Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epacris barbata (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008adc) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epacris barbata (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008adp) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Flora Recovery Plan: Threatened Tasmanian Forest Epacrids (Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE), 2011) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (Department of the Environment, 2014a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (05/10/2001) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2001c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (62) (14/11/2008) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008n) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
TAS:Threatened Species Notesheet - Epacris barbata (Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE), 2009c) [Information Sheet].
TAS:Epacris barbata (Bearded Heath, Freycinet Heath): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014ch) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
Scientific name Epacris barbata [17625]
Family Epacridaceae:Ericales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author Melville
Infraspecies author  
Reference Kew Bulletin for 1952: 176, fig. 2 (25 Jul. 1952).
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://www.bushcare.tas.gov.au/info/thspecies3.htm#epac_bar

Scientific name: Epacris barbata

Common name: Bearded Heath, Freycinet Heath

Bearded Heath is a woody shrub in the Epacridaceae family. It has small hard leaves that are prickly to touch, and small white flowers that occur in clusters at the ends of the branches.

Bearded Heath is an erect multi-stemmed shrub growing up to 2 m tall. Its branches are robust, bearing thick recurved lance-shaped leaves, 7–9.5 mm long and 3–5 mm wide with short stalks (less than 1 mm long), a pungent apex and a conspicuous mid-vein on the lower surface. Flowers are white, solitary in the leaf axils, subsessile and clustered at the ends of branches. The style is 5–6.5 mm long; stigma and anthers are half-exserted from the corolla tube which is 4–5.5 mm long and has five lobes 5–6.5 mm long. The sepals are densely pubescent (Curtis 1963; Keith 1997).

Bearded Heath is endemic to Tasmania, occurring on the Freycinet Peninsula and Schouten Island on Tasmania's central east coast. The linear range of the species is 30 km (Keith 1997d).

The extent of occurrence of Bearded Heath is 120–130 km² (based on the minimum convex polygon encompassing all known subpopulations; TSS n.d., unpubl. data).

The area of occupancy is 1.5 km² (this figure is based on quantitative estimates of the area of occupancy) (Keith 1997d; TSS n.d., unpubl. data).

Bearded Heath is considered to occur in one location, as scattered pockets of the soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi (root-rot fungus) occur throughout the species' habitat, threatening all subpopulations (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Targeted surveys for Bearded Heath were undertaken in the mid-1990s as part of projects focusing on species threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi (Barker 1994, 1996a), as well as during development of the Tasmanian Forest Epacrids Recovery Plan (Keith 1997, 1997d). Extension surveys were also undertaken during the Recovery Plan's implementation phase (1999–2002), with additional surveys of potential habitat on Schouten Island by Department of Primary Industry, Water and Environment (DPIWE) personnel in late 2004 and 2005 (TSS n.d., unpubl. data). Eleven subpopulations of Bearded Heath were confirmed in 1996 (Keith 1997); a further four subpopulations have been discovered in the period since (5, 6, 8 and 14 in Table 1), with considerable expansions to the known subpopulation on Schouten Island.

It is unlikely that Bearded Heath populations will be found outside the known extent of occurrence, given the high level of past survey effort and the species' habitat preference. However, the population size should be viewed as approximate only, due to the limitations involved in surveying for a species that has a very patchy distribution in a dissected landscape (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

The total population size of Bearded Heath is estimated to be in the order of 95 000 mature individuals (Table 1; includes mean estimates of Keith (1997d) and unpublished data held by the Threatened Species Section (TSS)).

The species has been recorded from fifteen subpopulations (Table 1; TSS n.d., unpubl. data). Discrete patches of Bearded Heath separated by discontinuities of at least 0.5 km are presumed to be individual subpopulations (Keith 2004).

TABLE 1. Bearded Heath in Tasmania.


  Subpopulations 1:25000 mapsheet Year last seen Area occupy (ha) Number of mature plants Specific
Threats
1 Friendly Point Friendly 2003 0.2* 200* PC
2 Middleton Creek Coles Bay 2002 1.3* 12 230* PC
3 Cape Tourville Coles Bay 2001 0.1* 20* PC, road disturbance
4 Sleepy Bay Rd & Coles Bay Rd Coles Bay 2003 0.1* 65* PC, road disturbance
5 Mt Parsons & Mt Baudin Coles Bay 2001 9.1# 3880# PC
6 Mt Dove Coles Bay 2001 2.4# 1040# PC
7 Mt Amos Coles Bay 2001 3.9* 7850* PC, track disturbance
8 Mt Mayson Coles Bay 2001 8.4# 3390# PC
9 Lonney Creek Coles Bay 2002 0.0001* 9* PC, track disturbance
10 South Wineglass Bay Graham 2001 11* 14 700* PC, track disturbance
11 Mt Graham Graham 2001 0.0005* 10* PC, track disturbance
12 Gates Bluff Graham 1987 (or 1996)? 0.1* 20* PC
13 Callitris Creek Graham 1996 0.02* 300* PC
14 Cape Degerando Schouten 2001 3.6# 2220# PC
15 Schouten Island Schouten 2005 c. 120# c. 50 000# PC

Data sources: * = mean estimates from Keith (1997d); # = unpublished data held by the TSS, DPIWE.
Subpopulations are ordered arbitrarily from north to south; PC = Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Keith (2000) observed mean rates of decline of 23% per year, 4% per year, 17% per year and 17% per year at diseased sites within subpopulations 2, 4, 13 and 15, respectively. These figures were based on monitoring in 1995 and 1996 (Keith 2000).

Keith (2000) used the above data to infer a projected population decline for the species of 99% over three generations (assuming a generation length of 15 years). The projection assumed a constant rate of decline due to Phytophthora cinnamomi and no recruitment, and also assumed that the disease would spread to currently uninfected subpopulations in the near future.

DPIWE surveys in the period 2001–2005 have demonstrated that such assumptions are inappropriate at the population level (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).


All known Bearded Heath subpopulations are infected by Phytophthora cinnamomi, albeit to varying degrees. However, there are natural barriers to future intra-subpopulation spread for the majority of subpopulations. This is especially so for subpopulations occupying the rocky knolls that characterises much of the species' rocky outcrop habitat. Extensive surveys by DPIWE personnel of the species' rocky habitat on Schouten Island (subpopulation 15) and Freycinet Peninsula (subpopulations 5–9) in the period 2001–2005 have demonstrated that Bearded Heath persists in numbers far greater than previously realised, even close to areas known to be infested with Phytophthora cinnamomi in the mid 1990s (Rudman & Schahinger 2006). The projected rate of decline for the population over three generations is likely to be considerably less than the estimates of Keith (2000), though it should be noted that quantitative data to support this claim is not available (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Bearded Heath numbers are likely to fluctuate considerably due to the mass germination of soil-stored seed following the passage of fire, though plants are also capable of resprouting post-fire (Keith 2004).

The generation length for Bearded Heath is thought to be about 8–30 years, based on studies of the species' life history attributes (Keith 2004). Keith (2000) used a conservative estimate of 15 years in his projections of population declines.

All known Bearded Heath occurs within Freycinet National Park. Management for the species is essentially passive, except for Phytophthora cinnamomi management. Proposed activities within the Park are subject to the Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice (Parks and Wildlife Service et al. 2003).

Bearded Heath occurs in open heath and heathy woodland/forest in hilly and low-lying terrain from 30–500 m elevation, either in shallow sandy loams or skeletal sands among rocky outcrops (Keith 1997). The species' habitat may be classified in broad terms as 'shallow sandy loam' and 'rocky outcrop' (Keith 2004).

Bearded Heath occurs exclusively on Devonian adamellite-granite in open heath and heathy woodland/forest in hilly and low-lying terrain from 30–500 m elevation (Keith 1997d).

Associated EPBC-listed species include the Freycinet Waxflower, Philotheca freyciana, listed as Critically Endangered.

The species' mature phase is thought to be in the age range of 8–30 years, with life expectancy up to 60 years (Keith 2004).


Flowering commences in early spring and is complete by late spring. Known pollinators of Epacris taxa include a variety of adult carrion flies from the families Tabanidae, Muscidae and Calliphoridae (Keith 1997). There is no data available for the breeding system of the species. Fruit production for Epacris species depends on plant size, fire history and shading by the canopies of neighbouring plants, with up to several thousand seeds produced each year (Keith 1997). Fruit production is substantially reduced in shaded plants, with high rates of abortion among developing fruits. Other fruit losses may result from predation, browsing herbivores and mechanical damage (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Seeds are dispersed regularly each summer (Keith 2004). Dispersal is passive, and very few seeds are likely to be dispersed more than a few metres from their parent plant. The longevity of Epacris seeds is unknown, though Keith (1997) indicates that appreciable numbers of seeds survive for two years after release into the seed bank. Seeds remain dormant until released by heat shock and smoke-related cues associated with the passage of fire, while plants surviving fire may resprout new foliage from the bases of stems (Keith 2004).

Bearded Heath may be distinguished from other Epacris species in Tasmania by its densely hairy sepals, large floral parts, and a style that is exserted from the corolla tube (Curtis 1963; Crowden & Menadue 2001).

Surveys should be conducted during the species' peak flowering period, September to November. Wet conditions should be avoided to minimise the risk of spreading Phytophthora cinnamomi (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Phytophthora cinnamomi
Bearded Heath is known to be highly susceptible to the introduced soil-borne pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi (Barker 1994; Keith 1997). Scattered Phytophthora infestations occur throughout the species' range, with highest mortalities recorded in the species' 'shallow sandy loam' habitat (Keith 2004). The plant's 'rocky outcrop' habitat provides some protection in terms of delaying the spread of the pathogen from local infestations. The pathogen may be spread locally with the movement of soil water and hyphal growth, with dispersal between sites in soil transported by walkers, vehicles and native animals. Two of the smaller subpopulations (3 and 4) are close to existing roads traversed by tourist and management vehicles, while the other subpopulations are within areas accessible only to bushwalkers (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Keith (2000) observed mean rates of decline of 23% per year, 4% per year, 17% per year and 17% per year at diseased sites within subpopulations 2, 4, 13 and 15, respectively, and used the above data to infer a projected population decline for the species of 99% over three generations. However, more recent DPIWE surveys indicate that the rate of decline is likely to be considerably less than Keith's estimates (although quantitative estimates are not available) (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Fire
Over-frequent or infrequent burning both pose a potential threat to Bearded Heath, though there is no evidence of declines associated with such scenarios. Fire intervals of less than eight years may lead to a decline in population sizes by preventing seedlings from reaching maturity, while intervals greater than 30 years may result in senescence (Keith 2004). The recent fire history of the species' habitat within Freycinet National Park is characterised by occasional extensive wildfires arising from acts of arson or accident, with some small areas subject to ecological burns by the Park's managers (Parks and Wildlife Service 1995, 2002). The species may resprout following fire, though there is little information on the plant's specific response to the intensity or timing of fire (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2008adc) recommends the following local and regional priority recovery and threat abatement actions:

  • Develop and implement a suitable fire management strategy for Bearded Heath.
  • Identify appropriate intensity and interval of fire to promote seed germination and vegetation regeneration.
  • Undertake appropriate seed collection and storage.
  • Develop and implement suitable hygiene protocols to protect known sites from further outbreaks of dieback caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi.
  • Implement appropriate management actions to minimise the adverse impacts of existing Phytophthora cinnamomiinfestations.

Specific recovery objectives relevant to Bearded Heath in the Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999–2004(Keith 1997) were to:

 

  • Develop and promote management guidelines.
  • Locate key populations and determine suitable management areas for protection.
  • Minimise infections and impacts of Phytophthora cinnamomi.
  • Know the current status of key populations and understand critical life history parameters.

Phytophthora management
A Phytophthora management zone that includes subpopulations 5 to 7 is in place within Freycinet National Park (Schahinger et al. 2003). Any planned development or activity in the 444 ha area requires the submission of a formal project proposal, and must be endorsed by DPIWE's Biodiversity Conservation Branch. Specific management prescriptions may be prescribed depending on the nature of the proposed activity. A 'dry' washdown station has been installed at the Sleepy Bay end of the Hazards to reduce the risk of further disease spread by bushwalkers (the pathogen is already scattered throughout the management area) (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

An interpretation panel and pamphlets dealing with Phytophthoraissues is available to park visitors at the Freycinet National Park visitor centre at Coles Bay.

Fire management
Freycinet National Park is subject to a fire management plan that aims to maintain levels of biodiversity and foster the long-term survival of threatened species (Parks and Wildlife Service 2002). Several ecological burns are planned for areas that support Bearded Heath during the period of the fire plan, 2002–2012. Parks and Wildlife Service (Tasmania) and DPIWE personnel are responsible for monitoring the species' response to such burns (Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Monitoring and ecology
The response of Bearded Heath to Phytophthora cinnamomihas been monitored at two sites within Freycinet National Park over the period 1995–2002, namely, Middleton Creek (subpopulation 2) and Bear Hill on Schouten Island (subpopulation 15) (Barker 1996a; Keith 2000, 2004).

Extension surveys
DPIWE personnel undertook surveys of potential habitat on Schouten Island to the south of the Freycinet Peninsula in 2004 and 2005 to gauge the continuing impact of Phytophthora cinnamomion Bearded Heath and other threatened species (TSS n.d., unpubl. data).

Improved formal reservation
The species' reservation status has been improved since the Recovery Plan (Keith 1997) with the proclamation of additional areas of public land (subpopulation 2 within Freycinet National Park). However, reservation in this instance has not improved the species' chances of survival due to the presence of Phytophthora cinnamomi(Schahinger 2005, pers. comm.).

Development assessments
The Conservation Assessment Section (DPIWE) and the Forest Practices Authority (Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy & Resources) are required to consider the impacts of proposed developments on any species listed under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.

Other
An ex situliving plant collection has been established at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (Hobart) that may allow for suitable stock of the plant to be available for horticultural purposes (Keith 1997).

Guidelines relevant to the conservation of Bearded Heath can be found in:

  • Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith 1997)
  • Conservation of Tasmanian Plant Species and Communities threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi. Strategic Regional Plan for Tasmania (Schahinger et al. 2003)
  • Threat Abatement Plan for Dieback Caused by the Root-Rot Fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi (EA 2001l).

  • The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

    Threat Class Threatening Species References
    Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epacris barbata (Bearded Heath, Freycinet Heath) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001av) [Listing Advice].
    Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epacris barbata (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008adp) [Listing Advice].
    Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
    Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Vegetation and habitat loss caused by dieback Phytophthora cinnamomi Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
    Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epacris barbata (Bearded Heath, Freycinet Heath) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001av) [Listing Advice].
    Commonwealth Listing Advice on Epacris barbata (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2008adp) [Listing Advice].
    Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
    Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
    Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].

    Barker, P C J (1996a). Extension surveys and long term monitoring plots for selected species threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi in Tasmania. Forestry Tas. & Aust. Nature Conservation Agency.

    Barker, P.C.J. (1994). Phytophthora cinnamoni: The susceptibility and management of selected Tasmanian rare species. Hobart, Tasmania: Forestry Tasmania.

    Crowden, R.K. & Y. Menadue (2001). Tasmanian Epacridaceae. Australian Plants. 21(167):118-127.

    Curtis, W.M. (1963). The Student's flora of Tasmania. Part 2. Angiospermae: Lythraceae to Epacridaceae. Hobart: Government Printer.

    Department of the Environment (2014a). Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi. [Online]. Canberra; ACT: Department of the Environment. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/threat-abatement-plan-disease-natural-ecosystems-caused-phytophthora-cinnamomi.

    Environment Australia (EA) (2001m). Threat Abatement Plan for Dieback Caused by the Root-rot Fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/phytophthora.html.

    Keith, D. (1997). Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004. [Online]. Hobart: Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/tas-forest/index.html.

    Keith, D. (1997d). The distribution and population status of rare Tasmanian forest Epacrids. Unpublished report. Hobart: Nature Conservation Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

    Keith, D. (2004). Australian Heath Shrub (Epacris barbata): Viability under Management Options for Fire and Disease. In: Akcakaya, H.R. , M.A. Burgman and O. Kindvall, eds. Species Conservation and Management: Case Studies. Oxford University Press.

    Keith, D.A. (2000). Sampling designs, field techniques and analytical methods for systematic plant population surveys. Ecological Management & Restoration. 1(2):125-139.

    Parks and Wildlife Service (1995). Freycinet National Park Management Plan. Department of Environment and Land Management, Hobart.

    Parks and Wildlife Service (2002). Freycinet Reserves Fire Management Plan. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart.

    Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Tasmania and Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (2003). Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice. [Online]. Hobart, Tasmania: Department of Tourism, Parks, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=6901.

    Rudman, T. & R. Schahinger (2006). Schouten Island Epacris barbata, Boronia rozefeldsii and Phytophthora cinnamomi distribution summary. Internal file note # 505873, Biodiversity Conservation Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart.

    Schahinger R. (2005). Personal communication.

    Schahinger, R., T. Rudman & T. Wardlaw (2003). Conservation of Tasmanian Plant Species & Communities threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi. Strategic Regional Plan for Tasmania. Technical Report 03/03. Hobart, Tasmania: Nature Conservation Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

    Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2008adc). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Epacris barbata. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/17625-conservation-advice.pdf.

    Threatened Species Section (TSS) (no date). Unpublished data held by the Threatened Species Section. Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (DPIWE), Hobart.

    EPBC Act email updates can be received via the Communities for Communities newsletter and the EPBC Act newsletter.

    This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

    Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Epacris barbata in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 00:53:13 +1000.