Towards an explanation of the causes of the rarity of two Tasmanian Spyridium species



Spyridium microphyllum (F. Muell. ex Reissek) Druce and Spyridium obcordatum (Hook. f) W. M. Curtis are narrow endemic shrubs which are confined to small parts of Tasmania, Australia, and are rare within their present ranges. Analysis of quadrat data from transects through populations of both species showed that at most individual sites the rare taxa occur in floristically and environmentally distinct situations. However, sites supporting the same species differ floristically and environmentally, with the only communality being a lack of dense tall shrub or tree cover. Both species are absent from many areas with closely similar physical environments and vascular plant species composition to those in which they occur. Thus, their current distributions cannot be explained by limitation to a rare habitat. Spyridium microphyllum appears to be susceptible to local extinction because it is an obligate seeder, is killed by fire, does not survive in taller, dense vegetation, and is not adapted for dispersal over the distances between its potential habitats. While S. obcordatum recovers vegetatively after fire, it also does not survive in dense taller vegetation, has limited dispersal ability and highly disjunct potential habitat. Both species may have been more widespread and competitive during cooler and drier times.