Cultural burning on conservation site protects endangered Persoonia

Cultural burning practices have been used for thousands of years to manage bushfire risks and promote biodiversity. 

The NSW Biodiversity Conservation Trust (BCT) and Aus Eco Solutions did a controlled burn on a conservation agreement site in the Hunter Valley in spring to help protect a patch of the critically endangered shrub, Persoonia pauciflora

The small ecological burn was part of an experiment for habitat management of the fire sensitive shrub.  Scattered patches of Persoonia pauciflora have been found on Monica Oppen’s North Rothbury property and her conservation agreement and related management plan helps protect them. 

The cool, low intensity mosaic burn was completed over several hours and designed to reduce fuel loads around the critically endangered plants to give them a level of protection from hot, uncontrolled bushfires with the potential to push the shrub closer to extinction. 

Critically endangered 

The fire ecology of the Persoonia pauciflora is uncertain. Most threatened Persoonia are obligate seeders, where the adult plant is killed by fire and resprouts after fire from the soil-stored seed bank. Because of its critically endangered status and unknown response to burning, no Persoonia pauciflora were directly impacted by the burn. 

The North Rothbury Persoonia was discovered in 1997. It has a very restricted distribution and is found only in an area to the south of the North Rothbury township. All but one of the plants which make up the only known population occur within a 2.5 km radius of the original specimen. 

Saving Our Species Senior Regional Biodiversity Conservation Officer, Paul Hillier attended the burn and took the opportunity to look for other vulnerable native species, in particular two orchids: Diuris tricolor and Diuris dendrobiodes.  

BCT field officers will check the burn sites at North Rothbury regularly to assess if this form of cool burning has been successful in promoting germination of native dormant seed stock. 

Read our Guide to the Application of Fire as a Management Tool.