MEDIA REPORT | Canobolas’ tiny plants big on biodiversity value

Orange scientist Dr Richard Medd puts the spotlight on Canobolas’ amazing biodiversity.

AN amazing array of mosses, liverworts, hornworts and lichens has led to the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area being nominated as an Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value.

TINY TREASURE: Dr Richard Medd with a sample of moss and liverworts that grow in his front paddock. The nearby Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area is home to 200 species of bryophytes and lichen. Photo JUDE KEOGH

Mount Canobolas was last weekend visited by a group of leading scientists specialising in mosses, liverworts and hornworts, which are classified as bryophytes, and lichens. The group was engaged by the Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society to research species occurring within the mountain’s state conservation area.

The OFNCS Dr Richard Medd said the scientists were world experts in the taxonomy and genetics of bryophytes and lichens.

“Such tiny photosynthesising organisms form a biocrust of complex communities. They are an often overlooked but a significant component of biodiversity,” Dr Medd said.

“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 said Mount Canobolas SCA is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity for such a small reserve.

“Over 1000 species (and counting) of plants and animals are known to occur, including 10 that are endemic to the Canobolas volcanic complex,” he said.

“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.”

The assessment as an Area of Outstanding Biodiversity Value comes under a classification of the Biodiversity and Conservation Act. Dr Medd was a joint-author of the Mount Canobolas nomination.

He said the AOBV nomination highlights the value of the Mount Canobolas SCA for additional scientific research.

“So the OFNCS is delighted to again welcome further investigation of the mountain’s biodiversity secrets by such eminent scientists.”

The visiting scientists came from the Australian National Herbarium, which is 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.

Report in Central Western Daily, 28th May 2022