Threatened Species Day Fact Sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
The Darwin Palm is a slender palm that grows up to 12 metres high. It has multiple green trunks that are only 3-6 centimetres wide and feathery fronds with leaflets that grow up to one and a half metres long. Flowering spikes are produced in the dry season, from April to August, with the main fruiting period between August and December.
The Darwin Palm is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This Act is the main Commonwealth legislation for protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity.
The Darwin Palm is only found in eight small rainforest patches east of Darwin, within the Adelaide and Howard River system. It occurs over an area 30 kilometres long by 20 kilometres wide. Three of the eight rainforest patches occur within the Black Jungle Conservation Reserve, with the remainder occurring on freehold or pastoral lease land.
Threats include invasion by weeds, habitat degradation by feral animals and changes in water quantity and quality as a result of changing land use in the catchment. Feral pigs also graze on the seedlings and prevent populations becoming established.
In some areas, urban development and horticulture are threatening the species. Intense fires also threaten regeneration as they kill adult plants. Frequent fires prevent seedlings and young palms from growing while also allowing weeds to become established.
A large number of volunteers have assisted the Northern Territory Government in conducting regular monitoring and erecting fences to exclude feral animals. New populations have been established at the Darwin Botanic Gardens and Territory Wildlife Park, and a recovery team has been established.
Through the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust, the Government is providing funding towards the development of a national recovery plan for the Darwin Palm.
Fire breaks and fuel reduction burning around Darwin Palm populations during the dry season help to protect these plants from intense fires. Cooperative programs with landholders also help to protect Darwin Palm habitats.
Here's how you can help the Darwin Palm and other threatened species:
- join a local community group and undertake on-ground conservation work;
- control weeds on your property or nearby native bushland;
- get involved in regional planning to ensure that proposed developments do not impact on threatened species.
The varying nature of the Top End, with its hot, arid dry season and flooding rains of the stormy wet season have produced a unique Australian landscape containing a diverse array of plants and animals. About 98 per cent of rainfall occurs in the wet season between October and April.
The quality of surface water in many parts of the Northern Territory has been affected by horticultural and urban developments. The flow of water during the wet season can cause erosion of cleared land, and large volumes of soil and debris are washed into rivers, which causes sedimentation. Stormwater runoff can also introduce fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides into the local waterways.
Rainforest patches that contain the endangered Darwin Palm, are threatened by fluctuations in the underground water flow. These unique patches of rainforest are kept moist throughout the dry season by underground springs.
Increasingly, ground water is being used for irrigation and to supply drinking water. The extraction of water is affecting the flow of water to the springs, but the impact that this will have on the rainforest patches is not yet clearly understood.
A program has been established to monitor groundwater levels. This information will be used by governments, conservationists and industry to help manage groundwater in an ecologically and economically sustainable way.
Telephone: (08) 8941 7554
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772 or by visiting www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened