The Saving Shy Susan Project aimed to safeguard the remaining sub-populations of the critically endangered plant Shy Susan (Tetratheca gunnii), a native purple-flowering herb that only occurs on serpentine soils near Beaconsfield, Tasmania, as well as secure a viable genetic collection of the species. The project concluded in June 2023.
The Saving Shy Susan project implemented, monitored and adapted on-ground strategic actions to conserve Shy Susan (Tetratheca gunnii).
Building on the outcomes achieved through previous Australian Government investment, the project worked with specialist botanists, public land managers, and the local Beaconsfield community to strengthen protection measures for known wild sub-populations of the species, promote the health of vegetation communities at known wild sub-population sites, and trial and monitor interventions considered most likely to improve the species conservation trajectory. The existing insurance population of the species held at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens was also supplemented.
Shy Susan is a native focal species of the serpentine soils in the Dazzler Range near Beaconsfield and often co-occurs with other threatened endemic understorey species such as pretty heath (Epacris virgata) and creeping dustymiller (Spyridium obcordatum). Shy Susan was listed as extinct until its rediscovery in 1986 and is now listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. While serpentine outcrops occupy 530 ha in the Beaconsfield area, the known sub-populations of Shy Susan only occupy approximately 0.6 ha in total.
Shy Susan is threatened by seed-bank removal, inappropriate fire regimes (both too frequent and too infrequent), browsing by native wildlife (particularly after fire), habitat disturbance and the introduction of weeds and disease (e.g. root rot fungus Phytophthora cinnamoni) from illegal firewood harvesting, off-road vehicle use and mineral exploration.
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Saving Shy Susan Project - Case study
Biodiversity Coordinator Lauren Bird has collaborated with members of the species reference committee, including senior ecologists, to develop the first adaptive management plan and monitoring plan specific to Shy Susan.
Key actions were also undertaken on-ground to safeguard some of the precious remaining locations and plants. These included undertaking an entire population census in spring 2021, controlling exotic weeds, and fencing and caging Shy Susan plants to prevent browsing by native animals.
The on-ground interventions undertaken by the project were a critical component of efforts to stabilise populations of Shy Susan. Sustaining the species will require ongoing monitoring and adaptive and responsive actions.
“Refining monitoring and management requirements for Shy Susan has been a critical process for understanding and formally documenting the species’ requirements for survival. Through this project, we have developed a legacy process that outlines the ongoing actions required to stabilise and improve the trajectory of the wild population beyond this funded project,” Ms Bird said.
There are still ways that you can help to protect and sustain the species in Tasmania.
NRM North continues to take an active interest in the conservation of Shy Susan, supporting annual population monitoring by volunteers and participating in a statewide technical group for threatened flora conservation. The annual population survey completed in October 2021 revealed there are less than 200 Shy Susan plants remaining in the wild.
Sustaining the species will require ongoing monitoring and adaptive and responsive actions. You can help by sourcing your firewood sustainably:
Remember: report any suspicious or illegal wood harvesting activity on private or public land to Bush Watch on 131 444.
Resources: Know your Wood
Safeguarding northern Tasmania as a refuge for Eastern Barred Bandicoot.
Reducing threats to the Floodplain Lower Ringarooma River Ramsar site.
Reducing threats to Hooded Plover breeding success in northern Tasmania.
Promoting the expansion and recovery of giant freshwater crayfish.