astelia is endemic to Victoria, with populations mostly found in Cool Temperate Rainforest of the Central Highlands and the Otway Ranges. Currently the species is listed as Vulnerable under the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and major threats include wildfire, weed invasion and altered hydrology leading to drying out of sites.

The Tall Astelia Lily is listed as Vulnerable under the  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)

The Tall Astelia Lily is listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)

The national recovery plan for the species outlines fire as being ‘probably the single greatest threat to the survival of the species’ and goes on to state ‘the proximity of regrowth forest to Tall Astelia populations occurring in Cool Temperate Rainforest may affect the chances of the species remaining unburnt during wildfires.

“It’s clear that current logging operations are jeopardising the ongoing survival of this Tall Astelia population through the elevated fuel load and subsequently the fire risk. We believe the logging operations must be stopped immediately.” conservationist Hayley Forster said.

The nocturnal survey also recorded a number of other threatened species including the states faunal emblem the Leadbeater’s Possum, the Greater Glider and a rare plant known as the Tree Geebung.

The news of the rare lily was reported in the Mountain Views Mail. Read the piece here.