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Endangered fern survives against all odds in Mount Lofty Ranges


Ecologists from the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre have rediscovered an endangered fern species not formally seen in the state since 1998.

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The bat’s wing fern (Histiopteris incisa) is a water fern species found in swamps across Australia.

Flora ecologist at the South Australia Seed Conversion Centre, Bradley Bianco said that whilst several anecdotal observations of the fern have been made by people since 1998, experts feared the fern may have become regionally extinct within South Australia.

“The fern is now at the highest category of threat, which is endangered,” Bianco said

Since being established in 2002, the South Australia Seed Conversion Centre has been protecting South Australia’s threatened plant species from extinction and has established a seed bank at Adelaide Botanic Garden that contains nearly 85 per cent of the state’s threatened plant species.

Having failed to find the fern on previous expeditions, the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre team followed a tip off from expert botanical volunteer Kieran Brewer and headed to a property located in Nangkita, a swampy area near Mount Compass, and one of the last documented locations of the bat’s wing fern.

After many hours of searching, the team discovered a very small population of the bat’s wing fern.

Tiny patches of bat’s wing fern were found on a Nangkita swamp property.

With the help of the property owner Jim Simmonds, the team erected a fence to protect the area from the grazing pressure of sheep and deer.

Once the protected plants grow to maturity, the seed conservation team plans to collect the seeds and establish an insurance population in a suitable swamp habitat around Mount Compass.

“The plants here in the Mount Lofty Ranges are quite heavily grazed by sheep, so it could take one or two years for these plants within the fence to develop spores for the insurance populations,” Bianco said.

State Herbarium records show the species has been recorded in just three locations within South Australia: The Mount Burr region back in 1977, along the De Mole River on Kangaroo Island in 1996 and in the Nangkita region within the Mount Lofty Ranges in 1998.

Depending on how well the fern fares in Nangkita, Bianco said the seed team could relocate and introduce a variant of the bat’s wing fern from a different Australian region into the Mount Lofty ecosystem.

“There are a lot of people that probably would not agree with me on that particular topic, but that’s my opinion,” Bianco said.

The bat’s wing fern project was made possible by a donation from Mike Snow.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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