Orchids

orchid surveys by ANOS members

Diuris aequalis
  D.aequalis plants were found at the base of this tree. The Chairman of the STFFN claimed threatened species in this forest were “non existent” and “imaginery”. Their “sound science ” evidently ignores the real facts about this forest and relies on opinion. Genuine science relies on fact. logging cannot enhance habitat for this species.

The red cone in the above photo marks where D.aequalis plants are. In conjunction with and under the shade of the trees of the forest. 

The orchids of Mount Rae forest deserve a page on their own. This forest is home to over twenty native orchid species including the NSW listed as ENDANGERED and Federally (EPBC act) listed as VULNERABLE Diuris aequalis -Buttercup Doubletail orchid.

Despite the developer initially denying it’s existence on his property  , and forestry networks claiming threatened species are “imaginery” , the D.aequalis orchid  had previously been identified on all properties for logging by DEC ecologists prior to lands being sold over a decade ago. This is the only reason that the developer must now admit to this species. A subsequent survey , organised by the Threatened Species Unit of DEC identified more on this and other properties approved for firewood logging in 2007. 

My own property adjoins that of the Firewood Barons . I have surveyed a 100 metre by 1 km strip of forest dupicating the vegetation next door . Over 5 years of surveying during the narrow flowering period for this orchid I have found and documented 18 Diuris aequalis plants.During no single year have they all flowered. During the drought year of 2006 none were in flower. During 2007 (aslo drought) two plants flowered. In 2010 , after good rain, ten plants that had not flowered over the previous five years were identified for the first time. Note: Diuris aequalis can only be identified when in flower. 

Alan W. Stephenson (National Conservation Officer for the Australasian Native Orchid Society) : This forest is typical for the area and any adjacent property could be expected to contain a similar range of species. All of these species exist and thrive without the alleged benefit of an artificail thinning of tree cover and numbers of these and other species will vary from season to season in accordance with whatever natural conditions prevail, as has been the case for millenia.

“The biggest threat to its (Diuris aequalis) existence is the clearence of habitat by unnatural means. It can and will survive in its current habitat, only if that habitat is not reduced to the base level of firewood. The danger lies not only in habitat clearing but also the mechanisms used for avchieving this. Those who have state otherwise are factually incorrect and have no understanding of the requirements of this species.” 

Colin Bower: consultant botanist and orchidologist was asked for an opinion on the effects of logging in Diuris aequalis habitat. The following is the conclusion to his report.

“Essentially we know too little about the ecology of Diuris to make an acurate prediction of the long term effects of logging on them. In this scenario caution is required with regard to threatened species it is most unwise to sanction activities whose effects on the threatened species cannot be reliably predicted.” 

Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) November 2005: …any future application for clearing on Lot 6 or other land in the Mount Rae area needs to assess the significance of the operation on Diuris aequalis and other threatened species.”

The above was from a letter to Upper Lachlan Shire Council (ULSC) in 2005. Yet the landowner and his supporting forestry network continued to deny their existence on properties for logging. When applying for commercial firewood logging in 2007 on four properties in Mount Rae forest to ULSC the same department wrote to council:… “It is DEC’s view that the operations proposed are likely to significantly impact upon the orchid known as the Doubletail Buttercup Diuris aequalis ” “The species of particular concern in the matter is the orchid known as the Doubletail Buttercup Orhid, Diuris aequalis. This orchid is listed as Endangered in NSW legislation and Vulnerable under Commonwealth legislation. The Mount Rae area is known to be an important area for this species and it has been previously recorded on Lot 6. … DEC advises it objects to the matter on 4 major grounds. 1. Impact upon threatened species…”

…”thinning will undoubtedly “increase sunlight penetration to the forest floor”however it does not follow that this action will increase the area of available habitat for the species.That is , while D.aequalis has been recorded occasionally in areas where trees have been removed, its natural habitat is shaded woodland and forest and thus it cannot be assumed that the increased light will enhance conditions. Contrary to the applicants perceived benefits of thinning, the process of thinning/forestry operations is very likely to lead to heavy soil disturbance which is known to have a very negative impact upon most species of orchids of this type.”

The above comments on “thinning”  is the response by Government scientists to the ONLY comments made by the developers supporters on the D.aequalis species . Here it is in its entirety: “Thinning will increase sunlight penetration to the forest floor thereby improving conditions for orchids in general as well as the native peas which live in association with the “Diuris ” orchids.

 No scientific evidence was provided to support this claim. All available science is to the contrary. Again those who claim to have “sound science’ behind this logging operation have been exposed as lacking in science.

 The ‘thinning” alluded to in this 2007 application to ULSC was to be carried out by a bulldozer which would conduct “gapping” and initiate regeneration through “mechanical disturbance of mineral soil”.   Yep , just bulldoze trees. It was to be caried out, according to the forestry supporters on approx. 300 hectares. 

 Who was responsibe for the above plan submitted to council by the developer ,prior to PNF legislation? Who was this  person who made this comment on the D.aequalis and claimed to be suitably qualified in this species? He turned out to be a former neighbour of the developers and is now a local goat farmer . he was working for the Firewood Baron-splitting wood. He had obtained a Bachelor of Science over thirty years previous. This qualifies to sign a document as a “suitably qualified” in the D.aequalis orchid and to be the developers environmental consultant.  

This is still the only plan that anyone has seen. No such plans and no surveys are required under PNF. The  Southern Tablelands Farm Forestry Network stated they had  modified this operation to include an “ecological harvester” instead of a bulldozer. It would have rubber tyres .This turned out to be a “forestry harvester” -a   heavy machine that when it arrived had metal tracks. Under PNF legislation their is no restrictions placed on equipment used. 

  Forestry wish to portray fanciful images of men with axes and chainsaws ‘thinning ” a few trees selectively. It is just that – fanciful. The reality is one of heavy vehciles conducting broadscale clearing meeting PNF  Code of Practice requirements by leaving a minimum twenty trees for every 2 ha (5 acres) cleared. How will this “enhance ‘ and “improve’  habitat for the D.aequalis ? It cannot.

 NSW Parks and Wildlife Service pamphlet on the Diuris aequalis: (the D.aequalis ) …is known from only seven sites near the Great Dividing Range . the NSW NP&W service is keen to find other sites where this orchid occurs…if it is not more common it is likely to become extinct. If you find this plant on your property , it is because your land is managed in a way that is conducive to its survival. It is unlikely that you would be required to change how you manage your land because of this orchid and you may be able to contribute to it’s continued survival and our understanding of it’s habitat requirements”

 COMMENT: So government scientific literature requests no change of land use. Recognises that land clearing and modification is the no 1. threat . Then political appointees in charge of the department decide commercial logging in known habitat is a good idea and will meet the requirements of the Threatened Species Conservation Act?  In 2007 I challenged the department heads and  politicians responsible , foresters and the developer to provide scientific evidence of how logging here would “improve ” habitat for the D.aequalis as they claimed. I offered $1,000 if they could. The year passed with zero response. 

Locals respond to the NP&Wservice and to field days in the area from government scientists and find more of this orchid , document other native orchids and fauna threatened species and enter conservation agreements. The department opposes logging for two years. Then another department (PNF) within the same Office of Environment and Heritage approves the same operations without bothering to consult their own threatened species unit . The creation of an unwieldy super department had led to one hand not knowing (and apparently not caring) what the other was doing. POLITICS AND BUREAUCRACY IGNORING SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS OVER MANY YEARS BY IT’S OWN SCIENTISTS.

Landowners listen to Government representatives and demonstrate they care by entering conservation agreements. A procession of NSW Environment Ministers demonstrate they couldn’t care less and sanction logging in the very same habitat they asked us to preserve…

One of the government ecologists who had attended a field day in Mount Rae forest in 2005   and made themselves available to give advice to locals on land management practices and on the forest’s threatened species was Damon Oliver. In a recent (2011) article “To thin , or not to thin? The value of dense woody vegetation for birds” Damon wrote of his practical experience with trying to thin  dense stands of vegetation. This  resulted in “poor biodiversity outcomes for ground orchids”.  

Many articles on this species have appeared in the Goulburn Post newspaper and letters to the editor calling for increased protection for our threatened species:

  

For a complete list of the 22 known orchid species and over 230 fauna and flora species of Mount Rae Forest please click on the following  link:

 http://sites.google.com/site/mountraeforestsite/