As we relive FAME’s 30 years of conservation, this week’s Monday Memory looks at work in Queensland to save a special plant in the rainforests of Bundaberg, Queensland. Let’s rewind to 2018…

Amongst plant aficionados, Macadamia jansenii (the Bulberin Macadamia Nut to the rest of us) holds a unique place; it was only recognised by the modern scientific community in 1992 after being described by an amateur naturalist – Ray Jansen.

The Endangered Bulberin Nut

Sadly, in the few years since its discovery to Western science, a mixture of threats - changed fire regimes, invasive weeds and illegal collection – have reduced its population to one of Australia’s most endangered species. At the beginning of this FAME project, back in 2018, there were only 90 known trees remaining.

Each of those trees was within a 6,000 sq metre area, so efforts began to utilise genetic analysis and habitat modelling abilities to design an effective reintroduction program. This would allow the creation of new populations of the tree, in its natural habitat. With so few trees being contained within one spot, their survival had become extremely vulnerable to disasters like bushfires.

This project was a multi-organisation partnership between FAME and the Macadamia Conservation Trust, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, University of the Sunshine Coast, Tondoon Botanic Gardens and the Gidarjil Rangers, and took place in the rainforests surrounding Bundaberg in central Queensland – the natural habitat for the Bulberin Nut.

How do we save the Bulberin Nut?

A number of aims were highlighted in the beginning: decrease the chance of extinction for M. jansenii by reintroducing trees to increase its current range. Survey the known trees, and search for as-yet unrecorded populations. Finally, establish two ex situ insurance populations to protect against natural disasters wiping the tree out in the wild.

To survey the existing population, filming of the trees is being recorded over a ten-year census. This helps to confirm that the small population is sustainable, and - as with all conservation projects – the extra knowledge of the species gained increases the effectiveness of our efforts.

The insurance populations are being cared for under the supervision of the Botanic Gardens in Noosa and Coffs Harbour, and new populations are being planted by the Traditional Owners in conjunction with Parks staff.


What were the results of the project to save M. jansenii?

This project wrapped up in 2021, with some exciting news. The year prior, as Australia reeled from devastating bushfires and the beginning of the pandemic, an entirely new population of the species was discovered, bringing new hope for the future.

The filming continues as part of the decade-long census of the trees (it takes time for plants to reveal their secrets), and the insurance populations are growing in the botanic gardens.

The future for the Bulberin Nut is looking far brighter – thanks to your support, and the teams on the ground.

Read more about this project on the dedicated page here, and visit our interactive ’30 Years’ timeline page to view more inspiring work.

Top Image: Genome Innovation Hub/University of Queensland

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