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 Critically Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].
 
Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ao) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, the cause of dieback is unknown, and there is limited understanding about the actions required to abate the threat of dieback. Therefore a dynamic and coordinated approach is required to address this threat and a recovery plan best services this need (13/07/2010).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Plan for the Eradication of Rabbits and Rodents on Subantarctic Macquarie Island (Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service (Tas. PWS), 2007a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (98) (13/07/2010) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010h) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan (Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service (Tas. PWS), 2006) [Management Plan].
TAS:Listing Statement for Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie cushions) (Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE), 2009a) [State Species Management Plan].
TAS:Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014bw) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
Scientific name Azorella macquariensis [21846]
Family Apiaceae:Apiales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author Orchard
Infraspecies author  
Reference Orchard, A.E. (1989) Azorella Lamarck (Apiaceae) on Heard and Macquarie Islands, with description of a new species, A. macquariensis. Muelleria 7(1): 16-18, Fig. 1 [tax. nov.]
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: Azorella macquariensis

Common name: Macquarie Cushions

Other common name: Macquarie Azorella

Conventionally accepted as Azorella macquariensis (CHAH 2010).

Macquarie Azorella is a perennial cushion-forming herb that can grow into mats of several metres in diameter. There are two distinct forms of the species, hairy and non-hairy. The leaf blade is kidney-shaped, usually with 3 or sometimes 5 lanceolate lobes that are hairless or sparsely and coarsely hairy on the upper surface. The petiole is 3–4 mm long and broadly winged. The bisexual flowers are solitary or sometimes paired. There are 2 involucral, leaf-like or lanceolate bracts that are fused at the base to form a cup. The egg-shaped fruit is hidden by upper leaves. Fruit are yellow-brown, almost sessile or on a 1 mm long pedicel (stalk), 1.3–1.7 mm long and weakly ribbed. The sepals are usually deciduous. The species will 'brown off' over winter (Hnatiuk 1993; Orchard 1989, 1993e; Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Macquarie Cushions are endemic to Macquarie Island, a sub-Antarctic island approximately 1500 km south-south-east of Tasmania (Tas. PWS 2006).

This species dominates feldmark vegetation areas of Macquarie Island and has an extent of occurrence less than 42 km2 (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Botanical survey and monitoring of vegetation on Macquarie Island has been extensive, with surveys and monitoring conducted on the island during most summers (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). Other sub-Antarctic islands have also had considerable survey effort (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Estimating the number of individuals of the Macquarie Cushions is difficult given its mat-forming habit. It is suggested that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals in the current extent of occurrence of 42 km2 (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). The species is considered to be in decline due to the threatening processes of dieback, browsing, scraping and climate change (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Macquarie Island is a Tasmanian Nature Reserve and a listed World Heritage Area (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). The Island is co-managed by Tasmania and the Commonwealth of Australia (Tas. PWS 2006). A small number of live plants are on display in the sub-Antarctic Glasshouse at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, and a small amount of seed is being held at the Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

In feldmark vegetation on Macquarie Island, Macquarie Cushions are the dominant vascular plant and forms a major structural component. On the Island, feldmark cover varies from 50% in sheltered sites to less than 5% in exposed sites. This vegetation type also contains dwarf flowering plants, mosses, lichens, liverworts and a significant amount of bare ground (AAD 2009a; Tas. DPIPWE 2009a; Tas. PWS 2006). The species occurs largely along the 200–400 m altitude plateau and occasionally on isolated rock stacks at lower elevations (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Macquarie Island lays just outside the Antarctic convergence and experiences large variations between the daylight hours of summer and winter. However, there is little variation in temperatures, with only 4–4.5 °C difference between mid-summer and mid-winter. The Island receives a mean annual rainfall of 1050 mm (APST 2010).

Macquarie Cushions flower from December to February and fruits from January to April. Current estimates indicate that there is less than 10% seed set in a single cushion (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Macquarie Cushions differ from Azorella selago, a species found on other sub-Antarctic islands such as Heard Island, Tierra del Fuego, Falkland, Marion, Crozet, Kerguelen and MacDonald Islands by its smaller leaves with fewer, more divided and acute lobes that are bristle-tipped, a shorter more entire ligule (hairy appendage between the sheaf and blade of a grass leaf) and by its solitary or paired flowers, non-exserted fruit and deciduous sepals (part of the flower) (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Dieback

Macquarie Cushions have undergone a catastrophic decline due to dieback in plants; first noted in December 2008 (Bergstrom n.d. unpub. data cited in Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). The cause of this dieback is unknown (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). By March 2009, dieback was evident across the entire range of the species, with approximately 90% of cushions dying in areas of the northern part of the island (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a) and a 60% decline over its entire range (Whinam & Fitzgerald 2013). As the species browns off in winter, monitoring of the problem is extremely difficult (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

There appear to be no barriers to the decline and, at the current rate of spread of the dieback, it is anticipated that Macquarie Cushions could become extinct in the short term (within a few years) (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). As this species is the main structural component of feldmark, the loss of Macquarie Cushions through this epidemic will cause severe modification to the ecosystem and is likely to lead to major erosion problems and decline of associated species (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Browsing and scraping

Grazing and scraping by Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) has a minor impact on feldmark communities on Macquarie Island (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a). However, with the possible increase in Rabbit numbers, with the eradication of the predator feral Cats (Felis catus), this browsing and scraping pressure may increase (APST 2010).

The browsing of taproots of the species by Rabbits or Rodents (Rattus spp. and Mus spp.) is suggested as a possible cause of the introduced or recently virulent pathogens that may be causing the dieback phenomenon. Rabbits and rodents are currently the subject of a vertebrate pests eradication program for Macquarie Island (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Climate change

Climate data shows significant warming of Macquarie Island with an increase of over half a degree in the last 50 years (Pendlebury & Barnes-Keoghan 2007; Tweedie & Bergstrom 2000). Climate change may increase the risk of alien species, including pathogens, being introduced to the Island or allow existing species to become pathogenic, either directly or through changed interactions with other species (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

The Tasmanian Government Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a) identifies the following actions to help protect Macquarie Cushions on Macquarie Island:

  • determine the cause of the decline and implement appropriate control measures where possible
  • fence an area containing the species to determine whether this can arrest the decline
  • ensure that the implementation of the Macquarie Island pest eradication plan (Tas. PWS 2007a) continues
  • continue stringent biosecurity controls to prevent the introduction of alien species to Macquarie Island
  • implement biosecurity controls to minimise the risk of spread of any pathogen that may be implicated in the dieback, from Macquarie to other sub-Antarctic islands or to Tasmania
  • supplement the collection of living plants at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
  • attempt to propagate the species using tissue culture techniques
  • supplement the collection of seed for long term storage as part of the Tasmanian Seed Safe project set up under the Millennium Seed Bank project being conducted under the auspices of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (joint partners in Tasmania include Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and the Tasmanian Herbarium).

Works that have been started include:

  • Monitoring of the extent of dieback has begun by staff of the Parks and Wildlife Service, as well as testing for fungi and bacterium in leaf material of samples which determined that the species of pathogen were saprophytic rather than pathogenic. Testing for Phytophthora and other possible pathogens from leaf material proved negative.
  • Implementation of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Plan (Tas. PWS 2007a) a jointly funded Tasmanian and Australian Government $24.6 million seven year project to rid the Island of Rabbits and Rodents has also begun (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a), though some aspects were delayed in 2010 due to extremely bad weather (APST 2010). The pest eradication plan includes the construction of Rabbit-proof exclosures at sites under severe pressure; test baiting around Penguin (Pygoscelis spp.) colonies to determine Penguin response; and use of hunting dogs to target surviving Rabbits (Tas. DPIPWE 2009a).

Management documents relevant to Macquarie Cushions include:

  • Plan for the Eradication of Rabbits and Rodents on Subantarctic Macquarie Island (Tas. PWS 2007a)
  • Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan (Tas. PWS 2006).

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
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate Change and Severe Weather:Climate change altering atmosphere/hydrosphere temperatures, rainfall patterns and/or frequency of severe weather events Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation by rats Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, competition and/or habitat degradation Mus musculus (House Mouse) Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Introduction of pathogens and resultant disease Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:unspecified Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2010ac) [Listing Advice].

Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) (2009a). Macquarie Island Flora: Plateau Uplands. Australian Antarctic Division, Tasmania. [Online]. Available from: http://www.aad.gov.au/default.asp?casid=1977.

Australian Plant Society Tasmania (APST) (2010). Plants of Macquarie Island. [Online]. Available from: http://www.apstas.com/sgaptas-treas3.htm.

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/.

Hnatiuk, R.J. (1993). Subantarctic Islands. In: George A.S., A.E. Orchard & H.J. Hewson, eds. Flora of Australia. Oceanic Islands 2. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Orchard, A.E. (1989). Azorella Lamarek (Hydrocotylaceae) on Heard and Macquarie Islands. Muelleria. 7:15-20.

Orchard, A.E. (1993e). Apiaceae. In: Flora of Australia: Oceanic Islands. 50:314-317. Canberra: AGPS.

Pendlebury, S.F. & I.P. Barnes-Keoghan (2007). Climate and climate change in the sub-Antarctic. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. 141:67-81.

Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service (Tas. PWS) (2006). Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan. [Online]. Hobart, Tasmania: Department of Tourism, Arts and the Environment. Available from: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=6182.

Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service (Tas. PWS) (2007a). Plan for the Eradication of Rabbits and Rodents on Subantarctic Macquarie Island. [Online]. Hobart: Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/publications/protecting/macquarie-rabbit-eradication-plan.html.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2009a). Listing Statement for Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie cushions). [Online]. Threatened Species Section, DPIPWE. Available from: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/threatenedspecieslists.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010ac). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/21846-listing-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2010ao). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Azorella macquariensis (Macquarie Azorella, Macquarie Cushions). [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/21846-conservation-advice.pdf.

Tweedie C.E. & D.M. Bergstrom (2000). A climate change scenario for surface air temperature at subantarctic Macquarie Island. In: Davison W., C. Howard-Jones & P. Broady, eds. Antarctic Ecosystems: Models for Wider Ecological Understanding. Page(s) 272-281. Christchurch: New Zealand Natural Sciences.

Whinam, J. & N. Fitzgerald (2013). Macquarie Island vegetation bounces back from rabbit impacts. Potts, W., ed. Tasmanian Flora Network - latest threatened species listing changes, news and updates. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

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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). Azorella macquariensis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 2 Oct 2014 10:19:49 +1000.