Species Vulnerable to Extinction: Part 1, The Daintree

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I got off a flight from Albury to Melbourne on Tuesday morning, turned on mobile phone and there was a message from a journalist asking for comment on claims by Professor Norman Myer that we were losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. My first question was, who is Norman Myer? And my second question was, is he talking about Australia? The ABC radio journalist couldn’t answer either question.

When I turned on my computer I found this story at ABC Online:

“Scientists say Earth is experiencing the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.

Environmental scientist Professor Norman Myers says the loss of species is more severe than the five mass extinctions of the geological past.

“In the lifetime of many [television news] viewers we could lose half of all those 10 million species around the world,” he said.

There are 33 extinction hotspots around the world. The Australia Museum’s Frank Howarth says two are in Australia and up to 80 per cent of the crucial habitat has been wiped out.

“One [is] north Queensland rainforest, the other is in south-western Australia but in Australian terms we have a lot of areas where we have real competition between endemic animals that are found nowhere else,” Mr Howarth said.

Green groups say current measures to protect sensitive habitats are not effective. “The Australian Government is investing a lot of money in biodiversity but it’s not being invested in the most responsible way,” Nicola Beynon, from the Humane Society International, said.

Professor Myers says if governments do not do more, the planet will continue to lose 50 species per day compared to the natural extinction rate of one species every five years.

Can anyone name me some of the 50 species that are going extinct every day?

Anyway, I emailed the link to a few readers of this blog for comment. I am starting with this response from Neil Hewett who lives in a north Queensland rainforest:

“Hi Jen,

Biodiversity hotspots are areas that are deemed BOTH rich in plant and animal species, particularly with many endemic species AND ALSO under immediate threat from impacts such as land clearing, development pressures, salinity, weeds and feral animals.

Along with Madagascar and New Caledonia, the rainforests of north Queensland including the Daintree are recognised as one of three centres of global endemism. They contain an extraordinary biodiversity; the majority of species which are classified as either rare or threatened with extinction, and undisputedly conform with the first-mentioned criterion as a Biodiversity hotspot.

But are they under immediate threat from impacts such as land clearing, development pressures, salinity, weeds and feral animals?

According to Cafnec, The Wilderness Society, Queensland Conservation Council and The Greens readers would almost certainly think so.

And yet, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee, with input from recognised experts in the field of biodiversity conservation from each Australian State and Territory, determined otherwise.

In respect to the contemporary popularity of tree-frogs, which are recognised as early indicators of environmental stress, I am advised from time to time that certain endemic species are thought to have become extinct, whilst others are disappearing.

The above image of a green-eyed tree-frog is one of the latter. I found one during the day, some time ago, when I coincidentally took balance from a tree and registered a cold, wet sensation under my grip.

Upon meticulous scrutiny and after several minutes, I finally recognised the curvature of the eye. Its camouflage was superb.

I have the very great privilege of scrutinising the central Cooper Creek portion of the ancient Daintree rainforest, on a nightly basis and have done so for over twelve consecutive years. Indeed, I believe that I have familiarised myself with the nocturnal landscape of the Daintree more thoroughly than any other person in human history. On those exceptionally wet and rare nights when conditions are suitable for green-eyed tree-frogs to congregate for communal mating events, I might encounter 2000 frogs in two hours and yet I have never seen a research scientist crossing the flooded watercourses to get into the real action.

The politics of places like the Daintree are as dark and complex and densely interwoven as the jungle understorey itself. I suspect that the exclusion from the country’s biodiversity hotspots reflects the federal coalition government’s contempt for the Queensland and local government’s popularist land-grab mentality.

Neil Hewett.

—————
If you would like to send me information about one or more of the “50 species we are losing” every day and/or one of the ‘biodiveristy hotspots’ and/or a species of plant or animal that you consider vulnerable to extinction and/or that you believe has been incorrectly listed as rare, threatened or vulnerable to extinction, please email me at jennifermarohasy@jennifermarohasy.com.

33 Responses to Species Vulnerable to Extinction: Part 1, The Daintree

  1. Siltstone March 9, 2006 at 10:08 pm #

    50 species a day is 18,250 species per annum. As you say, one wonders whether the Professor can name some of these species that became extinct, say, since the year 2000? The basis for these numbers is usually a guess that species unknown to science have disappeared. However, if there is no record of a species ever existing, how can there be a record of its demise? Just pluck numbers, one can never be proven wrong! Bjorn Lomberg demolished the Professors rubbery figures in The Skeptical Environmentalist (pages 251-257).

  2. Ian Mott March 9, 2006 at 11:27 pm #

    Is this dude talking fauna only or flora too?

    One of the classic tricks of the scheiser menchen is to record a sighting of a species that is not normally found in a location as “rare” and, by implication, threatened. This will then go on the list of locally endangered species and be used as a pretext for depriving landowners of their development rights if the said Brolga happened to be sighted on their land.

    Byron Shire is a classic in this respect where the plains dwelling Brolga is listed as locally threatened. The fact that this species is now almost totally dependent on inland farmers and their cattle troughs didn’t sway these faithful servants of Captain Planet one little bit.

    And while Brolgas are normally arid land species, they do get around a bit from time to time. One was actually found in New Zealand, presumably after a big night out in Bondi.

  3. Warwick Hughes March 10, 2006 at 5:17 am #

    It is puzzling how the media run with these alarming stories decade after decade.
    See my page;
    http://www.warwickhughes.com/species/

  4. rog March 10, 2006 at 5:34 am #

    During construction of the Sydney Olympic site at Homebush enormous care and expense was taken to protect the highly endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog. Since gaining such a high profile the Green and Golden Bell Frog has found at many industrial and development sites.

    http://www.bluescopesteel.com/bsl_file/download.cfm?DownloadFile=BA3A5CEB-E569-4400-B93F0C367628D094

  5. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 8:33 am #

    If the greenies really had hijacked the universities as Motty likes to claim, there’s no way you could become an entomologist without knowing of Norman Myers. Myers brought insects into biodiversity assessments.

    Myers introduced the idea and pioneered the quantification of modern day extinctions, conceived of ‘hotpots’, and many other areas of now significant research. Before commenters get too cocky in slagging him off – research your information and be aware that he has a good track record of accurate assessments and predictions. He’s not just an academic theorist either, he started in the field. He’s also had ongoing consultation work with international govts (incl. a series of meetings with Thatcher of all people, at her invitation), the World Bank etc.

    Don’t let Lomborg lead you up a monospecific garden path. If you want to be sceptical, be sceptical of the sceptics too: Myers explains that Lomborg cherry-picked a 1979 estimate of extinctions that was “strictly a first-cut assessment, preliminary and exploratory” and ignored Myers’ “many subsequent analyses (totaling one quarter of a million words) in the professional literature”.

    On Lomborg’s cavalier attitude, Myers had this valuable advice:

    “A skeptic might still object that if the extinctions are occurring in large numbers right now, why aren’t they individually documented? How much precise evidence is there? To this, the pragmatic scientist responds that it is far easier to demonstrate that a species exists than that it does not. To achieve the first, all one has to do is to find a few specimens. To achieve the second with equal certainty, one would have to search every last locality of the species’ range before finally being sure. This is alright for the purist. Unfortunately, we live in a world without sufficient scientists, funding, and, above all, time to undertake a conclusive check. Given that we are witnessing a mass extinction of exceptional scope, should it not be sufficient to make a best-judgment estimate of what is going on — and in cases of uncertainty (“Has the species finally disappeared or is it still hanging on?”), assume that if a species has not been seen for decades, it should be considered to be extinct until it is proven to be extant? Conservation organizations generally require that a species fail to be recorded for 50 years before it can be designated in memoriam. In Peninsular Malaysia, a four-year search for 266 species of freshwater fish turned up only 122 of them, yet they are all officially regarded as still in existence.

    Let us bear in mind, above all, that we are dealing with the irreversible loss of unique life forms. It is not always possible to detail the precise survival status of tens of thousands of threatened plant species and millions of animal species. In light of these factors, why shouldn’t the burden of proof be shifted onto the shoulders of the skeptics, so that they must prove a species’ existence rather than the reverse?

    This brings up a key question as concerns species extinctions. What is “legitimate scientific caution” in the face of uncertainty? Uncertainty can cut both ways. Some observers may object that in the absence of conclusive evidence and analysis, it is appropriate to stick with low estimates of species extinctions on the grounds that they are more “responsible.” But how about the crucial factor of asymmetry of evaluation? A low estimate, ostensibly “safe” because it takes a conservative view of such limited evidence, may fail to reflect the real situation just as much as an “unduly” high estimate that is more of a best-judgment affair, based on all available evidence with varying degrees of demonstrable validity. In a situation of uncertainty where not all parameters can be quantified to conventional satisfaction, let us not get hung up on what can be counted today if that is to the detriment of what ultimately counts. Undue caution can readily become recklessness; and as in other situations beset with uncertainty, it will be better for us to find we have been roughly right than precisely wrong.”

    http://www.grist.org/advice/books/2001/12/12/specious/

  6. Ian Mott March 10, 2006 at 9:36 am #

    Here we go again with the green cop out. Thinksy said, “why shouldn’t the burden of proof be shifted onto the shoulders of the skeptics, so that they must prove a species’ existence rather than the reverse?”

    The reason the burden of proof should never be shifted is because we, the sceptics, are not flogging a tenuous intellectual product.

    I have zero respect for people who try on this reversal of proof bullshit because it is a blatant attempt to avoid accountability for one’s statements. Furthermore, when such reversal of proof is employed in a policy process that will lead to the enactment of legislation then we can and do end up with rights and liberties being taken away for reasons that cannot be substantiated. And that, Thinksy, is a pretty close definition of abuse of power.

    If Meyers et al had even a passing respect for the truth they would simply list all the species of unknown status as “UNKNOWN STATUS”. And this classification of status should also do us all the simple courtesy of distinguishing between former and current status. At the moment we get lists of “Rare and Threateneds” that do not distinguish between species that have always been rare and those that have become rare.

    If the Meyers of this world don’t know the status of a species then they have no business describing them as anything but unknown.

  7. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 9:48 am #

    Ian you attributed the quote to me, it was from Myers.

    In saying that the burden of proof should not be shifted, you’re assuming that it has a secure home. In your opinion perhaps, but not in reality.

    Pathetic attempt to take the moral highground: your perspective of ‘rights’ and ‘liberties’ is narrowly and rigidly interpreted from your own personal desires in your own backyard only. With your intolerant attitude, you’re hardly a champion for democracy to give lectures about responsible use of power. Keep your cool, Myers isn’t after your trees.

  8. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 9:52 am #

    BTW Ian, never one to tolerate an open debate, you’re starting to froth at the mouth again. At best you’ll respond with more lumberjack humour. Enjoy the childish giggles with your email fans. Sorry to forewarn you that I won’t be inclined to respond.

  9. Meta4 March 10, 2006 at 10:07 am #

    In the production of the story journalists have managed to translate …
    There are 33 biodiversity hotspots around the world
    to read …
    There are 33 extinction hotspots around the world.
    I wonder how much more we’ll see of extinction hotspots now that the term has been invented and entered the journalistic vocabulary.

  10. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 10:10 am #

    It’s not a mistranslation Meta, the concept of hotspot (as explained by Neil in the original post) involves a threat of potential extinction. The term itself has been in common use for quite some years. Nothing new there.

  11. Phil Done March 10, 2006 at 11:02 am #

    Let’s talk Aussie !

    Since European settlement, direct exploitation of native fauna, habitat destruction and the introduction of exotic predators and competitive herbivores has led to the extinction of some 27 mammal, 23 bird and 4 frog species. Says Wiki !

    Australia accounts for about one third of the world’s mammals that have become extinct in modern times (Kennedy 1992), and roughly one half of these are rodents. Seven, possibly eight Australian rodents extant at the time of European settlement are now extinct and another 11 rodent species have shown a decline in range of 50 percent or greater over the same time period.

    http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/action/rodents/rodap2.html

    Some nice etchings

    http://www.amonline.net.au/exhibitions/gould/naturalist/extinction.htm

  12. Schiller Thurkettle March 10, 2006 at 11:47 am #

    Friends,

    As a veteran of the old-time internet flame-wars, I can tell you about people like thinksy, though they are a shrinking minority.

    Their rationale goes thusly: this is my doctrine, challenge it with your proof, and I will poke at your proof.

    The slightest nitpick at your proof, such as who met whom for breakfast and who picked up the tab, explodes your factual proof.

    Meanwhile, since my doctrine is noble, I need no proof of it beyond its apparent nobility, and by challenging a noble doctrine, you prove that you are bad.

    This silly process of reasoning is so simple that anyone can repeat it for nearly anything whatsoever and make nearly anyone look mean-spirited, biased, uninformed and nasty.

    Take, for instance, ‘X.’ Someone excretes the notion that X is bad for little puppy-dogs. So, it is said, X must be prohibited. You have two choices, either prove X *cannot* be bad for little puppy-dogs, or get accused of hating little puppy-dogs because you think the theory about X is a load of booshwah.

    So your choices are: prove the impossible, *and* get proved to be a hater of little puppy-dogs while you try to do it.

    Which is no choice at all.

    The people who adopt this style of argumentation should not be credited with any sort of cleverness. It’s popular, simply because it works well, and because it works well, they easily become convinced that they are right.

    After all, it’s easy to convince yourself that you are right when you can see, in a simple-minded way, that anyone who disagrees with you obviously hates little puppy-dogs.

    Do you disagree that X hurts the environment? Well, then, you hate the environment. Do you disagree that X hurts forests? Well, then, you hate forests. Do you disagree that X hurts biodiversity? Well, then you hate biodiversity. Do you disagree that X harms human health? Well, then you are against human health.

    Schiller.

    Gegen die Dummheit kaempfen die Goetter selbst vergebens.

  13. rog March 10, 2006 at 12:15 pm #

    Only a thinksy would disregard the physical evidence yet take a ‘hotpot’ seriously.

    Goodness, Myer has met Thatcher, big deal thinksy, prove to me why I should care about his social life.

  14. Ian Mott March 10, 2006 at 1:07 pm #

    Nice try with the defamatory implications, Thinksy, but there was no froth in my statement.
    In fact, I challenge anyone to spend a morning listening to Stephane Grapelli playing “Sunny Skies” like I have, and then have a “bile moment”.

    And the burden of proof has always rested on the accuser. Until recently, it has had a very secure home, as one of our most treasured elements of the social contract. And none of us are prepared to accept that your need to convince someone of the validity of your ill-informed ideology is a valid pretext for junking it.

    And Thatcher met Meyer, did she? Maybe thats why she went barking mad?

    You really need to work on your capcity to make proportionate responses to cognitive stimuli. It is, after all, the defining feature of reasonable men and women.

  15. Phil Done March 10, 2006 at 1:48 pm #

    Well lah-de-dah .. .. you boys are soooo cruel.

    I was listening to Guns & Roses myself – specifically the quite good rendition of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. All this global warming, Peak Oil and biodiversity impact was getting to me. And some joyless Joy Division before that.

    errrr – ahem – moving right along .. .. anyone up for some discussion on extinctions?

  16. Jim March 10, 2006 at 3:52 pm #

    OK Phil – what are the figures for extinctions prior to European settlement?
    After all , the non-European settlers exploited the native fauna, destroyed the habitat ( by burning ) and introduced exotic predators and competitive herbivores ( dingos for example). Evidence of man-made extinctions are numerous ; do we have any idea of the pre-European extinctions?

  17. Phil March 10, 2006 at 4:01 pm #

    Well that’s interesting – quite a lot – seems to be a debate as to whether aboriginals hunting and fire usage or climate shifts (resulting in flora changes) got the megafauna – interesting philosophical point though. And would aboriginals have sent species extinct if they knew what they were doing?

    But what are our current ethical and conservation obligations ? How important are individual species versus whole landscapes /ecosystems? And are we happy to send species extinct in the pursuit of our own economic interests.

    I mean we don’t burn people at the stake anymore either.

  18. jennifer March 10, 2006 at 4:04 pm #

    I reckon the mass extinctions will be in Asia. I reckon the freshwater dolphin the ‘baiji’ from the Yangtzee River in China will go extinct in the next few years? Libby provided some information at my post on Stellar’s Sea cows.

  19. Jim March 10, 2006 at 4:26 pm #

    My point was that any dominant species ( man/insect/dinosaur) has an effect on it’s environment which as a result of it’s pursuit of self interest , no doubt can and does include extinction of other species.
    This is surely part of natural selection?
    Is there any reason to believe that;
    * the current rate of dominant species linked extinction is greater than in the past?
    * post 1770 Australian species extinctions are somehow uniquely morally tainted because they were caused by Europeans?
    As a genuine conservationist who believes that we should do our best to preserve all species , I think politics should be kept out of these debates.
    BTW – I’m surprised at the suggestion that indigeneous people mightn’t have realised they were hunting a species into extinction?
    They were no doubt just as prepared to put economic benefit ahead of altruism as the rest of humanity!

  20. Phil March 10, 2006 at 4:49 pm #

    Jim – no slight intended – simply we may not know how close to the edge some species are – or what inter-species interactions there are – especially in concert with climate – back-to-back droughts especially

  21. Ian Castles March 10, 2006 at 5:39 pm #

    Phil, On your question about the importance of individual specials versus whole landscapes /ecosystems, you might be interested in a 2002 paper on ‘sustainable development’ by Aynsley Kellow which is at http://www.science.org.au/sats2002/kellow.htm . Kellow argues as follows:

  22. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 5:55 pm #

    Schiller knows so much about me that he confidently claims I am a shrinking minority. Hardly. Welcome to the new wave Schiller. We’re justing waiting patiently for people like yourself to go extinct. It shouldn’t take long given your sub-species propensity to spend most of its hours with heads buried under the sand.

    As long as you guys can’t see any extinctions from the rocking chair on your rear porch then they aint happening.

    Jim is there any point to humans having (and priding themselves for having) consciousness if they’re going to use natural selection (an unconscious process) as an excuse for letting species go extinct when it’s within humanity’s easy grasp to mitigate potential extinctions? They can provide a useful comparison, but past rates of human-induced extinctions are no excuse for modern activities.. have we evolved or not? All the natural selection argument for allowing extinctions to take place does is suggest that humans are nothing more and nothing less than dumb beasts following normal population curves (the usual trend is to increase exponentially until reaching a crash).

    No-one is answering Jennifer’s question on immediate extinctions. I’m not inclined to do the hard yakka to provide information here than any interested party can find for themselves, and that most here won’t read it if challenges their denial. Considering the macro species it seems that Chinese dolphin is a good candidate as Jennifer says. Does anyone know how the Nthn Hairy Nosed wombat is going? Just a NGO money-spinning ruse, govt conspiracy, or is it under genuine threat? And let’s not get started on the birds. Oh ok let’s: can anyone point out 2000 of these in their backyard? http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au/actionplan/endangered.html

  23. Ian Mott March 10, 2006 at 5:55 pm #

    This is an interesting point about the role of drought in extinction. Sharpe observed an 80% decline in Glider populations in Bungawalbyn SF/NP within 3 months of the(I think) 2001 drought. And this seems to be consistent with declines in other species as well.

    So we can assume that such declines are fairly normal in a bad year. And this means that numbers may seem quite OK while times are good but go quickly in drought to a point where the breeding pair of Powerful Owls have no idea that the scrawny little thing they just ate was the last one left.

    The flip side of this story is that the recovery rate is just as fast. Some Gliders will produce two sets of twins in a good, two season year. In an 18 month good season the first twins will also be breeding in the last six months.

    But what this means is that the key to species survival is not related to the number of shelter hollows in good seasons but rather, the maintenance of sufficient nutrition in bad seasons to continue avoiding old man Owl.

  24. rog March 10, 2006 at 6:05 pm #

    No thinksy.

  25. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 6:09 pm #

    Is the stand-alone Germany example the best that Keller can come up with? It’s a meaningless example without further details (eg there are some really freaky deep-Germans, perhaps that was the enviro group). Then Keller goes on to talk about the difficulties of deciding how to assess/conserve/preserve/protect (choose yr preferred approach) areas that resulted from human intervention. Everyone can agree that the issues are complex and we have much to learn. This is no excuse for ignoring and dismissing potential biodiversity threats.

    BTW: I’m mildly surprised on Jennifer’s q on extinctions that no-one has raised the issue of ancient cultivars and landraces going extinct. ie species that are human influenced/bred in the 1st place. These are many of the species under modern day threat, some are semi-wild. This links to an interesting exchange I had with detribe on an earlier thread where I asked about the redundancy (security) of a (relatively) homogeneous modern agricultural system.

    And don’t forget that many of the species going extinct/under treat in tropical areas are unnamed or unknown to us, yet of potential pharma benefit to humanity. Some bioprospectors have harvested materials, discovered an incredibly valuable plant then returned to find it extirpated (extinct?).

  26. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 6:10 pm #

    Thanks rog.

  27. Libby March 10, 2006 at 6:54 pm #

    Squirrel and mahogany gliders are endangered. The key to their survival rests on a multitude of factors, including suitable nesting hollows. Maybe the drought is a sign of (boo hiss) global warming (cue threatening music)?

    Have people been watching David Attenborough’s Life in the Undergrowth? Professor Myers (who spoke at Macquarie University yesterday) is alluding to creatures such as these, which are largely unseen, from becoming extinct. Attenborough’s doco at least tries to bring the same sort of attention to invertebrates as we have for say Baiji dolphins. However, it seems we don’t give much of a dam about them too (sorry for the pun).

  28. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 7:10 pm #

    What do readers think – should the tassie devil be reintroduced to the mainland (after quarantine period to ensure they’re disease free) to help with the feral cats & foxes problem?

  29. Libby March 10, 2006 at 7:22 pm #

    Wasn’t it disease and competition that wiped it off the mainland to begin with?

  30. Neil Hewett March 10, 2006 at 8:03 pm #

    Comparing two cohibitant species of the same genus might reveal abundant population and distribution for one and exceptionally low population and localisation for the other.

    We might infer that speciation occurred (sometime in the past) and the package of adaptations that distinguish one from the other has allowed competitive advantages … to explain the disproprotion.

    This oversimplification reveals two species, one with apparent security and little interest to conservation science and the other, which triggers such concern that local people are virtually evicted in the urgency of conservation intervention.

    Proximity to extinction is a valuable commodity, with a few notable exceptions: smallpox springs to mind. It is in the eradication of viral and bacterial dangers that their value is greatest, through grants, etc. (although it might be argued that the human species is being saved from extinction).

    Did anyone notice the parallels in process to protect state royalties between stem cell research and bioprospecting?

  31. Thinksy March 10, 2006 at 8:44 pm #

    No Neil, can you kindly elaborate on your last sentence?

  32. Neil Hewett March 10, 2006 at 9:50 pm #

    I couldn’t find a reference to establish protection of the state interest in stem cell research (perhaps someone else may be able to assist), but there seemed to me to be a greater emphasis establishing corporate structures to embrace the economic potential of stem cell research, than the research itself (as if an economically valuable medical breakthrough might not realise its full commercial capacity).

    Likewise, bioprospecting was largely held in abeyance pending the enactment of the Queensland Biodiscovery Act 2004, whose purpose is to:

    (a) to facilitate access by biodiscovery entities to minimal quantities of native biological resources on or in State land or Queensland waters (State native biological resources) for biodiscovery; and

    (b) to encourage the development, in the State, of value added biodiscovery; and

    (c) to ensure the State, for the benefit of all persons in the State, obtains a fair and equitable share in the benefits of biodiscovery; and

    (d) to ensure biodiscovery enhances knowledge of the State’s biological diversity, promoting conservation and sustainable use of native biological resources.

    As a consequence, bioprospecting entities would prefer to discover a cure for a disease from biological resources collected from privately owned lands to at least evade the magnitude of the conditional sharing of royalties.

    The natural capital of biodiversity for its pharmacological potential is now being contested in the rainforests of the Daintree, with the state majority landholder via the aforementioned Act and through the Commonwealth Govt’s Australian Rainforest Foundation, which is targeting highest biodiversity properties for voluntary acquisition and then seeking corporate investment from international bioprospectors for the royalty advantages.

  33. Ian Mott March 11, 2006 at 2:54 pm #

    An interesting point, Neil. There was a case in Brisbane where an assumed extinct species showed up on the creek bank of a Dairy Farm near the Logan motorway. Austromertus gonoclada was subsequently found in a number of other spots around the city but most of the population, especially the mature stems, was on Mr Murrays property on land that was first cleared in the 1880’s.

    So in theory, Mr Murray had been presented with a Wollemi Pine type opportunity to market seedlings from his trees and develop the commercial potential. But no such luck. The species was declared and any rights he had to even collect seeds from his trees was taken away.

    The commercial rights to the sale of seedlings was put out to tender but the successful bidder was loaded up with so much paperwork (he had to account for each seed, whether it germinated, each seedling, when it was sold and to whom etc) that the break even price, on top of his winning bid price, made them distinctly non-commercial.

    After all the added costs, the nurseryman had no budget for marketing even if there was scope left in the pricing structure for cost recovery.

    All this was done under the Threatened Species Recovery Plan for Austromertus gonoclada which also came with a budget of about $90,000. And for this $90,000 the relevant team, drawn from the local council, Logan City, and the usual bunch of green advisors, managed to do the odd veg survey, workshops etc, and got a princely total of 140 plants in the ground, mostly in local schools. This worked out at $642 for each new plant.

    The nurseryman is so disgusted by the process that he no longer even collects the seed. The landowner, Mr Murray, regards them as nothing more than a nuisance that attracts an endless supply of additional nuisances, in the form of veg and planning people who all need to visit the site on a regular basis.

    When myself and a few old forestry types took a look at the place the first thing we noticed was that the young trees had established themselves in exposed soil that had been disturbed by cattle on the creek bank. These areas had since been fenced off by the council to “protect” them and, predictably, no new seedlings can be seen outside the fenced area.

    Mr Murray has, in my opinion, been defrauded of his rights to collect seed from his own trees and enjoy the full range of commercial opportunites that would have followed. A single pass with a plough along the top of his creek bank could have seen more than 10,000 stems growing on almost a kilometre of creek line. And he would have done so for much less than $90,000.

    But due to the total bungling of the entire threat abatement policy and practice, particularly the fact that once established on his land he would be compelled to exclude stock and operate a private plant sanctuary at his own cost, the species remains on the threatened list.

    One member of Logan United Citizens Inc (LUCI) had the temerity to suggest that this species could be planted on the numerous traffic islands and roundabouts in the city as part of the existing vegetation mix but this sort of multiple use of a budget item was ruled out immediately.

    And one can only wonder how many other ‘recovery plans’ have been bungled like this one.

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