An Appraisal of the Queensland Flora Survey Guidelines for Protected Plants, Through a Survey of Ipomoea antonschmidii, a Near Threatened Plant of the Northwest Highlands Bioregion
Williams, P.R., and Clouten, B.C. (2021)
The Flora Survey Guidelines for Protected Plants are the basis for pre-clearing assessments of Threatened or Near Threatened flora listed under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992. They require targeted searches for listed plants in designated ‘high risk areas’. High risk areas are based on a 2 km radius of a herbarium specimen collection site or a vetted sighting record, with extensions to the 2 km radius using habitat modelling for some species. High risk areas only cover approximately 2.1% of Queensland, encompassing a higher proportion of South East Queensland and the Wet Tropics compared with other bioregions. This paper describes a survey method interpreting the Queensland Flora Survey Guidelines, which was used to evaluate Ipomoea antonschmidii, a Near Threatened plant of the Northwest Highlands. We found the timed meander survey method described in the Guidelines provided a useful approach for detecting I. antonschmidii. However, high risk areas do not adequately cover I. antonschmidii, as 84% of the locations where it was detected in 2011, prior to the amended legislation, are currently outside any high risk area. It is important for botanists and ecologists to be aware of the need for replicating specimen and sightings data over the scale of only a kilometre to improve high risk area maps across the state. Further assessment is required to test and refine modelled habitats of rare flora that contribute to high risk areas. Suggestions of interpretation and refinements of the Guidelines are provided, including the reinstatement of suitable non remnant areas into high risk areas, and a pathway for emerging plant ecologists to become suitably qualified to lead protected plant surveys. Keywords: threatened flora, protected plants, Ipomoea antonschmidii, flora survey guidelines, Queensland Nature Conservation Act.