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National Recovery Plan for the Corangamite Water Skink Eulamprus tympanum marnieae Garry Peterson and Peter Robertson

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Management Practices

The underlying premise for this Plan is that recovery of E. t. marnieae will depend on a multi-pronged approach involving habitat conservation, restoration and management, combined with an understanding of the ecological and biological requirements of the subspecies. The emphasis is on using knowledge to better implement in situ management techniques that protect populations and promote breeding and recruitment. To achieve this, recovery actions are primarily structured to (i) acquire baseline ecological and biological data, (ii) assess habitat condition including ecological and biological function, (iii) protect populations to maintain or increase their size, and (iv) to engage the community in recovery actions. On-ground site management will aim to mitigate threatening processes and thereby insure against extinction.

Broad scale protection measures applicable to all populations include legal protection of sites (where possible – it will not be possible to provide this protection on some private land), habitat retention and liaison with land managers including private landholders to secure sympathetic management of the subspecies on their land. Management agreements with non-government landholders have and will continue to play a crucial role in the conservation of E. t. marnieae. It is clear that E. t. marnieae populations can persist in the long-term on rural agricultural land that is appropriately managed. Consequently, reserves are not the only solution to conserving the subspecies, and are viewed as only part of the management strategy.

Strategies to improve our knowledge of the ecological and biological requirements of E. t. marnieae and their response to environmental processes are currently underway, and further actions are advocated in this Recovery Plan. These actions focus on understanding the relationships between E. t. marnieae, its habitat and numerous threatening processes, and defining appropriate management. Community participation in recovery actions will continue to be sought, and the implementation of interim management will continue until optimal management guidelines are formulated.

Recovery and management of threatened fauna is heavily reliant on sound information utilised by a strong and communicative network of organisations and individuals from within government, universities, private consultants and other nature conservation interests. Implementation of this Recovery Plan will involve an integrated approach using a team of committed scientists, students, consultants and on-ground natural resource managers to ensure the most efficient and effective use of resources. Any actions contemplated which involve potential changes to the habitat of E. t. marnieae, should be referred to the Department of the Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) in accordance with requirements of the EPBC Act.

Affected Interests

Several organisations have legislative and management responsibilities relating to E. t. marnieae, and will be involved in all stages of this Recovery Plan. At a national level, the taxon is listed as a threatened species under the EPBC Act, administered by DSEWPaC. Any action that will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a taxon listed on this legislation will trigger the EPBC provisions, necessitating approval from the Commonwealth Environment Minister.

In Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment has responsibility for the management of threatened species in Victoria. As some populations occur in the parks system, Parks Victoria also has management responsibilities of this taxon within their estate. Most populations occur on private land, necessitating the involvement of private individuals. Under the EPBC Act, these individuals have a responsibility to ensure that any development on their properties does not harm E. t. marnieae. Any such developments commencing since the inception of the EPBC Act will trigger a referral. An action that would remove, modify or degrade habitat of E. t. marnieae and that results in a significant impact on the subspecies may require referral to the Commonwealth Environment Minister under the EPBC Act for a decision on whether assessment and approval of the action is required. Private landowners can and have facilitated monitoring and recovery actions for E. t. marnieae by permitting access to habitat on their land, consulting with agencies and individuals involved in these activities, and ensuring that their own activities do not negatively impact the subspecies or its habitat on or near their properties.

Role and Interests of Indigenous People

Indigenous communities on whose traditional lands E. t. marnieae occurs have been advised, through the relevant regional Indigenous facilitator, of the preparation of this Recovery Plan and invited to provide comments and be involved in implementation of the Recovery Plan.

Biodiversity Benefits

The Recovery Plan includes a number of potential biodiversity benefits for other species and vegetation communities throughout the range of E. t. marnieae. Principally, this will be through the protection and management of habitat. There is a broad range of threatening processes that are acting upon populations of E. t. marnieae; mitigation of these processes will have wide-ranging benefits for maintenance of ecological processes and biodiversity conservation.

The broad habitat of E. t. marnieae occurs within the 'Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain', an ecological community listed as Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act (DEWHA 2009). The subspecies is also intrinsically linked to wetlands of the volcanic plain, that have declined significantly since European settlement (Sheldon 2005). Consequently, the conservation of E. t. marnieae and its habitat will aid the conservation of such grassland and wetland areas and the suite of threatened species associated with them. Specific Victorian and Commonwealth listed threatened species that are associated with E. t. marnieae sites include the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis), Brolga (Grus rubicundus), Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis), Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa), Basalt Greenhood (Pterostylis basaltica), Salt-lake Tussock Grass (Poa sallacustris) and Curly Sedge (Carex tasmanica). Management of E. t. marnieae populations on Lake Corangamite, which is part of the Western District Lakes Ramsar site, will contribute to the Australian Government’s obligations as a signatory to the Ramsar Convention to maintain the lake’s ecological character (DNRE 2002; Sheldon 2005). Threatened ecological vegetation communities that will benefit from the conservation of E. t. marnieae include Stony knoll shrubland, Plains grassland, Plains grassy woodland, Plains grassy wetland, Plains sedgy wetland, Aquatic herbland/Plains sedgy wetland mosaic and Saline lake verge herbland/sedgeland mosaic.

Conservation efforts for E. t. marnieae will also contribute to efforts to educate the public about the plight of threatened species. The Corangamite Water Skink has acted as a ‘flagship species’ for highlighting broader nature conservation issues and threats, particularly associated with wetlands, such as habitat degradation, water quality issues and climate change.

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