|Thanks to funding from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA) Plant Conservation Team, the ANPC started surveying epiphytic orchids in north-eastern NSW in September. The Black Summer fires are thought to have hit many of these species (which occur on rocks and/or trees) particularly hard because they are killed by intense fire due to lack of both an underground dormant phase and a persistent seedbank from which to recover.
The surveys will document the impact of the fires, establish the geographic distribution and size of the remaining populations, and inform conservation assessment and threatened species listings. Eleven species have been selected, with the focus so far on Plectorrhiza purpurata, Sarcochilus aequalis and Tropilis angusta (syn. Dendrobium angustum). Although the North Coast and Northern Tablelands target areas are amazingly green following the last few years of abundant rain, the legacy of the Black Summer fires remains. A recently found population of Plectorrhiza purpurata was determined to be heavily impacted, with most host plants dead and all epiphytes on those plants killed.
Image below: Plectorrhiza purpurata growing in Cottan-Bimbang National Park. Credit: Lachlan Copeland