Saving the threatened Audas Spider-orchid (Caladenia audasii) from extinction
C. audasii seedlings growing at the RBGV Orchid Conservation Program shadehouse. (Photo: Noushka Reiter)
Caladenia audasii has fewer than eight plants remaining in the wild, three of these fall within the Grampians National Park and associated reserves (two of which were discovered in community surveys in 2016). These plants urgently need supplementation to remain as viable populations into the future. With such low numbers left in the wild, the populations are not sustainable and every plant has critical importance for the long term recovery and genetic resources for this species. Pollinator identification is also critical to manage the ecology of this species and reduce incidental harm to the pollinator through ignorance of its habitat requirements.
Under a previous grant, the ANPC worked with FOGGand RBGV to fence the one remaining C. audasii plant in a reserve near Stawell, an action which resulted in no grazing impacts and the first ever seed being collected for propagation. The RBGV then worked with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to propagate and re-introduce 50 plants back into another population near Bendigo.
Caladenia audasii seedlings ready for introduction in June 2020. Photo: Noushka Reiter
Achievements to date
Seed was collected from existing fenced sites in October 2017 and sown for propagation in November- December 2017. Approximately 50 C. audasii seedlings are now growing at the RBGV Orchid Conservation Project’sshadehouse. More seed was sown in August and November 2018 and aC. audasii plant was hand pollinated in September 2018 for new seed. An exclusion fence was constructed in August 2018 at one site in the Grampians to protect the newly discovered plants from grazing kangaroos, wallabies and rabbits. Plant surveys and pollinator baiting were undertaken with volunteers from FOGG and ANOS in September 2018 (assisted by RBGV staff).
Volunteers pollinator baiting for Caladenia audasii. Photo: Noushka Reiter
Guided community surveys (over 500 hectares) near the two newly discovered sites for any additional plants that may not have been seen previously.
Identification of the pollinator for this orchid and its distribution.
Propagation of more Caladenia audasii seedlings by RBGV.
Re-introduction of approximately 200 plants, with community volunteer assistance from FOGG and ANOS in June 2020.
Installation of cages around reintroduced plants.
Using the data collected to update IUCNlistings, the Atlas of Living Australia, the Australian Virtual Herbarium and the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.
Training of volunteers in survey techniques and plant re-introductions.
Exclusion fence constructed in August 2018. Photo: Narri Seed
Community participation and education in an endangered plant reintroduction is an important element of reintroduction success, as it engenders local ownership and ongoing interest in the species and surrounding habitat.