Monitoring orchids

I am delighted to have been invited to be an author on OrchidNotes and this is my first post.

Native Orchids are fascinating and beautiful.  There is an amazing variety, as posts on this website show.  Many are quite small and easily overlooked, but they are often surprisingly easy to find.  They commonly like open areas and occur next to walking tracks in national parks.  Others are more elusive and only occur in special locations.

Glossodia major

Part of a large population of Glossodia major (Purple Cockatoo)

Many orchids are highly adapted and have very limited habitat requirements.  They will flourish when the conditions are right, but they will disappear when the conditions change. This means that conserving orchids is important.  They will be lost for ever if there is indiscriminate modification of areas of habitat and future generations will miss out.  If orchid habitats are kept intact, then habitat for a great variety of flora and fauna will also be protected.

We have met many people with a love for orchids in their natural environment, including those of you who follow this site.  Many people have been keeping lists of species that they find each year at their favourite orchid sites.  Some have huge collections of photographs that hardly anyone sees.

What these people have been doing is observing species diversity.  This is an important measure of the health of an ecosystem, but there is much more that could be observed in a systematic manner that uses native orchids to measure and understand processes happening in the local ecology.

Oligochaetochilus arenicola locations (4)

Monitoring sites could be established to observe changes in orchid populations from year to year.  These could document changes in the number of plants of each species.  The timing of emergence of leaves and flowers could change from year to year with different weather conditions.  Pollination rates could provide information about the insects that the orchids depend on.  Indeed, pollinating insects are yet to be observed for some species.  The proportion of plants flowering changes from year to year.  Orchid populations are not static, and a population may disappear from one site and a new one may appear elsewhere.  All of these observations can be made with the common orchids.

Oligochaetochilus arenicola locations (3)

Individual orchids have been found and flagged ready for counting.

It needs to be said that there are two main risks in drawing attention to orchids.  One is that some people dig up orchids that they like and they dig them up from the local habitat.  This is tragic and foolish because the orchids are highly specialised and usually are very difficult to grow in cultivation.  The other problem is trampling of the orchids and the surrounding plants by people seeking to observe them.  Both of these issues need to be considered carefully.

I am organising the design of orchid monitoring programs.  These could involve a combination of trained scientists and volunteers.  I am interested in finding out how much people would be interested in being involved in orchid monitoring using disciplined and systematic methods to collect important information about the orchids and their habitat.

Glossodia major 26

4 thoughts on “Monitoring orchids

  1. Doug Castle

    Dear Robert, Thanks for your article. If you are looking for an indication of volunteers to be involved in monitoring orchids than you can add me to the list. Regards Doug Castle

    Sent from my iPad

    1. Robert Lawrence Post author

      Thanks Doug. Stay tuned to this site as I hope to report on progress. I hope to see you soon. Robert

    1. Robert Lawrence Post author

      Hi Bente
      Can you tell us what you are monitoring and how you addressed the questions about locations, please?
      Do you have a link to further information?

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