PRESS RELEASE | Mountain biodiversity under the microscope

Leading scientists specialising in mosses, liverworts, hornworts and lichens have been engaged by the Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society (OFNCS) to research species occurring in the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area (SCA).

Bryophyte biocrust Mount Canobolas SCA. Image by Rosemary Stapleton

The scientists from the Australian National Herbarium, a part of the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (a joint venture between Parks Australia’s Australian National Botanic Gardens and the National Research Collections Australia at CSIRO) and from Macquarie University and Sydney University will undertake field work over two days  during May, with permission from NPWS.

 “These visiting scientists are world experts in the taxonomy and genetics of mosses, liverworts, hornworts (collectively bryophytes) and lichens. Such tiny photosynthesising organisms form a biocrust of complex communities. They are an often overlooked but significant component of biodiversity” said Dr Richard Medd.

“We know there are close to 200 species of bryophytes and lichens recorded for the Mount Canobolas SCA. They play important roles in filtering impurities from the air, in storing carbon and recycling nutrients as well as stabilising the earth’s crust against erosion”.

Dr Medd, a member of the OFNCS, who is co-ordinating the scientists’ visit, said “Mount Canobolas SCA is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity for such a small reserve. Over 1,000 species (and counting) of plants and animals are currently known to occur, including 10 that are endemic to the Canobolas Volcanic Complex.”

 “Endemic species occur nowhere else on earth so these are living treasures, and many are extremely rare. Four of these endemics are lichens. Together some of them comprise the only lichen community in Australia to be given legal conservation protection”.

 “In total, 18 threatened species and four endangered ecological communities are recognised within the SCA, highlighting its precious biodiversity for conservation” he said.

“Owing to these treasures, and more, the SCA has justifiably been nominated as the first new location being assessed as an Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value (AOBV) under a classification of the Biodiversity and Conservation Act” advised Dr Medd, a joint author of the nomination.

“That AOBV nomination highlighted the value of the Mount Canobolas SCA for additional scientific research, so OFNCS is delighted to again welcome further investigation of the mountain’s biodiversity secrets by such eminent scientists” concluded Dr Medd.

Dr Richard Medd Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society Inc. 17 May 2022