HOPE RISING: New life brings hope after fires burn rare macadamias.
HOPE RISING: New life brings hope after fires burn rare macadamias.

World’s rarest macadamia close to extinction after bushfires

THE WORLD'S smallest, most delicate and rarest macadamia is facing a new threat to its survival, with at least a third of the most recently discovered trees belonging to the species burnt in the horrific Australian bushfires, the Macadamia Conservation Trust (MCT) has said.

Retired cane farm manager and field naturalist, Keith Sarnadsky, led a group into Queensland's remote Bulburin rainforest mid-April for the first time since the disaster to see how Macadamia jansenii, a species as rare as the country's Wollemi pine, had fared.

"It appears that a low intensity fire can be enough to kill Macadamia jansenii," he said.

"Almost all of the small species that the fire touched appear to be dead.

He added that some plants have died from their "stump burning" yet some were now producing suckers.

"Most of the dead plants didn't appear to have an extremely hot fire around them," he said.

The discovery of about 150 trees in 2018 had trebled the known population of Macadamia jansenii, or "Mj", a species first recognised by the modern scientific community in 1992. "MJ" is the first new macadamia in 120 years.

MCT funded Mr Sarnadsky to undertake further searches for Macadamia jansenii in 2018, where he discovered the new MJ trees.

Executive officer of MCT, Denise Bond, said they were thrilled at the new discovery which added to the original population of 60 individuals.

"That same year, wildfire came within 10km of the habitat, and now our fears have been realised with the December 2019 fires burning at least a third of the new trees," she said.

"We hoped they were safe, nestled in sub-tropical rainforest, but we have been proved wrong."

Ms Bond said MCT was applying for funding to increase fire and weed management across the Bulburin landscape.

The Australian non-profit is the world's only charity devoted to conserving macadamias.