Rare ferns and rainforest species have been discovered in a part of the Eastern Victoria region that is earmarked for logging, according to an environment group.
The Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO) has been running citizen science camps to map the biodiversity of the remote Kuark Forest, outside of Orbost in East Gippsland.
In an unreleased report given exclusively to the ABC, GECO said it had made a number of significant finds.
GECO spokesman Ed Hill said he and a group of volunteers who surveyed the Kuark forest in April found a bristly shield fern, which has never been documented in East Gippsland before.
“We took a sample and sent it to the herbarium in Melbourne and they verified it as the bristly shield fern, and the closest known occurrence of this fern is 250 kilometres to the west of here … just out of Melbourne in the Bunyip State Forest or to the north, just south of Sydney,” he said.
“So it’s a huge geographic extension and a really significant discovery.”
Volunteers had also found more than 90 types of rainforest species, including seven rare ferns, the report said.
Melbourne University senior research fellow Dr Craig Nitschke, who is working on an unrelated project that is partly funded by VicForests, said rainforests had particular historical significance in Australia.
“They really are links to our Gondwana past, there are species in there that have been around for a very, very long time,” he said.
“In the mainland of Australia, increasingly they have become rarer over the last 10,000 years, mostly due to the impact of fire on the landscape and the warming and drying of the climate.
“They are really relics of the past and there’s a lot of species in there too we only find in those ecosystems.