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
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].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
TAS:Threatened Species Notesheet - Epacris exserta (Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE), 2008e) [Information Sheet].
TAS:Epacris exserta (South Esk Heath): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014ci) [State Action Plan].
VIC:Listing Statement for Epacris exserta (South Esk Heath) (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2010) [State Species Management Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
Scientific name Epacris exserta [19879]
Family Epacridaceae:Ericales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author R.Br.
Infraspecies author  
Reference Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae: 551 (27 Mar. 1810).
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

Scientific name: Epacris exserta

Common name: South Esk Heath

Conventionally accepted as Epacris exserta (CHAH 2010).

The South Esk Heath is an erect multi-stemmed shrub growing up to 1.5 m in height. The young stems are hairless or only slightly hairy. The leaves are narrow-lanceolate to elliptical in shape, 7–11 mm long by 1.1–1.3 mm wide, with an acute but blunt apex, that has a short point often turned slightly inwards. The white flowers are large and clustered in the axils of the top few leaves of the new season's branchlets. Flowers are tube-like, with the corolla (tube) cylindrical and longer than the calyx (group of petals at the end of the corolla). Filaments and stigma protrude from the corolla tube (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e).

South Esk Heath is endemic to a restricted area in northern Tasmania. Three populations are known (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e):

  • along the South Esk River below the Trevallyn Dam (Launceston)
  • along the lower reaches of the Supply River (West Tamar)
  • along the North Esk River upstream of Corra Linn.

The species estimated extent of occurrence is 260 km2 with an area of occupancy between 5–10 ha (TSS 2010).

Surveys along the North Esk River in 2007 suggest there is a likelihood of additional plants being discovered in this area due to the suitable habitat not previously surveyed. The major tributaries of the North Esk River, including St Patricks River and Weavers Creek, may also provide suitable habitat for the species (TSS 2010).

Surveys of the species' riparian habitat along the lower South Esk River between Trevallyn Dam and the First Basin occurred in 2000 (North Barker & Associates 2001 cited in TSS 2010), and surveys along the North Esk River system occurred in 2007 (ECOtas 2007 cited in TSS 2010).

There are three known South Esk Heath populations. A fourth population on private land at Nile River is presumed extinct (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e; TSS 2010):

Population Land tenure Numbers Extent along river Area of occupancy
Lower South Esk River (First Basin to Trevallyn Dam) Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area and Launceston Council 55–60 5.6 km 1 ha
North Esk River (Corra Linn to St Patricks River) Private land and Crown Land 1000 20 km 5–10 ha
Supply River Crown Land 30–50 1 km 0.1 ha
Nile River Unknown Presumed extinct    

The South Esk Heath is known from the Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area, Alum Cliffs State Reserve, Gog Range Regional Reserve, Cataract Gorge Municipal Reserve and Dogs Head Hill Forest Reserve (CoA 1999d; Schahinger et al. 2003; Tas. DPIPWE 2008e).

South Esk Heath occurs in riparian habitats that are subject to periodic inundation with water. It grows in alluvium soil amongst Jurassic dolerite boulders within dense riparian scrub, or occasionally in open rocky sites (TSS 2010). It is also found on swamp margins and on river banks in riparian scrub, shrub swamp and ecotonal dry forest on dolerite and alluvium (Keith 1997). The elevation range of the species is 10–310 m above sea level (TSS 2010).

Species associated with the South Esk Heath include Blackwood Wattle (Acacia melanoxylon), Common Dogwood (Pomaderris apetala) and River Tridentbush (Micrantheum hexandrum) (TSS 2010).

South Esk Heath flowers in spring (September–November). Carrion fly families (Tabanidae, Muscidae and Calliphoridae) are known pollinators. It is likely that other flies are also pollinators for the species (Keith 1997). If fruit is produced several thousand seeds can be produced by each plant per year. Fruit production is dependent on a range of variables such as size of the plant, fire history of the population, the amount of shading at the site and the level of fruit predation (Keith 1997).

Seeds are released from summer to early autumn, with seeds dispersed via the riparian streams and rivers along which the species is situated (Keith 1997). Seeds are suggested to survive up to a minimum of two years in the soil seed bank (Keith 1997). Seedling recruitment is considered likely to reflect the occurrence of flood events (TSS 2010). Plants are estimated to live for 30–40 years (Keith 1997).

The South Esk Heath is best identified during the flowering period, with September to late October being the best period for surveying the species (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e). The leaf shape (narrow-lanceolate to elliptical) and concentration of flowers at the end of the branches distinguish this species from similar species such as Franklin's Heath (E. mucronulata) and the Pretty Heath (E. virgata) which also inhabits riparian areas (Keith 1997). The South Esk Heath possesses anthers and stigmas that project above the plane of the corolla lobes, whereas Franklin's Heath (E. mucronulata) and the Western River Heath (E. franklinii) have anthers and stigmas that are enclosed within the corolla tube (TSS 2010).

Land clearance

Since European settlement, the lower reaches of the South Esk River have been cleared and led to the local extinction of populations. Future broadscale clearing of this vegetation is unlikely given the vegetation community, within which the South Esk Heath occurs, is now listed as Threatened under the Nature Conservation Act 2002 (Tasmania) (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e).

Mineral exploitation and extraction in the area where South Esk Heath occurs could lead to the spread of disease and localised habitat destruction (Keith 1997).

Inundation and regulated flow regimes

The construction of Trevallyn Dam in the 1950s is likely to have destroyed and inundated South Esk Heath subpopulations. The dam is also likely to disrupt future natural recolonisation. Future major dam construction and regulated flow regimes are potential threats to the North Esk River subpopulation (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e).

Weed invasion

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Willow (Salix spp.) have invaded the riparian habitat of the South Esk Heath. Weed invasion of populations is exacerbated by the proximity of many sites to urban and agricultural environments. Weeds compete with the species through direct competition, and by reducing the available habitat for the species to recolonise (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e).

Fire

South Esk Heath is considered to be fire sensitive, as the niche habitat of the species is within riparian areas that are often protected from fire events. The changing of fire regimes to frequent low intensity burns in areas adjoining the South Esk River has led to the disappearance of a number of wet gully and riparian species. The long-term survival of the South Esk Heath depends on protection of the riparian vegetation habitat and, therefore, the exclusion of fire. Keith (1997) suggested that too frequent fires would also deplete the soil seed bank before new recruits were of a suitable age to set seed and the seed store large enough to tolerate another fire. Six to 8 years is therefore suggested as a period range between fire events (Keith 1997). The threat of fire may be greater in the future due to increasingly dry conditions associated with climate change (Tas. DPIPWE 2008e).

Stochastic risks

Two of the three known subpopulations support fewer than 100 mature plants, with no signs of recent recruitment at the South Esk River site. As a result, the species is considered to be at risk from local extinctions due to unforeseen human activities or stochastic events (Keith 1997; TSS 2010).

Grazing and dieback

South Esk Heath is sensitive to grazing and to the root-rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi, which can be spread to populations from access tracks and by bushwalkers accidentally importing soil (CoA 1999d; Schahinger et al. 2003).

Recovery actions

The South Esk Heath listing statement (TSS 2010) and the national recovery plan for Tasmanian epacrids (Keith 1997) identifies the following recovery actions:

  • Provide information and extension support to relevant Natural Resource Management committees, local councils, Government agencies and the local community (Keith 1997; TSS 2010).
  • Survey to determine the species' full extent along the North Esk River and its major tributaries, especially St Patricks River, and the identify management issues (TSS 2010).
  • Secure and improve management of subpopulations on private land through private land conservation programs (Keith 1997; TSS 2010).
  • Prepare and implement a strategic weed management plan for Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area (South Esk River) and along the North Esk River (TSS 2010).
  • The fire management plans for Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area should identify the species' riparian habitat as a fire-exclusion zone (Keith 1997; TSS 2010).
  • Reduce the threat of disease by implementing appropriate hygiene protocols for fire and logging operations, realigning tracks as appropriate and treating disease symptoms (Keith 1997).
  • Formally reserve areas of Crown land along the North Esk and Supply River where subpopulations occur (TSS 2010).
  • Collect seed from the Supply River and South Esk River subpopulations for the Millennium Seedbank Conservation Project (TSS 2010).
  • Examine the species' life history attributes and undertake biennial monitoring of known subpopulations to determine the level of recruitment and/or plant loss and to better inform management prescriptions (TSS 2010).
  • Logging protocols are implemented for all populations outside reserves to ensure protection of standing plants and avoidance of high frequency disturbance (Keith 1997).
  • Proposals for mineral exploration and development are assessed and modified, where necessary, to avoid direct disturbance of, and spread of disease to populations of threatened Epacris spp. (Keith 1997).

Undertaken actions

The following actions have been undertaken:

  • Surveys of the species' riparian habitat along the lower South Esk River between Trevallyn Dam and the First Basin in 2000 (North Barker & Associates 2001 cited in TSS 2010), and surveys along the North Esk River system in 2007 (ECOtas 2007 cited in TSS 2010).
  • Weed removal works have been undertaken along the lower reaches of the South Esk River, with Willow being targeted in the area between Duck Reach and Second Basin (North Barker & Associates 2001 cited in TSS 2010; Parks & Wildlife Service 2008 cited in TSS 2010) and Launceston City Council have been active in the Cataract Gorge Reserve (TSS 2010).
  • Areas along the Supply and North Esk Rivers that support South Esk Heath have been recommended to become formal reserves (CLAC Project Team 2006a, 2006b cited in TSS 2010).
  • Seed has been collected from the North Esk subpopulation for long-term storage as part of the Millennium Seedbank Conservation Project (TSS 2010).

Management documents for the South Esk Heath can be found at the start of this profile. Other management documents relevant to the species include:

  • Conservation of Tasmanian Plant Species and Communities threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi (Schahinger et al. 2003).

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
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat loss, modification and degradation due to firewood collection Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Habitat loss/conversion/quality decline/degradation 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:Competition and/or habitat degradation Erica lusitanica (Spanish Heath, Portuguese Heath, Heath) 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:Competition and/or habitat degradation Ulex europaeus (Gorse, Furze) 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:Competition and/or habitat degradation Chrysanthemoides monilifera (Bitou Bush, Boneseed) Weeds of National Significance Bitou Bush and Boneseed (Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata and monilifera) Strategic Plan (Agriculture & Resources Management Council of Australia & New Zealand, Australian & New Zealand Environment & Conservation Council and Forestry Ministers, 2000b) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Erica baccans (Heath) 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:Competition and/or habitat degradation Erica quadrangularis (Heath) 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:Competition and/or habitat degradation Rubus fruticosus aggregate (Blackberry, European Blackberry) 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: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].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
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].
Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development 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].

Commonwealth of Australia (CoA) (1999d). Tasmania-Commonwealth Regional Forest Agreement: Summary of Life history and population dynamics for vascular forest flora. [Online]. Available from: http://www.rfa.gov.au/rfa/tas/raa/envher/volumes1-4/fl_index.html.

Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) (2010). Australian Plant Census. [Online]. Australian National Herbarium, Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian Biological Resources Study . Available from: http://www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/.

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.

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.

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.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2008e). Threatened Species Notesheet - Epacris exserta. [Online]. Available from: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/Attachments/LJEM-7522CH/$FILE/Epacris%20exserta.pdf.

Threatened Species Section (TSS) (2010). Listing Statement for Epacris exserta (South Esk Heath). [Online]. Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Available from: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter-nsf/Attachments/LJEM-87A9RW/$FILE/Epacris%20exserta%20listing%20statement.pdf.

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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 exserta in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:48:44 +1000.