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Preservation Island, Furneaux Group: Two hundred years of vegetation change

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posted on 2023-11-02, 05:00 authored by H McKenny, S Harris
Preservation Island was the first area south of Sydney to experience the impact of European settlement. A recent survey of the vegetation resulted in the inventory of 140 plant species, 49 of these being introduced to the island. Ten vegetation types were mapped, some of these being disturbance disclimax communities. The island has a flora typical of many of the Furneaux Outer Islands. Since 1797, Allocasuarina verticillata, once the likely dominant tree on the island, has been depleted almost to extinction and grassland with a high proportion of exotic species has expanded to cover more than a third of the island. Exotic species propagules have been associated with human activity on the island but also with birds and by sea drift. The high levels of natural and human-related disturbance have encouraged establishment of introduced plants. Some obligate-seeding species on the island have been reduced to either precariously low numbers (Acacia ?genistifolia) or extinction (Callitris rhomboidea) by a high fire frequency.
The biological productivity of the island was high at the time of initial human settlement because there was an extremely large muttonbird rookery, penguins, macropods and other animals. Scrub and low closed forest were more extensive. Most of the biological capital was exhausted within 30 or 40 years. The significance of the island in post-contact Australian history means that more historical remarks are recorded than would otherwise be expected for such an isolated place.

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Publication title

Papers & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania

Volume

133

Pagination

85-102

ISSN

0080-4703

Rights statement

Copyright Royal Society of Tasmania.

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