GROWING in only four shires of the Central Wheatbelt, the Column Hakea (Hakea Aculeata) is an endangered plant now undergoing a trial to assess the role of fire in promoting new plant recruitment and regeneration.
One of the largest populations is located in the Quairading Community Nature Reserve.
Unfortunately, this population is ageing, with most plants nearing the end of their lives which, in combination with a lack of fire and substantial rabbit grazing, means there are no new seedlings growing.
The trial is being driven by conservation officer Derek Sandow from the Department of Environment and Conservation in Katanning, who said it was an important step in ensuring the plant’s survival.
“The lack of plant recruitment poses the threat of extinction into the future, so trials are considered to be extremely important in determining the best management approach for the long term survival of the species,” he said.
“We are not certain about the role that both fire and grazing plays in promoting seedling recruitment of Column Hakea.”
The trial commenced last month and involved burning a small number of Hakea plants to encourage them to release their seed onto the ground.
A small wire cage was placed beneath each plant to protect any seedlings from grazing.
“The plants will now be monitored over the next few years, and if successful will tell us how to better manage the other populations before they disappear,” Mr Sandow said.
The Fire trials are running through collaboration between the Department of Environment and Conservation, Fire and Emergency Services Authority and the Shire of Quairading.
The Shire of Quairading, with the assistance of the Department of Environment and Conservation, is also involved in working to protect the Column Hakea through another project that reduces the impact of rabbits on the flora of the Quairading Nature Reserve.
This project is supported by the Australian Government Caring for Our Country program and also assesses the impact of kangaroo grazing and fire regimes on other priority and endangered plants within the reserve.