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, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement advice for predation, habitat degradation,competition and disease transmission by feral pigs (2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014p) [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 Listing Status
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): May 2014 list)
Scientific name Chingia australis [24603]
Family Thelypteridaceae:Aspidiales:Polypodiatae:Polypodiophyta:Plantae
Species author Holttum
Infraspecies author  
Reference Kew Bulletin 41 (1986) 518.
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: Chingia australis

Chingia, Family Thelypteridaceae, is a small genus of about 20 species that are found throughout Melesia (south-east Asian mainland and archipelagos stretching to New Guinea) and eastwards to Tahiti. Chingia australis is the only Australian representative of the genus and is endemic to north Queensland (Herbert 2006).

Chingia australis is a terrestrial, tree-like fern with a rhizome (underground stem) forming an erect or prostrate trunk. The trunk grows to 60 cm tall and to 10 cm in diameter. The fronds (fern leaves) are up to 2.6 m long, 0.8 m wide and bright green in colour, with a more or less erect stipe (stalk of the frond) and an arching lamina (the part of the frond excluding the stipe). Immature fronds of C. australis are sticky and produce a glandular secretion that has a distinctive spicy odour and is a mucous membrane irritant. The stipe is up to 0.5 m long and covered in minute capitae (enlarged, spherical tipped) hairs. Scales on the stipe are erect, often sticking out at right angles to the stipe, up to 10 mm long, 1 mm wide and are rather sparsely arranged above the base of the stipe (Andrews 1990; Bostock 1998b).

Chingia australis lamina are ovate with up to 40 pairs of pinnae (divisions of the lamina). Basal pinnae grow to 24 cm long and are narrow at their bases; the largest pinnae grow to 33 cm long and 3 cm wide, are narrowly acuminate and lobed to a depth of 3–6 mm. Lower surfaces of the pinnae are covered with many capitate hairs and are 0.1–0.2 mm long. A distinctive translucent membrane (also known as the sinus membrane) joins the pinna lobes. The sori (containing the spores) may be small with a tiny indusium (protective covering); however, this indusium is frequently absent. Sori are arranged along and close to the midrib of the lobes. The spores are black (Andrews 1990; Bostock 1998b).

Chingia australis is a fern with a highly restricted distribution. The species is endemic to north-east Queensland, where it is distributed between two areas: in and around Wooroonooran National Park (approximately 25 km west of Innisfail) and in an area adjacent to Daintree National Park (Herbert 2006). Holttum (1986a) first described C. australis based on a single collection made in Wooroonooran National Park. Since then, the plant has been found in a further seven locations in the vicinity of the original location (southern populations). It has also been collected in five locations in the vicinity of the Daintree National Park (northern populations). One of these populations is known to have become extinct since its discovery in May 2000 (Herbert 2006).

Surveying difficulties and the ephemeral nature of populations make it extremely difficult to determine the historical distribution of C. australis in Queensland's wet tropical rainforest (Herbert 2006).

The exact locations of all populations are held by the Queensland Herbarium to protect against illegal collection (Herbert 2006).

There are 12 known populations of Chingia australis and the total number of known individuals is estimated to be less than 500 individuals (Herbert 2006). As there are few populations, with a limited amount of individuals, all populations are considered important. An understanding of the genetic diversity within and between populations may assist prioritisation of populations for conservation actions (Herbert 2006).

Preferred Habitat
Chingia australis occurs in rainforest on steep creek banks and slopes of ridges. This species is reliant upon exposure of mineral soil (that lacks organic matter) and is an early pioneer of canopy gaps and substrate disturbance. The species may be somewhat shade intolerant, often inhabiting naturally well-lit sites such as swampy ground in lowland forest or creek banks. However, its presence in such locations may be attributed to its high moisture requirements: like all ferns, C. australis has a two stage life cycle involving a stage that is entirely dependent on the presence of water. Some populations are riparian (growing in or very close to water courses); all are dependant on surrounding rainforest habitat and the moist microclimate it provides. Populations are ephemeral (short-lived), responding to the kinds of disturbance processes that typically remove topsoil, such as landslips, flood scouring, tree-falls and road cuttings (Herbert 2006).

Soil
Chingia australis is found on clay soil derived from basalt, mudstone, metamorphic and granite substrates (Herbert 2006).

Habitat critical to the survival of the species
Chingia australis occurs in the Wet Tropics of Queensland in lowland and upland mesophyll vine forest and upland simple notophyll vine forest. It is a moisture and light loving fern dependent on surrounding rainforest habitat and disturbance processes that provide it with gaps in the rainforest canopy. These requirements indicate that the species is a specialist of small to medium sized gaps, responding specifically to newly formed mineral soil niches within rainforest ecosystems (Herbert 2006).

Associated vegetation
Chingia australis grows in association with Pneumatopteris costata, Crepidomanes aphlebioides and Wig Tree Fern (Cyathea baileyana) (Herbert 2006).

Associated threatened species
Biodiversity in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is very high with over 2840 recorded plant species, more than 700 (25 %) of which are endemic to the area. The richest concentrations of ferns and allies in Australia are found in the Wet Tropics (WTMA 2004).

Two species, Plesioneuron tuberculatum and Diplazium pallidum, both of which are listed as endangered under the EPBC Act, also occur in simlar habitat to Chingia australis. The rainforest habitat in which C. australis occurs has been identified as critical to the survival of the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii), which is also listed as endangered under the EPBC Act.

Chingia australis produces large quantities of spore. It is not known whether new populations are established by airborne spores, or if spores persist in the soil for long periods of time, only germinating when the right conditions are in place. In 2006, there were no plants in cultivation (Herbert 2006). Vegetative (asexual) reproduction has not been recorded in this genus (Bostock 1998b).

Chingia australis can be identified by the sinus membrane which is the most prominent membrane found in any member of the family in Australia. It can be distinguished from the superficially similar Amphineuron queenslandicum by its erect stipe scales and the many capitate hairs on the pinnae. The position of the sori (very close to the midrib of the pinna lobes) and the black colour of the spores are also very distinctive and may be used to differentiate C. australis from other fern species, such as Christella species (Andrews 1990; Bostock 1998b).

The major threats to Chingia australis are listed below. Logging, clearing and weeds are considered the greatest threats to this species.

Logging/clearing for agriculture, urban development, road building and redirection/damming of creeks
Chingia australis occurs in low numbers within rainforest and requires riparian communities to provide micro-climate to complete its lifecycle. Therefore, clearing of land, particularly along creek lines, is a significant threat. In addition, several populations are riparian and would be potentially threatened by redirection or damming of creeks. These threats are of particular significance to the six populations that occur outside of protected areas (Herbert 2006).

Weed Invasion
Chingia australis has high light requirements. As a result it is vulnerable to overshading by weedy species that may respond quickly to wet and light conditions. In the southern part of its range, C. australis is threatened in this way by Bramble (Rubus alceifolius). The northern populations are threatened by Miconia calvescens and Hiptage benghalensis (WTMA 2004) which are a particular threat in the Daintree area and are especially likely to invade watercourses (Herbert 2006).

Roadside and path clearing/weed control
Chingia australis can occur on roadside verges and pathways. Where it does it is threatened by clearing and weed control carried out as part of routine maintenance practices. This is a particular threat to populations outside of protected areas but may also be a threat within National Parks (Herbert 2006).

Feral Pigs (Sus scrofa)
Chingia australis is threatened by feral pigs, both indirectly (through habitat degradation) and directly. This threat is most significant to the few populations that occur on level ground although all populations are potentially threatened in this way. Feral pigs have the potential to become a major threat for the species by destroying plants before the plants reach sexual maturity. In such circumstances the regeneration capacity of the species could be severely affected. This threat is present throughout the natural distribution of C. australis. Small population size is significant in relation to the threat posed by feral pigs. Chingia australis is eaten by feral pigs which can destroy entire populations (Herbert 2006).

Collection/removal
The rarity of C. australis means that it is potentially of value to fern collectors. However, this threat is not considered to be of high significance, principally because of the inaccessibility of populations (Herbert 2006).

Areas under threat
Across the species' range the distribution of threats is uneven. Areas where C. australis populations are most at risk are those outside of protected areas, both in the northern and southern regions of the species range where the potential for land clearing and redirection or damming of creeks exists (Herbert 2006).

Populations under threat
Most populations occur within the Wooroonooran and Daintree National Parks and are further protected by inclusion in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). However, some populations of C. australis are found on lower hill slopes below the boundary of the WTWHA. Those populations that are not covered by any conservation agreements are most threatened because they are vulnerable to land clearing. All four populations in the northern range of the species are unprotected and two populations in the southern area of the distribution are unprotected. These latter two populations occur on land that has already been cleared so that the possibility of expansion into new areas nearby is highly unlikely (Herbert 2006).

Biology and ecology relevant to threats
Pristine rainforest habitat with natural hydrological regimes and natural disturbance processes are key to the survival of C. australis. Any activities that negatively impact on this are likely to threaten this species. Chingia australis populations grow in response both to natural disturbance processes (for example, landslips, cyclone damage, tree falls) and anthropogenic (human created) processes (for example, road cuttings). As a result, populations tend to be small and highly localized (Herbert 2006).

Herbert (2006) recommends that the following management guidelines to reduce adverse impacts on Chingia australis:

  • Halt clearing of habitat in the vicinity of C. australis populations.
  • Prevent watercourse redirection or damming in the vicinity of C. australis populations.
  • Manage road verge maintenance activities, particularly weed eradication, to ensure individuals are not damaged or removed.
  • Manage invasion of habitat by weed species, particularly those that thrive along watercourses.
  • Where practical, fence populations that are threatened by feral pigs and implement the national threat abatement plan.
  • Promote management practices that encourage natural rainforest processes to ensure continued opportunities for C. australis colonisation.
  • Negotiate a conservation agreement with private landholders or custodians to protect C. australis populations.
  • Establish a population monitoring program for Chingia australis.
  • Increase public awareness of Chingia australis.
  • Undertake a population-level genetic survey of Chingia australis.
  • Perform greenhouse trials to increase understanding of the ecology and life history traits of C. australis.

The Recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007–2011 (Herbert 2006) is the primary document for the recovery and threat abatement of this species. Other management documents of relevance include the Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs (AGDEH 2005p) and the Wet Tropics Conservation Strategy (WTMA 2004).

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 National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Chingia australis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006fi) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Rubus alceifolius (Giant Bramble) National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Hiptage benghalensis var. benghalensis (Hiptage) National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Miconia spp. (Miconia, Bush Currant, Purple Plague, Velvetleaf, Velvet Tree) National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Slashing and herbicide application for weed control National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes to hydrology including construction of dams/barriers National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Increased shading National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Reduced habitat shading National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Protected status:Protected status:Lack of secure conservation land tenure Chingia australis in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006fi) [Internet].
Residential and Commercial Development:Housing and Urban Areas:Habitat loss, modification and fragmentation due to urban development National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Roads and Railroads:Development and/or maintenance of roads National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Roads and Railroads:Development of roads and railroads National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011 (Herbert, J., 2006) [Recovery Plan].

Andrews, S.B. (1990). Ferns of Queensland. Brisbane: Qld Dept of Primary Industries.

Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2005p). Threat Abatement Plan for Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and Disease Transmission by Feral Pigs. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/pig.html.

Bostock, P.D. (1998b). Thelypteridaceae. In: Flora of Australia. 48:327-358. Melbourne: ABRS/CSIRO.

Bostock, P.D. (2001). Personal Communication.

Herbert, J. (2006). National recovery plan for the fern Chingia australis 2007-2011. [Online]. Brisbane: Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/c-australis.html.

Holttum, R.E. (1986a). New Thelypteroid ferns in Queensland. Kew Bulletin. 41:518.

Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) (2004). Wet Tropics Conservation Strategy: the conservation, rehabilitation and transmission to future generations of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. [Online]. Cairns: Wet Tropics Management Authority. Available from: http://www.wettropics.gov.au/mwha/mwha_pdf/Strategies/wtmaConservationStrategy.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). Chingia australis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 07:55:48 +1000.