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Prom Banksia research gets onto the ground

Wednesday 4 June, 2014

A regeneration and research project with a difference is underway on the Yanakie Isthmus of Wilsons Promontory National Park. The area, once known for its wildflowers, grassy swales and magnificent Coast Banksias, is now choked with invasive Coast Tea-tree, and the Banksias are in decline. Parks Victoria is undertaking a scientifically based restoration program aimed at returning some of these grassy woodlands to their former glory.

The Banksias have been gradually succumbing to dieback, and although this has been going on for over 30 years, research to date hasn’t established a cause for their decline. One possibility is that it is due to a genetic defect in the native species.

To test this theory, the Friends of The Prom Nursery group and Friends of Wonthaggi Heathland have collected Banksia seed from four different areas across the state; Yanakie Isthmus, Sandy Point, Mouth of the Powlett River and Point Nepean.

Forty seedlings from each area have been propagated by the group, and these will be planted out on Thursday June 12 by the Prom’n’Aides Friends group of research volunteers. They will monitor the seedlings each year until maturity to test if there is any difference in health and vigour of the plants from the various provenances.

“It’s important that we don’t allow trees from different provenances to establish in the park, so any surviving trees will be removed once the research is completed,” says Parks Victoria’s Jim Whelan.  “The trees will be tested for height, trunk diameter, leaf colour and their capacity to produce viable seed.

Once we establish the cause of the die-back we can then look for solutions. This is expected to take around eight years. Browsing by native and introduced animals can also have a significant effect on the survival of young seedlings. To assess that impact only 50% of the seedlings will have tree-guards on them.”

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